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The Second Amendment in a time of mass shootings

The real question, now as then, is how to keep citizens safe while honoring the spirit and intent of the Constitution's Second Amendment.

Figuring out the Second Amendment's scope is no easy task.

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Following the latest school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl., celebrity dreamboat George Clooney has pledged a cool $500K to the gun control march on D.C., saying, "Our children's lives depend on it."

Longtime GOP donor Al Hoffman, Jr, whose real estate company developed homes and golf courses in Parkland, will no longer be a check-writing machine. On CNN, Hoffman said he won't donate to lawmakers who aren't on board with gun control.

And those directly affected - the high school students and community members of Parkland - have vowed to end mass school shootings with Never Again MSD, an advocacy organization, and has kicked things off on social media with the #NeverAgain hashtag.

The shooting left 14 kids and three staff members dead. At least 15 others were injured.

Have we reached a tipping point?

Perhaps we've reached a tipping point on gun control.

But then there's the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right of the people to keep and bear arms:

  • 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.

The Wikipedia entry on the Second Amendment, as one might expect, is quite lengthy and detailed, starting from pre-Constitution times to the present day.

It includes a discussion on the landmark decision of District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008. In that case, the Supreme Court clarified the Second Amendment, interpreting it as giving individuals the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense, as opposed to other interpretations, one of which supports the militia's right to keep and bear arms. In Heller, SCOTUS held that D.C.'s ban on handguns in the home was unconstitutional.

But in this time of mass shootings and growing political agitation for change, perhaps Justice Stevens' dissent is most relevant in terms of figuring this quagmire out. Stevens attempts to reframe the question:

  • "The question presented by this case is not whether the Second Amendment protects a 'collective right' or an 'individual right.' Surely it protects a right that can be enforced by individuals. But a conclusion that the Second Amendment protects an individual right does not tell us anything about the scope of that right.

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