Interpretations of Gun Control Legislation

Introduction

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 American’s 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. However, outlawing handguns outright would affect hunters as well as people that simply wish to protect themselves.

Amendments to the U.S. Constitution

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”. 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”. 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 Second Amendment reflects the founders’ belief that an armed citizenry, called the ‘general militia’ was a necessary precaution against tyranny by our own government and its army. The idea that government has a constitutional right to disarm the general citizenry is totally foreign to the intent of the Constitution’s framers”.

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. Many examples of human rights violations have been documented in all parts of the world following laws that banned citizens from owning guns.

Gun control legislation in different countries

In 1911, Turkey enacted gun control legislation which led to the extermination of 1.5 million unarmed Armenian citizens of that country by 1917. In 1929, the Soviet Union enacted gun control. From that year until 1953, over 20 million unarmed people identified as political non-conformists were murdered by the state. Approximately 20 million citizens in China were killed for the same reason from 1948 to 1952 following gun control enacted in 1935.

Gun control was enacted by the Nazi regime of Germany in 1938. From that time until the end of World War II in 1945, untold millions of Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, politically-defined mentally ill people, political non-conformists and others considered less than ‘normal’ were exterminated. In 1956, Cambodia enacted gun control which led to the eradication of more than a million of its ‘educated’ citizens from1975 to 1977. Similar genocidal events occurred following gun control laws enacted in Guatemala in 1964 and Uganda in 1970.

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”.

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. 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.

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 criminals supply would continue with barely an interruption”. The prohibition of guns in an effort to diminish criminal activity is as reasonable solution in much the same way the prohibition of alcohol would diminish the occurrences of driving while intoxicated. 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.

To protect oneself, the common belief is that it is legally and morally acceptable to use lethal force. It is only legal and some would argue moral, to use only the degree of force necessary in a given situation. A weapon cannot be legally used, for example, to stop a felony in progress unless it can be proven that that person had reason to believe their life was in peril. If a six-foot male attacked another six-foot male with his fists, then lethal force would be deemed unnecessary and the victim of the attack would face a long prison sentence. However, if the same victim was a 5’ 2” female then this action would likely be judged appropriate.

Changing the law does not affect the crime rate

Changes in handgun laws were seen to have little to on impact on crime rates through the 1990s. This is not surprising based on fact that most violent criminals do not obtain their firearms through licensed sources. Other programs, such as gun buy-back programs have been proven to be similarly ineffective for a variety of reasons including intention for use, ease of replacement and probability of use for crime. Earlier gun control policies enacted in 1976 and 1982 had similar disappointing results. Concealed weapons laws have actually been shown to have a positive effect on crime rates, that is, they contribute to an escalation in crime.

While valid arguments, the opposing opinion is equally compelling. According to gun control proponents the prohibition of guns in an effort to diminish criminal activity is as reasonable solution in much the same way the prohibition of alcohol would diminish the occurrences of driving while intoxicated. The concept that the easy access to firearms has an important impact on the homicide rates in this country is supported by the preponderance of the evidence.

Nearly two thirds of all homicides taking place in the United States involve a firearm.Guns in the home are more likely to kill or injure an unintended victim than they are an intruder. When in the hands of irresponsible gun owners are potentially dangerous if children reside in the house. In addition, if the owner does possess the confidence or adequate training required to use it effectively, the weapon could still prove useless in a stressful situation. “Many people have been seriously hurt in violent encounters with a potential gun in their hand. In the stress of the moment, they didn’t think to use it or doubted its’ ability to impact the situation”

Children are no longer waiting until they’ve reached adulthood to commit their strongest crimes. They carry guns to school and exact revenge upon those they feel has wronged them with the slightest provocation. Although Columbine made front page news across the country, similar shootings in other schools have gained newspaper attention only when the newspaper is the hometown edition.

This behavior is tracked into the working world as employees who have suffered too much humiliation or not received the raise or promotion they wanted suddenly show up to work with guns of their own, shooting just as indiscriminately as the kids in an effort to purge their anger. In the year 2002, more than 3000 American children died as a result of guns, mostly handguns. That breaks down to 50 children being shot and killed each week or eight per day, one every three hours. Four to five times this many are wounded from gunfire. These numbers are startling enough. Now insert the more than 5000 kids under 18 killed by guns in 2005 and the figures jump to nearly 100 per week, 15 per day and 1 every hour and a half.

American children are more at risk from firearms than the children of any other industrialized nation. Compare this with Britain where 19 children were killed by guns in 2005 and Japan where none were killed. Both if these countries have enacted strict gun control laws. The children of America are dying every day so that those who insist they have a right to own an arsenal of weapons and misconstrue the Constitution to justify this desire will not vote against those in the government who could end this senseless massacre.

