Right to Bear Arms

The United States Constitution is made of amendments, which were written with the intent of securing the basic rights of all U.S citizens. It serves as an outline for the laws of the land by dictating the powers of the people and what is acceptable under the United States government. These rights are considered a privilege given to the people and should be exercised as directed within the document. The constitution defines the Right to Bear Arms as ‘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.’ The second amendment guaranteed American citizens the right to protect themselves. The second amendment was originally created to protect states from uprisings against authority, the government, and slave rebellions. The second amendment guaranteed that states could form militias from these threats by creating militias because at this time America had no standing government. One particular clause in the amendment is the right to own and operate a firearm. For instance, the second amendment. For instance, the second amendment gives us the right to bear arms and states verbatim, “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.” Militia referred to groups of men who banded together to protect their communities, towns, colonies and eventually states, once the United States declared its independence from Great Britain in 1776. Due to the terms agreed upon by our founding fathers, we have the right to protect ourselves and our families by use of a firearm against a threat which can endanger a life. Founding Fathers were frightened by a standing army because they feared a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government. Firearms are responsible for more than 31,000 deaths and an estimated 74,000 nonfatal injuries among US residents each year, most of which are violence related. (Siegel, Ross & King, 2013, p. 1).

The second amendment was constructed in the nineteenth century when in the summer of 1787, the Framers (which included US presidents) conspired with each other to write the articles of the United States Constitution during the constitutional convention. Fifty-five men drafted this document which represents the blueprint of the United States government today. The desire to construct and arrange such a plan was created in order to give American citizens the absolute right to the proper indulgence of their own lives. This point is further adorned in an article written by Mam Farrand entitled “The Framing of the Constitution of the United States”. In it, Farrand starts off his book by stating “Thirteen British colonies had asserted and established their independence because they declared the form of government under which they had been living was destructive of their “unalienable rights” of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (Farrand, 1913, p. 1). Therefore, the assumption of freedom as a nation is detailed within a vital document written over 200 years ago and is very meticulously followed today. Many people in America at the time were under the impression that the government used soldiers to oppress the people, and that the federal government should only be allowed to raise armies when battling foreign enemies. For all other functions, they believed, it should use part-time militias, or regular citizens using their own weapons. However militias had proved inadequate against the British, the constitutional convention gave the new federal government the capability to establish a standing army, even in peacetime. However, there were opponents of a strong central government, they were known as Anti-Federalists. They argued that the federal army deprived states of their ability to contend themselves against oppression. Anti-Federalists feared that Congress could possibly take advantage of their constitutional power of “organizing, arming and disciplining the Militia” by failing to keep militiamen equipped with sufficient arms. After the U.S. Constitution was officially ratified, James Madison proposed the Second Amendment as a way to empower these state militias. Although the Second Amendment did not answer the Anti-Federalists concerns of the federal government having too much power, it did establish the principle that the government did not have the authority to disarm citizens.

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Americans have debated the meaning of the Second Amendment, with passionate arguments being made on both sides. The essence of the debate is whether the amendment protects the right of private individuals to keep and bear arms, or whether it instead protects a cumulative right that should be exercised only through formal militia units.

Over the last several decades, there has been debate over whether the use of firearms has been within standards of the written law due to endless tragedies which have been connected to the use of handguns. Many people believe that these episodes could have been prevented if the government had revisited and imposed additional restrictions on the nation’s gun bearing population by recommending effective ways to contest gun use and introduce innovative approaches the harshness of gun activity. With that being said, it remains clear that gun control is a problem which has a vastly negative effect on our society and as a result, and assessment of the second amendment should be conducted and the meaning for the right to bear arms must be reevaluated to benefit and protect all. Those who are in support of stricter gun control legislation have contended that limits are crucial on gun ownership, including who can own and operate them, where they can be carried and what types of guns should be available for purchase. On the other side of the debate of gun control measures are the NRA and other gun rights supporters, that views such restrictions as an unacceptable violation of their Second Amendment rights.

Congress passed one of the most high-profile federal gun control efforts, it was called the Brandy Bill in the 1990’s thanks to the attempts of former White House Press Secretary James S. Brady. Brady was shot in the head during an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

After the passage of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which enforced background checks for gun purchases from licensed dealers, the debate on gun control has shifted. Longstanding, the federal judiciary held the opinion that the second amendment continued among the few provisions of the Bill of Rights that did not fall under the process clause of the 14th Amendment, which therefore applied its limitations to state governments. For example, in the 1886 case Presser v. Illinois, the Court held that the Second Amendment applied only to the federal government, and did not prohibit state governments from regulating an individual’s ownership or use of guns. However, in its 5-4 conclusion District of Columbia v. Heller, which discredited a federal law barring almost all civilians from owning guns in the District Of Columbia, the Supreme Court lengthened Second Amendment protection to individuals in federal enclaves. The majority decision of the Court was the idea that the Second Amendment protects the right of individual private gun ownership for self-defense purposes. The Court suggested a list of “presumptively lawful” regulations, including bans on possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill; bans on carrying arms in schools and government buildings; restrictions on gun sales; bans on the concealed carrying of weapons; and generally bans on weapons “not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.”

