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God Bless America, a Nation Founded by Men Who Could Not Foresee the Glock and the 33 Round Clip

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gunsThis post was written by Katherine Record, Senior Fellow at the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation.  Any questions or comments about this post can be directed to

Two years ago, former U.S. representative Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others were shot in plain daylight at a political rally in Tucson, Arizona.  The killer was mentally ill, but that did not preclude him from purchasing a semi-automatic gun with a 33 round clip, nor would it have even if firearm background checks were comprehensive (he was diagnosed only after being arraigned for murder).

At the time, the nation responded with shock and awe to the atrocity of the event.  At the O’Neill Institute, we examined how the law could better protect the public from armed individuals – with or without the intent to kill (both types lead to funerals).

That article was a tough one to write: the Supreme Court had ruled – just a few years earlier – that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms.  This was the first time in our nation’s history that the Court had so read the Constitution.  Until then, states could regulate weapons as necessary.  Mayor Booker, for example, could enact strict gun control laws to protect the citizens of Newark, just as Mayor Emmanuel could do in Chicago.

Not so today.  Thus, we continue to mourn the slaughter of young civilians, including 15 year old Hadiya Pendleton, the 42nd Chicagoan shot to death only two months into 2013 (over 500 were shot dead in that city in 2012).  

And we will continue to do so, despite ongoing calls for reformed gun control laws, most of which focus on the problem of “firearms getting into the wrong hands.”

Yet the idea that we can go on as the most heavily armed nation in the world, and keep our guns in the “right hands” is ludicrous; an argument made with eyes shut and mouth open.

Keeping legal and registered firearms in the home is the classic Second Amendment argument – if everyone had a gun, we’d all be safer.  Yet time and time again these guns kept to protect the hearth are used in suicide, domestic disputes (that end in death), accidental killings, and yes – mass murders, including the recent slaughter of 20 small children in a sleepy Connecticut town.  In other words, it’s a simple empirical fact: having a gun is no way to protect your family.

We can continue to debate whether we safer with guns or without – or we can look at the statistics, and hope that Congress acts before it’s one of our own that we lay to rest, thanks to our very robust right to bear arms.

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  • Aaron Ringel says:

    You are every bit as disingenuous here as you were at the Medicaid expansion forum at Wofford College. Shame on you.

  • The views reflected in this expert column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.

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