Gun Control Controversies: 2nd Amendment

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Abstract

The Second Amendment allows for citizens of the United States to protect themselves from harm by using weapons that can maim or kill. The focus of this paper is the gun control controversies. The pros and cons of gun control will be discussed as well as a comparison to countries with strict gun control. It is important to understand both sides of the controversy and the impact for both sides of the fence. Statistics of gun violence and media’s impact will be researched in the hope of clarification of why gun control is such a controversial issue. I will look at what the gun control activists think are solutions to gun issues, and I will investigate why gun activists want to keep the Second Amendment as it is. The impact of the Fourteenth Amendment will also be discussed as a reason why it is so difficult to find a middle ground on the gun control issue.

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Gun Control Controversies:

Why We Argue

Since the beginning of time, it seems, Americans have fought for the right to protect their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. In this pursuit, is the very important 2nd Amendment, which allows Americans to bear arms in order to protect their persons from harm. It seemed to already be proven that people should be allowed to protect themselves in self-defense against another, especially in times of war. Today, however, Americans seem to be at war with each other, and with every mass shooting, terrorist attack, school shooting, etc. there is a differing message about gun control. What does a person do if a group of people breaks into their home and threatens the life of their children and themselves? What if a woman is being brutally attacked in an alleyway on her way home from a night shift? Or the night clerk is being robbed with a weapon aimed at them? Lastly, what if a person is being carjacked with two automobiles blocking their way? One would think that the obvious answer is to use any means possible to survive, including guns. Yet, there seem to be questions about whether Americans should be allowed to protect themselves with guns. This paper will attempt to clarify why there are so many conflicting attitudes about gun control.

Second Amendment – The Right to Bear Arms

The Second 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”. According to Brooks, “Having just used guns and other arms to ward off the English, the amendment was originally created to give citizens the opportunity to fight back against a tyrannical federal government”. Prior to this, citizens did not have the right to protect their homes against militia or intruders. There are stories in the history of families having their homes taken over for bases during wartime and if they tried to protect themselves, they were either arrested or murdered. Even though history has shown that there is a need for citizens to protect themselves, there are those who seem to think this is more dangerous than being unarmed – and they may have a point.

The Controversy

According to justicelearning.org, the controversy comes in with the Fourteenth Amendment, in which the Federal government prohibits the states from interfering with the constitutional rights of citizens, apart from the Second Amendment. What this means is that the federal government will not intervene in state laws and policies over the right to bear arms. Coupled with politicians from both wings and differing opinions on how to handle gun control, there are going to be obvious controversies about gun control.

One of the current issues came to the forefront after September 11, 2001. Even though the terrorists hijacked planes and used those as weapons, society seemed to be growing out of hand. The fear of guns getting into the wrong hands, meaning terrorists, had instilled fear amongst citizens for their safety, but the overall question became what would happen if guns were banned across the nation. This brings many controversies, as many other countries have strict gun control laws and seem to have pretty good numbers compared to gun violence.

With school shootings and mass shootings happening many citizens are concerned for their safety in public places. They want tighter gun policies to ensure a safer environment. On the other side, it can be argued that honoring the 2nd Amendment allows for citizens to protect themselves and others in those same public situations. Another issue is the legal gun carrier versus illegal guns. One side believes that by having Americans turn in their weapons, that this will change crime in the United States, however, Walker states that amnesty or buyback programs are ineffectual in that not only because of the quantity of gun holders in the United States, but the fact that most people voluntarily turning in guns are the people least likely to commit crimes. So, to answer both sides a good look at the pros and cons of the right to bear arms must be evaluated.

Pros and Cons of Gun Control. The 2nd Amendment gives citizens of the United States the right to bear arms that can cause death in order to protect themselves from harm. Ridder wrote of the NRA, “Self-defense is a fundamental right”. Ridder continues about the fact that violent crimes seem to go down when people legally carry guns because violent crime has gone down since the early 1990s as the right to carry has been more prevalent. Finally, gun bans don’t deter crime or acts of violence. These facts are supported by McCombie about mainstream medias’ spin on gun control. He wrote, “Recently, the FBI’s ‘2018 Crime Statistics’ revealed that, yet again, violent crime in America has declined”. The issue is that it appears media does indeed post stories that are gun-related at the top of the news. There are no true statistics showing that gun-related violence occurs more than any other violent act.

One of the biggest reasons for gun control is the recent upswing of mass shootings in the United States. Banning assault weapons is one of the biggest agendas for policy changes. Simon and Sanchez point out that according to the Uniform Crime Report (UCR), handguns kill 20 times more than other weapons. Ridder also states the top three reasons for gun control policy are that legal weapons are most often used in mass shootings, protection of children and families, and that background checks will aid in keeping guns out of the wrong hands. This is supported by Reid who stated, “The United States only has about 5 percent of the world’s population, but it has 31 percent mass shootings.” She is all about gun control and bans and her arguments seem valid indeed. She used some of the same data collected for this paper in Australia’s strict gun control.

Walker stated that after the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act, where nineteen specific types of assault weapons were banned, the Brady Center (the leading group on gun control) thought that the ban caused a 66% drop in the use of assault weapons, reducing the usage to 1.1%. This data certainly supports the need to enforce laws over particularly assault weapons. However, Walker also states that banning certain assault weapons only had a limited impact on gun crimes.