In the case of McDonald v. Chicago, a Chicago resident Otis Mcdonald described his neighborhood as being taken over by gangs and drug dealers. McDonald legally owned shotguns but thought that a handgun would be better in the case of a robbery. However, due to Chicago’s requirement that all firearms in the city be registered, yet refusing all handgun registrations after 1982 when a citywide handgun ban was passed, he was unable to legally own a handgun. As a result, he and three other Chicago residents filed a lawsuit, addressing and challenging their gun bans after the issued opinion of the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller. In McDonald v. Chicago, plaintiffs challenged that the Second Amendment should also apply to states. In McDonald v. Chicago, plaintiffs challenged that the Second Amendment should also apply to states. The Supreme Court held that the second amendment right recognized is fully applicable to the states through the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. In so holding, the Court reiterated that ‘the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense’ In the majority ruling in that case, Justice Samuel Alito wrote: “Self-defense is a basic right, recognized by many legal systems from ancient times to the present day, and in Heller, we held that individual self-defense is ‘the central component’ of the Second Amendment right.”

Since ruling America has had an increase in mass shootings. Two recent examples are, the Sandy Hook shooting of 18 children and two adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, led President Barack Obama and many others to call for closer background checks and a renewed ban on assault weapons. And in 2017, the mass shooting of 58 people attending a country music concert in Las Vegas (to date the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, overtaking the 2016 attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida) inspired calls to restrict sales of “bump stocks,” attachments that enable semi-automatic weapons to fire at a faster right. Firearms are responsible for more than 31,000 deaths and an estimated 74,000 nonfatal injuries among US residents each year, most of which are violence related. (Siegel, Ross & King, 2013, p. 1)

Legislation and the United States Supreme court system have been in debate for quite some time over the issue of gun control. Groups have been challenging different loopholes and laws, on both sides of the debate. A topic of discussion has been whether the second amendment has been taken out of context has had little resolutions. The hope will always be to find common ground, so as a nation, we no longer have to deal with gun violence and the effects it has on innocent bystanders. “Ordinary forms of gun control such as licensing laws ban on concealed carry, and prohibitions on particular types of weapons are, by contrast, attempts to regulate the right rather than eliminate it and are routinely upheld. So long as a gun control measure is not a total ban on the right to bear arms, the courts will consider it a mere regulation of the night.” (Winkler, 2007, p. 717).

The government must take greater responsibility to control who is given access to firearms due to public safety measures, prevention of violent crimes and misuse. There will always be opposing sides with respect to gun control, therefore it is important to understand the differences between the parties. Libertarianism and fundamental rights are two sets of individual groups who are all for the use of firearms.

These groups believe in the second amendment and the ability to protect oneself as well as the rights of loved ones against an imposed threat. To further illustrate, the attitude of someone who is pro-gun is detailed in the article, “An ethical analysis of the 2nd amendment: The right to pack heat at work”, as it states “the contention is that criminals will more carefully think about committing crimes if they know that potential victims might be armed.” (Martin, 2014, p. 10) In addition, these groups concern themselves with protecting their assets and strongly believe that state law and the second amendment defend their right to do so. With that being said, there is statistical evidence which supports the idea that firearms are in the best interest of the people and that a trend in possession of firearms is equal to less crime. In Kates and Moody, “Testing the more guns equals more murder thesis”, “The homicide rate for 2010 was roughly 32% lower than the rate in 1946. And year by year in the 2000’s, American murder rates remained nearly the same or dropped—notwithstanding that each of these years saw the addition of four to five million new guns to the total gunstock.” (Kates & Moody, 2011, p. 1446)

I am in favor of more gun control, for the following reasons. The weapons that citizens had when the second amendment was written were very different than what we have today. A revolutionary era musket has a magazine capacity of, cloud fire 3 rounds per minute, the accurate range was 50 meters. Whereas a modern AR-15 has a magazine capacity of 30, can fire 45 rounds per minute, and has an accurate range of 550 meters. Guns can make it easy to kill or injure a person in a short timeframe. When owning a gun, there is a 43 times higher likelihood of injuring or killing a family member, friend, or neighbor than an intruder. The prevalence of suicide is 5 times higher in homes having guns. I don’t believe that guns should be outlawed, but that there should be laws in place to restrict guns from getting into the wrong hands. The Second Amendment and gun control can co-exist. There is a thin line between self-defense and deadly force. Gun control statistics reveal that although the United States accounts for only 5% of the world’s population, U.S. residents own 50% of guns in the world. When gun deaths statistics for different countries were expressed as the number of gun deaths in a population of a million people, the United States was ranked below South Africa.

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Right to Bear Arms. (2021, Dec 15). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/right-to-bear-arms/