The Second Amendment states that "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." The subject of the sole verb is, "A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state." "Militia" is explained: "the right of the people to keep and bear arms." The "people" is not a second verb subject, as if joined to "militia" by an "and." Thus, the "militia" alone embodies "the right of the people to keep and bear arms."
So, it is "the right of the people..." as a collective for the citizens in community, not as individuals. Now in 2008, SCOTUS ruled the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia for traditionally lawful purposes such as self- or home defense. SCOTUS also ruled the Second Amendment does not mean unlimited gun rights, and that guns, as well as gun ownership, can be regulated. The framers of the U.S. Constitution had the foresight to know the nation would change, and the Constitution was written with an elastic clause to reflect the changes in our society. The question is, did the framers ever consider mental health issues regarding mass shootings?
Our national lawmakers have attempted to reform what I see as a broken system regarding effective gun control. The House passed legislation to expand federal background checks to include gun shows. Under current federal law, even if the check is not completed after the three-day waiting period, the transaction can proceed. The white supremacist who obtained the firearm in the 2015 Charleston shooting had a drug arrest, and that should have prevented the transaction. According to data from Giffords Law Center, since Feb. 28, 1994, when the federal background check requirement became effective, by 2015, over three million people have been denied a firearm transfer or permit through the FBI's background check system. Of those denials, 61 percent were based on an individual's status as a convicted felon (43 percent) or fugitive from justice (19 percent).
There are examples of effective gun control abroad that are worth pointing out. Australia's last mass shooting was 23 years ago in Port Arthur. The Australian government, in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre, established a licensing and registration procedure. In Australia, this now means you have to verify that you have a reason to possess a firearm (sport, target shooting, hunting, etc.). The Australian buy-back program bought over half a million guns that did not comply with the new law. I'm sure this also reduced the suicide rate by guns, as well. There hasn't been a mass shooting in Australia since the Port Arthur massacre.
Last week, President Trump did speak in support of reforms regarding the junction of mental health and gun laws. Trump said, "We must make sure those people not only get treatment but, when necessary, involuntary confinement."
The president spoke of the coordination needed between the Department of Justice and local, state, and federal agencies. It is of the utmost importance that these agencies are also aligned with social media companies so potential shooters can be identified. Trump was correct when he spoke of how "we must stop the glorification of violence in our society." Trump has threatened a veto of bipartisan legislation to expand federal background checks, but these expanded background checks are needed, as well.
The identification of those with mental health issues should be something that begins in the public schools, because we are all too familiar with the consequences of the combination of mental health problems and large-capacity magazines.
Brent Been is a Tahlequah educator with a special emphasis on civics and history.