The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “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.” With the debate on the Second Amendment raging stronger than ever, it has everyone asking – what should America do? There are many sides to the disagreement including regulations, where to allow them and other security precautions to better protect the American public. Because of the way that the Second Amendment is phrased, it has lead to much debate over what is its intended scope.
What Does the Second Amendment Mean?
There are differing beliefs over what the Second Amendment is meant to encompass and how its words should be interpreted and used for laws and regulations throughout the United States pertaining to guns. The two different interpretations of this amendment are whether it was meant on a personal level of individuals having the right to own and transport guns – known as the individual right theory. Following this theory, it is unconstitutional for the United States to have prohibitory or restrictive regulations on guns with American citizens. The second is known as the collective rights theory that interprets the Second Amendment at a state level. This means that states have the right to protect their authority to have formal and organized military, but that individuals do not have the right to ownership of guns and that the different levels of government have the right to regulate firearms without constitutional infringement.
History of the Second Amendment
There have been many cases and rulings about the Second Amendment in the Supreme Court since it became part of the Bill of Rights back on December 15, 1791. In 1875 and 1886, United States v. Cruikshank and United States v. Illinois, ruled that the “amendment doesn’t bar state regulation of firearms” and only “limits the power of Congress and the federal government”.
In 1939, United States v. Miller, ruled that states and the federal government were allowed to limit types of weapons that did not have a “reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia”. What this meant is that the type of gun (12 gauge shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches long- sawed off shotgun) in question could not be proved as an appropriate firearm for the militia, so the amendment did not guarantee the citizen the right to have such a weapon without registration. Since then, most of the federal court decisions pertaining to the Second Amendment have used this ruling and interpreted the cases as preserving the authority of the states to maintain their militias.
The last big ruling on the Second Amendment was November 20, 2007, Parker v. District of Columbia. Through this case, the court ruled it unconstitutional for D.C. to attempt to ban the new registration of handguns, carry a pistol without a license and to require that all firearms be kept unloaded and locked in the home. All of this information was obtained from the Library of Congress.
This video from 2013 outlines how Gun Ownership in America has changed throughout history.
Here is an infographic that outlines gun ownership.
Guns in the News.
There have been many terrible events in the last 15 years, since the Columbine High School Massacre in Colorado. This article offers a timeline of the worst shootings since Columbine. These events range from school shootings like Sandy Hook (2012) in which 20 children and 6 adults were killed with a family bushmaster AR-15 rifle and two handguns to shootings at day trading firms including 12 deaths and 13 injuries (1999) to a shooting at department stores with 9 killed and 4 wounded with a stolen semi-automatic rifle. After each of these tragedies a new debate on gun control and the Second Amendment arises.
Issues that come from each of these shootings are regulations, laws and different safety provisions that could be implemented. A large issue in America is the easy access to instruments that can inflict so much harm to people that should not be allowed to have a weapon due to mental illness. This article discusses whether the recent Fort Hood shooting shows that it is too easy for mentally ill people to access guns. There are questions over different regulations on owning guns and using universal background checks to keep them out of the wrong hands.
My Take on the Second Amendment and Keeping America Safe
Being a college student, all of the shootings that have been in the news over the course of my life are very close to home and very scary. People in my life have been directly affected by the recent UC Santa Barbra shooting and the Seattle Pacific University shooting – events only two weeks apart from each other. It is truly a scary thought knowing that it wouldn’t be unusual to have an occurrence like this at my school or in other places my loved ones frequent or live. But what could or should be done to help citizens safety?
I grew up in a family that had guns and I do not think that the appropriate approach to safety is attempting to outlaw guns. It would not get us anywhere. However, there is no need for anyone to have a semi-automatic weapon. You are not going to use this type of gun for hunting or target practice. I do think an appropriate course of action is for someone to legally obtain a gun, to go through the same regulations that are in place to obtain a driver’s license. The idea that this type of regulation is unconstitutional and infringes on people’s rights is absurd. I find it appalling that anyone can go into a store and buy and instrument that gives them the ability to inflict incredible amounts of harm without checking their basic background history. No matter how you intend to use a gun, you are still purchasing an instrument capable of inflicting tremendous amounts of damage.
However, I also do not think that implementing background checks will fix the problem that we are facing in America because of the immense black market for firearms. It is not difficult to get a gun through illegal channels. I think the best way to protect our people is to heighten security in schools and other at risk areas. You might not be able to keep people from obtaining guns, but there is the option to help keep the guns out of certain places.
Another question is whether or not schools should allow or require teachers to have guns. Idaho recently passed a bill allowing people to have guns on campus. Or Georgia House Bill 60 that specifies where their residents who have concealed carry permits can take guns, including some bars, churches, school zones, government buildings and certain parts of airports. I do not know if this is the right decision, but I do not think that it is the wrong one – yet. I think that if there is the appropriate gun training for safety and use in high risk situations it could benefit the school system. Also, the guns need to be secured in a manner that does not give the student body the ability to obtain the gun.
Here are the latest bills across the states pertaining to guns in schools:
One thing that concerns me with carry permits and placing guns in schools is that sometimes people get scared and accidents happen. Accidents that involve guns are often very severe, a study showed that guns kill twice as many children as cancer does, most on accident. There are stories in the news all the time about accidental shootings because of a true accident or because of a perceived threatening situation. Sometimes because of how the context in a certain situation is perceived, a gun owner may overreact and inflict undue harm. Renisha McBride has fatally shot last November because a man was afraid for his life when she relentlessly pounded on his door. The jury found him guilty of second degree murder, even though it was not his intent to kill her. Other accidents can happen in the home like recently in Colorado where a three year old was shot and critically wounded on accident in the home.
Here is an infographic that outlines government cost due to accidental firearm accidents each year.
I do not know the appropriate course of action to help make the American children and people safer when it comes to guns. Guns give someone the ability to inflict a lot of harm if they so choose, but it is also one of our rights given by to us by the Bill of Rights. Most people who own guns do so for hunting, target practice and protection – not to kill people. There are many instances when gun ownership have saved many, many lives. However, I do not feel comfortable with guns being allowed in potentially misinterpreted high risk situations, like a bar. Do you have any suggestions about how we could improve the safety of the American people pertaining to guns? Comment below!