With another three dead in a shootout in small-town Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, our nation continues to add to its ever-growing pile of gun-related mass murders. This shooting, the 31st since the start of 2012, has once again brought gun rights to the forefront of the American media and policy debates.
The escalating body count and public horror is driving some legislators to be more aggressive in their push for gun rights. During a May appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) stated that right to bear arms is not "God-given." He challenged the claim that the Founding Fathers wanted U.S. citizens armed so they could repel a tyrannical government, claiming that it was "insane." In effect, Senator Murphy attempted to discredit the legality of the Second Amendment by stating, "The Second Amendment is not an absolute right, not a God-given right. It has always had conditions upon it like the First Amendment has."
Immense reforms are desperately needed in the world of gun policy, including stricter regulation, greater accountability, better maintenance, and better tracking of weapons. However, Senator Murphy’s statements attack a key aspect of the Bill of Rights. Whether the right to arm oneself is God-given or not, Senator Murphy seems to be taking on an unrealistic goal. While an increasing number of Americans do believe Congress should increase regulation of the gun industry (around 58% after the Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting), weapon accessibility is still a common part of the average American lifestyle, and this is unlikely to change anytime soon.
Ironically, one of the largest stimulants of gun sales is “fear of stricter laws.” According to a presentation by Smith & Wesson the first six months of 2012 saw gun sales of close to $2 billion, a level of revenue that it usually takes almost one year for gun manufacturers to reach.
All things considered, Senator Murphy certainly has a duty and a right to call into question the absolute right to own a gun. However, his strong language against the gun industry that goes so far as to describe the NRA as a "paramilitary group," and his challenge against the Second Amendment itself, is unlikely to spur on realistic change any time soon. In fact, it may only hinder his attempts to push forward innovative and effective gun-policy changes.