Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States can often be as prevalent and potentially divisive as the First Amendment, which covers freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the establishment caused which has come to justify the perceived separation of church and state. While there are practical and common-sense applications for gun ownership and rights, there are some weapons that probably shouldn’t be in the hands of normal civilians and some people should not be allowed to own guns period due to things like felonious history, mental health issues and other similar conditions.
There has always been a butting of heads regarding what the Second Amendment refers to and what it does not. To be precise, the ratified version of the Bill of Rights that was signed by Thomas Jefferson stated it “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.” As championed by gun rights advocates, the Second Amendment inspired in part (but not wholly) on the English concept of the right to keep and bear arms, which dates back to beyond the 1700’s in earlier English colonial days. It was deemed to be a right and necessary factor in the country so that the people could act alongside the interests of the nature and resist oppression from the same.
However, a ton has changed from that point to now. Some are now saying that the Constitution should be amended again to clarify and change the current interpretation and enforcement of the Second Amendment (Barrett). Guns are much more prolific and easy to access and guns are extensively more capable and lethal with the more commonly cited examples being semi-automatic handguns and “assault” rifles like the AR-15 and the AK-47 (Singer). The former of those two is the civilian and semi-automatic version of the M-16 full automatic assault rifle as used by the United States Armed Forces. Weapons like this obviously are not needed for many to most civilian applications as personal protection handguns like Glocks and such are usually more than sufficient and they are indeed very popular (Washburn). However, any attempt or mention of an attempt to regulate semi-automatic rifles, handguns or even shotguns is met with catcalls and resistance from guns rights and advocacy groups like the National Rifle Association.
One of the major catalysts of calls for gun reform are mass shootings that happen in workplaces and schools, with the more prolific examples being the Newtown shooting, Columbine, the more recent Denver-area shooting in 2013 and so on. However, regulation would not necessarily have the desired effects and would most certainly hurt law-abiding gun owners more than it would prevent shootings at schools and workplaces. For example, the weapon of choice in the 2013 Denver school shooting was a shotgun that was bought legally as the shooter was an 18-year-old student. Only one innocent bystander was shot by the student before he took his own life. Similarly, the Bushmaster AR-15 .223 rifle used in Newtown was wielded by a person who could not have possible bought it himself and indeed it was the property of one of the victims, that being the shooter’s mother (Ellis).
Another focal point of the gun control lobby is the gang and drug cartel warfare that run rampant in certain cities and areas of the United States. However, a good portion of those guns are stolen and/or are illegally possessed by felons and other people that are underage or otherwise restricted from owning them. Even so, when one is speaking of a country that has about the same number of guns and people (about 300 million each), it is not all that hard for funs to be stolen and/or to fall in the wrong hands due to insecure storing and/or break-ins (Hunt). There was at one point a ban on assault weapons but that expired during the Clinton Administration and has not since been renewed. Also, conceal carry is present in pretty much all parts of the United States and even the strong restrictions (if not outright bans like the one in Washington DC) have mostly fallen or at least been weakened (USA Carry).
The overall problem that makes the Second Amendment so vexing to solve fairly and completely is the fact that there is a lot of gun violence and such out there and the police cannot be everywhere they need to be to prevent or at least solve crime. Home owners often have to react immediately and many people rob others directly with guns and/or knives. This may make unrestricted gun ownership seem like a “slam dunk” but anyone who knows of the Trayvon Martin kerfuffle in Sanford, Florida where a white/Hispanic male chased down a black male who was deemed to be suspicious and the latter was later shot after some sort of struggle ensued, it is not hard to see why it is by no means black and white to say that no one other than felons and the mentally ill (e.g. Jared Loughner, the man who shot United States House Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) should have guns (CNN)(Cloud).
The middle ground that seems to work the best is to make sure that the people who are most likely to engage in violent and illegal shootings should be disallowed (or never allowed) to have weapons and this would obviously include people with mental illness and/or felons in general. A group that should also be included, felony conviction or not, that engage in illegal and/or reckless behavior such as shooting guns into the air, discharging weapons when no probable cause exists or accidental shootings in general like the self-shooting that football player Plaxico Burress did to himself in 2008 (Gendar). However, it’s going to be a tough road to hoe to implement such changes without tying it to something specific and tangible like a felony record or mental illness.
In the end, there is almost certainly no “magic bullet” whereby the concerns for safety and security of the public can be balanced with preventing the populace from becoming too militarized and equipped with weapons that civilians should not be using or possessing. Any regulation or standard should make things harder for the criminals and other miscreants more so (hopefully much more so) than the lawful gun owners that exist in a world that can tend to be violent and/or perilous in certain situations and areas. There are even situations where assault-style rifles are probably not a bad idea such as areas and situations where multiple assailants are possible such as with home invasions and the like. However, there are also a lot of people who have a gun fetish and have some very disturbing (if not violent) views about the United States government, certain parts of the United States or world population or a combination of the two. Regardless, upholding the freedom and safety the broader public will be more productive and conducive to the best results for the most people is probably the best call.
Barrett, Paul. “Gun Control and the Constitution: Should We Amend the Second Amendment?.” Bloomberg Business Week. Bloomberg, 20 Feb. 2014. Web. 9 May 2014. .
A news article that assesses the debate and idea of whether the Second Amendment should be changed and the chances of that being successful.
CNN. “Trayvon Martin Shooting Fast Facts.” CNN. Cable News Network, 22 Feb. 2014. Web. 8 May 2014. .
A CNN view of the overall timeline of the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman including the social/racial/legal/cultural implications, the trial and acquittal and what has happened since.
Cloud, Kate. “If You Think Someone Is Mentally Ill: Loughner’s Six Warning Signs.” Time. Time Inc., 11 Jan. 2011. Web. 9 May 2014. .
A summary of the mental illness that eventually led Jared Lee Loughner to stockpile both hate and guns and eventually shoot U.S. House Rep Gabrielle Giffords and a judge in Tucson.
Ellis, Ralph. “Adam Lanza’s father in 1st interview: He would have killed me ‘in a heartbeat’.” CNN. Cable News Network, 1 Jan. 1970. Web. 9 May 2014. .
A CNN article that interviews the father of the Newtown shooter and discusses some of the facts surrounding the case.
Gendar, Alison. “Giants receiver Plaxico Burress accidentally shoots himself in thigh.” NY Daily News. N.p., 30 Nov. 2008. Web. 9 May 2014. .
AN article that covers the accidental self-shooting of Plaxico Burress in 2008. The event led to Burress being incarcerated and out of the NFL for some time.
Hunt, Albert. “America and Guns, Once More.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 9 Jan. 2011. Web. 9 May 2014. .
A summary of the situation with Jared Lee Loughner shooting in Tucson.
Robinson, Marilyn. “Colorado News.” The Denver Post Online. N.p., 27 Apr. 1999. Web. 9 May 2014. .
Coverage and summary of the guns and violence in Columbine.
Singer, Natasha. “The Most Wanted Gun in America.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 2 Feb. 2013. Web. 9 May 2014. .
Similar to the Glock article below, but covers the AR-15 instead.
USACarry.com. “Concealed Carry Permit Reciprocity Maps.” USA Carry. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 May 2014. .
A map that shows where concealed carry is allowed and which states allow reciprocity with others.
Washburn, Michael. “Our Favorite Weapon.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 28 Jan. 2012. Web. 9 May 2014. .
A profile of prolific gun maker Glock and their ubiquity in the United States gun culture and the homes of owners.
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