As gun violence continues to erupt around our country, so does the debate over how to regulate and govern the personal use of these deadly weapons.
The discussion often starts and ends with the Second Amendment, legislation, that throughout history, has had a different meaning to different generations. The problem is, if we can't agree on what exactly it was meant to protect, then how can we possibly protect, what it doesn't?
Professor Richard Collins, from the University of Colorado at Boulder says, "What its historical purpose was, is a matter of continuing debate." We're not the first American's to passionately battle about our rights to have guns or our loved ones rights to be safe from violence. In fact, it's a discussion that's been going on for more than two-hundred years.
"The debate since the founding has been whether all it does is guarantee the right of the states to have a militia, or it creates a personal right in each individual citizen to have guns." Professor Collins says.
Colorado Senator Steve King says, "There is no doubt that the Second Amendment is there for the safety and protection of the people of the United States, that hasn't changed and i don't think it should change." What has changed, and drastically, is our interpretation of what that means, and the weapons we now have to carry it out. "This was written a long time ago and the arms today aren't the arms of what they were talking about when they wrote that." "A person's right to bear arms, so they can have the weapons that they choose." "You had musket loaders when they wrote the Second Amendment, musket loaders, the best you could do is get about four or five shots a minute if you were really good."
Collins says, "The issue is how lethal must a weapon be before it can be outlawed, and both in the state and federal courts they've said, once you leave home and are out on the street your subject to reasonable regulation in the interest of public safety. The problem then is to work out, what the heck does that mean." Collins teaches Constitutional law at the University of Colorado. He says the Second Amendment was only interpreted to include a personal right to gun ownership five years ago. A split Supreme Court made that decision in 2008. "The first time the Second Amendment was ever interpreted by any court was in the 1930's, when the Supreme Court held that all it does is protect the militia right." says Collins.
Sen. King says, "The first law of nature is every creatures right to self defense." A thirty year law enforcement veteran King doesn't see guns or the Second Amendment as the problem, but as the solution. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun." He thinks our Founders intended a personal right from the beginning. "The idea that our Fore Fathers talked about is for honest law abiding citizens to protect themselves and their families and their friends."
Professor Collins says, "What's usually missing from the public discourse is the fact that forty-five or forty-six states have state constitutional rights to bear arms." Like Colorado, which included the personal right in its Constitution all the way back in 1876. And so this historically-heated debate continues, in the halls of Congress and in cities and towns across this country. Where we weigh our rights against a need for public safety, and at the heart of that debate stands the Second Amendment.
Sen. King says, "You cannot convince me by any stretch of the imagination that no matter the amount of gun control that you will have bad guys without guns." Collins says, "What both the state and federal decisions say is there's a right to have defensive guns in your own house. That's the nearest thing to an absolute right." And King says, "I think that there is room for compromise and room for the idea that we can make people, and American citizens and their families safer."