Right To Bear Arms Essay, Research Paper
Right to Bear Arms
Americans are faced with an ever-growing problem of violence. Our streets have become a battleground where the elderly are beaten for their social security checks, where women are viciously attacked and raped, and where children are caught in the crossfire of drive-by shootings. The damage that these criminals are doing to our society cannot be ignored. However, the effort by some misguided individuals to eliminate the legal ownership of firearms does not address the real problem at hand. Making firearms illegal simply disarms the innocent law-abiding citizens who are most in need of a form of self-defense. Gun control activists such as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV), attempt to reduce crime by regulating firearm ownership and use, but organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA) objects to the inconvenience that these laws may cause to law-abiding citizens that buy or own guns. All factions in this debate have some good points. Every organization, whether for gun control or against, use a mixture of facts, figures, and emotions to express their views. Although gun control activists and their opponents go head to head with gun control issues, research and statistics of gun control, crime rate, and the Second Amendment prove that citizens should have the right to bear arms.
Gun control enthusiasts want to take away guns in order to abolish crimes and gun related deaths completely. They attempt to banish crime by regulating firearm ownership and use through legislation. An example of these regulations includes the Brady Law , which was implemented in 1994. This law consists of waiting periods and criminal background checks. The waiting period allows for a cooling-off time to help eliminate crimes of passion. Another illustration of an attempt to banish crime is the Assault Weapons Ban , which is aimed to keep dangerous and deadly assault rifles off the streets and make them harder to find. The Right-To-Carry Law is also an endeavor that requires certain criteria to be met before a permit can be issued to carry a handgun. Proponents of gun control also contest the use of firearms for self-defense. Nisbet asserts, The use of firearms for self-protection is more likely to lead to a serious accident or death among family and friends than to the death of an intruder (Nisbet, 215). An example of this sort of accident would be if a child finds a gun and accidentally shoots someone, or when a criminal takes the gun away from the owner and kills the owner with his own gun. Since legislation controls firearm ownership and use, the laws governing gun control are enforced more, therefore, there are more prosecutions taking place. Another shady area concerns the Second Amendment. Gun control activists seem to have a problem with the words militia and people. Advocates say these two words are directed to the State National Guard Units and not to the civilian population. In brief, gun control activists claim that armed forces are the only persons that should be allowed to own and operate firearms.
Today s gun control activists work hard to pass legislation to keep guns away from criminals. One of the laws passed is the Brady Bill. This law is an attempt to keep potential hotheads from immediately acquiring a gun to harm or even kill someone. The waiting periods and background checks are good, but a special crime rate study done by John Lott states that there were no overall beneficial effects of the waiting period on violent crime rates (Gun Control, 3). While longer waiting periods and thorough background checks make it more difficult for minors, drug addicts, and people with mental deficiencies to attain guns; these measures would not prevent people who wish to obtain a weapon from getting one. Criminals will continue to violate laws, and they will continue to carry their firearms. Another effort of the gun control lobby is to banish assault weapons. The Assault Weapons Ban is an effort to keep civilians from manufacturing, possessing, or importing semi-automatic rifles. An assault weapon is a semi-automatic rifle with a detachable magazine. The rifle cannot have a bayonet mount, a pistol grip, a grenade launcher, or a threaded barrel. These rifles are considered evil and they create murderers. The information that the gun control advocates are conveying is wrong. According to the NRA, Assault weapons were involved in less than 1% of homicides before the assault weapons ban took effect in 1994. The same is true as of 1998 (Gun Control, 4). Assault weapons have always been difficult to apprehend. Even through underground channels, criminals have limited access to assault weapons. These statistics indicate that assault weapons were never an issue to begin with. The Right-To-Carry Law is another law of controversy. This law requires law enforcement agencies to issue handgun permits to all that qualify. Qualifications involve a clean criminal record and the completion of a firearm safety course. Gun control proponents argue that carrying a gun promotes crime. The NRA fact card concerning Florida statistics rebuts this information. In 1987, Florida adopted a Right-To-Carry Law. Between 1987 and 1996, homicide rates dropped 36%, firearm homicide rates dropped 37%, and handgun homicide rates dropped 41% (Gun Control, 3). A criminal is less likely to rob or harm an individual if he or she feels threatened. When law-abiding citizens carry guns, there are fewer crimes committed.
