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Published: Thursday 31st of October 2013
Before actually getting to talk about gun control, one must first know about what the Constitution has to say about it and what the amendments are. Thus, it’s important to mention that the Constitution of the United States is based on a specific set of rules, which are also called “amendments” and which have one solely purpose: to secure the basic rights of every citizen of the US. These amendments are also utilized to outline the laws applicable in the country, by dictating people what they are allowed to do and what they aren’t allowed to do while under the watch of the government.
It was only at the beginning of the 19th century that the second amendment was introduced. In fact, its history began in the summer of 1787, when people known as the Framers decided to conspire with one another in order to create the articles that formed the Constitution of the US. This happened during the constitutional convention and up to 55 men worked together to write this document, which was going to be utilized as the blueprint of today’s US government. The main aspect that was at the root of those men’s motivation to draft this document was related to their desire to provide all citizens of America a set of rights so that everyone could enjoy their own lives while living in this country.
An article entitled “The Framing of the Constitution of the United States”, which was written by Max Farrand at short time after those men put their plan in practice explains in greater detail the purpose that drove the creators of the constitution. From the very first chapter of the book, Farrand mentions about the independence of the British colonies in the region, saying that ‘Thirteen British colonies had asserted and established their independence because they declared the form of government under which they had been living was destructive of their “unalienable rights” of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ (Farrand, 1913, 1). From the very first sentence, one can see that the concept of freedom was installed in America over two centuries ago and that this notion didn’t change much since then.
Of all the laws mentioned in the US Constitution, one of them refers to people’s right to possess and operate a firearm. Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd president of the US who was also the main author of the Declaration of Independence and who authenticated the amendment that refers to the right to own firearms, has clearly stated in the Constitution this “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.” Thus, this right gives every citizen who has to protect their families and themselves as well the right to utilize a firearm in case they are being threatened at or their lives have been endangered in any way.
However, it’s worth mentioning that this has led to an increase number of killings and crimes all over the country throughout the course of history. Studies have shown that no less than 30,000 deaths and more than 70,000 non-fatal injuries happen within the United States every year and the great majority of them are violence-related.
Over the past several decades, people have been arguing whether or not the utilization of firearms has been performed within the laws written in the US Constitution. Considering the high rate of tragedies and unfortunate events that have been tied to the utilization of any kind of firearm, many believe that the right to possess such an object should be outlawed. Those who are fighting to abolish this law claim that all such unfortunate occurrences could have been easily prevented if the government of the US had taken a closer look at the amendments and revised them in order to impose more drastic restrictions with respect to gun bearing by regular people. If the government would have provided the population with effective methods to combat firearm use and introduced more innovative and safer alternatives regarding the severity of gun activity, the number of deaths and injuries due to firearm use would have been significantly lower.
It goes without saying that gun control has influenced the society as a whole in a negative way, and for this reason it is recommended for those responsible to evaluate the second amendment as soon as possible. The people’s right to bear and maintain arms of any kind must be reassessed and adjusted so that it benefits all citizens alike.
It’s important to note that the US Supreme Court system along with the Legislation have been seriously debating for a very long period the most controversial and risky issue of the country – gun control. Those from the Supreme Court confronted with numerous ambiguities, as well as various laws that were challenged by groups of both sides – those who are for the use of guns and those who are against it. It’s hard to say if those fighting for reassessment of the second amendment have taken it out of context. By far, many people still hope that these meeting of good minds will result in finding a common ground and bringing the nation towards a better direction in order for citizens of the country to live happily and safely without the fear of going through gun violence on a daily basis. It’s true that there are some laws that limit the number and types of weapons that regular people can possess, but this doesn’t prohibit them from owning a gun, be it a smaller sized one. According to specialists, these laws are only here to ban completely the right of bearing arms, but to limit it to some extent, which has proved in the past decades to have no positive effect over society as a whole.
Obviously, one of the most important actions that the government should take rapidly is related to controlling what types of persons should have access to guns and firearms taking public safety measures into account. Until now, little action was taken in this direction.
One should know that, before delving into such controversial and touchy subjects of discussion, there are six essential points that need to be discussed and that are related to gun control. Whether the government reaches the conclusion that banning gun control is a measurement that needs to be taken rapidly or chooses to leave it the way it is, there will always be groups of people that disagree with the government’s decision. There are two sides of any coin and this cannot be contested. This is in fact the first thing that people have to accept – that there are two groups that support different set of values and that will never come at peace with each other, no matter the decision of the authorities. Pros and cons of the gun control and the second amendment will be depicted anyway, but it’s essential to understand the difference lying between the two parties involved. At the same time, it’s vital to know that the intention is not to abuse people’s privileges or to mismanage them, but rather to adjust them and use them for the greater good of everyone.
