In the aftermath of multiple shootings that have shaken up the U.S., gun rights are a hot topic. Everyone wants to be safe from something like Sandy Hook happening again, but the issue is complex. Crowdsourcing our gun laws may be the answer we need.
There are plenty of competing perspectives in our national dialogue on gun rights and gun control today. Part of President Obama’s plan is the establishment of a national gun database that would tell citizens who owns what in terms of guns.
This improved national database may help, but it's no guarantee against gun violence. Some people want laws against handguns, but are these feasible without transgressing the Second Amendment? Many think not. Some believe we're already on a slippery slope with gun laws, on the path to losing our gun rights. Gun laws already make these weapons illegal in certain places, and with the passage of acts like the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), people accused of terrorism have lost the right to a public trial.
"I think that you can't start to pick apart anything out of the Bill of Rights without thinking that it's all going to become undone,” film star Bruce Willis recently told the Associated Press. “If you take one out or change one law, then why wouldn't they take all your rights away from you?”
There are roughly 300 million guns in the U.S., and Obama has already said he would support making assault weapons illegal. We should expect any new gun laws to be challenged in court, meaning these efforts may not do much to make us safer from guns in the next ten years.
The Second Amendment says, "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." Essentially, this means that because a free state depends on well-trained men, people need the right to own and carry weapons. The Second Amendment doesn’t explicitly say people have a right to guns for self-protection or in case their government becomes oppressive. And it's not clear if "State" means each individual state or the country as a whole.
The Constitution also says the U.S. shall not have a standing army. “There shall be no standing army but in time of actual war,” Thomas Jefferson wrote when the Constitution was being debated in 1776.
But today, we need to have a standing army. We could be quickly attacked by another country in this era of cars, trains, and boats with motors, plus inter-continental missiles. We have four "standing" armed forces, plus the coast guard, National Guard, CIA, FBI, and plenty of police. Things have changed.
The polls tell us little. They say that lots of people want a better database and want gun ownership loopholes closed. But to do real change, we'd have to change the Second Amendment and fully clarify our country's stance on gun rights.
So what do people want in terms of gun laws? How can we know?
I agree with Bruce Willis: we shouldn't transgress the Second Amendment. It’s time we rewrite it using the legal process we have--a constitutional amendment.
But first, we need Americans to express what they want. Do we want a right to have guns for personal protection? Do we want a right to have assault rifles? Many Americans don’t know this, but after the global financial crisis in 2008, Iceland allowed citizens to vote and crowdsource a new constitution. Two-thirds of citizens voted in favor of the crowdsourced document.
Why can’t Americans do the same? Let's vote on what gun rights we want. My site, PeopleCount.org, allows citizens to vote on issues that matter to them, including gun rights and gun control. Not only will the site allow us to see the results, but it will lay them out state-by-state and district-by-district, so representatives can know what their constituents want, as well as what the country as a whole wants.
Right now, our government is telling us what we want without asking us. They're guessing. They're being cagey, not tackling tough issues because they don't know what citizens want. Let's tell them. Let's take responsibility for what we want, and take it to a vote.