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Flags lowered, but guns still raised: Orlando proves mass shootings still happen

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Flags are lowered while guns remain raised.
Flags are lowered while guns remain raised.
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Article originally published in The Post and Courier

By Robert Weiner and Ben Lasky
Friday, June 17 marks the one-year anniversary of the shootings and murders of nine victims at Emanuel AME Church.
While the Confederate flag has been taken down throughout South Carolina, mass shootings haven't stopped, as the June 12 horrific mass killing of 49 in Orlando shows once again. Guns and assault weapons aren't any harder to buy. The flags are lowered, but guns are still raised.

Though he lost the Republican presidential nomination, Ted Cruz was right when he said that the 2016 election is important to the future of the Supreme Court and the Second Amendment. On Feb. 14, Cruz appeared on "Meet the Press" and said, "We are one justice away from the Second Amendment being written out of the Constitution altogether."

Cruz, a constitutional lawyer, knows that the Supreme Court can't simply get rid of an amendment. However, it can interpret it, and the one justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia could cause more murders, or slow down the carnage.

Both D.C. v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010) were 5-4 decisions, with one of the five being Scalia. One judge has the ability to turn them both over and prevent thousands of deaths.

Every year, 33,000 people die by guns in the U.S., partially because of the then-majority's decision to ignore a modifying phrase in the Second Amendment of the Constitution. When is the last time anyone heard the modifier, "in forming a militia" when Second Amendment defenders talk about their "right" to own a firearm? They're wrong. If part of the National Guard, sure, someone must have a gun. However, where is it stated that everyone has the right to own a gun?

In his opinion representing the four dissenters in McDonald v. Chicago, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote, "In sum, the Framers did not write the Second Amendment in order to protect a private right of armed self-defense. There has been, and is, no consensus that the right is, or was, 'fundamental.' "

Amazingly, the Supreme Court justices' majority of one followed a special interest National Rifle Association-leadership position, whereas polling consistently shows that 80 to 90 percent of Americans support reforms such as increased background checks. According to a 2012 poll by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, even among the NRA, 74 percent of its members support background checks on gun transactions.

After the Charleston shooting, South Carolina's revered Rep. James Clyburn, the assistant House Democratic leader, announced the introduction of the Background Check Completion Act, which would close a loophole that allowed the alleged shooter to purchase a firearm.

"Tragically, the Charleston shooter was allowed to purchase a gun even though the FBI had not completed his background check. My bill is a commonsense fix to our nation's gun laws, and I call on my colleagues in Congress to move it immediately towards passage," Clyburn said.

Unsurprisingly in the GOP House, the bill is languishing.

Many will tell you that the problem isn't guns, but mental illness as a decoy against doing anything about guns. However, a May 19 Washington Post article finds that "Most mass shooters aren't mentally ill." Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, found that only two out of every 10 mass killers are likely to be helped by the mental health system. The other eight suffer from various personality disorders that would not be helped.

When nine people at Emanuel AME were shot, it was for no other reason than the color of their skin. According to survivors, the shooter said, "I have to do it. You are raping our women and taking over our country. And you have to go."

Many believed that the Confederate flag represented that racism, and it was the right move to remove it from the Statehouse grounds in Columbia in July 2015. However, as we mark the anniversary of the shooting, removing the flag was only symbolic. Had their attacker not been armed with a gun, those who attended the Bible study that night probably would have survived. The sole purpose of a gun is to maim and kill quickly. How could Charleston -- and Newtown, Columbine, Virginia Tech -- San Bernardino and now Orlando -- not motivate action?

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Sunday that "now is not the time" to debate ease of gun ownership.

That would be never, if the NRA leadership has its way again.

The best commemoration of the sad anniversary of the souls murdered at Emanuel AME Church would be to pass congressional legislation like Clyburn's -- and to act on Cruz' warning of what one new Supreme Court Justice could change but by finding one who properly reads the Second Amendment.

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