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Interpreting the Second Amendment:

Shoot it Down or Load it Up

Throughout United States history firearms have been present in society. In 1776,
British rebels utilized guns to fight for independence from the United Kingdom in the
Revolutionary War. In the War of 1812, United States citizens protected their homeland from
the United Kingdom with the use of firearms. Since the implementation of the Second
Amendment on December 15, 1791, people have been guaranteed the right to keep and bear
arms. Guns have protected our country for centuries; however, in todays society, civilian gun
violence is becoming a major topic of discussion. This is causing people to question the
meaning of the Second Amendment. While the amendment is very succinctly written, 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, many people have varying interpretations of the rights

it guarantees in 21st
Century United States society.

In America, gun control can be a partisan topic. Conservatives/Republicans are often


the proponents of little to no regulations and minimal background checks regarding guns.
Liberals/Democrats often see this viewpoint as irrational and unsafe. Many of them claim that
this mindset can lead to an increase in preventable gun violence. A portion of United States
citizens typically believe that guns are acceptable, but believe that strong regulatory action and
background checks are needed to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands. This view
is countered by people who believe that by regulating guns, citizens Second Amendment are
being infringed upon.

When considering the regulations and rights given by the second amendment in terms
of gun control, it is important to frame the issues in the current cultural situation and political
ideologies. This year is an election year, so tensions are high as candidates from both sides
appeal to their voter bases by supporting the view that most people in their political party
hold. There are now more mass shooting per year in America than ever before. The threats of
domestic terrorist attacks are felt deeply by the American people, many whom respond by
attempting to heavily arm themselves, while others believe that these shootings could be
prevented with higher gun control.
A portion of the country believes that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to
own a firearm if a minor background and mental health check is done on the person interested
in purchasing a weapon. These people may also believe that people should be allowed to buy
any type of gun, excluding an automatic one. This is very similar to the current system that is
instituted in the United States currently. Another opinion in the United States is that the
government should pass a law requiring in depth background checks on the people interested
in purchasing a firearm. They should also be required to have a mental health check. Finally, a
third approach is that no citizen or police officer in the country should be able to own a gun.
This approach is similar to how many Western European countries handle gun laws.

This deliberation will allow those with diverse backgrounds and opinions on gun
control and the Second Amendment to come together in an unthreatening environment to
come to potential solutions in how to handle Second Amendment rights in America. The
approaches outlined below include the three most common opinions on guns and the Second
Amendment.

Approach 1: Minimal Regulations on Guns


After stepping out of the shower on a random Wednesday morning, a 53 year old
woman was immediately confronted by an intruder who was wielding a kitchen knife. The lady
was attacked, falling back into the tub and injuring herself. Now in serious danger, the woman
told the man that she had money hidden her bedroom and would give him the cash in
exchange for her life. When she dug under her bed, she pulled out a .22-caliber handgun and
shot the man 9 times. Had it not been for owning a personal gun, this woman would not be
alive today.
When looking at the issue of gun control, many people tend to side with the notion
that we should enact more legislation against gun ownership. These commonsense laws
include reinstating the assault weapons
ban and closing the gun show
loophole. And to most people, this
sounds great in theory.
But the fact is that statistics are
against these claims. When the assault
weapon ban was initially put in place in
1994, assault weapons accounted for
less than two percent of firearm crimes
in the US. When the ban was lifted in
2004, statistics showed that the law had
no effect on lowering that figure, showing that assault weapon usage continued at its former
rate.

The only measurable result of the assault weapons ban was thousands of factory
workers being laid off. Furthermore, the gun show loophole that is often brought up in gun
control discussions is a myth. Buying a firearm at a gun show requires the same background
checks that would be done at any other licensed dealer in the US. Only two percent of gun
crimes are committed with guns purchased at a gun show.
Ninety-two percent of gun crimes today are committed with weapons that are illegally
purchased under current law. Instead of focusing on stripping Constitutional rights from
citizens with more pointless legislation, a better strategy at lowering gun crime would be
enforcing our existing laws better (such as straw purchases) and focusing on the issues that
perpetuate violent crimes in the US. Issues with education, poverty, and racism are the root of
violence, not guns.

Approach 2: Stricter Gun and Ammo Regulations


The United States of America is a country labeled with the word freedom. The
Constitution is part the history that has ensured American citizens with the liberties they
deserve. Many of the most common seen shootings have been because of lacking law
regulations. Looking more in depth at the todays regulations and the prevalent problems with
gun safety is the first step to see if there truly is an issue with gun security.

To combat stricter gun laws, many people often cite the Second Amendment as their
credible source. However, the Second Amendment, taken as it was written over hundreds of
years ago, provides no legal impediment to enforcing stricter gun laws.
In fact, the Supreme Court decided in 2008 that while the Amendment does imply that
a deserving citizen has a right to own a gun for self-defense purposes, it does not promise any
person to own a gun for just any reason. Legislators have begun to urge the public to realize
the difference in these two statements and come to the realization that increased gun laws are
greatly needed.

