Gun Ownership In America: Right, Privilege, or Curse?
The Right, Responsibility, Consequences, and Privilege To Bear Arms.
The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights that protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights.
In 2008 and 2010, the Supreme Court issued two landmark decisions concerning the Second Amendment. In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. In dicta, the Court listed many longstanding prohibitions and restrictions on firearms possession as being consistent with the Second Amendment. In McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment limits state and local governments to the same extent that it limits the federal government.
Gun control in America is perhaps one of the most touching subjects facing Americans since 1791. It ranks in the category of national debates on race relations, religions, science, sexuality, and abortion. It is as American as the American Civil War.
Gun control is a subject which lies dormant in the hearts, minds, and souls of the American public. Its menacing social connotation rises and set as often as the sun itself. With respect to the recent shootings of innocent children and adults at the Sandy Hill Elementary School in Connecticut, and previous gun related violence, gun control once again is a national hot topic which offers various opinions among groups who support the letter of the law regarding the Second Amendment and those who oppose the Amendment altogether.
It is unfortunate however, that the subject only receives national attention after a tragedy involving innocent lives. Nevertheless, almost every tragic mass killing involving a gun brings out ignorance, compassion, intelligence, conspiracy theories, truths and lies among those in support of gun control as well as those against it.
Those against gun control will quickly point out their reality that it is not guns that kill, it is people and therefore people, and access to guns need to be controlled, not guns which are inanimate objects. They believe it is a great fallacy to think that gun control laws actually control guns and subsequently reduce gun related crime. This group believes that gun control simply disarms law-abiding citizens, resulting in restricting on how they can defend their family and property… and criminals bent on violence find firearms readily available without any regards to the law. Their argument suggests that there are too many factual studies over the years to leave any serious doubt about gun control laws being not merely futile but counterproductive. They point out that places and times with the strongest gun control laws have often been places and times with high murder rates – such as Washington DC (one example among many). They also point out that the rate of gun ownership is higher in rural areas but the rate of gun violence is higher in urban areas where gun ownership is far less. Guns are just inanimate objects. Therefore, guns are not the problem – people are, and gun control advocates are perpetuating the problem by advocating leniency towards criminals. They feel that those gun control advocates who like to look to Britain as an example of successful gun control need to understand the reality that gun control has been so successful that legal gun ownership has been reduced almost to the vanishing point, while even most convicted felons in Britain are not put behind bars. Also, the crime rate, including the rate of crimes committed with guns, is far higher in Britain now than it was back during the times of fewer restrictions on Britons buying firearms. In 1954, there were only a dozen armed robberies in London but, by the 1990s – after decades of ever tightening gun ownership restrictions – there were more than a hundred times as many armed robberies.
They also believe that to compare the two countries ignores their respective history. It also ignores other countries with stronger gun control laws than the United States, such as Russia, Brazil and Mexico. Pro-gun advocates suggest that all of these countries have higher murder rates than the United States even with strict gun control laws. Their bottom line argument is that guns are not the problem. People are the problem – including people who are determined to push gun control laws, either in ignorance or defiance of the facts.
Advocates against gun control also suggest that the last two hundred years of challenges to gun laws have failed in the courts due to the intent of the Second Amendment, and partly to the strong arm of the NRA (National Rifle Association). The NRA is a strong arm organization who have fought vehemently against gun control, using their membership numbers which include members of the US Senate, House of Representatives, Arm Services Committee, US Presidents, Supreme Court Judges, Hollywood Actors, Attorney Generals, as well as high profile lawyers deeply embedded in the American Legal System at all levels including State, and Federal. In the philosophy of this group it’s the Second Amendment yesterday, today, and forever!!!
Enter Gun Control Advocates………..
Advocates for gun control however, have a slightly different perspective. This group believe that pro gun advocates should heed the intent of owning a gun as stated in the Second Amendment which suggests that the “Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home” the key language being ‘within the home, and for defense of the home. Therefore in their viewpoint gun control as a law is unconstitutional due to the written rights listed in the constitution (both 2nd and 9th amendments). The law was not designed to give any citizen the right to carry a gun publicly to be used at random. Perhaps this point becomes more obvious when examining the first amendment. The Supreme Court has recognized exceptions to first amendment freedoms. It is unlawful to use your first amendment freedoms to cause panic in a crowded building by yelling fire when there is no fire. The US Supreme Court has also recognized that using your freedom of speech to advocate the violent overthrow of the government is not permissible. Such common sense limits are in the interest of the public good and are therefore justified.
This group believes that many in the pro-gun arena have complained that gun-control limits their freedoms. However, advocates for gun control believe that being part of a civilized society does not mean complete freedom. Such ideas would lead to anarchy – such as the massive deaths relating to gun violence, as a result to easy access to firearms. It is estimated that over 130,000 Americans were killed last year due to easy access to firearms by criminals or socially challenged individuals. This number exceeds the amount of soldiers deployed to Iraq, and far less than the number of soldiers who died in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Using the same data as pro arms advocates this group present statistics suggesting that nations which have stricter gun-control laws than the US also have fewer gun related deaths. They also quote former Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell "With respect to handguns ... it is not easy to understand why the Second Amendment, or the notion of liberty, should be viewed as creating a right to own and carry a weapon that contributes so directly to the shocking numbers of murders in the United States." (American Bar Association Speech, Toronto, Canada, August 7, 1988). Gun control advocates philosophy is that thousands of people are murdered with guns each year in the United States. Considering that firearms are used in so many homicides, it's ridiculous to argue that guns should not, and cannot be regulated.