The suggestion that more guns in the community would reduce gun violence, that if everyone, evidently including high school students, carried handguns, everyone else would be afraid to use theirs. This is such a twisted and dangerous manipulation of logic and common sense, it is not worthy of rebuttal. In addition, outside of the banning of handguns, hunters have little cause to worry that gun-control advocates will try to take their rifles and shotguns away.

According to a report by the National Institute of Justice, recreational use is the most frequent reason given for the purchase of a firearm. Approximately 35 percent of gun owners identify themselves as hunters (Cook & Ludwig, 1997). Gun enthusiasts mimic the concept that more guns will lead to less violence, that if everyone were carrying a gun, criminals would be too scared to commit crimes. The more is less philosophy. This doesn’t square with reasonable logic or the facts. “Whenever you have more guns in a society, you’re going to have more gun violence, period”.

Gun politics in Texas

The State of Texas is known, quite deservedly, as having an open policy regarding guns. Texas citizens are allowed to carry concealed handguns once completing licensing requirements. Then Governor, George W. Bush signed a law that specifically permits Texans to carry guns in Church. In 2002, the Violence Policy Center study conducted a study a concealed guns in Texas and found that, among other disturbing revelations, from 1996 to 2001, “concealed handgun license holders in Texas were arrested for weapon-related offenses at a rate 81 percent higher than that of the state’s general population aged 21 and older”.Lawmakers in Texas responded immediately to this situation by passing legislation that forbids the release of gun-related information.

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. 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”.

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”. Hunters should be concerned that handguns are constantly debated but not the sport of hunting itself is under serious threat even from gun-control advocates.

Gun ownership as political ideologies

Gun control advocates generally want the weapon that kills the most people, handguns, to be illegal but are willing to compromise on rifles and shotguns. In this way, the right to bear arms is protected and so are the thousands that die from handguns every year. Of course, when reading the Second Amendment in context, only armed militias have the right to keep and bear arms. However, given the current strong emotions tied to the issue and the popularity of guns in this country, a compromise is the only solution.

Ideologies are formed by a person’s innermost beliefs, cultivated by years of thought and shaped by life’s numerous experiences. An ideological debate causes a more emotive response in individuals than does any other. Political ideologies can never die and in politically turbulent times, such as these, are very much alive. The 9-11 attacks, abortion the war in Iraq, the loss of civil liberties, global warming, health care, gay marriage, stem cell research and many other politically motivating subjects have ignited emotional ideological battles.

Gun ownership ranks high among these political ideologies and to attempt to ban all guns would make these feelings even stronger. To make the case for upholding the widely perceived ‘right’ to bear arms by allowing rifles and shotguns of a certain length while banning handguns and assault rifles seems the sensible solution and a fight that could be won. This tact has proven effective in other countries such as Britain and many other European nations. Those countries that ban handgun use have a much lower homicide rate than does the U.S.

Aside from the main argument for continued legal gun ownership, to preserve a uniquely American birthright, the vast majority of gun owners are not only responsible but likely are overly cautious because they realize the moral and legal gravity that accompanies possessing a weapon of destruction. Society’s moral code is written into the laws of the land therefore if a person carefully follows the law then the gun owner generally can be assured that they are following a reasonable moral path as well. However, everyone draws a different moral line in the sand and some may choose to conduct themselves with more restraint than the laws allow.

This is a preferable approach, generally speaking, because quick and emotionally charged decisions’ involving a lethal weapon often leads to illegal, immoral and greatly regrettable actions. “The man who wears a gun carries with it the power of life and death, and therefore the responsibility to deport himself with greater calm and wisdom than his unarmed counterpart, whose panic or misjudgment in crisis situations will have less serious consequences”.Whenever an individual uses lethal force, an investigation is certain. If the District Attorney is not completely convinced that that act was in self-defense and was justifiable, the individual will face criminal prosecution.

This is assuming that the prosecuting attorney is not trying to build a reputation for being tough on gun crime in their particular area and decides to send it to trial regardless of the circumstances. In a courtroom setting, the fate of a person who may simply have been trying to protect themselves lay in the hands and hearts of a judge and jury. The jury will hear the prosecutor’s story of how excessive force was used and now an innocent person is dead. They will also see the anguished looks on the family of the deceased and a portion may think that hand guns shouldn’t be legal in the first place.

Conclusion

Again, gun control proponents make a reasoned argument and some valid points worth serious consideration. What they fail to understand is that freedoms come with consequences and responsibilities but having freedom is worth taking the responsibility for your own actions and enduring the consequences, both as an individual and in the context of society. Alcohol, tobacco and automobiles kill many more persons than firearms but Americans are uniquely free to own and use any of these potentially dangerous products.

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.

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