“We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity and we have conjured them by their ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations….They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity”
United States of America Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776
By David Bryan
The author penned the framework of this article several months ago, at the time when the 9 church goers were tragically gunned down by their ‘killer’, who was embraced by his victims. Fate would have it, the contents still had the shelve life, since unfortunately there has been incident after incident relating to loss of life by guns in America. The most recent being the highly publicized event on national news; the two journalist fatally shot last week by an ex-employee.
This has pushed the gun debate into the news cycle for the time being- but before we go there- with respect to all victims of gun violence and without sounding cavalier, are we not hearing the same arguments for and against gun regulation when those 9 Christians being ‘gun downed’ in Church? How many murders or homicides have been committed between July 2015 and August 2015?
When the infamous picture of the killer was circulated of those parishioners 2 out of the three primary objects were aptly dealt with- the killer was arrested and secondly the confederate flag was taken down from the state capitol buildings after the rally cry of the people, the third is yet to be ‘dealt with’- the gun.
Understandably, the passionate plea from the father, of the television murdered victim stated in no uncertain terms; he will join the fight and become a “crusader” for stricter gun control. This entails taking on the National Rifle Association (NRA). A battle in which they have won time and time again, despite the pain, tragedy and loss of life inflicted upon the American people by their ‘products’.
By all accounts, even President Barack Obama, has repeated on numerous occasions the same call in the gun debate for Congress to enact gun control laws which put in place background checks and simple solutions which can make the difference between life and death.
In contrast, such musings have had the opposite effect. Recent surveys have shown, the more calls for gun control, the more guns are sold. Smith and Wesson have seen a 600 % increase of their revenue since 2008. The American love affair with their “right of the people to keep and bear arms” is ingrained in their psyche.
So something somewhere is wrong. How can literally thousands of people die without those who are duly elected unable to prevent ordinary citizens from being “deprived of life [and] liberty … without due process of law”? What would cause the representatives of the people to ‘push’ the NRA for gun regulation and appropriate legislation?
There is no doubt, the silence on gun control in the USA is broken, and the code of silence to remain silent by the politicians is over. The same legislatures and ‘the most powerful lobby in America’ must be held accountable for its products, in the same way the once juggernaut tobacco companies were linked to those consumers who developed cancer through smoking and died. The causation of the cigarette and its manufactures were inseparable. Warning labels had to be modified; advertisements were banned from certain electronic and print networks.
That is not to say that NRA is to be blamed for criminal activities involving gun crimes. Unfettered power left unchecked in the hands of a few can only result in the erosion of the rights of the majority. Congress was never meant to be the rubber stamp for the motives of “big money interest” The Declaration of Independence is the antithesis of all forms of oppression.
Even monopolies are subject to ant-trust legislation. The dominant US Steel, telephone companies, the barons of banking and finance from Carnegie to Morgan, were all subject to the laws of the land. This is what made America the envy of the developed nations-democracy dictated; it was and is the government who governs not special interest groups and multi-national corporations.
The Second Amendment is, of course, to be preserved, but it is also a duty, a right to preserve life, liberty and security of person- laws which are enacted to fulfill this singular obligation cannot be in conflict, but are in harmony with protecting the lives of American citizens against gun crimes.
Rational gun regulation must be in accord with cutting edge technology akin to terrorist who are ‘red flagged’ in airline databases. The various agencies need to be ‘talking to each other’. The FBI National Database on Background Checks is a good place to start. The denial of close to 700,000 applicants for guns after background checks cannot be understated. But more has to be done.
The current system is one-dimensional and does not solve situations where guns are already in the hands of potential accused. Instances were employers fire disgruntle employees and they run afoul of the law by seeking revenge, by threatening managers and ex-workers, as in the recent shooting of the journalist, should be reported in a national database.
Upon receiving information that such individuals have a gun, they should be made to hand it over to law enforcement officials and debarred from getting another. So too, mental health patients, certified by mental health professionals, domestic abuse cases, where crimes are committed in these cases by such persons and reported to the police.
Mandatory questions should now include whether the parties own and or have a licensed firearm; they should be made to turn it over or their gun license suspended automatically and entered in the national database until the all clear is given.
The approach to gun violence cannot be flippant; it has to be structured with broad bi-partisan appeal involving not excluding the NRA- as was the recent bill sponsored by Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn “striking a middle ground”.
It seems that the definition of gun violence in the USA is a misnomer – gun violence does not only mean death by guns -those fatally shot, it also must include all other forms of gun related criminal incidents. This would therefore enlarge the particular class of individuals affected by guns.
Even though this class may be considered a small minority in scheme of things, such persons still have a legitimate right to heard and the expectation that they would be treated “equally” before the law and by their political representatives. Anything outside of that can be described as “discrimination” or “segregation”- what this author terms “gun segregation”.
It can be argued that the federal government has directly and indirectly created a system whereby the political elite class and the NRA have caused the system to be skewed in favour of laws being enacted to facilitate the NRA to the detriment of those seeking to have gun regulation i.e. the victims of gun crimes.
Segregation in the South for education and transportation on buses were no different. The legacy of this type of gun divide is that the victims of gun violence are told go to the back of the bus, to be seen and not heard, to have a voice but not a vote. To the point that the NRA’s influence is so ‘influential’ that representatives refuse to act or speak out against a system which empowers gun manufacturers.
No doubt, this system has been established with the help of the NRA because of its size, money and power. But these actions are contrary to the law; in particular when a “State grants a particular class of persons the right to engage in an activity yet denies other individuals the same right it violates the equal protection right” afforded under the Constitution”.
“The Constitution states only one command twice. The 5th Amendment says to the Federal government that no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law” The Fourteenth Amendment ratified in 1868 uses the same eleven words, called the Due Process Clause, to describe a legal obligation on all states. These words have as their central promise that all level of American government must operate within the law (“legality”) and provide fair procedures”.
“The Fourteenth Amendment is not by its terms applicable to the federal government. Actions by the federal government however classify individuals in a discriminatory manner will under similar circumstances; violate due process of the 5th Amendment.”
“If the courts stretched the Fourteenth Amendment “due process to apply to the Bill of Rights to the States they stretch the 5th Amendment, “due process” to require the Federal government to afford the Equal Protection of the laws. The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment forbids the States from establishing segregated schools or otherwise discriminating individuals against some of their citizens.”
So what the NRA and the duly elected representatives at the State and Federal level, have done or are doing by their action or inactions is to violate the “due process clause” and Equal Protection Clause in the Constitution respectively as it relates to government following fair procedure for gun advocates for gun victims and gun regulation.
“Citizens are entitled to have the government observe or offer fair procedure whether or not those procedures have been provided for in the law on the basis of which is citing. Actions denying the process that is “due” would be therefore unconstitutional”, especially in “light of demonstrable urgency for public action” –as in the cases of gun violence.
Finally, the argument of the continued in action at both government levels for gun regulation because of NRA’s ‘big money’, making “due process” and “fair procedure” for the victims in-accessible, creates a climate of unconstitutionality- is not far-fetched. Such indifference and “usurpations” were the principal reason why the Declaration of Independence was drafted against the backdrop of a colonial culture of segregation. Such a compelling case that there is a ‘segregated gun culture’ in the passing of laws in the USA is therefore not far removed.