The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America enables citizens to protect their liberties, their families and themselves. In recent years, the right of citizens to keep and bear arms has become very controversial. The debate centers on the wording of the Second Amendment and the intentions of those that wrote it. 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” (Bill of Rights).
Those that support gun-control as well as others that oppose it often publish their opinions in newspapers. Most of these opinions are printed following an incident with a firearm. In a Los Angeles Times column entitled, “Private Gun Ownership Is Not Protected by the Second Amendment,” the writer expresses his viewpoint on the subject:
The proposition that the Second Amendment does not guarantee individuals a right to keep and bear arms for private, non-militia purposes is among the more firmly established propositions in U.S. Constitutional law… The courts have held that the Second Amendment guarantees a ‘collective right,’ not an individual one. (Los Angeles Times 85)
Individuals that hold this position do not maintain consistency in their interpretation of the Constitution. The opening paragraphs of the Bill of Rights say “all or any of which articles, when ratified by three-fourths of the said legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the said Constitution” (Bill of Rights). The writers intended that “all” aspects of the amendments apply to citizens on an individual basis. An individual has the right to free speech and freedom of religion; an individual has the right not to have a soldier quartered in his or her home; an individual has the right to a speedy trial by an impartial jury.
Gun-control supporters portray the Second Amendment as being a special circumstance. They support the other amendments on the individual basis while maintaining the right to bear arms is a “collective right.” This is inconsistent with the opinions of the Constitution’s authors.
Writings and speeches by the Founding Fathers leave no doubt to what the intent of the Second Amendment is. President James Madison stated, “Americans need never fear their government because of the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation.” President Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Constitution stated, “A government afraid of its citizens is a democracy; citizens afraid of government is tyranny…In questions of power, then let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution” (Juno Society).
Gun laws are often misinterpreted as well. In some cases, this is intentionally done to portray all gun owners as being criminal. Writing about a Chicago shooting, Reporter David Heinzmann from the Chicago Tribune says, “Reed’s slaying is the sort of tragedy that gun-control advocates argued should have kept a federal assault weapons ban from expiring in 2004” (Heinzmann). The article further says the weapon used was fully automatic. The perpetrator of this crime was already in violation of the law by possessing such a weapon without a Class Three Federal Firearms License. The assault weapon ban wouldn’t have affected this individual.
Self defense is another intention of the Second Amendment. In an attempt to reduce crime, many states have passed laws allowing citizens, who do not have a criminal background or psychological problems, to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon for self defense. The Concealed Carry of Deadly Weapons license (CCDW) is obtained following the completion of a firearms training course given by a state certified instructor. The applicant must also submit to a criminal background check.
In the book “More Guns, Less Crime” by John Lott, statistics given show states that enact restrictions on gun ownership and block conceal carry of weapons for self defense have seen an increase in violent crime:
Violent crime rates were highest in states with the most restrictive rules, next highest in the states that allowed local authorities discretion in granting permits, and lowest in states with nondiscretionary rules. The difference is quite striking: violent crimes are 81 percent higher in states without nondiscriminatory laws. For murder, states that ban the concealed carrying of guns have murder rates 127 percent higher than states with the most liberal concealed-carry laws. (43, 47)
The cost of crimes committed only adds to the burden of victims. The safe possession of a firearm in the home is a deterrent to criminals. Some attackers enter the houses of unsuspecting victims with the homeowner present. This often leads to assault or murder. Mr. Lott states:
A 1 [sic] percent increase in gun ownership reduces violent crime by 4.1 percent. The estimates from the National Institute of Justice of the costs to victims of crime imply that increasing gun ownership nationwide by 1 percent would reduce victim costs by $3.1 billion. (114)
Each firearm has a unique serial number that is written in a log book kept by the gun-dealer, along with the name and address of the purchaser. A weapon from a gun-dealer is easier to trace because of this type of registration. Those that commit gun crimes purchase their weapons from untraceable sources such as the Black Market.
Criminals do not fear the possibility of arrest; they wouldn’t commit crimes if they did. Law abiding citizens with the ability to protect themselves are the criminals’ worst fear. Mr. Lott quotes former mafia member Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, as saying, “Gun control? It’s the best thing you can do for crooks and gangsters. I want you to have nothing; if I’m a bad guy, I’m always gonna [sic] have a gun” (197).
The Second Amendment comes with great responsibility and shouldn’t be taken lightly by anyone. Our freedoms are only as secure as the citizens that protect them. It is important for everyone to have a basic understanding of firearms.