There are few things that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump agree on. The need to stop people on the terrorist watch list from being able to purchase firearms is one of them.
While Trump may have cozied up to the National Rifle Association (NRA) on a lot of other arms-related issues, he has made it clear that he definitely agrees with Clinton that people who have been pegged as potential threats to U.S. national security, due to their possible affiliation with terrorist organizations, should not be able to walk into a gun store, plop down some cash and walk out with an AK-47.
And as it turns out, endorsing a ban on arms sales to potential terrorists is not just common sense, it is also good politics.
Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), the demand for tighter gun control — which sadly came front and center following the tragic mass murder in Orlando earlier this month — is common ground for millennials of all political stripes in the United States.
According to a poll taken by MTV Insights earlier this year (even before the brutal June 12 Pulse nightclub slayings in Orlando), both young Clinton and young Trump supporters said they favored tighter gun control in the United States.
In both the Democratic and Republicans camps, close to 88 percent of U.S. youths born between the 1980s and the 2000s said they supported mental health screenings for gun buyers, and about 66 percent said they favored a one-month waiting period between the purchasing a gun and getting it.
In a society where an obsession with guns and the so-called “inalienable right to bear arms” has basically turned the NRA into an untouchable demagogue that openly advocates the free-for-all sale of weapons of mass murder to anyone who is old enough to pull a trigger, the decision last week by the U.S. Senate to vote on two possible amendments to an upcoming appropriations bill that would restrict people on the federal government’s terrorism watch list from purchasing handguns and requiring gun buyers to pass a more-extensive criminal background check is indeed commendable.
It is a first step in bringing some semblance of sanity to a gun-hugging population that brandishes the Second Amendment like a national Holy Grail and argues for the right to arm toddlers with tanks in order to make the world safer.
The Founding Fathers of the United States included the Second Amendment in the Constitution because, at the time, there was no federal standing army and they wanted individual states to be able to form militias to stop possible insurrections or rebellions by British loyalists.
In order words, they were empowering state governments to arm their regional armies, not giving carte blanche to every Tom, Dick and Harry to go out and build a stockpile of weapons for their own personal armory.
And they certainly didn’t have semi-automatic assault rifles in mind when they ratified the amendment, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, in 1791.
Currently, there are an estimated 300 million guns in the hands of private U.S. citizens — that translates into nearly one gun for every man, woman and child in the country.
According to a 2014 Congressional Research Service survey, 31 percent of U.S. households currently own at least one firearm.
There is no way to backtrack and undo the sale and ownership of these weapons, but there is room to curb the sale of new (and more potent) guns to people who could pose a threat to themselves or others.
Even the NRA’s Chris Cox recently said that his organization is in favor of preventing the sale of guns to persons on the no-fly list or under investigation for possible terrorist links.
Gun advocates may argue that the Second Amendment protects the rights of all citizens to bear arms without limitation or reservation.
But the Supreme Court has ruled that the right to bear arms does not prohibit the right to regulate arms.
Despite the growing U.S. sentiment against the unbridled sale of firearms to all and any, it is unlikely that the Senate amendments to better screen gun buyers will pass.(The gun lobby spends nearly $4 million a year to convince lawmakers that junior should be entitled to a new semi-automatic on his 12th birthday.)
But if the Senate bill does pass — or even if it doesn’t — it should be followed by additional common-sense rulings, such as an end to sales of the assault rifles, which seem to be the weapons of choice for mass murderers.
Hunters do not use such weapons, and they are legally banned for hunting of all 50 U.S. states.
The ending of sales of semi-automatics would gradually decrease the number of such weapons in circulation.
Also, ammunition for assault weapons could be made more expensive and the clip size could be limited to 10 bullets per clip.
By the same token, implementing smart technology, which means guns can only be functional when matched to an owner’s thumb print, would reduce the incidence of accidental deaths of children and others and would discourage the theft of these weapons.
Admittedly, there is no viable solution to the growing incidence of gun violence in the United States, and there is no way to ensure that there will be no more individual acts of terror.
But that does not mean that the country cannot implement measures that might discourage some of these awful losses of life.
It is clearly time to take another look at the Second Amendment and consider the cost of the right to bear arms against the tragic toll it takes on U.S. society each year.