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Columbine and Beyond


Since the 1999 shooting at Columbine, the people and political actors of the United States have struggled over the ramifications of an unchecked gun market and a culture that has slowly numbed itself to violence that should be intolerable.

I was not yet alive when the shooting at Columbine occurred, and I do not remember a world before the attacks on September 11th, 2001.  I am part of a generation whose lives, and in particular whose educational experiences, have been overshadowed by the fear of unpredictable, mindless violence. Granted, no mass civil war has swept our country. On the surface at least, there is no ideological cause for terrorism against children in our nation’s educational institutions. Yet murderous acts have still occurred with such frequency in recent years that the shock we once felt has been numbed. For those students who survived shootings in their own schools and communities, however, this horror is not so easy to ignore. They grow up to become traumatized adults because of these senseless acts of violence, which have been committed on a scale unimaginable in the late eighteenth century, when the young United States Congress sent the first ten amendments of the Constitution to the states for ratification.

According to traditional interpretations of the Constitution, the framers intended the second of these amendments to protect citizens from unjust violence perpetrated against them by their government and members of their communities. The amendment champions measures “necessary to the security of a free State,” specifically making lawful the possession of arms and the establishment of a “well-regulated Militia.” A free state does not maintain itself, and it cannot exist in a time of fear of anarchic violence that targets young people in search of education and intellectual community. The Second Amendment does not in any sense preclude regulation of arms. Its primary, and most worthy, goal should be to protect the people of the United States from tyrannical violence and disempowerment.

Watching young people be disempowered, terrorized, and killed by perpetrators of tyrannical violence—including the shooters at Parkland, Columbine, and Sandy Hook—and then doing nothing to prevent the occurrence of further violence does not fulfill or strengthen the Second Amendment. Such callous inaction undermines and perverts it.

- Sam St. John '18