Loose interpretations of the Second Amendment allowing the enforcement of gun control policies impinge on both collective and individual rights to have a protection against an oppressive government. Furthermore, by restricting a citizen’s ability to bear arms, the state and federal governments leave them unprotected in the face of the danger posed by other individuals wielding legal and illegal weapons. Therefore, the US government should cease any attempts to enforce the extant gun control policies and regulations as well as to stop enacting new ones.
The United States Constitution is a structured set of rules comprised of seven articles and twenty-seven amendments each of which has been created to secure the basic rights of the country’s citizens. The Second Amendment, which came into force in 1791, guarantees a person right to “keep and bear arms” (Gordon, 2014, p. 79). The amendment was introduced to ensure that a citizen’s “unalienable rights,” that is rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” are not restricted by oppressive laws or other kinds of interference into one’s affairs (Corbett, 2017, p. 112). Thus, it can be argued that anyone seeking to prevent a person from bearing arms, denies them the choice of their destiny and strips them of freedom to be self-sufficient. As such, the right of gun ownership should not be considered a privilege, which can be either granted or denied by authority on a conditional basis. Numerous laws regulating the possession of firearms are pronounced examples of the successful government effort to undermine the letter and spirit of the Bill of Rights.
The recent mass shootings have reignited the battle over the right to bear arms, which is currently underway on both the state and federal levels (Bailyn, 2018, para. 2). Even though the toll of gun massacres is undeniably tragic, it is worth remembering that the protections of individual liberty embodied in the Constitution were put in place for a reason. If the US society does not exert coordinated collective efforts to upkeep them, it might witness a tragedy on a much larger scale. Unfortunately, the victims of democides or government killings, which occurred in the 20th century, cannot offer their invaluable insights on the debate.
Prior to and after its ratification in 1791, the US citizens have been arguing over the meaning and implications of the Second Amendment as well as its logical extension – gun control or lack thereof. Although undeniably complex and fraught with emotions, the debate is no different from other oratory battles: it has proposition and opposition sides that are eagerly vying with each other. This paper aims to explore the issue of gun control in the US and, hopefully, bring some clarity into the turmoil caused by the incessant tug-of-war between the groups on the opposing sides of the argument.
Before embarking on a thorough investigation of the issue, it is imperative to clarify key terms associated with it. The right to keep and bear arms or the gun right is a fundamental right protected under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Gun control, on the other hand, is a term denoting a set of laws and policies regulating the use, manufacture, and possession of firearms and their accessories. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) relies on available legal instruments to enforce gun control (Hubbert, 2016). Moreover, state governments of the country also exercise their legal powers to regulate firearms.
The debate over gun control has been reinvigorated by the wave of school shootings that have swept over the US in the recent years. According to a report issued by Washington Post, in the period between 1999 and 2012, the country saw 31 deadly shootings that occurred on school grounds (Kaufman, 2014). To put the figure into perspective, it is necessary to consider the number of similar incidents that took place during the same period in other countries. Specifically, 37 European countries experienced only 30 comparable events involving two or more victims (Kaufman, 2014). The appalling state of the current gun control measures in the US is underscored by the fact that the country’s government does not keep track of school massacres committed by perpetrators with guns. To prevent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from diverting funds toward the study of school shootings, the Congress has ratified the Dickey Amendment, which makes it illegal for the federal agency to subsidize research that “may be used to advocate or promote gun control” (Simon, 2016, p. 79). As a result, all studies on gun violence in the country are conducted by independent research groups that do not rely on the government funding.
The gun rights advocates tend to bring the Second Amendment as a justification for their intellectual position. They remain unswayed by the harmful consequences of the epidemic of violence and maintain that it is their fundamental right to possess and carry a firearm as a means of personal protection. For this reason, the proponents of the Second Amendment regard any attempts to regulate the automatic and semi-automatic weapons as an infringement on their natural, and hence inalienable, right. Their position is aligned with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Printz vs. US case that found the background checks on would-be gun owners unconstitutional (Kaufman, 2014).
The proponents of gun control contend that mass shootings regularly occurring in the country and leaving dozens of people murdered and wounded are justifiable grounds for enforcing stricter firearm regulations. They support their claim with the CDC statistic showing that more than 30, 000 US citizens die each year in gun-related incidents (Anderson, 2016). The high number of firearm deaths can be attributed to the astounding rate of gun ownership in the country – 88.8 guns per 100 people (Markdale, 2017). However, gun rights advocates argue that the correlation should not be confused with causation and refuse to accept the argument’s premise.
While the US citizens grapple with justifications for either upholding or scrapping gun regulation policies, the mass shootings continue to claim dozens of innocent lives. Regardless of how many points are made or conceded in the ideological battle, the threat to public safety remains high. Therefore, there is a pressing need for a solution that would make the two sides of the debate contented and leave the potential victims of gun violence alive. After all, the reality of mass shootings takes no sides.
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