In 2018 there has been an average of one school shooting a week and countless other acts of gun violence, yet little to no change is being made by the United States government. As protests arise and demands for change become more prominent, media is constantly attempting to rationalized the shooters behavior with allegations of mental illness or some form of personal wrong rather than the weapons they used to kill. The second amendment of the United States gives Americans the right to own and bear arms, but as times are changing, so should the interpretations of this law. The process of obtaining a gun should be much more strict and the guns allowed today should be reevaluated as they evolve.
The right to own and bear arms is as old as American history itself. Back then “[colonial] Americans had a long-standing tradition of relying on local militiamen for purposes of defense and communal unity” (Second Amendment). Americans needed defense from the British crown henceforth the Second Amendment was created to protect these militiamen 227 years ago. America today, however, has one of the world’s largest and most powerful military, and the fear that created the Second Amendment is no longer a danger to the country.
Though the original reason to bear arms is no longer a factor in modern day America, gun ownership in the United States is constitutionally protected and firearms are widely used for self-defense, hunting, and recreational uses, such as target shooting; however, the variety of guns available today are not all necessary for these activities. Many argue that the second amendment allows citizens to own all types of weapons available to them but “evolving technology does call for evolving regulation. And, in practice, the implementation of the Second Amendment has never been strictly ‘absolute’” (Ingraham). With today’s technology reloading, aiming, and many more other features on a gun have become easier to use, as well as the lethality of the weapon regardless of the shooters ability. According to the makers of the of a modern-day AR-15, “a good shooter can effectively fire 45 rounds per minute. The guns are stable and accurate at distances five to 10 times farther than a typical Second Amendment-era gun” (Ingraham). An example of a typical second amendment-era gun would be the Blunderbuss, which excelled “in close-in fighting, […] where her spread of shot could inflict maximum damage to targets at close ranges” (Small). When the founding fathers created the second amendment they were protecting these weapons, weapons that allowed the users to cause damage to their opponent before continuing the fighting hand to hand, not a semi-automatic rifle that take the live of dozens in a matter of seconds.
Not only should the guns allowed today be re-evaluated but so should the process of obtaining them. Throughout the country there are hundreds of stores that sell guns, from big chains like Walmart to family-run shops. Americans can also “attend one of the dozens of gun shows that take place almost every weekend nationwide [and people] also regularly buy guns from neighbors or family members” (Smith). While many think that license and background checks are required before purchasing a weapon, these are conducted only in store purchases. Gun shows, where more guns are sold then in regular shops, conduct no background check or ask for the buyers for any form of id. President Obama tried to “eliminate the gun show loophole in 2013, with a bill that would have expanded background checks. But Congress didn’t pass it. The President’s effort came after the killing of 26 children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut” (Smith). Even after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school Congress refused pass a bill that would make obtaining a weapon harder because it would be troublesome for a $31.8 billion dollar industry.
Not only should the process of obtaining a weapon change, but so should an individual’s requirements. If a buyer was to purchase a gun in a formal store the “[required] information includes: name, address, place of birth, race and citizenship. A social security number is only ‘optional,’though it’s recommended” (Smith). After giving little to no information, the form also requires the buyer to answer a few question. These requirements did nothing to prevent the killer, Dylann Roof, from buying his “.45-caliber Glock at a gun store in Charleston, where he would have been required to pass a background check. Though he had been arrested earlier [that] year for trespassing and drug possession, he apparently met the legal criteria” (Smith). Roof also displayed “racist symbols on Facebook, but the FBI said that kind of information would not come up in a background check, since the database includes information on prohibited persons as defined in the Gun Control Act” (Smith). Though some background checks are conducted, they are not nearly thorough enough to prevent people with the wrong intentions of purchasing a weapon legally. The system is not perfect and by creating stricter regulations, though more time consuming, could save countless lives.
As school shootings and gun deaths escalated at an alarming rate, those who favor weapons place blame on an individual’s mental state rather than on the easily obtainable weapons that took so many lives. Many people believe mental illness and violence go hand in hand; however, research suggests that “[most] individuals with psychiatric disorders are not violent. Although a subset of people with psychiatric disorders commit assaults and violent crimes, findings have been inconsistent about how much mental illness contributes to this behavior” (Mental Illness). There is no direct correlation to a person’s mental state and violence, yet when tragedies happen “news stories about violence often focus on whether a person’s mental health problem was responsible” for the actions that person committed (Sifferlin). People who commit heinous acts may not all be in their right mind, but it is not due to depression or other psychiatric disorders, as the media portrays as the culprits for a tragedy. In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has stated that people with severe mental illnesses are “more than 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crimes than people in the general population” (Sifferlin), proving the opposite of what the media argues.
Though many know that the United States is having issues with gun laws and gun safety many still value owning an artillery than the safely of others. Individuals who share this idea argue that the “Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home” (ProCon). Although this is true, and is one of the oldest laws in America, citizens do not need semi-automatic weapons for self defense within their homes; this can be easily done so with less sophisticated handguns and revolvers, rather than AK-15s. Another argument made in favor of guns was in the 2010 McDonald v. City of Chicago case where Lawrence Hunter, Chairman of Revolution PAC, stated, the “Founders understood that the right to own and bear laws is as fundamental and as essential to maintaining liberty as are the rights of free speech, a free press, freedom of religion and the other protections against government encroachments on liberty delineated in the Bill of Rights” (ProCon). This is once again true, however, the right to own and bear arms is impeding people from expressing their free speech, freedom of religion and many other liberties that are supposed to be protected from prosecution under the Bill of Rights. The Orlando shooting, for example, was an act of domestic terrorism against homosexuals and the recent synagogue massacre was an act of antisemitism. These were all carried out by a shooter who’s weapon of choice was just as constitutionally protected as the freedom of the victims.
Those who argue against guns do not wish for them to be completely illegal because they are part of America’s history; however stricter regulations must be made. As times change and weapons evolve so should the law the they abide by. The process of obtaining any lethal weapon should be strictly regulated with thorough background checks as well as other measures before any purchase is completed. Also, a violent gunman’s actions should not be automatically justified by their their mental state, but should lead to change in the industry that supplied them with their artillery. Though the second amendment protects the rights of those who own guns, American rights to liberty and freedom and feeling safe in their school should be prioritized first.