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National controversy: Debating the Second Amendment

Art by Moy Zhong
Art by Moy Zhong

Our guns, our rights

Regardless of whether you love it or hate it, the Second Amendment provides the constitutional framework for our current American gun laws. There’s a national debate raging on over the Second Amendment and its relevance. Both sides of the argument are polarized and often ill-informed, creating immense tension.

Stricter gun control laws do not, in fact, decrease crime rates; however, gun ownership does. According to a 2013 applied economics letter by Mark Gius, between 1980 and 2009 “banning assault weapons did not significantly affect murder rates at the state level” and “states with restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons had higher gun-related murders.” At the same time, gun ownership in these states nearly doubled, yet the murder rate decreased.

American economist and author John R. Lott, Jr., PhD stated in his book, “More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws” released in 2010 that: “States with the largest increases in gun ownership also have the largest drops in violent crimes.”

When states passed conceal and carry laws, the number of multi-victim shootings declined by 84 percent. Fatalities from the remaining shootings decreased by 90 percent and injuries were down 82 percent.

The media tend to portray gun control as incredibly popular and often shames those not falling into that category as ignorant. Saying “most Americans agree we need some form of gun control” is not enough. This could mean a variety of things, and yes, “most Americans” would not like to see guns in the hand of criminals, but would still like to keep guns themselves.

A small government is crucial to a nation in order for optimal functioning to occur. Gun control laws would inherently give too much power to the government and have the power to result in a tyrannical government taking all guns away from citizens; 57 percent of people surveyed in a 2013 study by Pew Research said gun control laws limit the power of the people and increase the power of the government. Looking back at the reason why the founding fathers created the Second Amendment, America was living under the tyranny of King George. The Second Amendment was necessary to ensuring that free people in this new country would never again live under these conditions. The right to bear arms is not just there for deer-hunting and recreational use; it is there to protect our civil rights and liberties.

In lieu of the recent tragic school shootings it’s really important to point this out: it isn’t the gun that is shooting these innocent children. There is a person behind the weapon responsible for pulling the trigger. The city of Chicago, Ill., for instance, has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, yet also has the greatest amount of gun violence of any United States city. This has to reveal that gun is not at fault. Just because someone supports the Second Amendment does not mean they are heartless nor does it mean they are ignoring what’s going on. What it likely means is that he or she would prefer to keep the right to protect him or herself in the instance that anything would occur.

The gun control debate is regularly seen as one that is clear-cut, black and white and leaves little wiggle room on either side. Not all who oppose gun control measures wear overalls, MAGA hats and carry a gun at all times, just like not all gun control advocates believe Americans don’t need guns at all. This topic is more than wanting guns or not; it’s about safety.

Guns are not the problem. People are the problem. Our safest hands are still our own. Let’s keep it that way.

Art by Moy Zhong

Reform firearm legislation now

Our country today faces a public safety crisis- In the United States, between 1999 and 2013, there have been 464,033 deaths caused by guns- 270,237 suicides, 174,773 homicides, and 9,983 accidental deaths, averaging at roughly 91 gun-related deaths a day. 66.6% of all homicides and 52.2% of all suicides are done with guns. In this regard, the US is unique- a study conducted by JAMA noted that the US’s rate of 10.6 gun deaths per 100,000 people is much higher than that of other countries. Canada’s rate is only 2.1, Germany 0.9, the UK 0.3, and in Japan, there are only .2 gun deaths per 100,000 people. This seemingly ceaseless carnage is brought on not by any specific group or individual, but rather, by the means through which any group or individual may act- that being the ease through which the wrong kind of person can purchase an unreasonably powerful firearm.

Studies conducted indicate that sensible gun control measures would go a long way towards lowering these horrifying gun death rates. A study conducted by The Lancet indicates that universal background checks for all firearm purchases would bring the mortality rate down to 4.46 deaths per 100,000 people, a 58% decrease, while universal background checks for ammunition purchase could bring this down even further to 1.99 death per 100,000 people, an 81% decrease. Similarly, “red flag” laws that allow law enforcement officials to confiscate weapons from people perceived to be a threat to themselves or others may decrease suicide- Indiana passed such a law and saw a 7.5% reduction in suicides. Common-sense gun safety policies have worked in other nations and individual states, and would work if implemented nationally.

To do nothing about the issue of gun violence, an issue not faced by any other developed nation, while there are potent solutions at hand, is simply wrong. Some opposed to gun safety measures argue that these policies are an overreach of the federal government, that they infringe on our liberties as Americans. However, even under the most conservative views of government, any governing body has a duty to protect the safety of its citizens. Moreover, these measures don’t actually infringe on any rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment. Firstly, the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms for the purpose of maintaining a well-regulated militia, not for any citizen to own any firearm for any reason. The widely remembered interpretation of the Second Amendment therefore has very little to do with the actual text of the Constitution, as it ignores the reasons why a citizen ought to have this right. Secondly, even if we take the commonly-understood meaning of the Second Amendment, all rights protected by the Constitution have limits if their protection could harm other citizens. For example, the right to liberty is limited in the case of criminals, who have violated the rights of others by breaking certain laws, while the right to free speech is limited in cases of slander, libel, and incitory speech, which could all serve to cause violence or harm others. In this specific case, gun safety laws would reasonably limit the Second Amendment in order to protect the fundamental right to safety that our government must uphold. Enacting common-sense gun safety measures would act as a reasonable limit on even the most commonly-held interpretation of the Second Amendment.

By standing idly by, watching tens of thousands of Americans die each year, while ignoring solutions that are both effective and in line with the central duty and general philosophical foundations of our government, our leaders are signalling compliance towards an ongoing national crisis. It’s time we, as a nation, act to protect ourselves and future generations from this needless violence.

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