Anyway, today, I would like to talk about a very pressing issue in our country that has not been given the media attention it deserves, especially in the past year or two. As the title of this post suggests, the topic that I am referring to is the ongoing discussion in our country about what role guns should play in our society. Recently, I had a very lively debate with a classmate of mine about the right of individual Americans to bear arms. The debate was multi-faceted and cannot be transcribed here. However, our disagreement boiled down to a few, salient points. The first point was how to read and interpret the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Beyond the legal technicalities, we argued over the effectiveness of guns at preventing robberies, murders, and other violent crime. And lastly, in a more general sense, if gun ownership should be controlled, to what extent? Are automatic weapons an 'automatic' (no clever wordplay intended) no-no? How about high caliber ammunition? Perhaps you should only be allowed to own a gun if you go through a training course. Perhaps not.
All of these questions have been grappled with for decades. Our Founding Fathers thought a great deal before writing the Second Amendment, and paid incredibly close attention to detail regarding the exact wording. The American revolutionaries of yore desired to have a unified, powerful government, but at the same time recognized the right of the people to rebel, and to rebel violently if need be, if this government began to behave corruptly, unjustly, or unconstitutionally. Nevertheless, constitutional legal scholars and experts have debated the this issue for years and years, regarding how to interpret this illusive amendment.
Before we go any further, we must understand what the Second Amendment actually says. Here it is, in its pure, unadulterated form:
"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."
There it is. In 2008, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in the case District of Columbia v. Heller.
In this case, the Court ruled that the District of Columbia's proposed ban on handguns was a violation of every Americans' right to 'keep and bear arms.' The District of Columbia was also not allowed to force citizen's to lock their gun when not in use.
While this ruling may seem like it permits everyone to own any gun at any time, it's not so simple. In 1994, under President Bill Clinton, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was passed. This made the buying or possession of assault (semi-automatic or automatic) weapons illegal. This law expired in 2004. A study done by the United States Department of Justice showed that this bill was not effective in halting crime because in cases of violent crime, people are not likely to be using bulky assault rifles. However, there have been several other very important bills regulating gun possession and usage in America. In 1990, the Gun Free School Zone Act was passed, prohibiting anyone from carrying a gun 1,000 feet of any elementary, middle, or high school. In 31 states today, you are allowed to carry a gun in public without a permit. The Brady Bill, passed in 1993, instituted federal background checks on all those want to purchase a firearm.
Bottom Line: If you are over the age of 21, are not a convicted felon, have no past criminal history, are mentally stable, and buy from a federally licensed dealer, you can own a gun! At informal gun shows, it is notoriously easy to walk away with a piece of metal that can instantaneously kill a human being.
While yes, most people keep guns for protection, and in cases of emergency, much of the time, gun ownership results in tragedy. In 2010, there were 8,775 murders from gun violence. Firearms were one of the top ten causes of death in the United States in 2010. Every year, over 200,000 people are hospitalized for non-fatal gun injuries.
Shocking Fact: In a paper done by Dr. Kellerman and published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1986, a homeowner's gun is 43 times more likely to kill a family member, friend, or acquaintance than it is to kill a malicious intruder.
Over the years, school shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech, as well as the recent attempted assassination of Rep. Gabby Giffords by a mentally deranged man have reignited this controversy. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, two high school students, were able to two 9 mm guns and 2 twelve-gauge shotguns, as well as a rifle and a semi-automatic handgun. With these tools of destruction, they killed 12 and injured 21 in this disaster.
How can we make sure this kind of disaster never happens again? Some say the answer is to control guns and gun possession. Others say that gun control advocates often ignore the Second Amendment.
I have raised the issue. Now it's time for you, as a microcosm of the American people, to respond. What do you think should be the right approach? Are guns dangerous weapons that should be kept out of the hands of all except the military? Or are they a God-given right that government should leave alone? Or somewhere in the middle... Respond in the comments.