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Opinion | William A. Babcock: Time to target the Second Amendment

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Last week, The Southern Illinoisan’s gun-violence editorial was logical, well articulated, persuasive and, for the most part, comprehensive. The “most part” it omitted, however, would have contained a final paragraph calling for a ban on gun ownership in Southern Illinois, and the repeal of the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. Perhaps that might have taken two additional paragraphs to accomplish, but that’s what good copy editors are for.

We now live in a region where gun-related violence is on the increase, and in a country where there are more guns than people, as The Southern’s editorial pointed out. I thus began my Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s fall-semester graduate seminar informing students what to do in the event of a shooter — to barricade doors, hide, evacuate the room and listen to and heed my instructions. When I began teaching four decades ago I never imagined we’d live in a world where such instructions would be necessary.

Ours is not a nation where citizens belong to a “well regulated Militia,” as the Second Amendment states. Instead, we now have the National Guard, state police, sheriffs’ departments and local police for our protection. By massively arming our citizenry, the effectiveness of our security forces is compromised. The “right of the people to keep and bear arms” is not only based on a time that has long-since past, but that out-dated “right” now threatens the safety of security forces and the public alike.

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And “arms” of today are something our Founding Fathers never envisioned at a time when it took some three minutes to load a musket. They never in their wildest nightmares contemplated a time of bullet-laden magazines and rapid-fire assault-type rifles used to slaughter many people in a few minutes’ time.

The double-barreled shotgun my grandfather fitted with his hand-made curly maple stock in the 19th century, the Remington pump-action rifle, the automatic handgun, the revolver, and the pellet hand-gun — these are all mine, as well as recollections of the marksmenship awards I once received.

Now, though, we need to take whatever measures we can to have my own guns and those of all Americans removed from circulation. Will all guns ever be removed? Of course not. But every gun taken out of circulation means there is a better chance a gun-related suicide might be prevented, and we not see stories in the media of yet another child gunned down as she tried to avoid a shooter.

Our anachronistic Second Amendment does not trump these precious lives. Thus I urge The Southern to add one — or two — paragraphs to its editorial.

Professor William Babcock teaches ethics at SIUC’s School of Journalism.

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