Both fundamental and libertarianism rights fight for the use of guns and firearms. These two individual groups are convinced that the second amendment supports the idea of protecting the individual and their loved ones through the possession of firearms and against any imposed threat. They believe that if people are allowed to use and bear guns, potential criminals will not be prone to commit murderers because of the possibility that their potential victims might carry guns and defend themselves against the attackers. Thus, those who are pro-gun control are convinced that by maintaining the amendment the way it is right now, criminals feel less encouraged to commit crimes compared to the case in which possession of guns would be banned.
Furthermore, people who support the second amendment strongly believe that it was created with the only purpose of allowing them to choose the best way to protect their assets, even though this implies the use of a firearm. In fact, there are many studies that also support this statement: this trend of possessing a gun leads to a decrease in the number of crimes in the country. Compared to the year 1946, the homicide rate in the US in 2010 was nearly 30% lower and since 2000 until the present day, this rate either dropped or remained the same, notwithstanding that during this period up to five million new guns were added to the gunstock.
Since the writing of the Bill of Rights, which happened in 1791, the debate on gun control has never ceased to exist and to stir intense discussions between people who support the idea of gun control and people who are against it completely. Thus, the two sides of the debate have occurred throughout time: those arguing for gun rights on the one hand, and those arguing for gun control on the other hand.
But what exactly does “gun rights” mean? It refers to the right that nowadays each citizen in the United States has – that of keeping and bearing arms. At the opposite pole, as it might be deduced, “gun control” refers to the acts of introducing new laws and policies in order to regulate not only the use and possession of firearms, but also their manufacture and sale. Believe it or not, America is the no. 1 country in the world when it comes to the number of guns possessed by its citizens. As a result, it’s not surprising at all finding out that this country has the highest death rate worldwide due to gun violence. These facts are highly alarming and should definitely make the authorities aware of the importance of applying stricter laws within the US. The conflict between the two sides of this debate is deeply rooted in the history of the country and there are little chances for it to end sometime in the near future.
The danger that these guns bring does not go unnoticed and it is clear proof that stricter laws referring to gun control have to be enacted in the US as soon as possible. The main purpose of this paper is to explore some alternative interpretations as far as the controversial second amendment is concerned and the role it had throughout the history within the boundaries of the United States. Further on, the reality of homicide in relation to gun control will be discussed. Finally, yet importantly, the ways these gun control policies have influenced society both positively and negatively will be scrutinized. The unfortunate events that recently happened in the US at Orlando, FL and Newtown, CT are clear proof that the government needs to consider applying stricter regulation that cumber the process of obtaining firearms.
1971 was an important year in the history of the United States, because in December that year the Second Amendment was announced to be introduced in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. This amendment implies that “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.” The focus here needs to be put over the term “well-regulated”. This composed word is what provides the modern politics of today a content regarding the purpose of writing this statement. However, it is crucial to understand that each period in the history of this country had a different political atmosphere. For instance, in the 18th century, the greatest fear of the Founding Father was the forming of a large federal government not to mention about how skeptical people were with respect to the union of several sovereign states and how dangerous they thought this idea was. Even so, this fear regarding state militias was more than understandable and relevant back then, but it’s absolutely unnecessary and absurd in today’s times.
The mention of “a […] Militia” in the amendment implies the existence of a military force but only from a civil population. As a result, this means that the amendment is meant to apply on groups and not individuals alone. The main reason why one should consider this amendment focuses on groups instead of individuals is that the moment in the history when it was created, having standing army as a threat was a widely common practice. The concept of “militia” indicates to wards the army of self-defense each citizen has, which was actually under the authority of the government. Probably the best example that can illustrate the initial purpose of militia is the well-known Shay’s Rebellion.
Shay’s Rebellion occurred between 1786 and 1787, somewhere in Western Massachusetts, which was actually before the Constitution was created. Nevertheless, this rebellion wouldn’t have benefitted from any constitutional protection, because most probably, the Framers would have considered this nothing but an armed mob. This mob differs from a militia in many aspects and the most important of all is that compared to militia, it didn’t benefit from constitutional protection. Another thing that this rebellion managed to prove is the great danger and negative effects the use of guns by certain groups can have, especially if those groups acted without governmental authority. This is the reason why the Framers felt the need to clearly differentiate between what militia and armed mob mean.
