Gun Control: Americans’ Rights to Bear Arms

The reasons guns have not been outlawed are many. This action would violate the Constitution, impair hunter’s rights and take away the right to protect one’s family, property or self. The topic of Gun Control is controversial and the debate surrounding it often emotional, usually centering on differing interpretations of the Constitution. Most Americans agree that the Second Amendment does allow law-abiding citizens to own guns for protection and hunting. The debate, however, seldom applies to hunter’s rights. Outlawing handguns outright would affect hunters as well as people that simply wish to protect themselves.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution 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” (“The Constitution”, 2006). This, as were all of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, was added by the Founding Fathers so as to provide a more clear definition of the specific rights guaranteed to Americans. Gun control advocates consider the Second Amendment to be “obsolete; or is intended solely to guard against suppression of state militias by the central government and therefore restricted in scope by that intent; or does not guarantee a right that is absolute, but one that can be limited by reasonable requirements” (Krouse, 2002). However, they only question the need for people to own firearms that are not primarily designed for sporting purposes such as hunting.

Obviously, the right to own arms was of supreme importance to the Founders given that it was listed second only after the freedom of religion and speech was documented in the First Amendment. The Founders knew that by ensuring the right to own arms, citizens would have the ability to protect themselves from that which might endanger their life, liberty or pursuit of happiness. This could include bodily protection from persons and animals or from an oppressive government that threatened the freedoms outlined in the Constitution. “The idea that the government has a constitutional right to disarm the general citizenry is totally foreign to the intent of the Constitution’s framers” (Reynolds & Caruth III, 1992).

It has been argued that the citizens of the country no longer have a need for arms such as they did 230 years ago. No hostile Indians and little threat from wild animals; the government is stable and elected by a democratic process and the citizens of the country have the most powerful armed force ever assembled by humankind in addition to several levels of law enforcement that protect it. It is also argued that the right to own guns has become a detriment to the safety of society which is in opposition to the intentions of the Founders. Though on the surface a somewhat valid argument, the underlying rationale for the right to keep and bear arms remains an essential element for the protection of individual freedoms, which the Founders foresaw. An example can be found the first time gun control was enacted in the U.S. Following the Civil War, many Southern states passed a law that forbade blacks from owing firearms. Because of this, they had no means by which to protect themselves from radical white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Today, minorities of all descriptions including Muslim and homosexuals are better able to protect themselves from hate groups because of their constitutionally guaranteed right to own firearms. (Fulk, 1993)

Safety and security is dependent on the right to bear arms. Police departments are under no legal obligation to protect anyone or any group and usually are only able to react to a crime that has already occurred, take a report and investigate. “Governmental police forces were created to prevent and break up riots, and to keep a general sense of public order. They were never designed to stop criminal acts against individuals and, accordingly, they do this job poorly” (Fulk, 1993). There is about one police officer available for every 3,000 citizens in a given city; therefore, personal safety is the responsibility of each person alone (Fulk, 1993). Gun-control proponents decry the evils of gun ownership every time a tragedy such as Columbine High School or Virginia Tech occurs and though they would like to see every gun taken out the hands of law-abiding citizens, seldom is an enforceable, workable plan offered that would curb gun violence. Disarming citizens would be next to impossible because there are more than 140 million guns in the U.S., a third of which are handguns (Wright et al, 1983: 25). Attempting to disarm criminals is a great plan in some fairy-tale land but is a fruitless venture in the real world. “The ratio of people who commit handgun crimes each year to handguns is 1:400; that of handgun homicides to handguns is 1:3,600. Because the ratio of handguns to handgun criminals is so high, the criminal supply would continue with barely an interruption” (Department of Commerce, 1986: 171). The prohibition of guns in an effort to diminish criminal activity is a reasonable solution in much the same way the prohibition of alcohol would diminish the occurrences of driving while intoxicated (Kopel, 1988).

Gun-control advocates argue that handguns serve no purpose except to shoot people. Any hunter will tell you that this is untrue. This underscores the lack of knowledge these advocates possess concerning the activity they denounce. Handguns are bought mainly for reasons of self-defense but nearly 20 percent buy handguns to use for sport-shooting, target practice and about 15 percent buy handguns as collector’s items. Hunters regularly use handguns as a protection against snakes and to hunt game animals (Aagard, 1987: 32).

Approximately 35 percent of gun owners identify themselves as hunters (Cook & Ludwig, 1997). More than 30 million hunters purchase permits or licenses and nearly 20 million take part in sporting activities involving firearms each year according to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Vickery, 1994). The Gun Control Act of 1968 states that “the purpose of federal firearm regulation is to assist federal, state, and local law enforcement in the ongoing effort to reduce crime and violence” (Zimring, 1975). Hunters can take comfort in the fact the Act also states, “the intent of the law is not to place any undue or unnecessary burdens on law-abiding citizens in regard to the lawful acquisition, possession, or use of firearms for hunting, trapshooting, target shooting, personal protection, or any other lawful activity” (Zimring, 1975).

The hallmark of American society, in which its citizens have historically taken great pride, is the fact that they are self-reliant and strongly defend personal liberties. Gun control is but one case in point of an American society that is moving away from these attributes which have defined the nation’s ideals and towards the belief that the government can best deal with its problems. Some people choose to accept threats to their well-being as their fate then depend on the justice system to make everything right. Others, however, choose to defend themselves and their property. Both personal choices are the right of every American, at least for now. Many American citizens would throw away hard fought for freedoms by denying the constitutionally guaranteed right of gun ownership. They would do so without regard to the possible genocidal consequences as exhibited by historical examples or without concern for the safety of their neighbors and countrymen.

Works Cited

Aagard, Finn. “Handgun Hunting Today.” American Hunter. (1987). “(The) Constitution: The Bill of Rights.” Cornell Law School. (2006). Web.

Cook, Philip J. and Ludwig, Jens. “Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms.” National Institute of Justice. (1997). Web.

Department of Commerce (Bureau of Census). Statistical Abstract of the United States Washington: Government Printing Office. (1986).

Fulk, Austin. “Gun Control vs. Our Freedoms.” Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberties. (1993). Web.

Kopel, David B. “Trust the People: The Case Against Gun Control.” Cato Institute. Cato Policy Analysis No. 109. (1988). Web.

Krouse, William. “Gun Control.” Congressional Research Service. (2002). Web.

Reynolds, Morgan O. and Caruth, W. W. III. “Myths about Gun Control.” Policy Report. National Center for Policy Analysis. No. 176. (1992). Web.

Vickery, Hugh. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Department of the Interior News Release. (1994). Web.

Wright, James; Rossi, Peter and Daly, Kathleen. Under the Gun: Weapons, Crime and Violence in America. Hawthorne, N.Y.: Aldine. (1983).

Zimring, Franklin E. “Firearms And Federal Law: The Gun Control Act Of 1968.” Journal of Legal Studies. (1975). Web.

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