What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms." Or. "A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind." These statements by President Thomas Jefferson establish the thesis of this essay. (Jefferson, 2003) This essay will argue that the "Right to Bear Arms" as assured by the Second Amendment of the Constitution should be held sacrosanct.
There are no more divisive newsworthy topics in the United States than those of private ownership of guns. The argument for gun ownership was echoed by the then president of the National Rifle Association and Academy Award winning actor, Charlton Heston, "Guns do not kill People; People kill People." Fodder for gun control proponents was provided by incidents at the Columbine High School at Littleton, Colorado in 1999. Two students Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, considered outcasts by fellow students went on a shooting spree. They killed fifteen of their fellow students and a teacher, besides injuring several others. The two students then turned the guns on themselves. Later, investigators determined that the two students had caches of weapons stored in the basements of their homes, completely unbeknownst to their parents and guardians. (CNN, 1999) Over the years, there have been several incidents of school violence and of accidental deaths of children and youth in household where the adults possessed guns. On the other hand, women who possessed guns have also been able to protect them from sexual and physical assaults. Handguns have enabled homeowners have also been able protect themselves from intruders and would be thieves.
The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution states unequivocally 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." (House.gov, 2003) Gun control advocates argue that the freedom was restricted to militias. Supporters of the right to bear arms argue that the militia clause is merely one but not the only one.
There is no evidence from the writings of the Founding Fathers, early American legal commentators, or early Supreme Court decisions that the Second Amendment applied only to members of a well-regulated militia. George Tucker, a lawyer, Revolutionary War militia officer, legal scholar, and later a U.S. District Court judge, opined, "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, and this without any qualification as to their condition or degree, as is the case in the British government." (Hamilton, 2003) And, in Federalist Paper 46, James Madison argued that a standing federal army could not be capable of conducting a coup to take over the nation. (Madison, 2003) Although the Supreme Court did not directly address the meaning of the Second Amendment, it decreed in the 19th Century (Constitution, 2003).
Weapons are used for destruction. But they are also used to protect. Most of the basic Amendments to the Constitutions are not so much as individual rights, but the protection of the individual from Government infringement on those rights. Different states also have their own versions of the second amendment with specific provisions. Six states California, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York. Some states have tinkered with their State Constitutional Amendments to keep up with changing times. The 1968 constitutional amendment in Florida provided that the rights to arms would not be infringed upon; but the manner in which those arms were borne was open to interpretation by law. Georgia agrees with this premise. Arizona's 1912 amendment does not allow individuals to maintain armed bodyguards. (House.gov, 2003)
Having identified the legal and constitutional precedents that does give individuals the right to bear arms, consider the arguments that gun control advocates use to undermine the constitutional rights given to American citizens. In a classic case of how political and philosophical ideology trumps logical and scientific research, Arthur Kellermann and colleagues published what was (at that time) considered seminal research on which gun controllers have relied. Kellermann tabulated gunshot deaths occurring in King County, Washington, from 1978 to 1983. (Kellermann et al., 1996) The problem with this study is that the mere presence of the gun was not an indicator whether the gun was actually used in the violent crime, but that it was merely present in the home. Later, Kellermann acknowledged his error and released his faulty data.
Other scholars have used macro-level approaches, examining gun ownership levels and violence rates and their correlations. The problems with these studies are small sample sizes and unidentified confounders. Additional factors like behavior or drug abuse have not been correlated with handgun use. A number of individual-level studies indicate that acquisition of handguns and other weapons for protection is directly or indirectly increased by residence in a high crime area (Lizotte, Bordua and White, 1981).
Those that support the right to gun ownership often raise the point that there are enough laws in existence that should penalize violent criminals than creating additional laws that merely serve to hinder and harass citizens who wish pursue leisure activities and for protection. In state correctional facilities, fully 90% of felons convicted for weapons offenses had prior convictions. Forty-four percent of whom had prior convictions for violent crimes. In federal correctional facilities 75% of felons convicted for weapons offenses had prior convictions. Twenty-six percent of felons convicted for weapons offenses had prior convictions for violent crimes. In Boston, by enforcing the existing laws, such as a 10-year penalty for felons found to be in possession of a firearm, and employing aggressive intervention strategies, youth gun-homicide was reduced to zero in 1996 and 1997. Youth homicides dropped some 80% citywide from 1990 to 1995.
There are several "rational approaches" to gun control. One is to have a national system for registering guns and ammunition. The argument is that a national system would prevent people into not buying the guns legally and selling them illegally, for if the guns are used in an illegal crime, that person can be held accountable. Second, a national system would be more helpful in tracking crimes after they have happened, to bring the perpetrators to justice. The third is having instant background checks on people attempting to buy guns or ammunition. They believe that the already restrictive Brady bill does not effectively track felons. Felons and ex-cons should not have access to weapons, and many misdemeanors and juvenile crimes should also count against a person's record. The one point that both groups agree on is that there should be stiffer sentences for gun crimes. Many guns are involved in accidents that could easily have been prevented by a little care or forethought. Perhaps gun purchasers should be required to take lessons in gun safety, at the purchaser's expense. Gun control advocates also espouse general education. This is so that one who wants to buy guns might realize that they are contributing to the overall crime. They cite studies that there is a correlation between the lack of education and violent crime. They believe that every dollar spent on education now will prevent countless dollars worth of crime damage in the future. They aver that private and public funds used to pay for gun violence, like hospital bills, funerals, insurance bills could be used to fund education.
Gun control advocates have suggested that gun manufacturers adopt certain gun safety measures like handgrip ID tagging. This is technologically probably still in the future, but it would be a good goal. The theory is, each gun is "registered" to the palm prints of the legal purchaser of the gun. Only that person can fire that gun. If another person tries, the gun simply will not fire. Thus, stolen guns become useless, and cannot be used to harm anybody in the course of a crime.
Americans use firearms to defend themselves from criminals about 760,000 times a year. Approximately 11% of gun owners and 13% of handgun owners have used their firearms for protection from criminals. When citizens use guns for protection from criminals, the criminal is wounded in about one out of every 100 instances, and the criminal is killed in about 1 out of every 1000 instances. In 1976, when Washington D.C. enacted a virtual ban on handguns, between 1976 and 1991, Washington D.C.'s homicide rate rose 200%, while the U.S. rate rose 12%.
Right-to-carry laws require law enforcement agencies to issue handgun permits to all qualified applicants. Qualifications include criteria such as age, a clean criminal record, and completing a firearm safety course. (Lott, 1998)
In 1994, the Brady Bill was implemented. (Longley, 2003)
Caring for the Children" is a refrain heard from gun control activists. Federal law prohibits anyone under 18 from possessing a handgun and dealers from selling to those less…