Gun Control: What the Second Amendment Actually Means
The attitudes of other developed countries of the West surrounding civilians and police officers carrying firearms, including other high velocity weapons, are starkly different to those held in the United States. Officers in many European nations patrol the streets unarmed. In countries like the United Kingdom, something many Americans would consider comparatively non-weaponlike in pepper spray is considered a Section 5 firearm; it is illegal for civilians to carry and punishable by fines or time in jail. Especially in comparison to the United States and its increased problem since the 1999 Columbine High shooting with illegal weapons sales, mass shootings, and other gun related atrocities, other countries in the West seem to have found answers to the gun issue. Many other developed countries are consistently ranked in the top for fewest gun related crimes and happiest citizens. What does this say about the current American discourse surrounding guns, and what will it take to actually minimize the experienced problems our nation is plagued with?
Horrendous incidents in recent American history, such as the shootings at Sandy Hook, Pulse Nightclub, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Santa Fe High Schools, have spearheaded a dynamic discussion about gun control and keeping the country safe from further violence. Recent surveys have determined that most Americans actively support sensible gun regulations, which instead of stripping people of their weapons set stricter protocols for gun sales. Roughly 8 out of 10 American citizens support a mandatory waiting period for gun purchases and roughly 7 out of 10 agree that banning assault weapons for civilian use is a good idea. However, the Second Amendment continues to be held by conservative interpretations of the document as a clause offering inalienable rights. Groups like the National Rifle Association paint themselves as defenders of American liberty, who offer up the proper solutions to the nation’s problems. However, by actively looking to stifle discourse pertaining to gun regulations, the group demonstrates its selective interpretation of the Constitution, which works against the preservation of the nation’s values.
If we delve in to the text of the Second Amendment, and the Constitution as a whole, we can see that the document and its specific commands for Americans are not as rigid and clear-cut as proposed by those more politically right-leaning. The requirement for a “well-regulated militia” is the first tenet of the Second Amendment, which not only implies that initial militias were not regulated, but also that they can and should face some sort of regulation. By this clear language in support of regulating those tasked with maintaining national security, it seems only logical that that same possibility for regulating gun ownership should apply to the general populace, which more often than not have less experience and discipline with firearms. This same room for augmenting gun policies and not taking them as infallible is also delineated in the Preamble of our Constitution, which emphasizes the need to “insure domestic Tranquility.” Given how 96 Americans are killed each day by firearms, a number that is so high compared to other developed nations, modern society is noticeably not tranquil. As made apparent, schools, movie theaters, just about any other public venue are now seen by many civilians as potential hotbeds for violence caused by guns, forcing many of us to live in fear in a world made increasingly unsafe for us by unwavering politicians and policies.
The American discourse surrounding guns and gun crime is unhealthy. Innocent people, from children to members of the LGBTQ community, have and continue to lose their lives because of potentially archaic interpretations of the Second Amendment and the Constitution. We can see through America’s changing relationship with the death penalty, from public hangings with no fair trials for suspects to the more regulated, private lethal injections of today, that the nation is a maturing society with evolving standards of human decency and moral correctness. If such policies can evolve over time, it makes sense that our laws on guns do as well.
The time of the founding fathers is so clearly different that the twenty-first century, so it should not make sense to any of us, particularly those supporting the Second Amendment, that laws made then can properly apply to the modern world. Our guns have the capacity to hold more bullets and kill more people, and with increased awareness of black market gun sales and how underage people obtain weapons, our contemporary relationship with firearms is quite different than that of early Americans, who were trying to establish themselves as a legitimate nation separate and distinct from British control. Therefore, those who wholeheartedly defend the Constitution and the American way of life are not the NRA and other pro-gun conservatives, but rather are those individuals who acknowledge the evolving issues we face today and remain vocal in advocating for gun regulations. All of us have lives we have reason to value, and stepping back from the partisan politics of guns will allow us to make America a safer, happier space for all.
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