America’s Gun Addiction: Time For Rehab?
The United States of America. Land of the free, home of the brave… as well as the home to the “2nd highest percentage of gun-related homicides per 100,00 people, in the world” (Mises Institute). Now if you ask yourself why America has such a high rate compared to most other countries in the world, you could answer that question with multiple responses — maybe a majority is in result of gang violence, or perhaps foreign countries have stricter laws towards gun use — however, no matter how you slice it, the same question always seems to present itself as a result of these homicides: how sound are gun control laws in America? This question then sparks a perpetual debate between mainly left and right ideologies, with both supplying viable evidence to backup their claims towards possible action on gun control. On one side of the spectrum, citizens who oppose any further gun regulation may argue “Gun control laws infringe upon the right to self-defense and deny people a sense of safety” (NRA.org). Many of these anti-gun control supporters stand behind the fact that they were given unalienable rights when the constitution was written, and that these rights should never be deprived. Our constitution acts as an outline for the rights of all Americans, and has been this way since the beginning of our country; therefore, anti-control activists argue: why change now?
On the other hand, supporters of gun control would seemingly have an opposing view, possibly making the claim that if laws were enacted in which the rate of gun distribution is lowered, or perhaps “ … created a system that fortified regulations of firearms…” our country would gradually begin to see a decrease in homicide and mass murder rates (American Journal of Public Health). Although citizens who agree with this argument may believe that our constitutional rights should never be deprived, they also believe in the overall safety of our communities. Therefore, they are supposably willing to give up a fraction of their rights in order to make that goal achievable, claiming that a higher regulation on firearms could create safer environments throughout the country. To add on, “About 200 Americans go to emergency rooms every day with gunshot wounds…” and these numbers are staggering. (Frum) To the majority of gun-control supporters, higher regulation on firearms now sounds more permissible than ever, as they hope that cracking down on inauspicious gun distribution can create a demise of these violent, deadly crimes.
Episode IV: A New Hope (as Presented by J.P.S)
The debate over gun control is a relatively new matter, when regarding how long our country has followed the rights of our constitution. We can date back to 1939 when the Supreme Court ruled in on a case named “U.S. vs Miller”, stating that the 2nd Amendment only permits guns suitable for “a well regulated militia” — for example, many assault rifles were banned simply because they are not military grade equipment, as well as a handful of other high capacity weapons. (On The Issues) However, ever since then, the Supreme Court didn’t hear any more 2nd Amendment cases until 1997, and in recent years, the ongoing controversy has been drawing in the spotlight now more than ever before. With homicide rates still way above our heads, many citizens are now joining in on the debate due to it’s crucial and relative impact on our country. So how do we handle such a contentious issue that has millions of supporters on each side? Without a clear solution in sight for the last half-decade, we may have now found the answer. Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has presented his profound idea of re-wording our 2nd Amendment is his book “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change Our Constitution” where he argues that adding the 5 words: “when serving in the militia” would compromise for both sides, ultimately creating a bridge between right and left ideologies and putting an end to the ongoing debate. (Washington Post) For the sake of time and cooperation, it is suitable to take the advice of Justice Stevens and re-word our 2nd Amendment, as it would clearly be beneficial in tying together the loose ends of our distinguished arguments.
If our government was to re-word our 2nd Amendment as John Paul Stevens suggests, not only would both sides find that their overall arguments have been adequately adhered to, but also begin to bring change to the overall problem with this debate: making America a safer place for our youth, families and communities. As of right now, the first sentence of the 2nd Amendment 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”. (US Constitution) As we all know, this Amendment legally allows citizens to carry and conceal a variety of weapons with a permit without having to worry about government intervention. This then creates a seemingly “free-for-all” society that puts little to no limits on gun possession, leading to a higher usage and percentage of homicides due to the simplicity of obtaining one of these deadly tools. Now, what John Paul Stevens is suggesting is a possible counterexample to the seemingly free policy of our 2nd Amendment. By inputting the words “when serving in the militia”, Stevens’ plan is to limit the possession of guns to only those who serve in our military. (TheNewAmerican.org) In elaboration, people with practiced skill and high proficiency and safety when dealing with guns are the only citizens who should be allowed to own them. This would then stop unqualified citizens from harming not only other Americans, but themselves as well. Keeping firearms out of the hands of people who don’t use them properly or adequately would supposedly correlate with a decrease in murders and homicides simply because the only people who would be able to own them are qualified, trusted, men and women of our armed forces. One could also argue that veterans should be permitted access to owning a gun due to prior training and handling; however, background checks should still be required.
