The Bible and the American Constitution, like all foundational documents, are the written laws of the land. Over time, common law develops from those primary sources. The Biblical "eye for an eye" ex talionis, was written in ancient times. Unlike the Romans who followed that law throughout their reign, burning, mutilating, and crucifying the "guilty", the Jewish people, the people of The Book, moved on to read "eye for an eye" as a metaphor for compensation for a loss.
Common law, over time, worked out the amount of compensation for various losses. All kinds of checks and balances were put into place to avoid the ultimate penalty of death. A written law evolved through common law to lead its citizens into a more civilized lifestyle. It is written in Talmud, the Jewish book of oral law that "A Sanhedrin (the Jewish Court) that condemned even one man to death in seventy years was called a Bloody Sanhedrin."
Constitutions, foundational documents, are drawn up in a particular time but those that thrive are the ones that live, breathe and grow with the culture -- or they both die. It is common law that brings the written law of the past into the present to meet new challenges, new discoveries, to meet the needs of a more civilized society. Which brings me to the Second Amendment in the Constitution of the United States.
Author, Herman Wouk, writing in 1959 about the evolution of Jewish law said that "one can no more understand or even picture, Jewish jurisprudence by reading the Bible than one can envision the United States in 1959 by reading the Constitution. In each case it is common law that brings the founding documents in touch with our lives here and now."
Wouldn't he be surprised by the religious fervour that gun holders have in America, today, for their Second Amendment. It has taken on a sacredness that rivals Biblical laws.
The amendment, added to the Bill of Rights on December 15 1791 and as passed by the Congress read: "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."
There have been many heated discussions about the right to bear arms. The Second Amendment, recently reviewed by the Supreme Court in 2008 and 2010, entrenched an individual's right to own weapons for self-defense. The Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute reviewed the Court's decision and agreed that the Second Amendment "guarantees the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation," because the Second Amendment codified a pre-existing right.
Those American people holding strong to their Amendment and their guns are probably the same people who hold steadfast to the literal meaning of the Bible. The type of person who reads the word slavery in the Bible and assumes that God condones slavery or that the world was created in six days so they have theme parks with children cavorting with dinosaurs.
The United States is now 237 years old. I think it is safe to say that their government will not turn on its citizens literally, although their government seems to have turned on them by refusing to govern. The idea that the people need to arm themselves with military-style weapons to save themselves from a tyrannical government is outdated.
It belongs well in the past when the British were coming. The American people are being tyrannized by their own citizens who will not let go of a written law that should have evolved over and with time but instead has been permanently etched in stone by those who preach fear and encourage that fear to underpin its laws.
A civilized society does not eat its young: does not dismember its citizens with multiple, rapid-fire bullets like the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary. A civilized society does not let babies get shot with stray bullets as if they lived in the Wild West.
A civilized society knows when to re-interpret its laws in order to teach its citizenry that an "eye for an eye;" a good guy with a gun against a bad guy with a gun, is a throw- back to the failed policies of the Roman Empire.
The Obama administration will call on Congress to provide additional funding to train public and private personnel at schools to respond to active shooter situations.
The Obama administration, through executive action, encourages school districts to use Comprehensive School Safety Grants to purchase school safety equipment, develop and update public safety plans, conduct threat assessments and train "crisis intervention teams" of law enforcement officers to work with the mental health community while responding and assisting students in crisis.
The Obama administration cites that with technical assistance from the Department of Education, 18,000 schools have already put evidence-based strategies to improve school climate into action. Through executive action, the administration proposes a new $50 million initiative to help 8,000 more schools train teachers and staff to implement these strategies.
To help schools break the cycle of violence, the administration will urge Congress to provide $25 million to offer students mental health services for trauma or anxiety, conflict resolution programs and other school-based violence prevention initiatives.
Under Obama's executive action, the Department of Justice will provide an incentive for police departments that hire officers through COPS Hiring Grants by providing a preference for grant applications that support school resource officers.
