Guns and gun control are back in the news because of the recent massacre in Las Vegas. I’m almost positive that this tragic occurrence will not move us any closer to lessening gun violence in any meaningful way. After all, we didn’t really do anything when babies were shot in their classrooms in Sandy Hook.

Other than the shooting injuries and deaths, there are a couple of other gun-related issues that trouble me. The first one has to do with the NRA. When I was growing up, the NRA was a sportsman’s group that promoted hunting, environmentalism and gun safety. In 1977, at an NRA convention in Cincinnati, a group of anti-gun control fanatics took over the NRA and turned it into a lobbying group for big weapons manufacturers. In the course of a day or two, this organization went from one that represented my grandfather’s interests as a hunter to one that takes orders directly from Smith & Wesson. The NRA became one of the largest political contributors in the U.S. It is hard to say how many votes they buy each year. The upsweep of this is that gun sales have gone through the roof and the gun manufacturers have gotten all kinds of legislative goodies including immunity from product liability laws. As usual in our politics — money talks.

My second issue concerns the current misinterpretation of the Second Amendment. From the ratification of the Bill of Rights until 2008, the legal consensus in the United States was that the Second Amendment does NOT grant a personal right to own a firearm outside the scope of militia service. The Heller case in 2008 and the McDonald case in 2009 wiped away 220 years of legal scholarship, gun safety regulations and court rulings. Until Heller, the 2nd Amendment protected our right to “bear arms” in service to a “well-regulated militia.” This was necessary in 1788 because the U.S. had no standing army, National Guard, FBI or even well-organized police force. The current state of affairs vividly proves what can happen if you take an 18th-century law and impose it on 21st-century society without updating your interpretation to match current conditions. It often looks a lot like chaos.

In any case, the folks who feel that gun rights are more important than people’s lives are currently ascendant. They want to take credit for all of the imaginary lives saved by gun ownership. I hope they can live with all of the real lives lost by the same mechanism.

If you are interested in reading a nonpartisan look at the history of the Second Amendment, I recommend “The Second Amendment: A Biography” by Michael Waldman.

Michael Hale

IT consultant

Baton Rouge