The decision went further to suggest that, "even if possession were to be allowed for other reasons, any law regulating the use of firearms would have to be "unreasonable or inappropriate" to violate the Second Amendment." (Oyez Project, 2008). Had the decision gone the other way, gun rights activists and gun owners would have likely felt as though their constitutional rights were under attack.
The District of Columbia v. Heller case illustrates the extent to which gun rights is embedded into the fabric of the United States' cultural experience. Had the decision gone the other way, the United States Supreme Court could have dealt gun ownership a deathblow. Certainly there are many examples of nations that do not allow their citizens to possess firearms, and many of these nations are developed and have low crime rates. But it is very evident that in the United States, the individual, cultural sense of empowerment, entitlement, and freedom make for a recipe of fervent gun ownership attitudes. Certainly it would be theoretically much more difficult to oppress an armed citizenry, and many people feel as though the only thing standing in the way of this oppression is gun rights.
The regulation of firearms is no small task. The Brady Bill, introduced after the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan led to the paralysis of his press secretary, James Brady. President Clinton signed the bill into law in 1993 after much debate. The background checks required by the bill made it difficult for some people to obtain a firearm, and impossible for others (Jacobs, 2002). The government regulation of firearm sales represented a step in the direction of fascism, however many gun owners understand the need for background checks on those who may be mentally unstable or otherwise unfit to own a firearm. One of the fiercest opponents of the Brady Bill was the National Rifle Association. In fact, in response to the passage of the bill, the NRA's own publication, American Rifleman (1994), stated, "When Bill Clinton signed the Brady bill into law on November 30, a drop of blood dripped from the finger of the sovereign American citizen ... The executioner's tool is the Brady bill - now the Brady law ... [T]hey'll go house to house, kicking in the law-abiding gun owners' doors." (NRA, 1994). The NRA also filed lawsuits in a dozen states arguing that the Brady Bill represented a contradiction to the United States Constitution.
Whether or not the NRA was acting in an extreme manner is irellevant. The NRA was acting on the behalf of the American people and their Second Amendment rights. Many gun activists use the "slippery slope" argument to argue that government is slowly taking away their Second Amendment rights piece by piece, and that it is necessary to oppose their small infringements on the Second Amendment in order to keep it permanently intact (Lott, 2000). Just as the Second Amendment was relevant when it was created, it is still relevant today, especially politically as many different people and gun activist groups take sides on the argument. From the years 1994 to 2000, the Brady Bill has helped keep over 1.1 million firearms out of the hands of felons, fugitives, and those who could not pass an FBI background check (Lott, 2000). This number is often the center of much dispute, but like anything else in life, the Brady Bill catalyzes both positive and negative ramifications in American culture and politics.
Without a doubt the Second Amendment is just as relevant today as it was nearly 250 years ago. Certainly the context has changed both socially and culturally. Guns are no longer an absolute necessity for survival, but the gun culture and gun rights that were born out of the founding fathers' considerations for keeping the citizens of the United States in a powerful political and social position are still valuable. While there are considerations to be examined, like the fact that statistically there is no evidence that more guns equals less crime, the value of the Second Amendment cannot be denied. It has been very recently proven that the Supreme Court of the United States feels very strongly that gun rights are a valuable part of the American political and cultural landscape, even if they are no longer used to hunt in the same numbers as they were before. The limitation of firearms in any way represents a limiting of the citizenry's ability to defend themselves from an oppressive government. Many oppressive regimes demanded that their citizens give up their right to bear arms and this, historically, has been one of the first acts committed in the name of the Nazis and the Fascists. The distinctly American sense of entitlement wears on. It would be nearly impossible to prevent some people from owning firearms as they would see any regulation against ownership as a violation of their Constitutional right to do so. Anytime a regulation like gun control raises the dependence of a citizenry on their own government, the potential for government abuse and tyranny grows. Those who wish to be independent and self-sufficient are almost always in favor of gun rights.
In America, gun rights issues are strongly correlated with the Republican Party, and with conservative values (O'Connor, K., & Sabato, L. 2000). It is very easy to see that other nations like Australia and New Zealand do not have the same sort of cultural attachment to gun rights as America. But the reason for this is quite clear. Had these nation been born out of necessary revolution against an oppressive nation, they would be in a better position to understand the attitudes that many Americans have toward gun rights. Their relevancy has been proven, and gun rights issues continue to divide American both politically and culturally. It is very unlikely that gun rights will be completely stripped from Americans any time soon, since the 2008 Supreme Court Decision has helped to highlight the importance of these rights.
Cooper, Jeff. (2003). Jeff Cooper's Commentaries Vol. 11, No. 4, April 2003.
Jacobs, James B. (2002). Can Gun Control Work? Oxford University Press: New York.
Levin, John (1971) "The Right to Bear Arms: The Development of the American
Experience." Chicago-Kent Law Review Vol. 48. pp. 148-167. Accessed online at:
http://www.guncite.com/journals/jldevae.html, March 18, 2010.
Lott, John R. (2000). More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws.
University of Chicago Press: Chicago.
National Rifle Association. (1994). "Line Up and Shut Up. Face Forward. Stay in Line. Last Name First."…