It can be argued that violence and murder don’t need guns to happen and if research is done into international violent crimes (see chart below), one can see violent crimes are far greater in countries such as Canada, Australia, and other countries with strict gun laws. Is this because a person is unable to protect themselves? Or is it just a phenomenon that occurs everywhere? Data shows that violent crimes still happen in countries with very strict gun laws that support pro-gun believers. The other side would argue that violence is still extremely prevalent in Australia as seen in the chart below and it can be argued that there would not be a much violent crime against people if there were more gun rights in Australia.

The argument and data failure in this is that each country’s laws and interpretations on what constitutes violent crime differ. There are no accurate data based on the equivalency of laws on violence both nationwide and even state to state as laws differ even in each state’s constitution. Schuppe did research where it is estimated that 30% of citizens own guns in the United States. This is just the people who report that they own guns since it is required to report owning a gun. These are one of the changes that gun control lobbyists want to see. They want every gun to be legally registered to a citizen who has undergone background checks. The issue is what happens to those who purchase guns illegally? How does a government police that? There are no true answers to that question.

One thing to keep in mind is the fact that violent crimes in the United States has been decreasing since the 1990s. As a matter of fact, Ridder and Walker both state that the Federal Assault Weapons ban did not have enough support to be renewed because of the small percentage of violent acts with assault weapons. Moreover, gun violence is a uniform word that includes suicide, homicide, and accidental death, in which suicide is the biggest violence with guns in the United States. As a matter of fact, it is reported by Team Trace that 61.6 % of gun deaths are due to suicide between 2013 and 2016 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means 3 in 5 deaths by gun are due to suicide. There are many other ways to commit suicide, sadly. Gun supporters could argue that the other options for suicide are more dangerous and can cause more suffering than a gun would. Interestingly, the data also shows that 1% of gun deaths during that term were a result of mass shootings. Also, Simon and Sanchez stated most mass shootings are at businesses. In fact, 45.6% of mass shootings happened in the business.

Both sides have great points but don’t really give any solid answers. This seems to be the same with all the conflicting data available to the public. Most sources don’t quantify the results accurately or won’t show contradictory reports that support the opposing view. Next, it seems necessary to look into the media’s part in perpetuating the conflict.

The Media. As it appears, there are many good and conflicting views on the gun control controversy, but what exacerbates it all? Is it the state laws, personal opinions, or the media? The media plays a hard role in information that is given without research. It’s on the news so it must be true, is what a significant number of Americans believe. So, part of the controversy would seem to be the media’s role in the friction of gun control.

McCombie wrote about this. As mentioned before, violent crime in the United States has declined. Yet McCombie argues that mainstream media would rather impose fear of guns on the citizens of the United States by bringing violence through guns to the forefront. He even went on to say that while mainstream media is not letting watchers know that violent crime is down, some focus on the crime that is rising: rape. He argues that while some media outlets are informing viewers about rape, they fail to mention how many potential rapes are deterred by the potential victim.

Sex trafficking is on the rise and is now not just mainstream media, but social media are all inundated with warnings of things such as zip ties to windshield wipers or mirrors. There have been stories of attempted abductions at malls, grocery stores, gas stations, etc. Many of them have been found unwarranted, however, many people choose to believe what they immediately see without further research. The gun control activists would argue that sex trafficking would be harder to do via gunpoint if there is a regulation on guns, but the reality is that criminals don’t register their weapons and the counter-argument could be said that each person could potentially protect themselves from possible sex traffickers if they carried a gun.

In an article written by Jashinsky, Magnusson, Hanson, and Barnes about media, they stated:

Whereas the news media does not simply reflect reality but filters and shapes it, they become a gatekeeper to control “what” the public sees by devoting more or less of its online or print news pieces, screen time, or radio space to specific issues.

This supports the idea that the media affects the public view on issues such as gun control. Jashinsky et al continued to discuss this matter by pointing out that prior to Sandy Hook the media pointed fingers at individuals, lawmakers, and executive government, but after Sandy Hook, the media changed their reporting of gun violence to gun control policies and the changes that needed to be made. Media has a huge impact on what citizens believe as an overall fact about gun violence versus actual data that encompasses everything.

Conclusion

The epidemic that the research indicates is that there is no balance between actual factual and real data to be found about the right to bear arms and whether it should be modified by gun control laws. This is the main reason why there is so much controversy about gun control. As of right now, there is no verifiable evidence for either side to be able to push their agenda to the forefront. For the ones who are for gun control, there is no real data that indicates that implementing regulations on the types of weapons, the number of weapons or even deeper background checks will stop the violence. In fact, studies show that violence overall is worse in countries with strict gun laws.

On the other side, the right to bear arms comes with responsibilities. While every gun-carrying citizen enjoys their toys, they are the least likely to commit crime apart from mass shootings. It would behoove parents to be responsible in locking up their arms from their minor children when it comes to school shootings. However, it is idiotically simple to find guns from peers or even online. Most importantly, the right for every citizen to be able to protect themselves from a life-threatening situation is a fundamental right of each citizen.

The research showed no true answers or solutions to the controversy. The logical course would be a middle ground, but it seems like both sides are asking for too much, according to the data found. History has shown that this has been an issue since the beginning of the United States and there doesn’t seem to be an end to the controversy anytime in the near future.

29 April 2022

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