The Department of Justice will invest $20 million in FY2013 to give states stronger incentives to share information with the background check system. President Obama signed executive action requiring federal agencies to make crucial records available to the background check system and also to ensure that such records are frequently updated.
President Obama signed an executive action reaffirming his respect for the Second Amendment, but acknowledging that the right to bear arms comes with a responsibility to safely store guns to prevent them from being accidentally or intentionally used to harm others.
Today, guns can be purchased easily from unlicensed dealers or from "straw purchasers" who pass the required background check, but give the guns to criminals. The Obama administration will include an explicit law against straw purchasing and others who traffic guns, including prosecutions for paperwork violations.
The Obama administration recognizes that it is crucial to keep more officers within communities and neighborhoods in order to prevent gun violence. The president calls on Congress to put forth a $4 billion proposal to help keep 15,000 police officers on the streets across the country.
The federal assault weapons ban that was in place from 1994 to 2004 was a first step, but President Obama acknowledged that manufacturers were able to circumvent the prohibition with cosmetic modifications to their weapons. Obama is pressing Congress to introduce legislation reinstating and expanding the ban to include all assault weapons.
President Obama will urge Congress to reinstate the prohibition on ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds. Shooters at Virginia Tech, Tucson, Ariz., Aurora, Colo., Oak Creek, Wis. and Newtown, Conn. all used magazines that had a capacity of more than 10 rounds, which come standard with many handguns and rifles.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is required to authorize the importation of dangerous antique weapons that are at least 50 years old. Obama will press Congress to remove restrictions and enable the ATF to ensure that incoming weapons are actually acquired as collectibles and not for putting the weapons in the wrong hands.
Under Obama's executive action, the Department of Justice plans to publish an annual report on lost and stolen guns to ensure data collected by the ATF is available.
Some have erroneously claimed that language in the Affordable Care Act prohibits doctors from asking patients about guns and gun safety. According to Obama's executive action, the administration will issue guidance clarifying this misconception and reiterating the importance of protecting doctors who have discussions on safe storage of firearms, especially if their patients show signs of certain mental illnesses, have young children or have a mentally ill family member at home.
As declared by Obama's executive action, the administration will encourage gun owners to take responsibility for keeping their guns safe through a national campaign promoting common-sense gun safety measures.
Law enforcement can trace a gun's path from it's manufacturer, the dealer who sold it and its first purchaser. However, not all federal law enforcement agencies require a trace on guns they recover and keep in custody. President Obama signed executive action requiring a trace on <em>all</em> firearms.
The president is directing the attorney general through executive action to work with technology experts to review emerging gun safety technology that helps guard against unauthorized access and use.
The Obama administration is urging Congress to take up a Comprehensive School Safety program that will offer $150 million to school districts and law enforcement agencies to hire resource officers, school psychologists, social workers and counselors. The Department of Justice will also develop a model for schools that use resource officers, including age-appropriate methods for working with students.
Students who are suspended or expelled are far more likely to repeat a grade, not graduate or become involved in the juvenile justice system. The Obama administration believes effective school discipline policies are critical to addressing school and community crime and violence issues. Under Obama's executive action, the Department of Education will collect and execute best practices on school discipline policies and help schools implement these policies.
Through partnerships such as the newly proposed Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), President Obama is urging Congress to take up a comprehensive plan to reach 750,000 young people through programs for early detection of mental illness and swift treatment. Project AWARE includes $15 million for training teachers and other adults who interact with youth to detect and respond to mental illness.
By executive action, Obama announced a plan to finalize regulations that would require group health plans offering mental health care to cover such services at parity under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. Additionally, the Affordable Care Act requires all new small group and individual plans to cover mental health and substance abuse services.
There is some evidence that Medicaid plans do not always meeting mental health parity requirements. In an executive action, the Obama administration issued a letter to state health officials insisting that these plans must comply with mental health parity requirements.