Crime rates are also factors that are brought in to deter the possession of guns. Guns and crime are often linked together. Guns are frequently used to commit robbery and murder. Handguns are usually the weapon of choice because they are small and can be held in one hand. Concealing a handgun is easily achieved. Handguns can comfortably fit into coat pockets and under clothes. The anticipation of gun control lowering crime rates is very questionable. In The Right of Gun Owners, the question was asked, Do areas with strict firearm control have reduced homicide rates? Gottlieb answered, No, in fact it has been established that twenty percent of American homicides occur in four U. S. cities that make up only six-percent of the population. The four cities–New York, Washington, D.C., Detroit, and Chicago–have the nation s toughest gun laws in force and still have extremely high homicide rates (Gottlieb, 26). No matter how tough the gun control laws are, criminals will still obtain guns illegally. High crime in areas with tough gun control laws verifies that firearm controls have little effect upon crime rates. Another area concerning crime rate is in self-defense. Self-defense laws vary from state to state. Gun owners in most states have the right to shoot anyone in order to escape death or bodily harm. Shooting someone should, of course, be the last resort. The most common circumstances that require the need for self-protection are thefts and assaults. In a self-protection study conducted by Nisbet, questions were asked to the respondents of robberies, whether they used self-protective measures or not. Nisbet concluded that those who used a gun reasoned with the offender or the offender ran away more often than not and the victims maintained possession of their property (Nisbet, 222). Two purposes for using firearms in self-defense are to remain safe and to keep possession of all properties. Using a handgun can be learned in a matter of minutes, whereas learning how to use a knife effectively or mastering the skill of karate can take years. Gottlieb notes, In an analysis of the various means of self-defense (handgun, fist fighting, running away, or shouting) used against robbers disclosed that the single most effective means of thwarting a robbery was the handgun (Gottlieb, 67). The use of guns for protection requires very little practice, and the awareness that guns kill has become common knowledge. These facts alone confirm that firearms are successful in self-defense. Similarly, the enforcement of laws and the prosecution of the offenders are also key elements concerning whether or not crime rates are lowered by gun control enforcements. The NRA claims that firearm control would not be needed if lawmakers would enforce current laws. For example, increasing penalties for repeat offenders who use guns to commit crimes would decrease gun-related violence. Also, mandatory sentences would reduce crime because they get the violent criminal off the streets for longer periods of time. The need to increase the enforcement of these current laws is great. Many criminals are just slapped on the back of the hand and given probation instead of being prosecuted for the hideous crimes committed. Today, more laws are being enforced and more offenders are being prosecuted, but tougher criminal penalties and stricter enforcement of laws will help reduce crime and crime related violence, therefore, reducing the need of additional gun control policies.
Ultimately, the final area of debate is the Second Amendment. This key issue is argued and supported by both proponents and opponents of gun control. In order to fully understand the meaning of the Second Amendment, one must know the history of how it was established and the role firearms played in it. When the colonists felt that the domination of the British was too much for them to bear, they picked up their personal firearms and went to war. While standing against the British armies, these rebels found themselves opposed by the greatest military force in the world at that time. At the height of the British Empire, colonial freedom fighters discovered the power of the Minuteman, the average American gun owner. These Minutemen served a major part in winning the American Revolution. The name Minutemen was given them because they would pick up their personal guns and jump to the defense of their country on a minute s notice. The founding fathers of this country understood that an armed populace was instrumental in fighting off oppression, and they made the right to keep and bear arms a constitutionally guaranteed right. The Bill of Rights does not grant rights; it preserves and guarantees pre-existing individual rights. The Second Amendment of the Constitution reads, 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 (Squyres, 4). This amendment basically says that all citizens have the right to own and use firearms, and any law that tries to control that right would be unconstitutional. However, many gun control activists argue that the word militia and people do not give reference to citizens but to the National Guard Units. On the other hand, gun rights proponents say that the word militia and people refer to the citizens as it did for the Minutemen. Gottlieb mentions that the First and Fourth Amendments guarantees the right of the people. The Supreme Court has interpreted the word people in these amendments as an individual right. If the term people means individuals else where in the Bill of Rights, then it should also mean individual in the Second Amendment (Gottlieb, 8). There should be no questions about the interpretation of any words in the Second Amendment. If the Supreme Court can acknowledge the word people as an individual right, then why can gun control activists not agree? The Constitution, like anything else, can be twisted to mean whatever anyone wants it to be. People need to take the Constitution for the purpose for which our forefathers intended and stop trying to read between the lines.
In conclusion, research and statistics confirm that tough gun controls have little effect on crime rate, and the Second Amendment, without a doubt, allows citizens the right to keep and bear arms. Gun control does not eliminate criminals; they only keep the law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves. When people have the right to defend themselves, criminals think twice before committing a crime because they fear for their own lives. We must work to reduce crime in America, but we should look at the problem logically and develop plans that would be effective. It is obvious that gun control laws are neither realistic, nor effective in reducing crime. Therefore, we must direct our efforts toward controlling crime, not controlling legal ownership of firearms.
Gottlieb, Alan. The Rights of Gun Owners. Washington: Merril Press, 1991.
Gun Control. 12 Feb. 2001 .
Nisbet, Lee, ed. Gun Control Debate: You Decide. New York: Prometheus Books, 1990.
Squyres, Jacobs, and Quiram, ed. Gun Control: Restricting Rights or Protecting People?. Texas: Information Plus, 1997.