Defending Self Defense

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David Rose
Law and Society
Self-defense is something many do not consider until they are put in a position in which they need to defend themselves. How am I going to survive? What if I have the ability to save others? Consider this fictional example: You and your wife arrive home from your anniversary dinner. When you see all of the lights turned off, you assume the kids listened to the babysitter and went to bed on time tonight. When you get in the mudroom door you see the babysitter bound and blindfolded in the living room and a man with a weapon turned the other way. In this situation your reaction time is limited. If you have a cell phone you can call the police, but what if the criminal sees or hears you? Once you make the call, you then need to hide and wait, hoping the intruder doesn’t hurt anyone. You can prepare yourself for unexpected situations like this is by purchasing and carrying a gun, legally. Guns are dangerous. The discharge of a firearm has the capability to result in a severe or even fatal injury. The reason guns have remained a controversial topic over the years is because there is no grey area when it comes to gun related mistakes. We have all heard the cliché “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” and it holds some truth. However, the irrefutable fact is: guns can kill people. In their article from the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Marc Gertz and Gary Kleck attest that the presence of guns in a crime “increases the likelihood that any injury inflicted will be fatal,” (Gertz et al, 1998).

Although the use of firearms can have fatal results, they are a miniscule contribution to the death toll in the United States. This is confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) report on the preliminary data of 2009 (on fatalities) in the National Vital Statistics Report, published in March of 2011. The preliminary data provided is compiled of the death records reported by state vital statistics offices for the year 2009. This report states that out of 2,436,652 deaths recorded in 2009, only 31,228 were attributed to injury due to a discharge of a firearm. Out of the 31,228 deaths, 11,406 were classified as a homicide due to assault (Kochanek et al, 2011).

With only 0.5% of the total yearly deaths being the result of assault with a firearm, it seems rare that you would run into a circumstance where you would need a weapon to defend yourself. Gertz and Kleck refute this assumption based on the multiple surveys conducted in the early 1990’s, one of which being the National Self-Defense Survey in 1993. Evidence from this survey estimates that there are about 2.5 million reported defensive gun uses (DGUs) per year. This infers that the likelihood of needing to defend yourself with a weapon is not as rare as one would like to assume.

As stated earlier, one way to prepare you for an unexpected situation, such as the previous example, is to legally purchase and carry a firearm. However, before doing so, it is important to read and understand the federal and state provisions for carrying and defending yourself with a weapon.

Gun use for self-defense is rooted in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, which states: “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.” Justice Brown explained the details to which this extends in his written opinion of Robertson v. Baldwin in 1897. In the opinion he states “the right of the people to keep and bear arms (Art. II) is not infringed by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons.” He compares this to the restriction on the First Amendment, which prevents “the publication of libels, blasphemous or indecent articles, or other publications injurious to public morals or private reputation,” (Brown, 1897).

In 1975 the District of...
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