Weekly Lens #5: Second Amendment
This weeks topic surrounds, the constitutional right to bear arms. Why purpose does it serve and what limits does the right have?
This week's lense is such an easy position and I don't quite understand the other argument. Our constitution verbally says, that it is a right to bear arms. That has been a long-standing freedom and tradition in this country. No other country has that liberty. Based on this predicament, one could argue the left is unconstitutional. Hillary Clinton was riding on "Common Sense" gun control. Many Americans were probably frightened the fact that their property would be legally seized by the government. That would certainly violate many amendments of the constitution. The origins or gun control were discussed in the recent documentary I watched of Dinesh D'Souza's, "Hillary's America." One excerpt talked about a southern black woman who was a journalist. She was a huge supporter of the Republican Party and for good reason. The original reason the democrats/progressives/leftists wanted was so blacks and other minorities couldn't own a gun to protect themselves. Because they weren't armed, it was easier for the KKK to go onto their property and do whatever they wanted whether it was lynching or torturing or what have you. The vividness and articulation by D'Souza really scared me. How could the government be allowed to do that? Big cities like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles all have very strict gun laws. This being said, that leaves good guys, ordinary people, without protection and allowing the gangs, cartels, and bad guys to have the guns. That's why there's over a murder a day in Chicago. That can also put so much responsibility on law enforcement to speed to the crime scene and have their gun on the ready, because the victim isn't protected in this totalitarian landscape. According to Urban Carry, a gun-ownership advocate, runs through points that the more people have guns in an area, the less crime and murder. Can one really argue against the question of if you're a bad guy, would you want to shoot up a school that's a gun-free zone, or a school that has guns, has a cop, and is heavily armed? Of course, no bad guy would say the heavily-armed school. That can be said for any establishment, whether it's a home, library, restaurant, hospital. It's a sick thing to think about, but one must put themselves in the mindset of a bad guy. That is why I have never, even when I was an avid leftist, that I didn't understand the argument of, "Common Sense" gun control.
Another hot topic in politics today, the second amendment! Debate goes back and forth on this topic and there are strong advocates for each side. So let’s talk about the second amendment. What does the second amendment state exactly? Well, the part that people cite most to defend their right to ‘bear arms’ is “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.” So let’s break this down to get a clear definition set, as that is the foundation of all good arguments. The constitution says that we, the citizens have the right to “bear arms”. In this context, it is safe to say the constitution means to imply that citizens have the right to own weapons. It should be noted that ‘arms’ does not limit our ownership of things to guns (otherwise it would simply say guns). So with this in mind, a common argument brought up is “why can’t we own nuclear weapons”, because in the true interpretation of the constitution, we should be able to ‘bear arms’ or weapons. However, under the U.S Code title 18 § 831, we are prohibited from possessing nuclear weapons. Now don’t get me wrong here, I don’t believe we should have nuclear weapons. The point I intend to make is that we already restrict the Second amendment and none (at least in great mass) seem to oppose this because civilians owning nuclear weapons is frankly absurd and impractical. So because it is quite tacitly understood that owning certain weapons is absurd, the question now changes to what weapons are ‘practical’ for the American people to possess freely?
Let’s go back to the context in which the second amendment of the constitution was written. To set the stage, it’s the late 18th century; we had just defeated the wretched Tories and taken a glorious victory. Guns were necessary then, truly, for individual protection as Tories would have gone around during the revolution demanding quartering and people still needed them to hunt for survival. So how have times changed since then? Well, for one we don’t have armies of other countries stomping around our territory. Yes, it is possible for America to be invaded. However, when the second amendment was written we did not have a standing army and it was more important for each citizen to own weapons in case called to action. Thankfully , today we have a standing army that is quite qualified to handle those threats for us. Second, yes, people still hunt, but their survival is not contingent on the next deer they shoot. Now does this mean we have nothing to hide from or nothing to protect ourselves from? Of course not! But when the founders of this nation wrote the second amendment, it is clear they didn’t expect automatic weapons, machine guns, sub-machine guns, flame throwers, mini-guns, grenade launchers, or nuclear weapons. It would be hard for the founding fathers to fathom much more than what they had at that time (i.e. rifles, shotguns, pistols/hand guns). The point being made, times have changed and the average citizen does not have some imminent threat to be scared of requiring a gun, much less some of the ones that are legal today (such as some listed above like flame throwers, where 40 states have no restrictions on them, or mini-guns, although rare as they must have been registered before May 19th, 1986, are still obtainable for a large sum.)
However, it is obvious that abolishing the second amendment and ridding America of all guns is more than impossible. So the key is to make sure the guns that are had are not capable of causing mass harm, are well regulated, and dispersed with proper checks and training. One such weapon one could reasonably suggest is a 45 acp (a pretty standard handgun). With this weapon, one could easily distinguish between an attacker or burglar and a civilian, should one find necessary, and one could not use this to injure many people all at once. This way, those who feel it necessary to own a firearm can have one and any kind of mass destruction or murder would be much less feasible.
Finally, background checks. When purchasing a firearm from a federal dealer, one must go through a NICS background check (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) processed by the FBI. These checks will scan for criminal history/background, criminal charges, warrants, mental health history, dishonorable military discharges, and immigration status, according to The Trace. These are all reasonable things for a background check to confirm, however, they are not taken as seriously as sometimes necessary. For instance, in many states if your background check is not cleared by the FBI by three days, the firearm store may sell you the firearm anyway without notifying the FBI. This was the case with Dylan Roof whose background check was halted for several days due to drug charges. Because he passed the three day period, he was sold the gun anyway only to later murder nine people with his firearm. It should also be noted that Federal Law does not require for mental health records (not including those declared by courts or those instances where an individual has been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility) to be submitted to NICS due to ‘privacy laws’ resulting in a rather uninformed data base. If one wishes to buy a weapon that could be used to harm somebody, they should be expected to give up their right to privacy in exchange for their right to bear an arm.
In conclusion, it is impossible to eradicate guns from America so it is an exigent issue that we learn how to coexist with them in a way that upholds a modernized interpretation of the constitution while assuring the safety of the citizens of the United States of America. This can be achieved through limiting the weapons available and increasing the level of vetting in background checks to obtain a gun. Although gun violence has been on a downtrend for 20 years, this does not mean violence is anywhere near a ‘good’ or ‘acceptable’ number as the standards from 20 years ago are not too high. The numbers of gun involved crimes we experience today are too high and too preventable to turn a blind eye from stricter regulation.
U.S Code title 18 § 831:
Guns weapons legal here:
Information for background checks:
So the debate here over the second amendment shows both its sides and what it means for us today. While one argues against Gun Control, the other expands on the necessity of it. How the interpretation of the constitution can mean so many different things for us today.
The second amendment is an important right and a symbolic one. It could be used to protect one self and symbolically have a stand against a potential tyrannical government. While the latter has evolved to the point where the only way an American rebellion could work is if the majority including police officers, military etc. went against the Washington establishment the former still holds its relevance. The relationship between government and people is a contract, both sides have to sacrifice things for a proper balance and this constitutional right comes in the middle of this balance. How we balance this relationship concerning this right requires the participation of us all now and in the future.