Gun Control Pros and Cons in the United States

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The debate over gun control has been raging through the American political systems for years. On one side, there is the National Rifle Association (NRA) and 2nd Amendment-citing citizens who use their firearms for hunting and self-defense. On the other, there is Handgun Control Inc. (HCI) and followers of the Brady Campaign who want to ban guns on the basis that they are dangerous. Both sides have strong arguments, anchored in historical precedent and statistical analysis. Anti-gun control lobbyists’ arguments include the guarantee of the 2nd Amendment, the definition of “militia” as any adult male, self-defense, the relative uselessness of permits and regulations, and court cases in favor of firearm possession. Pro-gun control activists counter with the anachronism of the 2nd Amendment, the traditional definition of “militia” as a government-authorized army, the multitude of gun-related deaths, the need for stronger regulations, and the precedent England has set with their ban of handguns. Both sides of the issue present a compelling argument, and need to be looked into carefully before any decision can be made. Opponents of gun control legislation often cite the 2nd Amendment, which states that citizens of the United States have the constitutional right to own firearms. This portion of the Bill of Rights has been repeatedly upheld by court cases in the Senate and House of Representatives. On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that “the Second Amendment, part of the 10-amendment Bill of Rights adopted shortly after the Constitution itself, guarantees the right of individual U.S. citizens to possess and use firearms for traditionally lawful purposes” in a 5-4 vote (Hunter). The Constitution is regarded by the Court as the highest law in the country, historically taking precedent over any other legal document, sometimes resulting in the nullification of laws regarded as unconstitutional. Gun rights advocates argue that gun control laws are unconstitutional under the current rulings of the court, a claim which may be defended with legal precedent. Additionally, gun rights advocates argue that the 2nd Amendment places no limitations on gun ownership. In the court case District of Columbia et al vs. Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the verdict that “The Amendment's prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause's text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms” (Scalia). This ruling was meant to shut down the argument by pro-gun control advocates that the 2nd Amendment meant that the right to bear arms was reserved exclusively for members of a state or country militia. Under these court decisions, champions of gun ownership have found strong footing from which to defend their position. However, proponents of gun control argue that the 2nd Amendment is outdated as it was written over 150 years ago, and is therefore not valid for today’s world. During the District of Columbia et al vs. Heller case, Justice Scalia argued that “the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. Constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them, whether or not future legislatures or (yes) even future judges think that scope too broad” (Scalia). Scalia urges Americans to consider how different the modern world is from colonial times—citizens today have a much larger and more efficient police force than they did in the times of “frontier justice”, where a community had to protect itself from outside threats such as robbers, murderers, and even wild animals. Furthermore, the 2nd Amendment was written during a time when state sovereignty was at an all-time high. Justice John Stevens explains that “it...
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