Regarding his published book, Stevens not only provides insight to his ideas dealing with our 2nd Amendment, but also discusses a variety of other contentious matters in American society today; thus, giving me a sense of trust within his ideas, as well as exposing me to a new outlook on this topic. Known for his lively and empathetic personality, Stevens has worked hard to promote equality and justice throughout his 41 long years as a Supreme Court Justice, and now that he has retired, his newly published book keeps his ideals alive. Within his book, he discusses the barriers that have been built by the minds of the American people regarding our second amendment. Our society has become so used to the idea that everyone has the right to own a gun, that some may have forgotten that our citizens’ safety is also influenced by doing so. This then relates to an excerpt from Maria Popova’s blog “The Backfire Effect” when she quotes from a psychology text stating “Once something is added to your collection of beliefs, you protect it from harm.” (Popova) To elaborate and make a connection, our 2nd Amendment has given U.S citizens a feeling of arrogance and freedom when it comes to owning a deadly weapon, and now when they are threatened by anti-gun laws, their minds seem to be unchangeable. Our 2nd Amendment is not a free policy to own any guns you want, and some Americans believe this is true. With John Paul Stevens’ re-word suggestion, it would create a more vivid outline for all citizens to adhere to.
Would “Rewording” Also Mean “Infringing”?
Although re-wording the 2nd Amendment would cause an infringement on our current constitutional rights to an extent, it would be counteracted by still permitting a high amount of citizens to obtain a gun at their own expense, leaving gun ownership to a qualified handful of citizens. According to one source “72% of all violent crimes last year included the use of a firearm”. (On The Issues) If our government was able to crack down on most of the violent offenders in our country and confiscate their weapons, only trained professionals would be left to own these deadly weapons. Our country should always put the safety of it’s citizens before anything else, and if that means to slightly infringe upon our rights of a handful of Americans, then I believe it is the right thing to do. In addition, much of the discretion of owning a weapon is decided by state governments and their policies and if this reword were enacted, states could possibly still be able to decide on the extremities of possessing a firearm. Statewide voting could approve or disapprove of certain laws, giving their citizens even more of a say within this debate. However, the 2nd Amendment would still put valuable limits on gun policies and create a much more gun neutral society for communities across the country.
A convincing argument from an opposing source that caused me to rethink my argument was the fact that many people believe that owning a gun gives them a sense of self defense or personal safety, and that depriving them of their 2nd Amendment would take that away. 40% of American households own a gun, and with John Paul Stevens rewording, the percentage would be much lower. (On The Issues) Therefor, the truth is that if we acted on depriving a majority of Americans of their weapons, crime rates would be considerably lower as well, leading to a lesser need of self defense. A great example of this idea can be found in South Africa, where “ … in 2000, the Firearm Control Act contained all these measures, and saw a 13.6 percent reduction in firearm homicides every single year for the next five years.” (American Public Health Association) I understand that guns are not solely responsible for homicides and mass murders, as the people who take such action are held responsible; however, taking away the majority of guns would give criminals nothing to work with except minimal resources, ultimately creating the safer environment that we’re looking for.
In all aspects, America has been at parallels with itself on both sides of this lengthy debate and has yet to find a conclusive solution to our domestic gun problem. Considering the difficulty of acquiring a definitive answer to either side, retired Court Justice Stevens has presented the country with a possible compromise for both, stating that rewording our 2nd Amendment adheres to the desires of both parties. Although it does appeal more to the pro-gun control side of the debate, opposing idealists are still left with a satisfactory ultimatum. All in all, I strongly stand behind John Paul Stevens and his idea of changing the 2nd Amendment mostly because it favors the safety of all Americans and creates compromise for a majority of citizens. Alos, I urge all others to stand with me because whatever we are or have been doing is not working, and this debate is only pushing left and right wing citizens away from each other instead of standing as one. For the sake of our future, make the edit change on our 2nd Amendment.
Strong, Geoff. “All About the Guns.” Mises Institute. Redwing Articles, 2 July 2013. Web.
“Justice Stevens: Six Little Ways To Change The Constitution.” Weekend Edition Saturday 26 Apr. 2014. Literature Resource Center. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.
Popova, Maria. “The Backfire Effect.” Brain Pickings n.d.: n. pag. Print.
Garcia, Rose, and Malcom Harrison. “Todays Gun Policies.” On The Issues. American Policy, 15 Dec. 2012. Web.
Matzopolous, Richard, and Mary Lou Thompson. “Firearm and Nonfirearm Homicide in 5 South African Cities.” American Journal of Public Health. American Public Health Association, 27 Mar. 2014. Web.
Gius, Mark. “Why Gun Control Doesn’t Work.” National Rifle Association. NRA Publishing Page, 4 Apr. 2013. Web.
Hardy, David T. “Why Gun Owners Are Right to Fight Against Gun Control.” ReasonMachine.org. The New American, 18 July 2013. Web.
Barrett, Paul M., and John Paul Stevens. “Gun Control & The Constitution: Should We Appeal
the 2nd Amendment.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg BusinessWeek, 20 Feb. 2014. Web.