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Second Amendment

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Emily Costa
March 23, 2018

As perhaps the most iconic Amendment to the Constitution, America’s right to bear arms may be the most cited Amendment of the last 20 years. We all know it, so I will not quote it or restate it here. As my lens is a historical one, I see no real confusion as to the founder’s intention and to the technology at the time of its writing. Today however, there is something very wrong with our relationship to guns and our American society.

We always look to see the good in people. Why? Is it because we assume humans are innately bad? The right to self-protection is inalienable and should be. The right to be fearful is human. The right to inflict carnage is a weakness of our species. Historically, we have never been able to escape this. Throughout the context of time, our species has been at war with one another over ideas, which are usually outdated. There has never been peace on earth, not once.

I feel some level of fear every day, as I’m sure everyone does. I am not sure if the media makes this worse or if I am hypersensitive. I strongly fear the future of our Democracy and the lives of the residents that will inhabit it. I am happy we are becoming more inclusive and eco-conscious, but I worry deeply about our country’s mental integrity and how it affects everyone living here.

What is bizarre and unprecedented is why children are walking into schools and killing other children with reckless abandon. These are not personal disputes being handled with a deadly weapon–these are just randomized acts of terror meant to cause shock and panic. For years, I’ve blamed the weapons. I really felt that gun availability was responsible. But now, I am starting to feel our society must hold some blame as well. Children have been shooting their parents weapons, but this is a new phenomenon. It happens primarily in America and has lasted for a twenty-year period. It is mostly white boys who commit the act, and they are mostly from the middle class.

Someone close to me recently said “it’s hard for men because there’s no new territory to conquer.” I haven’t forgotten this because I thought it was strange. I have never entertained that thought before. The concept that our lackluster world is over-explored, that there is nothing new out there… It brings me to my original point about our species. Perhaps our human need for violence bears some responsibility for the epidemic of school shootings. Maybe these boys felt bored and unheard too, so they decided to inflict pain on others. Our species’ past does not make this sound impossible.

The post-World War II decades were good to most of us. Middle class kids got TV’s and many pairs of shoes. They had plenty to eat and parents who indulged them more times than they didn’t. Generation X and Millennials have grown up with some hiccups, but they’ve never had it too bad. They generally go to school and graduate. They have never been drafted into the military. They also have had a lot of support from their families without too far to fall when they’re in trouble.

I had a conversation about adversity the other day and what it means to personality development. We were talking about our own experiences, people who have it worse and people who’ve had it better. What we realized is that sometimes adversity makes people great, or more creative, or leaders. There is something to be said for how our minds develop when we are facing difficult choices. A person who has never paid a heating bill cannot understand why another wouldn’t just turn up the thermostat, or why someone begging for money just doesn’t get a job. A child that has never seen real violence doesn’t understand what killing unarmed classmates really means. I gather that when they do, they usually commit suicide.

School shootings aren’t directly caused by any one problem facing American kids. They are caused by a portfolio of problems that have infested American society and the people living here. Technology and our settlement into the industrial, digital world has led to many unexpected consequences. We are both hyper-stimulated and bored, all from the comfort of our living rooms. It is also hard to manage the concept of human evolution when we are still killing people over ideas and hurt feelings. Generation X was the first generation to watch film representation of the trials of being a teenager. Millennials, myself included, still swoon over these today.  Characters from movies like Pretty in Pink define teenage angst and embarrassment in a way that is relevant years later. Kids today have a lot to overcome. Still, I would like to believe they can turn their awkward teenage years into roots from which they grow from instead of platforms from which they kill from.


Author: Emily Costa is a Master’s in Public Administration Student at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. While pursuing an Undergraduate Degree from Rhode Island College in History, she became highly concerned with issues of social inequity and their intersection with Public Policy. Her greatest future aspiration is to receive a Doctorate Degree. [email protected]

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

2 Responses to Second Amendment

  1. James Reply

    March 27, 2018 at 2:35 am

    Hi Emily – Great article.

    I think movies and video games also play a part. Before our technology explosion, it was impossible to play violent video games or watch a violent movie 50-100 times.

  2. Dianna Cleven Reply

    March 23, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    This brings up an interesting point; however, given this seems peculiar to the U.S., I think it is specific to something wrong in our culture. It would be interesting to know if this is another manifestation of the fact that we are seeing boys drop out or fall behind. We need to get more engaged in addressing what is happening to boys.

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