The Bill of Rights is a magnificent document; however, it is not perfect. Our founding Fathers had no way of knowing how America would change in the next few hundred years, nor did they know how their writings would be interpreted. Supreme Court Justices, Constitutional law experts, politicians and everyone in between differ in how they interpret the amendments, but especially the second: “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 Supreme Court has varied dramatically in the interpretation of the amendment since its passing, but the most recent Supreme Court case regarding this subject (2008) decided that the amendment, “protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia” and also, “the right is not unlimited.”
Now that I have laid down some background information, I can address the main topic of this article: gun control.
Although I am far from being an expert on the Constitution, I do not understand how anyone could think any form of gun control is constitutional. The Constitution’s phrase, “shall not be infringed” is very simple and direct. According to Oxford Dictionaries, “infringe” is defined as, “act so as to limit or undermine (something)”; gun control does just this. The objective of gun control is to limit who can get a gun. I personally do believe the government should limit who can get certain guns, but I believe they should do it in a constitutional way (even if that entails amending the Constitution).
More relevant than the constitutionality of gun control is the issue of how strict Federal gun control should be. The gun control debate can largely be broken up into two different areas: who can get guns and what guns can they get. I’ll start by addressing the first, who can get guns.
Background checks are an excellent way to determine who should be able to purchase a gun; every purchase of a gun should include one. Similar to “innocent until proven guilty,” I believe everyone should be allowed a gun until it is proven they pose a safety risk if allowed a gun. The main question here is what entails a “safety risk.” I believe individuals with severe mental disorders (as diagnosed by qualified doctors), individuals living in the country illegally and violent criminals (those who commit violent crimes, as defined by the legal system) should not be allowed guns.
As for which type of guns should be legal, due to my lack of knowledge in the mechanics of guns, I will not attempt to classify gun X as okay but gun Y as not okay. Instead, I will briefly mention a few of the arguments used in favor of stricter and more lenient gun control.
The main argument used to justify banning certain types of guns is that banning those guns results in less violent crimes. Although there are many empirical studies suggesting this to be true, there are equally as many suggesting there to be no relation or even a negative relationship between the two. There is definitely not enough conclusive evidence for this to be a valid point.
For me, one of the most influential arguments in favor of not banning more powerful (and therefore, dangerous) guns is the classic, “What if?” scenario. What if the government turned on its people and citizens had no way to defend themselves? This scenario is often brushed off as “crazy” and “unrealistic” but I strongly disagree. A brief look at history will show many compelling examples of the U.S government doing just that. The most obvious example of the U.S government turning on innocent civilians was the genocide of the Native Americans. Even scarier to me than that is how the U.S government, without strong opposition by citizens, imprisoned over 100,000 innocent civilians (with over 60,000 of them being citizens) in concentration camp-like prisons simply because they were Japanese. It is unbelievable that this event occurred in the recent past of the United States and yet people dismiss this reasoning as “crazy” and “unrealistic”. If it happened once, it can happen again.
Until next time, remember, there’s always A View From Below.