Dear Mr. or Madam President,
Your first task holding the nation's highest office will be to place your right hand by your side and promise to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” I think I hold the unexceptional view that the founders of this country were not perfect individuals and their ideals are not compatible with the social standards we hold ourselves to today. By including instructions for amending the Constitution, the framers of the document demonstrated they knew it was not perfect in its initial form, so today I ask you to reflect upon the controversial Second Amendment. It is my firm belief that considering the Second Amendment as a flawless benchmark for your policy decision-making can only have negative repercussions.
First, allow me to establish that most constitutional scholars agree that there are no ‘absolute’ rights guaranteed by the Constitution. This is attested by Adam Winkler, a professor at the UCLA School of Law, when he says in a Washington Post article, “The Supreme Court has said repeatedly that no right under the Constitution is absolute." Essentially, when the government sees it is more critical to put limitations a right than to not do so, they will restrain it. It is quite peculiar to me that most citizens will agree that one's rights to free speech and to practice any religion have obvious limitations – rights in the First Amendment – but, those same people may not apply the same exercise of moderation to the Second Amendment. The reason for this? It seems to me that a sizable portion of the population has their judgement clouded by the corrosive gun culture by which we are enshrouded. Every week there seems to be another case of a mentally debilitated person or a criminal committing a mass shooting, and nothing is done to prevent it; CNN wrote an article titled “A visual guide: Mass shootings in America” which notes that the first half of 2016 saw 136 mass shootings, and to go along with this, every time a shooting occurred it correlated with a sharp spike in gun sales. This data clearly points to a self-perpetuating problem that began with Obama’s presidency. However, if people feel cynical about the state of violent crimes and the escalation of those crimes in the past few years, should the media be to blame for relentlessly covering these events? Not exactly! The United States Bureau of Justice Statistics - in a special report titled Firearm Violence, 1993-2011 - documented that there are still thousands of homicides committed every year and over half of those are committed with use of firearms.
Another valuable resource to consult in the gun debate is The Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court, our nation's arbiter of the Constitution, has had differing philosophical viewpoints throughout its history. For most of the 1900s, it placed the emphasis of the Second Amendment on the militia clause, so that one's right to bear arms was meant to directly relate to a militia. But since 2008’s adjudication of District of Columbia v. Heller Case, the Court’s position altered. According to smartgunlaws.org, this infamous case (which ruled five votes to four that Washington DC’s banning of handguns was unconstitutional) transformed which clause is emphasized in the Second Amendment: the emphasis lies on the individual’s right to bear arms, not connected to service in a militia. This decision’s trickle-down effect forced the change of legislature across the U.S. in the state and local levels because many existing laws were also found to be unconstitutional. Now this 5-4 ruling could be reversed because of the recent loss of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia who sided in the majority five votes. This is urgent matter as you will have the responsibility of filling the vacancy left by Scalia – a duty outlined in Article Two of the Constitution.
Now this is not to say guns should play no roles into our lives. Many Americans utilize guns to acquire food or they practice shooting them for sport, and a large portion have a legitimate need for guns to ensure the safety of themselves and their families. But that doesn’t mean Americans should stand idly by, as every year a gun epidemic plagues us, particularly in our inner cities. You will need to urge lawmakers and your fellow Americans that legislation direly needs to be passed that will ease gun violence in the country, but simultaneously protect civil liberties.
Regardless of what you think about other aspects of his presidency, you will note that your predecessor, Barack Obama, did a poor job of preventing gun violence (demonstrated by the numbers of mass shootings in recent years), and he also did an unexceptional job of uniting the American people in finding common ground. The Pew Research Center studied political polarization in the American electorate, and the two decade-long study found that most Americans became more ideological than objective during that period. So, while President Obama campaigned promising to unite the country and increase the efficiency of bipartisanship solutions, he served only to widen the abyss of political disagreement that existed when he assumed office.
To conclude, the next four years of American political discussions will largely be centered around you and what decisions you take. Please consider what role the Second Amendment plays in the 21st century world. We no longer live in the days of muskets and bayonets; powerful guns can far too easily get into the wrong hands. I beseech you, do not be complacent on this major issue, because the last thing I would wish upon someone is to end up as a statistic on the next Bureau of Justice Statistics report.