According to the Founder, where there is no regulation, there is anarchy, which is second to tyranny. In fact, the occurrence of anarchy was the thing they were most scared of. In today’s times, this concept is understood differently than it was in the past. The fact that guns and weapons were allowed throughout the country has generated, as specialists call it, a gun violence epidemic, which could be seen in all cities, including New York, NY, Boston, MA or Orlando, FL. Overall, gun rights, just as any other rights, can be regulated. Gun control advocates have one strong and important justification and it lies in this controversial Second Amendment. Even so, the opposing group, those supporting gun rights, have also resorted to the Second Amendment when they addressed the unregulated gun ownership, thus considering the policies of gun control proponents an attack on the ideas stated in the Second Amendment.
In the case of Pritz vs. US, the Supreme Court decided that it was citizens’ fundamental right to possess guns and firearms and use them for self-defense against acts of tyranny or violence. The decision mainly focused on the Brady Bill, or also known as the Brady Handgun Prevention Act, an act that was passed in 1993. This required all local officers and chief law enforcement authorities to make various background checks in order to find prospective handgun buyers and to continue these checks until the Attorney General comes up with a well-established federal system to serve this purpose.
However, one county sheriff named Printz thought about this for a while and decided to challenge and see whether or not this act was constitutional at all. Thus, he used a part of Article 1 mentioned in the Constitution and so the District Court decided that this bill was, in fact, unconstitutional, thus strengthening the argument related to gun rights. The Court stressed that it was not the duty of local chief law enforcement officers to do such tasks. The process behind these background checks implies taking a closer look into an individual’s credit, employment, as well as criminal history due to safety and security reasons. Thus, it was concluded that no state legislature should enforce such background checks and that people had their right to possess firearms.
According to some people, it appears that the ideology of modern gun rights has its roots in two major arguments. One of these arguments states that owning a gun is actually a right given by God, a right that each citizen should benefit of. But this is nothing but clear evidence that not guns are the real problem, but individuals. Once more, there is no regulation that actually exemplifies anarchy or a state where the power of authority is not recognized or is absent. The other argument is related to the fact that gun rights are equal to self-defense. However, some trace this aspect back to earlier American history, when slavery was at its peak. During those times, judges in the South believed that white men are allowed to possess guns due to the fear they feel in case of slave insurrections.
It’s true that the Second Amendment can be utilized in establishing the prevalence of firearms in the country, but the current results related to the lack of regulation within the US are to be seen in every corner of this country. Whether we’re talking about suicides or about terrible mass shootings, guns have the solely purpose of encouraging people act violently and have a homicidal behavior. For this reason, it is essential for arguments focusing on gun violence to be explored.
Centers for Disease Control released a study in 2011 stating that more than 30,000 people die yearly in the United States due to accidents, suicides and homicides provoked by guns and firearms, and a third of this number are suicides. Even so, with this statistical data at their hands, people who support gun rights claim that it’s not because of guns that people die, it’s because they are killed by other people. But this has been refuted. The incident that occurred on the 14th of December in 2012 in a school in Newtown, Connecticut supports this refutation. That day, a Chinese man armed with a knife walked into an elementary school and attacked everyone in his way, injuring more than 20 children. The fact that he utilized a knife instead of a gun is a vital aspect to remember, because in the case of a gun, those injured children would have probably been dead by now. The fact that there are effective and strict laws in China that limit people’s rights with respect to obtaining a gun is the main reason that prevented this man from having one. It goes without saying that a gun would have done much more damage. This even, even though unfortunate, is a very good example that underlines the importance of having stricter laws related to owning a gun. Not having an effective weapon limited the possibilities of this man and prevented him from taking away innocent lives of children. It’s something the US government should take into account.
Statistics say that in 2011, more than 10,000 people were killed by guns in the US, compared to a significantly lower number in Canada (nearly 50), Japan (less than 50), Switzerland (nearly 30) or the UK (less than 10!). As shocking as these data might seem, they reflect the truth and should be a warning that it’s time for the United States’ government to do something about it. 1968 was also a crucial year in the history of America, because it was the year the president John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were all assassinated. This was the moment the Gun Control Act was revised and stricter regulations with respect to gun control were applied. The act stated clearly the types of persons who were not allowed to possess guns, including felony convicts (with some exceptions though), those who were mentally ill, who took drugs and so on. No more firearms were sold through the mail as people used to do before. It’s quite surprising how easily people could be provided with guns until this act was revised; all they had to do was to sign an act that stated they were over 21 years old. This definitely should make everyone consider the necessity of introducing stricter laws regarding gun control.
Another key example that upholds the urge in applying stricter laws and regulations regarding gun control is the mass shooting that happened in a nightclub in Orlando in June, 2016 and that terrified the whole world. Nearly 50 people were killed, not to mention about the much more increased number of those injured. This traumatic event was categorized as the deadliest that happened within the past three decades in America. The Injury Control Research Center from Harvard has even confirmed the connection between the high number of homicides and the number of guns. Even though this is an undeniable fact, there are gun rights advocates who emphasize that an equal sign cannot be put between this connection and causation. They tie this idea to the fact that in certain countries the number of guns present in those states has various factors that influence it. They say that the correlation between the number of violent crimes and that of gun owners is much more complex and difficult to understand than it seems.
