Of all the columns in this series in The Edgefield Advertiser, the one that received the most comments, hands down, had this same heading. Now that two years have passed, it is time to talk again about the Second Amendment and wrongs committed in its name. Adopted along with the rest of the Bill of Rights in 1791, the amendment is short enough to quote the whole thing: “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.” Many have been the court cases arguing what those 27 words mean. Is the entire meaning wrapped up in that part about “the right … shall not be infringed”? Or does that first part, regarding a Militia (does that mean the entire male population of military age?) affect to whom that last part pertains? And what are “Arms”? Do the amendment protect weapons of a type that didn’t even exist in the eighteenth century? In particular, does it preclude a ban on assault-style weapons such as the ones used most recently to kill all those concert-goers in Las Vegas, and again to kill over 20 parishioners in a Texas church – not to mention the weapon then used to kill the Texas assailant himself? Presumably not, since there was an assault weapons ban nationwide until it was allowed to expire a few years ago.
If such a ban does not involve Second Amendment rights, then the question becomes, do we, the people, want once more to ban legal sales of assault-style weapons? Polling answers that question, at least in South Carolina. The Columbia newspaper recently reported on a national Quinnipiac poll. It showed that 64 percent of Americans want such a ban, but there were more details about a Winthrop University poll here in our own state. The results: among Republicans, 37 percent favor a ban, while 58 percent oppose it. (Almost all of our elected representatives are Republicans.) Among our white population, 47 percent favor a ban, while 49 percent oppose it – almost a 50-50 split. Among African-Americans, 62 percent favor a ban, and among Democrats, 72 percent. The split among men and women was not reported.
So how does that total up? Again, almost a 50-50 split: 49 percent of all people here in South Carolina want to ban the sale of assault-style weapons, while 46 percent don’t. The remaining 5 percent, presumably, are undecided.
It would not be far-fetched to surmise that the acts of the next wanton killer using an assault-style weapon will push that percentage to over 50 percent. But our predominantly Republican legislators at both the national and state levels will probably continue to reflect not the views of the majority but rather the views of those who nominated and subsequently elected them. Until, that is, the number of such wanton killings becomes too much even for many in that 46 percent who now oppose banning these weapons, and the majority becomes too large to ignore. Let us hope that it doesn’t take too many more of those killings before assault-style weapons are again banned from legal sales in our state and in our nation.