Founding Fathers Would Approve of AR-15 Sales

To the Editors:

This letter is a response to the op-ed by Booker C. Peek regarding AR-15s and Constitutional law (“Constitution Does Not Automatically Permit AR-15s,” The Oberlin Review, Feb. 23, 2018). Toward the beginning of their case, Peek briefly reflects on the tragic mass shooting in Florida. As someone who was born and raised in Florida, I certainly share my condolences with the families of the victims, and I understand why many people are pushing for gun legislation and Constitutional amendments on assault weapons. As a person who shares Peek’s sympathy for the victims of mass shootings, I think it is important to also use those feelings to properly assess solutions while preserving Constitutional law. Keeping this in mind, I disagree with Peek’s argument favoring a Constitutional ban on AR-15s.

The Supreme Court interprets original Constitutional amendments in the historical context of the Founders. Therefore, it is essential to examine the makeup of the AR-15 to understand why the Founders would have approved of such firearms while drafting the Second Amendment. Firstly, AR-15s are semi-automatic weapons, a type of firearm that can fire one bullet per trigger and uses cartridges to prepare for continued fire. Not only does this make the AR-15 no different than many other legal rifles such as the M1 Garand, but also indicates that there is nothing unique about the AR-15 that would prevent the Supreme Court from believing that similar guns wouldn’t have been around in America during the Revolutionary period. As a matter of fact, there were guns even more dangerous around in the times of the Founding Fathers such as the Belton Flintlock, which could fire nearly twenty bullets in five seconds — which is about as many bullets as a very skilled AR-15 wielder. Peek’s case rests on the assumption that guns like the AR-15 didn’t exist in the time of the Constitution, but historical data clearly shows that this isn’t true.

In his article, Peek also mentions the need for mental health programs and background checks. While there is a case to be made for those programs, the better solution would be to increase armed policing in public schools to protect students and teachers who aren’t able to legally obtain or conceal weapons to protect themselves. Since mass shooters generally lack firearm training, armed police officers could easily respond due to greater numbers and superior training.

Peek’s op-ed ends with a message of hope. I would like to end this response on a hopeful note as well. The fact that the United States has significantly lower homicide rates than other countries with stricter gun laws should be enough for anyone to remember that safety is in the hands of those who are the most responsible. In the end, it is not up to the law but up to our moral identity as human beings who care for each other to foster a peaceful future.