“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.”
This can be interpreted in many ways. In 1939, the US Supreme Court ruled that the amendment was not specific to militias, and that Americans have the right to own firearms. Then in 2008 there was a 5 to 4 ruling against a ban on hand guns in the US. That being said, the details of the ruling did open up the possibility of gun control on several different levels.
The most complex part of this issue is that each individual state has the right to interpret this amendment differently as it relates to gun control. In some states you can walk around proudly displaying a Desert Eagle on your hip. In other areas there is a complete ban on firearms. Even specific cities sometime enact their own specific laws as they relate to gun control. Certain areas allow conceal and carry, but not in business selling alcohol. The whole issue gets messy when you look at the dozens of ways the amendment is implemented.
Before we can look at where this amendment is headed, we have to look at both sides of the argument. Let us first examine the debate for more control on firearms. The general statement is that eliminating guns will eliminate gun violence. In recent years there have been more and more mass shootings. In some cases these criminals purchased their guns legally through a local gun shop. Some Americans want more control over hand guns because of how easy they are to conceal. Others want more control over assault rifles because of the stigma of only being used to kill multiple victims.
There have been studies that show countries with less restrictive gun laws have a higher homicide rate. However, there has never been a direct correlation identified. In 2012 the small arms survey determined that there are 88.9 guns for every 100 American citizens. In addition, the US has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. High suicide rates have also been tied to gun ownership. With suicide being a decision of desperation, having a firearm handy shows to impact the end result. Mass shootings are only stopped by armed citizens 1.6% of the time. This statistic attempts to dispel the myth that armed citizens will prevent the violence we have seen in the last few years. All-together, the public is behind some version of gun control. This does not mean that most Americans want an all-out gun ban. It means that most Americans want some control over the purchase or registration of firearms. Most people are somewhere in the middle on this issue.
The other aspect of the gun-control argument is the wording of the amendment. It implies that the right to bear arms is directly tied to the need for a militia. Those that want gun control argue that there was no organized military when the amendment was written. They feel that there is no need for these firearms since we have a strong US military in place. Their primary argument is that these firearm rights are designed to protect America as a whole, not the individual. Once self-defense was interpreted into the amendment in 2008, the argument changed. It was then said that there is no need for assault rifles for defending your home. The complete viewpoint is that assault rifles are not used for hunting or sport, and are not needed for defending our homes, so they should be banned. To sum it all up, even law abiding citizens should not have access to guns they do not absolutely need.
Then there is the argument against gun control. In my mind the primary questions is, why can I not own guns if I have never done anything to show I should not own them? I feel like the argument has several layers. One is that every American should have the right to defend themselves. This relates to handguns when dealing with criminals. However, there is another type of self-defense. There are some that fear there may be a socioeconomic collapse in the US at some point. This would mean that people may have to defend against hordes of people, not just individuals. I would not want a 9mm if 30 people were swarming my house. There is a feeling that more guns in the hands of law abiding citizens means less crime. Another fear is that any gun control will lead to gross exploitation of this interpretation of the amendment. In 2011, the Illinois Attorney General suggested that a list of every citizen with a gun permit be posted publically. They are basically suggesting a shopping list be provided to criminals. However, the overall argument is that Americans should have the right to bear arms, for any reason.
Many statistics support this argument. There have been studies that show that a high percentage of gun ownership in a country is a direct reflection of the fear citizens have of violent criminals. Scared citizens are taking action. Another point regularly made is that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. There have been several reports showing that a ban of guns simply leads to more deaths by way of knifes and blunt objects. The UK, for example, implemented a complete ban of firearms decades ago. Since then, the murder rate has actually risen. You can also argue that the public wants to be armed. Between 1990 and 2009, the percentage of Americans who believed the country needed more restrictive handgun laws dropped from 78% to 39%.
An argument that deserves its own spotlight is the fact that making something illegal does not eliminate the issue. Drugs are a great example. Studies have shown that there is actually less drug use in countries where the drugs are legal. Prohibition is an example of how a ban can actually increase crime. When alcohol consumption became illegal in the US, people continued to drink. In addition, and entire organized crime culture was created to supply the illegal booze. This lead to murder, racketeering, drug sales, prostitution, and dozens of other crimes. We still fight the result of these organizations to this day.
For examples of gun control affecting violent, take a close look at the city of Chicago. There is a complete ban on guns in the city, yet it has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Some of the lowest murder rates in the US are cities with almost no gun control at all. The University of Austin shooting by Whitman, the first large mass shooting of the 20th century, was in large part stopped by citizens running to their vehicles and grabbing their hunting rifles to assist the police. If gun laws prevented these citizens from packing, Whitman would have kept killing. Over and over, shooters show that they prefers soft targets. They go after schools or movie theaters. They target areas where people are less likely to fight back. This further shows that a gun presence could deter these issues.
Like the gun control advocates, those that oppose gun control use the wording of the amendment to fuel their argument. Sure we do not need militias right now. However, what happens if martial law is implemented and the government takes away our rights? Many people believe that the registration of firearms is simply a way for the government to confiscate guns if the military takes control. The amendment was written based on the tyranny of government. At the time we were facing a government that wanted to disarm every citizen to allow more control. This is not the only time in history that gun control produced negative results. One of Hitler’s primary objectives was to disarm the German public to allow more control. The end result was devastating.
What happens if the government is destroyed and we are left to fend for ourselves? More and more people fear the future of our nation. They fear our government and they fear our relations with other countries. It is feasible that every American could be forced to defend themselves in a matter of days if certain events came to pass. An EMP blast is a great example. Much of our military strength is based on technology. This technology is all useless after an EMP strike, and this scenario is very possible in the near future. In that case, organizing militias would be our best case scenario. During WWII the Japanese stated that a mainland attack on the United States would be impossible because of the majority of our non-military citizens being armed. Take that away and mainland United States is fair game.
There have been several recent events that have geared up the pro-gun movement. Increased Isis activity is a prime example. This is an enemy that we cannot effectively attack with our military. They are not a country. They are an enemy designed to blend in with the innocent, so a large scale attack is impossible. One of the only defenses we have is for each American to arm themselves. There have been recent events including natural disasters, civil unrest, and potential pandemics that fuel the fear of martial law or complete chaos. There are reports of a NATO presence in the US along with reports of military camps designated for martial law scenarios. Even the instability of the world economy and the US economy hint that it could all collapse at any time.
The future of this amendment is uncertain…
Signs show that gun policy will either stay the same, or control will increase. Depending on the statistics you follow, this could either help or hurt the crime rate. However, more control definitely means more vulnerability to other countries and more vulnerability to our own government. Gun control advocates want us to trust our government and trust our military to take care of the American people in any situation. This assumption works great for now, but when things go south it is too late to give everybody back their guns.
The fact that we debate this topic is a good thing. Somebody once told me that people who do not argue do so because they do not care enough to argue. The debate shows we care. It shows we are involved and are not asleep at the wheel. As with most policy, my guess is that we will end up somewhere in the middle. That being said, people will continue to pull for their side of the argument. Let us just hope that our interpretation of this amendment is not a detriment to our wonderful country.