The Politics of US series: Guns
First in a 10-part weekly series. The Politics of US looks at polarizing topics to help deepen understanding of the issues – and respect for those with differing views. This installment examines the perceptions surrounding guns, gun violence, and the gun-control debate.
John J. Happel/The Christian Science Monitor
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In this week's edition:
- Cover story: A gun-rights advocate working to reduce the No. 1 cause of gun violence
- By the numbers: Increasing gun sales, but fewer homicides
- Civics 101: The Second Amendment
- The candidates: Where they stand on gun laws
- Interview: World shooting champion Dianna Muller
- Engage: Join a Living Room Conversation or visit AllSides.com
- Our picks: "A Liberal’s Case for the Second Amendment" – and more
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An unusual alliance to curb gun suicides
By Simon Montlake/Staff writer
Hooksett, N.H. – As the longtime owner of a gun store, Ralph Demicco is passionate about his firearms. At his New Hampshire home, he keeps a collection of rifles, shotguns, pistols, and antique weaponry, including two cast-iron cannons that he stores in the barn beneath an oval wooden wall plaque inscribed with the Second Amendment.
Despite his love of all things with bullets and buckshot, however, Mr. Demicco is also part of a quiet movement that makes him anathema to many of his gun-owning brethren: He is working with mental-health experts and community groups on a campaign to reduce suicides by firearms, which account for the vast majority of gun deaths.
The initiative has now been adopted in various forms in 20 states. Experts believe it will save lives – and is already helping to build mutual respect across one of the most intractable divides in American society.
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BY THE NUMBERS
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CIVICS 101: The Second Amendment
By Christa Case Bryant/Staff writer
The laws governing gun ownership in the United States stem from the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which states: “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.”
James Madison, the author of the amendment, had previously written of the “advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation” and criticized European governments for being “afraid to trust the people with arms.”
The ability to defend oneself and one’s nation against a tyrannical government clearly resonated with at least some of the members of the House of Representatives, who were only six years removed from the American Revolution when in 1789 they took up debate of the proposed amendment (then referred to as the fourth proposition).
According to a record of the proceedings in Congress, a Mr. Gerry stated, “Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins. This was actually done by Great Britain at the commencement of the late revolution. They used every means in their power to prevent the establishment of an effective militia…”
But an additional provision included by Mr. Madison – “but no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms” – proved unpopular, and was struck from the amendment.
For insight on how this amendment has since been interpreted by the Supreme Court, we recommend the Library of Congress’s briefing.
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THE CANDIDATES: Where they stand on gun laws
We encourage you to contact the Monitor on Twitter @csm_politics or by email firstname.lastname@example.org if you can improve our chart!
Sources: The Johnson-Weld Campaign, the Clinton campaign website, the Trump campaign website, iSideWith.com, FactCheck.com, ProCon.org, CNN, theTrace.org, RedState.com, Reason.com, Bustle.com, and @DrJillStein.
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INTERVIEW: NRA World Shooting Champion Dianna Mueller
Meet Dianna Muller. She was a police officer in Tulsa, Okla., for 22 years, and now she is a professional 3-Gun shooter and a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA). In September, Ms. Muller won the NRA's World Shooting Championship in Glengary, West Virginia.
The Monitor's Story Hinckley recently interviewed Muller. Her answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: What’s the biggest misconception that people have about you – as a gun owner and a member of the NRA?
The biggest misconception is that I, as a gun owner, am somehow the bad guy…. Gun owners are like non-gun owners. We care about others. Our hearts break when we see evil people inflict harm on our kids, citizens, and our country.
I've been to many NRA annual meetings that have hosted 70,000 to 80,000 people under one roof, with hundreds of thousands of guns in the same place and nobody gets shot. We are good people who respect life and teach our children responsibility for not only firearms, but for life.
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ENGAGE: Living Room Conversations and AllSides.com
- Have a Living Room Conversation about guns and responsibility with half a dozen friends who have diverse opinions. Enjoy this simple, respectful, structured program that begins with human relationships.
- Make your own pro-con list for or against stricter gun control. Engage with people and ideas from all sides of the issue using this online interactive tool.
- Dig deeper into gun rights and gun control. See the latest news, opinions, and policy proposals from across the Web, from the left, center and right.
- Understand the emotional context behind the terms “gun control”, “gun rights”, and “gun violence” from different perspectives across the political spectrum.
- Schools: Discuss gun control and gun rights in the classroom using a specialized lesson plan that teaches respectful dialog, fostering mutual respect and understanding.
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OUR PICKS: Recommended reading and viewing
1. The state of gun violence in the US, explained in 18 charts (video) VOX
Public mass shootings get all the attention because they’re often so indiscriminate. But the truth is mass shootings are unlike most gun deaths in America…. Most of those killed – 58 people a day – are suicides.
2. “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America” by Adam Winkler, constitutional law expert (2011)
Despite what the extremists tell us, gun rights and gun control are not mutually exclusive. We can have both. Indeed, the story of guns in America is one of balancing gun rights with public safety, respecting the right of individuals to have guns and the ability of lawmakers to impose reasonable restrictions on guns to enhance public safety. Over the past forty years, we’ve lost sight of that balanced approach.
3. Library of Congress overview on gun ownership and the Supreme Court
On June 26, 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller (PDF), the United States Supreme Court issued its first decision since 1939 interpreting the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution…. The outcome of DC v. Heller left some issues unanswered, including whether the Second Amendment restricts state regulation of firearms, and the standard for evaluating the constitutionality of other laws and regulations that impact the Second Amendment right.
4. “The Second Amendment as an Expression of First Principles,” an adapted lecture by Edward Erler, professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino.
… we must be clear – the Second Amendment is not about assault weapons, hunting or sport shooting. It is about something more fundamental. It reaches to the heart of constitutional principles – it reaches to first principles.
5. “Living with Guns: A Liberal’s Case for the Second Amendment” by Craig Whitney, veteran New York Times reporter (2012)
What we can’t do is remain stalemated. Those on the left can’t continue to hold out hope for a gun-free America that won’t ever come to be, and those on the right can’t blind themselves to the responsibility that must be attached to gun ownership. If we continue to hang on to these illusions, the debate will never end.