In Pennsylvania alone, the state does not track ammunition sales, does not require an
owner to register their firearms or register if their gun has been lost or stolen, and does not
allow law enforcement to deny the license to carry firearms at their discretion. If laws simply
fixed just these basic four holes in protection, citizens could feel safer knowing that it is likely
guns will be falling into the hands of past criminals or even children. Even taking into
consideration the laws that are currently in place such as background checks and psychology
evaluations, there are an infinite amount of loopholes to be found if needed. While wars are
being fought overseas, more people are dying at home due to gun violence. During the years
of 1955 and 1975, the Vietnam War killed over 58,000 American soldiers, which is less than
the number of civilians who lose their lives to a bullet in an average two-year period. The
Second Amendment does imply that a civilian can own a gun to protect themselves.
Unfortunately, unenforced and loose gun laws enable a person to obtain a violent weapon for
destructive purposes.

With the implementation of various restriction on guns and firearm usage comes an
onslaught of negative consequences. Continual bans on research into gun violence prohibits
any real studies from being conducted into the impact of stricter gun laws. Therefore, in many
cases it is very difficult to determine whether stricter gun laws even make an impact on gun
violence. Furthermore, innate conditions regarding the gun laws exist. Many of the laws
constructed require bipartisan agreement and thus result in weak laws that contain various
loopholes. President Barack Obamas recent executive order on the 5th of January covered
four main actions that seek to reduce gun violence and create safer communities:
1. Keep guns out of the wrong hands through background checks.
2. Make our communities safer from gun violence.
3. Increase mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system.
4. Shape the future of gun safety technology.
One of the aspects of this executive order included an initiative to create clearer
regulations for sales by private individuals. The assumption made by this initiative was that
private gun sales were the primary means of purchasing a gun for those unable to purchase a
firearm. However, after a shooting within California following the issuing of this executive
order, it was discovered that the gun used in the killings was, in fact, purchased through legal
means. This then rendered the executive order useless within preventing this situation. Not
only do these stricter gun laws and regulations leave room for loopholes, they also can create
adverse effects such as increased rates of violence. Stricter gun laws, while they may seem like
a middle-ground solution, bring with them these ranging complications.

Approach 3: No Guns in American Society


There is a possibility that we no longer need guns in our society. This approach is a
little radical, but it has been attempted by other countries with notable statistics to back its
viability.

In Ireland, Britain, Iceland, and New Zealand, police officers are not trained to use
firearms, save for some special armed units deployed in emergency situations. This
approach has resulted in lower crime rates in these countries: Irelands crime rate is
ranked 50th in the world, with 81,274 crime cases in 2002. Environments in these
countries have showed a possible correlation between less threatening police and lower
crime rates.

In Japan, guns are strictly regulated, and virtually no Japanese citizens own guns.
Those few citizens who do own a gun are required to have the police inspect it once
per year and must provide the police with specific documentation of the guns location
within their homes.
The United States has the
loosest gun control laws in the
developed world and the
highest rate of gun-related
homicide. Its crime rate is the
highest in the world, with
11.88 million crimes per year
-- 146 times higher than
Irelands crime rate.

Moreover, its gun-related murder rate is about 20 times higher than those of the
worlds 23 rich countries. The U.S. right to bear arms law is associated with an 8% increase
in the incidence of aggravated assault.
The overarching question of this approach is:
How do we value liberty versus personal
security?
Are citizens willing to sacrifice some of their own personal freedoms if it results in
the greater health of the people?
Potential Benefits
A number of potential benefits could result from this approach. The absence of guns
from our society would probably correlate to reducing both the number of homicides and
suicides by gun, and outlawing guns would likely facilitate better technology and better
methods to stun or stop criminals without killing them -- developments that would benefit
both citizens and police officers. Further, without guns, many argue that officers would not
be charged with making agonizing split second decisions on whether to fire their guns that
could end in the killing of innocent victims. John Howard, former Prime Minister of
Australia, advocated for this approach, saying that a decreased availability of guns would
decrease a persons potential to kill in a moment of madness, or malice, or hatred.

Potential Drawbacks
With this approach come potential drawbacks or tradeoffs as well. Chief among them
is the U.S. Constitutions explicit statement of the right of all Americans to bear arms. Many
fear that an outlawing of guns would give too much power to the government over average
citizens and could make it more difficult for citizens to protect their homes and families. A
fear also exists that unarmed officers would be almost powerless to stop a shooting by a
criminal with an illegally-obtained gun, a concern exemplified by the Utoya massacre in
Norway, in which gunman Anders Breivik killed 76 people. Police officers on the island of
Utoya, like most Norwegian police officers, were unarmed, and it took reinforcements and the
SWAT team an hour to reach the island site of the shooting.