Why you should care

Because in some states in America, gun deaths are now as common as motor vehicle fatalities.

It’s time for American gun-control advocates to face facts: The latest attempt at reform was over before the Bushmaster rifle that Adam Lanza used to murder 26 teachers and children at Sandy Hook Elementary School had cooled. No matter how gruesome the carnage from the latest shooting, any attempt to meaningfully limit the number of guns or gun owners in the U.S. will be met by overwhelming firepower from the NRA, the Supreme Court and the millions of Americans who oppose restrictions on a time-honored right. In Colorado, two Democrats who backed tough gun-control laws were ousted in a special election . It was just another defeat for gun-control moderates. Every gun-control battle that’s lost drives up demand for more firearms and further lines the pockets of gun manufacturers.

If you can’t bear the responsibility of bearing a firearm, then perhaps you shouldn’t be bearing one.

So why don’t gun reformers try a different tack, and set their sights on limiting the seemingly insatiable demand for guns rather than focusing only on the supply? How might this work? Well, the answer lies in the Constitution itself.

“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.” The Second Amendment expressly links an individual’s right to bear arms to the broader need to secure the public’s safety. In other words, with that right comes a corresponding responsibility, and if you can’t bear the responsibility of bearing a firearm, then perhaps you shouldn’t be bearing one.

Doesn’t it make sense that any American seeking to own a gun should be required to make a pledge to abide by the spirit of the Second Amendment and man a post? After all, the founding fathers specifically contemplated actual militias in conferring the right. As Fordham University historian Saul Cornell reminds us, the Constitution focuses more on maintaining citizen militias than protecting individual rights, and “what’s easy to forget is that the Second Amendment actually poses an enormous burden on the citizenry.”

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A.J. Wynne is a former Marine who now works as a firearms instructor

Asking prospective gun owners to enlist in the reserves would certainly help separate the true patriots from those who merely dress like them on the weekends. It would also ensure that every gun owner receives proper weapons training, gets screened for mental or emotional issues and comes away with a deeper sense of duty to his community. This approach has worked in Switzerland, where gun ownership is coupled with mandatory (male) service and they have one-tenth the number of gun deaths we have in the U.S., even though the Swiss own about half as many guns per capita as Americans.

What do you say? Seems like a fair exchange: the right to bear arms if you’re willing to bear them in the service of protecting your fellow citizens. And how cool would it be to serve alongside gun-owning, pistol-packing stars like Robert De Niro, Sean Penn and Angelina Jolie?

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