One of the greatest gun rights support group in the United States is the National Rifle Association, shortly known as NRA. Wayne LaPierre, who is the president of this association, stressed out several times the idea that a bad guy holding a gun can only be stopped by a good guy who also holds a gun, thus enforcing the idea of owning a gun for self-defense purposes. Moreover, the NRA claim that people cannot blame the firearm for the final decision, but the person holding that firearm.
Over the course of history in the United States, three major gun control policies have been adopted and in the following paragraphs, all of them will be discussed. These policies are the universal background checks, the ban applied to high-capacity magazines and the ban applied to specific assault weapons.
All of these policies are considered controversial. The first one, the background checks implies that local authorities look up commercial, financial and criminal records of people or organizations. Those supporting gun control claim that this act is not safe at all. Worth mentioning is that these background checks include, besides the buyer’s history, records on their mental health. More than 70% of the general public believes that shooters suffer from various forms of mental illnesses and this actually proves the necessity of background checks. Allowing a mentally ill person to possess a gun will only increase the chances to witness a mass shooting at some point, where the author is that mentally ill person. Substance abuse records can also be found out through background checks. It’s generally known that both alcohol and drug use can significantly influence one’s behavior. Background checks have the possibility to stop people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol from obtaining guns.
Banning high capacity magazines is another highly debated policy. High capacity magazines are feeding devices and storages that hold higher amounts of rounds of ammunition. This ban, according to gun control proponents is a favorable one because it is supposed to reduce the number gun deaths by limiting the number of shots available. For instance, the City Council in Los Angeles agreed to an ordinance that banns the residents of the city from owning rifle or gun magazines of more than ten rounds of ammunition, claiming that owning more than this number is in fact unnecessary when it comes to self-defense.
The last policy mentioned earlier with respect to gun control is the ban on assault weapons. This limits people’s ability to possess and utilize specific types of guns that are considered to be more threatening to public safety. The main purpose of this ban is actually to control the types of weapons that are in circulation right now. Ultimately, this was enacted as a law and this was considered an important step for the gun control proponents, because it meant that the manufacturing, using and possessing of certain types of weapons, such as AK-47, were completely banned. Worth mentioning though is that the law had its expiration term in 2004.
The positive implications of either of these three policies are more than obvious. Even so, the ones opposing gun control never stop fighting. They actually perceive these regulations as overreach. They claim that background checks prove to be ineffective in case the person who undergoes such a background check and buys a gun, will ultimately give that gun to another person. The banning on high capacity magazines is also debated by gun rights advocates, because they say that in some cases, only 10 rounds of ammunition may prove to be insufficient even for self-defense in case the victim is facing several attackers at a time. The same treatment goes for the banning on assault weapons. Gun rights advocates say that this violates the rights of a person. They give as example the situation in which military invasions occurred, as in such cases, the only line of defense regular people have is assault weapons. By banning assault weapons, people from this group say that the government will only limit the power of the individual against greater dangers and threats. Also, they rely on the confusion that the term “assault weapons” create, and want to know exactly how the types of weapons that qualify as assault are defined. They even bring into discussion the potential inclusion of semi-automatic firearms into the category of “assault weapons”, which they say it’s illegitimate, as semi-automatic weapons are far less dangerous compared to automatic ones.
All things being said, it’s undoubtedly that firearms represent a great part of the culture of the United States. Nevertheless, the most important question remains unanswered yet: should this part of the culture cost such a great number of innocent lives? There’s no single community in the US who hasn’t been affected at least once by the use of guns, whether it was an accident, a homicide or a suicide. As sad as this may sound, it’s the pure truth. There are many people who use guns as a form of recreation, but at the same time, it’s important to understand that these tools can become lethal in the hands of the wrong person.
The great majority of people living in the countryside in America, guns are a part of their daily life. Even though both the Democratic and the Republican parties represent an important part of America, they have completely different opinions in many ways. However, both parties fail to acknowledge that both gun ownership and gun regulation are equally American.
Through assessing both interpretation that the Second Amendment has offered with respect to gun control, one that is for and one that is against it, it has become more than clear that applying stricter regulations to this extent can serve the greater good of society. Guns affect every citizen of America in one way or another. It’s true that guns can prove to be incredibly useful as tools of self-defense, but only if they are in the right hands. Otherwise, if someone with bad intentions possesses a gun, the consequences can be devastating.