You, me, and 15 others = 17

The second amendment is so frequently taken out of context.  The last 14 words read:

“…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

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Parkland 17, installation view.  Photo credit: Webber J. Charles.  Retrieved from:

When James Madison wrote the Bill of Rights in 1789, America was still forty-seven years away from production of its first Colt revolver, and seventy-three years away from the multi-barrel Gatling gun.  In 1789, “Arms” meant single-fire weaponry.

“…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

One could easily argue that these 14 words specifically allows home arsenals of citizens to keep pace with the capacity and caliber of firearms developments availed to the government.  One could also argue that they specifically disallow gun permits, background checks, or any other administrative action that would impact the immediacy with which would-be gun owners could acquire weapons.

Let’s set those potential arguments aside, for now; because, the perspective of the second amendment radically changes when you consider the first 13 words:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, …”

These first 13 words frame the context in which the second 14 must be viewed.

“We, the people,” is the “Militia” to which Madison refers.  In other words, we are all members of the militia, armed or not.  However, it would be fake-newsworthy to describe today’s militia as anything resembling “well regulated.”

A well regulated militia would not throw open the battery doors and leave its weapons cache unattended for members to stockpile arms and ammunition as they each see fit without discretion.

A well regulated militia would not want for weapons training – training needed to reduce the annual average of 600+ accidental firearm deaths compiled by the Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. since 2001.

A well regulated militia would be able to eradicate fratricide – the wanton murder of other militia members – from its ranks.

Gun violence is a national health crisis.  The encouraging news is that America has weathered national health crises before; three major ones since the advent of color TV.

In the 1950s and 1960s, automotive safety was recognized as a national health crisis.  Ralph Nader’s “Unsafe at Any Speed” helped place the onus on automobile manufacturers to address safety issues.  This led to the advent of airbags, shoulder harness safety belts, collapsible steering columns, and front-end crumple zones.  If the automobile manufacturers had not been held to account for the safety of the products that they produced, over a million American lives would have been needlessly lost.

In the 1960s and 1970s, environmental pollution was recognized as a national health crisis.  Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” helped raise the nation’s awareness to the effects of synthetic pesticides on the natural world.  This helped spur an environmental movement and the eventual creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  If the chemical manufacturers and industrial waste generators had not been held to account for the safety of the products that they produced and the industrial waste they discharged into the land, sea, and air, the daily lives nearly every American would be negatively affected today.

In the 1980s and 1990s, second-hand smoke from tobacco was recognized as a national health crisis.  In 1986, surgeon general C. Everett Koop’s report, “The Health Consequences of Involuntary Smoking,” helped shine a light on the dangers of environmental tobacco smoke.  This led to a wave of ever-widening smoking bans in restaurants, entertainment venues, and work places.  If the tobacco companies had not been held to account for the consumer health impacts of their products, the free breathing of millions of Americans would still be compromised.

These successful campaigns shared an important page from the same playbook: Holding the corporations responsible for product design, manufacture, and distribution to account for their actions.

Our positive outcomes from the past prove that capitalism and democracy can achieve a sustainable state when the self-interests of corporations are aligned with the public well-being.  However, this is not the case for the firearm industry, today.

Gun manufacturers and sellers are not held to account – instead, they are shielded.  Shielded by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) that the U.S. Congress passed in 2005.  Section 3 of the PLCAA clearly states the sweeping breadth of the legislation:


(a) In General- A qualified civil liability action may not be brought in any Federal or State court.

(b) Dismissal of Pending Actions- A qualified civil liability action that is pending on the date of enactment of this Act shall be immediately dismissed by the court in which the action was brought or is currently pending.

For over 200 years of American history, gun manufacturers and sellers needed no such protection – why should they be granted immunity now in the midst of this national health crisis?

As we have seen in previous national health crises, meaningful change occurs when corporations are held to account.  It is then, and only then, that they attempt to self-regulate and align their self-interests with the public well-being.

Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) are sponsors of the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act.  This legislation would repeal the PLCAA and place gun manufacturers and sellers back in the accountability loop – where all responsible corporate citizens reside – after their 12-year hiatus.

Shielding gun manufacturers has neither precipitated a solution to the epidemic nor, as demonstrated by the declaration of bankruptcy by Remington last week, ensured economic sustainability for gun manufacturers.  The PLCAA has failed; the time for repeal is now.

If you are reading this blog, you are being recruited to be one of 17 friends and family members called to action.  Contact your representative and senators to let them know:

  • that you support holding corporations accountable for the safety of the products they design, manufacture, and distribute;
  • that you support an end to the national health crisis known as gun violence;
  • that you support passage of the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act; and
  • that you expect them to do the same.

Contact info for your representative is here and for your senators is here.  It’s that easy!

After you contact them, let me know – I’m keeping track to ensure we number 17.

Thank you!


This entry was posted in Activism, Gun Reform, Social Change and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to You, me, and 15 others = 17

  1. sydhavely says:

    Indeed, gun violence and specifically mass school shootings with assault rifles is a national health crisis and you are right putting it into the “solvable” issues of safe automobile manufacturing, pesticide harm to the environment and ecosystem, and smoking and lung cancer. Well done, Very well done.

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