This group also supports the philosophy of John Lock concerning the right to self-preservation Locke wrote."The first power, viz. of doing whatsoever he thought for the preservation of himself, and the rest of mankind, he gives up to be regulated by laws made by the society, so far forth as the preservation of himself, and the rest of that society shall require; which laws of the society in many things confine the liberty he had by the law of nature."(The Second Treatise of Civil Government, Chapter IX Section 129) How much can the government regulate your right to preserve yourself? The answer is clear. Speaking of the power of the legislature, Locke wrote "Their power, in the utmost bounds of it, is limited to the public good of the society." (The Second Treatise of Civil Government, Chapter XI Section 135). The right to preserve oneself can be regulated as long as it's for the common good. This is obvious. You cannot privately own a nuclear weapon just because you happen to think that it's good for your own self preservation. Thus, gun-control is justified to the extent that it's for the good of the public.
Their reality is that the right to live is a very important right and freedom. Therefore, if more gun-control means more lives saved then more gun-control means more freedom. The government has an obligation to protect people’s fundamental rights such as the right to live. Thus the government has an obligation to place more restrictions on individual gun ownership if doing so leads to more lives being saved. With this in mind, this group believes that effective gun control is in the best interest of the common good. They feel that arguments posed by pro gun owners are ridiculous and are in most cases myths. Pro gun advocates would argue that keeping guns in the home increases personal choices. Gun control advocates however argues that self defense in not a good argument since those who own firearms are more likely to be victims of homicide. Pro gun advocates argue that guns don’t kill, people kill. Advocates for gun control feel that this argument is as ridiculous as arguing that eye glasses don’t see, eyes see and therefore people should not wear glasses. Glasses are tools that help people see just as guns are tools that help people kill.
Pro gun advocates strongest arguments are that guns should never be taken away from Americans; the government should never infringe on our Second Amendment rights; our forefathers advocated guns for self defense; and being a submissive victim does little to control guns or crime. However, Pro gun advocates do understand the need for stricter regulations as long as such regulations does not infringe on the rights to bear arms as described by the Second Amendment. Advocates for gun control strongest arguments are that unregulated guns cause unnecessary deaths; improper storing of guns leads to crime; tourists, the elderly and innocents are easy targets. It’s not that this group wants to do away with the Second Amendment, they just want stronger regulation which they feel will lead to better freedoms and reduced crime
Perhaps the argument for gun control is really directed to individuals who disregard the law. These individuals often ignore the laws against murder, robbery, rape, assault, and property. This group will most likely by pass registering their firearms because such a move would hinder their criminal intents. In this scenario gun control would have little effect on them. Perhaps the solution to gun control for this group is harsher legal sentencing. If they are found guilty of a crime they should spend the maximum time in jail without the possibility of parole. Leniency should never be a factor. It is a known fact that countries with strict penalties have fewer crimes such as China and Saudi Arabia. We may think these countries treat their criminals harshly however, they do have fewer gun related crimes, or crimes in general. Perhaps stricter background checks are the key factor to reducing gun related crimes however, neither a clean background, or troubled background are determining factors for how an individual will use a gun.
Perhaps the government hands are tied when it comes to the Second Amendment particularly in regards to the terms of the fourteenth Amendment. The fourteenth amendment protects the people's second amendment rights which prevents any government actions to take guns away or making the laws stricter. Anti gun statistics are presented over and over again in defense of gun control. These statistics represent the dangers of guns; crime rates, and the effectiveness of gun control. These arguments, as well researched as they may be are always followed by the pro gun group with yet another set of endless statistics that completely counter the arguments presented by the anti gun advocates. Neither side will convince the other no matter how solid the data may be. Perhaps both arguments are obsolete considering the fact that with each gun related tragedy statistical data indicate more Americans purchase arms in fear of regulated gun control. In most instances, the purchases are the same weapon used in the tragedy by pro as well as anti gun organizations.
Whatever ones’ philosophy on the Second Amendment may be it is obvious that the subject of gun control will remain an embedded social issue of the American fabric. One cannot ignore that the majority of gun related violence are caused by kids and out of control, and should not be tolerated. The fact that guns are the main source of death among today's youth is a big problem that must be stopped for not just the safety of the children, but also for the safety of the citizens killed by kids who don't understand the responsibility of gun ownership or the consequences of their actions. On the other hand, it is critical for Americans to have the right to protect their families and property by using firearms. One can make a strong anti gun argument however, one can also argument that 2.5 million violent crimes are prevented every year by citizens who have firearms and are not afraid to use them in their defense. Perhaps this poses a very strong argument why regular citizens deserve the right to carry a gun freely and use it when necessary. Anti gun advocates do not subscribe to this notion as being a reasonable argument.
Nevertheless, gun ownership is legal and presently protected under the Second Amendment, with citizen protection from government actions under the Fourteenth Amendment. However, while gun ownership is a right it is also a privilege which should be exercised under the utmost sense of responsibility. Anyone violating such a privilege should be subject to the harshest penalty under the law, without regards to social outcry.
When it comes to gun ownership in America…….be wise, be legal, be safe, and be responsible!!