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Does Congress Care About the Will of the People? 

June 20, 2016
Plain English Version
A young boy fires an AR-15 assault rifle at a shooting range.

A young boy fires an AR-15 assault rifle at a shooting range.

The AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle. Its purpose is to kill people in battle. It killed 49 people in Orlando, Florida and 20 children in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

Congress is trying to find a way to keep the weapon out of the hands of people whom the F.B.I is watching. And out of the hands of people on a ‘watch’ or ‘no-fly’ list. So far, Congress does not seem it will be able to do so.

The Senate may try to pass some kind of gun law today.

Most Americans say they want anyone who owns a weapon to have passed a background check. The Second Amendment may be in the way. This is what the amendment says:

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.

Observers make two points about the amendment. The first is about the comma in the sentence. It says a militia is vital to security. Well, most states have militias called the National Guard. That could be what the phrase, “well regulated” means.

Or does the sentence mean that anyone can own a gun? That is what the National Rifle Association says. The Supreme Court seems to agree with the N.R.A.

There is a second point. The Second Amendment affects Congress. The states and local governments can make rules about guns. Many states do that. Most states make it easy to own rifles, but not semi-automatic rifles. It is hard to own handguns in many states.

We also know that youth in big cities, such as Chicago, can get guns. Laws do not stop them.

Why does Congress matter? A federal law would overrule any state law. A ban on the sale of semi-automatic weapons would make it illegal to sell or buy one in any state. Such a ban was in effect from 1994 to 2004. It was a ten-year law. The law was not renewed.

Source: The New York Times June 16, 2016

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