Our Right To Bear Arms Essay Research

Our Right To Bear Arms Essay, Research Paper

18 November 1998Our Right to Bear Arms Gun prohibitionists would have you think that the only legitimate purpose for owning a firearm is “sporting purposes” such as hunting or target shooting. However, the Second Amendment was not included in the Bill of Rights so people could go duck hunting or punch holes in paper targets. There is a lot more to owning a firearm than “sporting purposes”. For most people, a firearm is the most practical and effective means that they have of defending against a criminal attack. “Gun control” is a vague term that means different things to different people. For example, it is unlawful for 14-year-olds to buy firearms (or for that matter, cigarettes or alcohol). There are, to be sure, many adolescents who exhibit more common sense than their parents. However, experience has shown that the activities of people below a certain age (18 – 21) should be restricted due to their general lack of maturity and judgment (Fezell, Individual 23). Laws against minors purchasing firearms are one of many restrictions society places on young people that most of the public would find reasonable. They are, nonetheless, a form of gun control. Teer 2 One of the most serious organizations against gun-control is the National Rifle Association. The NRA is millions of Americans representing a diverse contrast of age, sex, race, and religion. Americans have joined from every state in the union, from every economic background, from every political affiliation (What). What members share with every other member is an appreciation of the shooting sports, belief in our constitutional right to keep and bear arms and, most of all, a commitment to safety, responsibility and freedom. The NRA believes in the Constitution and upholds it with fairness, equality, and the law. They actively pursue some of this country’s oldest and finest traditions, including hunting and recreational shooting. They work hard to support law enforcement and fight hard to keep special interest groups from infringing on our Second Amendment rights. The NRA was incorporated in 1871 to provide firearms training and encourage interest in the shooting sports (What). The scope of this operation requires an annual budget of approximately $80 million (What. NRA structure includes divisions representing firearm safety effort, firearms training, law enforcement programs, junior shooting activities, women’s issues, hunter services, recreational shooting, competitions, gun collecting, and defense of the Second Amendment — without which all of the above would be impossible (What). NRA staff works with such diverse groups as the Boy Scouts of America, 4-H clubs, Teer 3 the American Legion, VFW, hunting and shooting clubs, schools and law enforcement organizations (What). “Gun control” as envisioned by extremist groups such as Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI) means something entirely different. To them gun control is a means to an end — gun prohibition. And not just for minors, violent criminals, or those who warrant institutionalization. Groups like HCI ultimately seek to prohibit firearms ownership by anyone except the government (i.e., the police and military). Two points that are central to prohibitionist thinking are: in order for a society to be civilized, ordinary people must be disarmed; and disarmament of the citizenry can only be achieved gradually, or as HCI’s founder Nelson T. Shields, III. put it, “a slice” at a time (Fezell, American 20). Gun-prohibitionists, being true elitists, deem themselves to know what is best for the rest of us and camouflage their true agenda in order to lessen resistance from the citizenry (Fezell, American 17). However, when writing in statist newspapers such as The Washington Post and The New York Times gun-prohibitionists are often quite candid about their ultimate goal. According to Fezzel, in an op-ed piece entitled “Disarm The Citizenry”, The Washington Post, Friday, April 5, 1996, page A19, columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote: Ultimately, a civilized society must disarm its Teer 4 citizenry if it is to have a modicum of domestic tranquility of the kind enjoyed by sister democracies such as Canada and Britain. Given the frontier history and individualist ideology of the United States, however, this will not come easily. It certainly cannot be done radically. It will probably take one, maybe two generations. It might be 50 years before the United States gets to where Britain is today. Passing a law like the assault weapons ban is a symbolic – purely symbolic – move in that direction. Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation. (Fundamental 19) Mr. Krauthammer’s belief that the disarmament of the American public must be achieved gradually is nothing new. The July 26, 1976 issue of The New Yorker magazine contained an interview with Mr. Shields “A Reporter At Large – Handguns” (Fezell, Fundamental 22). On pages 57-58 of The New Yorker article, Mr. Shields was very forthright as to the ultimate agenda of his then-fledgling organization: We’re going to have to take one step at a time, and the first step is necessarily – given the political realities – going to be very modest. Of course, it’s true that politicians will then go home and say, `ThisTeer 5 is a great law. The problem is solved.’ And it’s also true that such statements will tend to defuse the gun-control issue for a time. So then we’ll have to start working again to strengthen that law, and then again to strengthen the next law, and maybe again and again. Right now, though, we’d be satisfied not with half a loaf but with a slice. Our ultimate goal – total control of handguns in the United States – is going to take time. My estimate is from seven to ten years. The first problem is to slow down the increasing number of handguns being produced and sold in this country. The second problem is to get all handguns registered. And the final problem is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition – except for the military, policemen, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs, and licensed gun collectors – totally illegal. (Fezell, Fundamental 22)

