These two principles were prominently on display during the March for Our Lives, an America-wide student-led demonstration against gun violence held in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.
Roughly two million American students, parents and families marched in solidarity against the steady rise in school shootings, and in support of gun control, universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole and re-establishing an assault weapon ban. They were joined by people in other countries (like Canada) at smaller rallies.
This was all perfectly fine. If you wanted to make your voice heard that day, you had the democratic right to assemble and march. Just keep in mind that most rational-thinking Americans and non-Americans don’t support aspects of your cause.
I support gun rights, not gun control. I’m not a gun owner and have only fired one on a handful of occasions. To me, gun ownership has always been a matter of personal choice – and fits perfectly under the purview of a strong defence of property rights in countries that support freedom, liberty and democracy.
If a law-abiding citizen wishes to own a gun, or several guns, for livelihood, sport or any other legitimate reason, they should have this inherent right in a free society. Any individual or organization wishing to infringe on this right for personal or political gain is both irresponsible and anti-democratic.
Here’s where the needle of public opinion has moved in this debate.
The U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment reads, “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.” America’s founders were right to include this important principle, but they lived at a time where safety, security and wars were mostly fought with muskets and gunpowder. The times we live in are different, and modern weapons are far more complex and deadly.
This has led to some preliminary changes in American attitudes and potential changes in government legislation, related to firearms.
The Florida legislature recently introduced waiting periods and background checks for people who want to by a gun, and raised the minimum age for purchasing rifles to 21. Bump fire stocks, which can turn a semi-automatic firearm into a fully automatic firearm, have actually raised the ire of the National Rifle Association and led President Donald Trump to propose a regulatory ban on these devices. Republicans have even started to join Democrats in calling for more extensive background checks for purchasing firearms and increased mental health funding to help troubled individuals.
Meanwhile, the litany of school shootings over the years – including Columbine, Sandy Hook and Marjory Stoneman Douglas, to name a few – have rattled many Americans. They obviously want children to be safe and secure in a school environment (only a lunatic wouldn’t desire this), but they don’t know what the next steps are, either.
Some people have correctly suggested better vetting procedures when it comes to school resource officers. Extensive training for police in these types of situations is the right thing to do, too.
There’s also been a controversial proposal for U.S. states to start discussing arming teachers. Based on the teachers most of us had, this could end up on the cutting room floor.
The big takeaway? These reasonable changes and discussions about gun rights occurred before one step had been taken in the March for Our Lives.
If the student radicals behind this march believe their warped sense of reality about guns won the day, they’re sadly mistaken. Democracy, as messy as it is, often finds a way to succeed.
Troy Media columnist and political commentator Michael Taube was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper.
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