The Sunday Edition

Gun control in America: Re-examining the Second Amendment

Calls for tougher restrictions on guns in America are routinely batted away by gun advocates who invoke the Second Amendment. In this 2013 interview, we speak with Saul Cornell, a professor of history at Fordham University and the former Director of the Second Amendment Research Center about what the Second Amendment actually says and means.
The horrific massacres in the U.S. last weekend in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, have once again opened up the debate over gun control in that country. (Photo by Luke Sharrett/Getty Images)

The mass killings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio last weekend left a divided nation feeling broken, scared and anguished. 

To have two large-scale massacres in different parts of the country within 24 hours ⁠— that felt new, and once again shocking. Even after 20 young children were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. Even after Orlando, Las Vegas, Parkland and Pittsburgh. Churches, synagogues, schools, nightclubs, shopping malls, music festivals ⁠— no place seems too sacred, too innocent, too mundane to be the scene of gun violence on a horrific scale. 

And as with so many other mass shootings, last weekend's carnage reignited the debate over gun control. Protesters in El Paso and Dayton chanted, "Do something, do something!" at President Donald Trump and other political figures. But while the president has spoken of background checks on gun purchasers ⁠— and keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill ⁠— he's poured cold water on banning assault rifles, the weapon of choice in so many mass killings.

Indeed, it was said after Sandy Hook  that if 20 dead schoolchildren didn't bring about gun control, nothing would. So far, nothing has. 

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution — the right to bear arms — has proven to be a formidable weapon against gun control.

Written in 1791, it states, "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 Second Amendment is the foundation of the contemporary gun rights lobby. But according to Saul Cornell, it may not mean quite what its more fervent devotees believe.

Professor Cornell is the Paul and Diane Gunther Chair in History at Fordham University. He's the former Director of the Second Amendment Research Center, and he's the author of A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America

Michael Enright spoke to him in January 2013, a few weeks after the Sandy Hook massacre and just days after President Barack Obama initiated an attempt at legislating a ban on assault rifles — a ban that was defeated in the U.S. Senate. 

Click 'listen' above to hear the full conversation. 


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