Another person that believes other people should not bear arms is Mr. James Huber, president of a group calling itself the Police Foundation advocates: “In the short term, of course, the police must be given the firepower that’s required to combat the firepower they now face. In the long run, however, we need fewer guns. Semiautomatic weapons and other weapons of war have no legitimate place in civil society and ought to be banned outright, right now. . .” Teer 6 Once again, gun control boils down to — a gun ban. In United States v. Gomez, the United States Court of Appeals not only recognized the right guaranteed by the Second Amendment as being individual in nature, but held that it embodies the right to self-defense. The Second Amendment refers to self-defense as the right to defend oneself and one’s home against physical attack. In a modern society, the right to armed self-defense has become attenuated as we rely almost exclusively on organized societal responses, such as the police, to protect us from harm (Fezell, Fundamental 22). The possession of firearms may therefore be regulated, even prohibited, because we are “compensated” for the loss of that right by the availability of organized societal protection (Fezell, Fundamental 22). The tradeoff becomes more dubious, however, when a citizen makes a particularized showing that the organs of government charged with providing that protection are unwilling or unable to do so (Fezell, Fundamental 22). The justification to bear arms would require a person to show: (1) that he was under unlawful and present threat of death or serious bodily injury; (2) he did not recklessly place himself in a situation where he would be forced to engage in criminal conduct; (3) he had no reasonable legal alternative; and (4) there was a direct causal relationship between the criminal action and the threatened harm (Fezell, Fundamental 23).Teer 7 It is also significant that a United States Circuit Court of Appeals would recognize that “the Second Amendment embodies the right to defend oneself and one’s home against physical attack” since this is a right exercised by individuals as opposed to States (Fezell, Fundamental 24). Studies on this controversial issue are so biased on both sides that in the long-run they offer very little for us to decide if self-defense is our fundamental right. For example, in 1992, 35,000 Americans were killed by firearms in murders, suicides and accidents (Levinson 638). Only car and truck accidents surpassed guns as a cause of fatal injuries. Christopher Levinson claims that by 2003, guns will likely surpass cars as a killer (644). Yet other studies indicate that fewer than 2 percent of fatal gun accidents involve a person accidentally shooting someone mistaken for an intruder. Compared with defensive uses of guns, this translates into about a 1-in-26,000 chance of a defensive gun use (Lund 105). And in an interview on November 21, 1993 with the Tallahassee Democrat Kleck the Chicago Tribune noted: We know that at least 75% of all uses of guns in crimes-related incidents are defensive uses by the crime victims; there are about 2.5 million defensive uses of guns by crime victims each year, compared to only about 800,000 uses by criminals. Further, one out of six defensive gun users claims that someone almostTeer 8 certainly would have died had they not used their gun. This would imply about 400,000 purportedly lifesaving uses of their guns annually, a figure which would dwarf the nearly 37,000 lives taken with guns. The meaningful figure is that far less than 1 percent of those who use a gun defending themselves end up killing anyone. A fairer assessment of gun ownership,says, would balance the number of household members killed by guns with the number of crimes prevented and lives saved when guns are used defensively. (Fezell, Individual 30). Depending on how or where one is raised the value placed on our right to keep and bear arms will differ dramatically from one household to another. It is terrifing on how fanatical people are on either side of this never-ending issue. Some tend to think that locking up criminals is enough to protect society from future crimes. While others lay blame on weapons and strive for the dream of a gun-free world. Realistically, there is no right or wrong solution. But the fact remains that people use guns to kill people, not the other way around. Personally, I know that I would feel much safer if only responsibly-proven mature adults, above a certain age, had access to firearms. And have the types of firearms allowed be set to realistic standards. The value of self-defense is the same value we place on our own lives and the lives of the ones we love and want to protect. Teer 9

Fezell, Howard J. Your individual right to keep and bear arms. American Survival Guide Jan. 1997, late ed.: 22-31. —. Your fundamental right to self-defense. American Survival Guide Oct. 1997, late ed.: 18-24. —. Early American gun control. American Survival Guide Apr. 1997, late ed.: 18-21. Huber, James. End the domesstic arms race. Washington Post 26 Mar. 1997, late ed.: A19. Levinson, Christopher. The Embarrassing Second Ammendment. Yale Law Journal (1989): 637-46. Lund, Michael. The Second Amendment, Political Liberty, and the Right to Self-Preservation. Alabama Law Review (1987): 103- 30. United States v. Gomez 81 USCA 846. CA Super. Ct. 1996. What is the NRA? NRA Home Page. National Rifle Association of America. (1995-1998). Online. Internet. 11 November 1998. Available http://www.nra.org>


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