The framers of our Constitution penned the Second Amendment over two centuries ago. Today, the meaning of that amendment is being endlessly debated. In any debate that impacts gun laws, protecting the safety of citizens must always be the first priority. It hasn’t always been.

Last year, more than 42,000 people died from gun-related incidents, and twice as many were injured. Mass shootings reached a multiyear high, with school shootings now the highest on record. In 2020, guns became the No. 1 cause of death for Americans under the age of 19. The 400 million guns in circulation have not made us safer.

In 1986, President Reagan signed legislation that banned private citizens from owning fully automatic guns, with few exceptions. In 1994, during the Clinton years, Congress passed into law a bill that banned the manufacture and sale of certain semi-automatic assault-style guns for civilian use. The bill included a ban on high-capacity magazines. At the time, three former presidents – Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan – wrote to the U.S. House of Representatives to support that legislation. Ten years later, in 2004, a Republican Congress allowed that law to expire, and those rapid-fire long guns and high-capacity magazines were once again flowing into our society and into our public places.

Our military protects us from rogue nations. Who is protecting our kids sitting in a classroom?

President Reagan took legislative action against powerful guns in our society. We now have a new generation of guns as dangerous as those he acted against. Why aren’t Republicans in Congress following his lead? Some will blame our nation’s Second Amendment, but the Second Amendment doesn’t protect any type of gun. Presidents Reagan and Clinton have shown us that.

State and federal lawmakers need to use a little common sense and stop watering down gun laws that are needed by law enforcement to make sensible decisions about removing guns from the hands of people at risk for violence. They need to stop blocking effective universal background check legislation that would keep at-risk individuals from getting guns in the first place.

Why isn’t common sense being applied to gun laws in this country? Follow the money. The sale and lucrative aftermarket of 400 million guns carries a lot of influence into the pockets of many of those responsible for our gun laws.


Maine U.S. Sen. Angus King has recently introduced an important gun safety bill that’s moving through Congress. The GOSAFE Act doesn’t take anyone’s gun away, but it will stop the ongoing proliferation of those dangerous long guns by outlawing the features that make them so lethal in mass shootings.

Lawmakers concerned with the level of gun violence in our country must keep fighting to get life-saving gun bills passed by forcing votes in every session. I want to watch those votes; so will most Americans. But with many of our lawmakers under the thumb of the gun lobby, it won’t be easy.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not always supported congressional action on guns, regardless of how many lives might be saved. Some of our justices take the position that constitutional opinions on guns should not be sullied by giving any consideration to the civilian carnage taking place in modern society. It’s apparently not their problem; their scholarly minds live elsewhere. But with gun laws, the exclusive use of historical context can bring deadly consequences.

Congress and the Supreme Court should have protected us but are now complicit in the gun violence taking place across our nation. Reversing this deadly path they put us on will not be easy. Our only hope is for voters to elect lawmakers that have the backbone to support commonsense gun laws and appoint justices willing to search for the common good in our Constitution.

Our country has suffered enough.

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