As the debate about guns rages on, there are many different positions on the matter. Some argue in favor of less regulation of the gun market. These people cite the second amendment of the constitution, and they believe that any attempt to regulate guns is an intrusion on their basic rights. Others argue that gun control is both a necessity and allowable under the second amendment. While some gun control is allowable under the second amendment, the constitutional right to bear arms must be protected vehemently.
There are many reasons why people argue that guns should be regulated more closely. By their nature, guns are meant to be weapons, and they are designed with killing in mind. Rifles and shotguns are primarily used to kill animals, while handguns are typically used for personal protection. The one components that each of these has in common is the fact they are, at their core, designed to be used to kill. The United States has a gun death problem on multiple fronts. First, there are the intentional gun deaths that come in the form of homicide. According to research, the number of guns owned by Americans today is somewhere between 270,000 and 310,000 (Stroud, 2012). With this many guns held in the hands of average citizens, it should come as no surprise to some that gun death figures are high in the United States. Going back to 2011, the total number of gun deaths in the United States was just more than 32,000 (Hoyert, 2012). Within this overall category of gun deaths, there are many sub-categories that must be accounted for. Some gun deaths are due to intentional killings that might be classified as either murder or manslaughter by the courts. Others are suicides, as almost 20,000 people used a gun to take their own lives in 2011. This figure accounts for more than half of all suicides that took place in the country during 2011. In addition, nearly 1,000 people died in 2011 from unintentional shooting deaths. This might mean that the gun simply went off at the wrong time, and or in some cases, it might mean that a child grabbed the weapon from his father’s bedside table. Whatever the case, these numbers make clear that guns are dangerous and capable of inflicting harm at a tremendous rate. More than just inflicting harm, guns are capable of doing damage that cannot later be repaired. When a gun is used, death is a very real possibility, and this is one of the top reasons why people argue guns must be controlled and tightly regulated using existing law and, if possible, new statutes aimed at preventing deaths in the future.
In making the argument for tighter gun restrictions, it makes sense to do some comparisons to other countries that have instituted better systems. There are many of these countries out there, and though they have slightly different demographics and much different social situations, these countries can provide guidance on what a tight gun legislation effort might produce in the United States. One option would be to look at the United Kingdom, where guns are largely regulated and average citizens have tremendous difficulty getting their hands on even a basic handgun. There, reports indicate that 2011 brought less than 150 gun deaths (Brown et al, 2014). This is only a fraction of the number of gun-related deaths in the United States, and the numbers elsewhere around the world indicate an alarming trend. That is, when a country has fewer guns on the streets, it will have a smaller number of gun-related deaths and injuries. The gun control debate is certainly not cut and dry, as there are strong arguments on behalf of the second amendment. One might argue that America is different, and instituting new gun policies would be difficult in the country because, in effect, the toothpaste is already out of the tube. By that, they would mean that guns are already on the streets, and regulating guns closely would just mean that guns would stay in the hands of dangerous people. The purpose of the second amendment has long been to provide people with the ability to protect themselves from harm. Because there are so many guns already out on the streets, restricting guns would infringe upon the right of individuals to protect themselves.
Ultimately, the second amendment must be protected not because of the principle that all constitutional amendments must be protected – after all, the United States can and has repealed or amended many parts of the constitution – but rather, because of what it stands for. The country has long believed in the freedom of individuals to protect their homes, their property, and their bodies. Likewise, the right to bear arms is a central tenet in the ability of individuals to resist government overreach. While some might argue that in the modern age, guns would be ineffective tools in resisting government forces, this belittles the point. Guns provide more than just a symbolic tool in the fight for individuals against a potentially overreaching government. The ability to remain armed as a citizen is central to the basic freedoms that America was founded upon, and no analysis of the practical justifications for that freedom need to be undertaken in order to understand the importance of this constitutional protection.
Even with gun deaths rising in the United States and calls from certain politicians to restrict guns, the second amendment stands strong, providing people with the right to keep their weapons. While some forms of regulation are permissible under the second amendment – keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and convicted felons, for example – other intrusions into gun ownership represent the worst kind of government overreach. It is true that a proliferation of guns tends to lead to more gun-related deaths, but in a society where the proverbial toothpaste is out of the proverbial bottle, enacting tight gun regulations would, in effect, deprive individuals of their ability to protect themselves in a society where would-be criminals already have weapons.
- Brown, J., Hughes, N. S., McGlen, M. C., & Crichton, J. H. M. (2014). Misrepresentation of UK homicide characteristics in popular culture. Journal of forensic and legal medicine, 23, 62-64.
- Hoyert, D. L., & Xu, J. (2012). Deaths: preliminary data for 2011. National vital statistics reports, 61(6), 1-51.
- Stroud, A. (2012). Good Guys With Guns Hegemonic Masculinity and Concealed Handguns. Gender & Society, 26(2), 216-238.