Society

Armed in America

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By Hollye Dexter

Moms Demand Action was formed in the wake of the Newtown tragedy by Shannon Watts, a mom in Indiana who’d had enough. Apparently, she was not alone in her feelings. Four months later, we are nationwide with over 90 chapters and almost 100,000 members. The sole objective of Moms Demand Action, a nonpartisan organization, is to make America a safer place for children and all citizens.

Recently our facebook pages came under attack by some zealous, angry gun enthusiasts. Contrary to their accusations, Moms Demand Action is not trying to effect the second amendment or take away anyone’s guns. We don’t want to stop hunters from hunting, nor law-abiding citizens from keeping a gun for self-defense. What we do want is to end mass murders, like we’ve seen in Newtown, Aurora, Tuscon, Virginia Tech, Columbine and others, and to stop terrorists, criminals and crazy people from obtaining guns. Can’t most Americans agree on these objectives?

Our opposition screams we are threatening the second amendment, but it seems that many of our detractors aren’t really familiar with the amendment they cite. The second amendment states, simply, “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.”

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That’s it. One sentence. The second amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791 at a time of horseback and muskets, when steamboats were the newest discovery in transportation, slavery was legal, and men wore wigs. The times were different, and the wording of the amendment was ambiguous at best. No one could have foreseen the kind of “arms” available today, and nowhere does the amendment state that citizens have unlimited rights to any kind of weapon.

Just ask the Supreme court. In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), regarding the second amendment, the Supreme Court stated that "the right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."

Some of our adversaries have suggested that we “ladies”don’t know anything about the constitution. To those gentlemen, I offer this fact: In United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1875), the Supreme Court ruled that "[t]he right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence.”

Rights are not unlimited. The first amendment grants us the right to free speech, but that doesn’t mean you can threaten to bomb an airport or yell fire in a theatre or collect child pornography.

The second amendment gives you the right to bear arms, but not any array of weapons. You can’t have a rocket launcher in your backyard, nor chemical or nuclear weapons, and similarly, there is no reason for citizens to have military style assault weapons with unlimited ammunition that were designed for the purpose of mass killing.

The second amendment also does not say anything about background checks or registration of guns. 90% of America want background checks on all gun purchases. This may be a first in history. 90% of America can’t even agree on apple pie – and yet, Congress did not represent the people. Congress failed us.

But moms are a determined group, and we will not fail our children. We are disappointed, but not discouraged. We will press on, not matter how long it takes, no matter how hard won the victory. While others talk about their right to bear arms, we mothers bear children, and hold them in our arms, and in that moment we know we will go to any lengths to protect them. Nothing will deter us. No force is stronger than a mother’s arms.

www.MomsDemandAction.org

Hollye Dexter is co-editor of Dancing At the Shame Prom (Seal Press), and two memoirs. Her essays have been widely published in anthologies and publications. As President of the Music Heals Foundation, she worked with Denise Brown (sister of Nicole Brown Simpson) on a campaign to raise domestic violence awareness, and with California State University Northridge, bringing music therapy programs to autistic children. In 2003, she founded the award-winning nonprofit Art and Soul, running arts workshops for teenagers in the foster care system. Currently she teaches writing workshops for teens and adults, helping them find their authentic voices. Hollye lives in Southern California with her husband and three children, where she hikes, plays music, and works with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. www.hollyedexter.blogspot.com