American Society Essay, Research Paper
“Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” — James Madison, The Federalist Papers
James Madison speaks directly to the issue of why the second amendment
is so important in American Society. The ownership of firearms dissuades both criminal and government alike from usurping the rights John Locke referred to as natural rights: “the right to life, liberty, and property.” Armed citizenry, it can then be assumed, discourages both tyranny and criminal activity when it bears arms in defense of these natural rights. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution enables the citizens to protect their rights. Crime and tyranny have limited the rights of other peoples around the world as they were left defenseless to stop it and were forced to forfeit their rights in many cases. The second amendment is significant to our society because it dissuades crime, enriches democracy, and gives people control over their destinies.
Tyranny is and always will be a threat all democracies must be wary of. Only a government fearing violent backlash to its policies would deny its people arms. Why else would one government be concerned with an armed populace defending their person, family, and property? The Second Amendment ensures our rights guaranteed by the Constitution because now an armed citizenry is more actively involved, checking the abuses of the government. Fear of the people reacting with disgust to government actions makes one suspicious of what actions the government is taking against the people to prompt such a reaction. Tyranny sets out to remove the will of the people from choosing their own government. The Second Amendment defends freedom by giving the people’s will final say on how they will be governed.
When posed the question, “Which amendment to the United States Constitution is most important to secure liberty?” most would claim they are uncertain. Clearly no freedom could be preserved without the option of the law-abiding to rebel and restore the freedom they once enjoyed, making the Second Amendment critical to the preservation of democracy. Rights that are taken for granted today could have only remained intact if the government did not fear repercussions to its actions. The Second Amendment stands as a measure of last resort for the people of the United States, a necessary option to secure freedom and liberty for future generations.
Disarmament of the population does not seem like a real threat to modern Americans but it has been a threat to many people throughout history. Pol Pot’s Cambodia and Stalin’s Russia both made use of the tactic of disarming the people prior to committing atrocities of unspeakable proportions. It follows that, “To disarm the people?is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.” – George Mason. Only the free can dissent, and dissent is crushed when the free cannot fight back. This Amendment truly secures the freedom, so prized by the American people, that many have died to protect.
Tyranny, being the antithesis of democracy and the threat of it still present in modern society, makes the Second Amendment not only very necessary but essential to our society. Another and more common threat to the rights of a peaceful democracy is crime. Criminal activity denies citizens the ability to conduct commerce. The Second Amendment stands as a safeguard, preventing crime from undermining the free-enterprise system, so integral to our nation’s prosperity. Study after study points to the fact that crime is deterred by private citizens possessing arms. Arms dissuade criminals from denying private citizens’ rights, again the Second Amendment secures our freedom and ability to move freely. One who possesses arms not only protects him but society as a whole. Confronting the citizen whom is enabled to act on his or her own behalf, he criminal can never know who possesses the means to fight back.
In his popular book, More Guns, Less Crime, John Lott Jr. argues that crime would be decreased if more persons took up arms for their own defense. His thesis is supported by eighteen years of FBI statistics demonstrating how dramatically crime is reduced by citizens possessing arms. Lott uses the example of concealed weapons. These weapons not only deter criminal activity, they also give the bearer a sense of calm and an ability to conduct peaceful commerce freely and without fear. Arms empower citizens to conduct business without fearing the criminal elements which seek to deny them their life or property as well as denying them their freedom.
The United States was founded on principles of capitalism and free enterprise. Firearms are as much in line with these principles as any other instrument empowering individuals. Adam Smith writes in The Wealth Of Nations,”[the government] has the duty
of protecting, as far as possible, every member of society from injustice and oppression by every other member of society.” Smith implies that one of the few government duties is to protect the people. Smith then qualifies this statement with the understanding that such protection is not always possible. Individualism and capitalism merge into the same school of thought: those who do what the government cannot always do, protect everyone all the time, are taking on personal responsibility. They assume control over their own lives and therefore are not entirely reliant on a force that cannot always be present. In the 1992 Los Angeles riots, storeowners became the only lines of defense after law enforcement had abandoned the scene. When a citizen is put into this situation, he or she alone must act in place of the government, when government no longer protects.
Free societies who do not fall to tyrannical rule after banning guns often are savaged by skyrocketing crime rates. For example, an Australian government report reflects an increase of 44% in armed robberies. Criminals are the only ones with firearms and obviously do not fear the reaction of an unarmed citizenry. These crime statistics only worsen with a 300% jump in homicides with firearms in 1997 in the Queensland province. After advocates fought hard for changes in the laws in Australia, their attempt to make the streets safer failed miserably. Guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens are an effective tool for dissuading criminal activity, but an unarmed citizenry is all too easy a mark for those who would not lay down their weapons like law-abiding citizens. This same trend — where more laws equal more crime — proves true in Great Britain as well, making the claim that fewer guns will yield safer streets completely a matter of wishful thinking. The exact opposite has proven to be the case.
The Second Amendment is a very important part of this nation not only because it allows persons to pursue hobbies of their choice, skeet or target shooting, but also ensures that America will not be ravaged by crime or tyranny if the principles behind the document continue to be upheld by the American people. If denied the right to defend your family or pursue your hobby, what prevents the government from overreaching these bounds or beginning to usurp even the most basic of human rights, if it fits the government’s agenda? Freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights are not extended to the entire world and might never be, so the opportunity to exercise such liberties should not be taken for granted or ever compromised. In 1774-1775 a British republican tract accurately reinforced this belief: “The possession of arms is the distinction between a freeman and a slave.” Free persons are subservient to no one and those who protect this liberty truly deserve it.
James Madison’s quote holds true today because the Second Amendment is founded on the belief that people must be trusted by their leaders. If no trust between the two sides exists, democracy fails. No greater means exists of demonstrating the ultimate confidence of the government in its people and no greater device exists to ensure that government warrants and deserves the people’s trust than the Second Amendment. This simple addition to the Constitution is vital to American society today because it protects our democracy, enables us to participate in commerce without fear, and puts in place a balance of power between the people and their representatives. The Second Amendment truly symbolizes and preserves the great liberty we enjoy in the United States of America.