The Second Amendment; Gun Rights versus Gun Control
Our government is involved in a balancing act which deals with gun rights versus gun control. O’Connor explains that “There has been a longstanding dispute about whether the Second Amendment had been written to assure for the preservation of a well-trained militia, or whether the right to own a weapon also extended to ownership for private use” (110). One side believes the Second Amendment was written to form a militia during the early years of our country and does not mean everyone may own firearms. Then, there are those who believe in favor of gun rights and believe the Second Amendment explicitly grants them those rights. To express an understanding of these two views, I will describe crimes committed with guns, such as what happened at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech, and the Reagan assassination attempt. All of which led to public uproar in favor of gun control and sparked debate in gun rights activists. My goal for this paper is to explain why the Second Amendment has been hotly debated recently by Americans who want to protect a traditional right to bear arms and those who call for new gun control measures in the wake of shootings such as those at Columbine and Virginia Tech.
To achieve this goal, I will first explain how the Second Amendment is defined as well as two of the most common beliefs that come from its interpretation. It is in understanding these two interpretations that we can come to see which side of the fence people stand on. Next, in understanding why this issue has been hotly debated recently, gun related crimes that have received national attention will be discussed. Also, in understanding this debate or balancing act between the two interpretations, pertinent Supreme Court Rulings and legislation will be discussed. To keep a sense of order I will explain opinions from gun control activists first (when possible), then from gun rights activists within each section, point by point, instead of separating them entirely within the paper. In closing I will discuss statistics which will further strengthen the need for common ground to be formed between the two sides of the debate.
The debate over gun control versus gun rights begins with the interpretation of the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment, which was ratified in 1791, 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. Opinions vary on the term “militia.” Gun control activists believe militia was meant to explain that this was meant only for states to maintain an army. This is known as the collective belief or right, which gun control proponents stand behind. Cornell describes collective rights as “the right guaranteed not so much to the individual for his private quarrels or feuds as to the people collectively for the common defense against a common enemy, foreign or domestic” (199). The opposing interpretation that three out of four Americans believe is that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual to have a firearm (Schwartz 41). This individual belief is that the Amendment protects an individual’s right to own guns, which is the stance that gun rights activists take. Thus, collective interests versus individual rights are another way of explaining the gun debate.
Gun control activists attempt to dismiss the Second Amendment as “archaic, irrelevant, and claim it to be a collective right, granting the States the power to raise militias” (LaPierre 31). One gun control proponent’s belief held that the Second Amendment was designed to allow states to defend themselves against a possible tyrannical government, and since we now have stealth bombers and the like, it is hard to imagine what people now need in their homes to serve that purpose (Sugarmann 30). In contrast, Cornell states that gun rights activists believe that, “Even though it is not...
Cited: Cornell, Saul. “A Well Regulated Militia, The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America.” New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.
“Gun Violence and Gun Control.” Social Issues In America, An Encyclopedia. Vol.3. 2006. Print.
LaPierre, Wayne. “Guns Freedom And Terrorism.” Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2000. Print.
O’Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, and Alixandria B. Yanus. “Essentials of American Government, Roots and Reform.” New York: Pearson Education, Inc, 2009. Print.
Price, Joyce Howard. “Town Orders Guns in All Homes.” The Washington Times (D.C.). 25 Nov. 2003. Web. 25 Nov. 2010.
Schwartz, Emma. “In Congress, The Uphill Battle For Gun Control.” U.S. News & World Report. 17 Mar. 2008. Web. 10 Nov. 2010.
Spitzer, Robert J. “The Politics of Gun Control.” Washington, D.C: CQ Press, 2004. Print.
Sugarmann, Josh. “Every Handgun Is Aimed At You, The Case for Banning Handguns.” New York: New York Press, 2001. Print.
Tushnet, Mark V. “Out Of Range, Why the Constitution Can’t End the Battle Over Guns.” New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.
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