Gun control in the United States is easily one of the most divisive issues in contemporary American culture and law. This sample politics paper explores how the Second Amendment has long since been the focal point of discussion and controversy between people at all points along the political spectrum.
Guns, freedom, and liberty in the United States
The United States of America is built on the idea of the individual having a certain amount of personal freedoms and liberties. When the forefathers wrote the Constitution and, subsequently, the Bill of Rights, they were attempting to create a form of government that catered to the citizen rather than those in political power. Being that this nation started as a colony of Great Britain when the Bill of Rights was written, the personal liberties were mostly those that the people were denied by the crown in the 1770’s.
One such liberty was that which is laid out in the 2nd Amendment. This Amendment lays out the rights for an individual to own a firearm. Today this has become one of the most controversial issues that our society faces and raises a very important question: should the government be allowed to pass legislature that regulates who can own a firearm and what type of firearms are civilian legal.
Though many argue that the Bill of Rights guarantees their freedom to own whatever sort of firearm they should choose, it is important to realize a simple truth. The 2nd Amendment was written in the 1780’s, which was over 200 years ago when times were completely different. Gun control should be permissible today as it is a matter of public safety and, as evidence has shown, is an issue that clearly needs to be dealt with.
Firearms and murder statistics
Statistically speaking, firearms are responsible for the majority of the murders that occur within the United States. Take, for example, the year 2008. In this year:
- Roughly 16,200 murders committed
- 67% were carried out by the use of a gun
One of the major arguments that individuals have for wanting the rights to own a gun stems from the idea that they can be used for self-defense and to protect their own household from a potential intruder or other threat.
However, when surveying 11 different state prisons over the country, only 34% of the convicts confirmed that they had ever been “scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured by an armed victim,” (Agresti & Smith).
Gun control and the right to protection
The National Rifle Association (NRA) may argue the necessity of gun ownership for protection, but the statistics show otherwise. What this shows is that for all the people that claim their guns are there to protect themselves, the majority of criminals act in a way that these people are not able to have access to their firearms when the very situation that they own them for are used. Another issue with a person owning and possessing a gun in a situation where a criminal is threatening them is that the criminal is much more likely to kill the victim if they see that the victim has a firearm.
This is based on the idea that the criminal will act in his or her own self-defense because the victim now has the ability to shoot, and potentially kill, the perpetrator (Messerli). The fact of the matter is that the more firearms that are present in an intense situation, the more likely it is that someone will be hurt or even killed.
Times have changed
Historically, one must address the context that the 2nd Amendment was written in as well. When the nation was first being organized, the 2nd Amendment was a necessary step to becoming independent because it was a way for the states to organize their own militias. Firearms were a necessary part of life in the 1780’s considering that hunting was one of the major sources of finding and obtaining food. We must remember, however, that this was over 200 years ago.
Nowadays, the vast majority of the population is not going out and hunting for their food, and we most certainly are not forming statewide militias to protect ourselves from domestic or foreign threats. The modern technology is also becoming an issue with gun control, especially with regards to citizens being allowed to carry concealed weapons. In the 1780’s, it was near impossible to carry a firearm and have people be unaware that a person was armed.
Nowadays, with the advent of small, effective handguns, citizens can carry multiple firearms without anyone knowing that they are armed. When you get right down to it, retrospective gun control studies show the entire purpose of the handgun is absolutely ludicrous. Its entire purpose is essentially to harm, or kill, other people. No real argument can be made for its hunting purpose as rifles and shotguns work more effectively. When it comes to it, a handgun is a weapon that no civilian citizen should ever have or need.
The necessity of weapons
Finally, one should look at the types of weapons that individuals are allowed to carry and ask the question: are these sorts of weapons necessary? Certain firearms are civilian legal that have absolutely no business to be so. A person can purchase a firearm that is essential military grade even though it has no business being owned. People will claim the usual reasons of either hunting or self-defense, but at some point this argument loses its credibility.
The assault weapon ban, a piece of legislature that used to ban the carrying of such weapons, puts into perspective what characteristics defined a weapon as being labeled an “assault weapon.” One of these characteristics was if a rifle possessed a “grenade launcher,” (Garrett). There is no argument conceivable that can justify the reason for anyone needing to own a grenade launcher for their firearm, the fact of the matter is people just want to own a weapon that looks cool, regardless of the consequence.
Our government has a very specific job. It is in place to protect and to serve the people. Sometimes, this means that the government must do something that people are not entirely happy about, but if it is for the good of the nation, the government must take action. Gun control is one of these issues. Though proponents of gun control argue that the 2nd Amendment guarantees certain civil liberties, we must realize that the facts are clear when it comes to firearms.
We must also remember that the Supreme Court has held its decision that the 2nd Amendment “does not protect an individual’s right to own guns,” (Cohen), rather it protects the rights of the state. Our forefathers wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights in a time that was completely different than that of today and there are clear differences from our time to theirs. With the advancement of society, it is becoming evident that firearms no longer serve the same function and purpose as they once did. Gun Control is an important issue, and we must seriously consider actions that will redefine what sort of liberties a citizen has in regards to the 2nd Amendment.
Cohen, Jeff. “Gun Control, the NRA, and the Second Amendment.” Fair: Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. N.p., 01 Feb 2000. Web. 22 Feb 2013. http://fair.org/article/gun-control-the-nra-and-the-second-amendment/.
Garrett, Ben. “Definition of Assault Weapons.” About.com. N.p.. Web. 22 Feb 2013. http://civilliberty.about.com/od/guncontrol/a/Assault-Weapons.htm.
“Gun Control Facts.” By James D. Agresti and Reid K. Smith. Just Facts, September 13, 2010. Revised 2/11/13. http://justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp
Messerli, Joe. “Should civilian possession of handguns and other non-hunting guns be banned or severely restricted?.” Balances Politics. N.p., 07 Jan 2012. Web. 22 Feb 2013. http://www.balancedpolitics.org/gun_control.htm.