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Gun Control: If not now, when? Essay

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The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that gun for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. When it comes to protecting freedom, Americans, including those on the Supreme Court, recognize that personal liberties must often be modified for the safety and protection of others. Yet today’s gun rights advocates constantly cite the Second Amendment of the Constitution, the right to bear arms, when threatened by attempts to limit, but not eliminate, modern-day weapons. Piggybacking on this idea is our right to free speech; it is frequently regulated through obscenity and decency laws. Slander, libel, pornography; we are silenced all of the time. Our rights to assembly and religion are compromised in the process, however. The debate over gun control continues to plague our country. On one side, there is the National Rifle Association (NRA) and 2nd Amendment-citing citizens who use their firearms for hunting and self-defense. On the other, there is the Handgun Control Inc.

(HCI) and followers of the Brady Campaign who want to ban guns on the basis that they are dangerous. The Brady Administration passed a bill that requires individuals seeking to buy a gun at a licensed dealer pass a background check. Because guns are especially lethal weapons, it makes sense that before someone can own one, he or she meets the legal requirements for ownership. This simple step protects everyone, gun owners and non-gun owners, from the danger of high-risk people gaining access to lethal weapons. Both sides have strong arguments, anchored in historical precedent and statistical analysis. Anti-gun control lobbyists’ arguments include the guarantee of the 2nd Amendment, the definition of “militia” as any adult male, self-defense, the relative uselessness of permits and regulations, and court cases in favor of firearm possession. Pro-gun control activists argue using the survival of the 2nd Amendment, the traditional definition of “militia” as a government-authorized army, the multitude of gun-related deaths, the need for stronger regulations, and the example England has set with their ban of handguns.

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Opponents of gun control legislation often cite the 2nd Amendment, which states that “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 portion of the Bill of Rights has been repeatedly upheld by court cases in the Senate and House of Representatives. On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court ruled through District of Columbia vs. Heller that “the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.” in a 5-4 vote. Despite all of the incidents during the past decade and a half, Americans have, in general, become less likely to say that the country needs stricter gun control laws.

In February 1999, the last poll before the Columbine shooting, 60% of Americans said the nation needed stricter gun control laws. Within days of Columbine, an April 26-27 survey showed a slight increase to 66% in 1999. From that point on, the “more strict” percentage began to decline. It fell below 50% for the first time in October 2008. Last year it was 43% in October, the lowest it’s ever been. Gun control is a vital necessity to the welfare of our nation. For example, even President Obama is strongly advocating changes to gun control. On Wednesday, January 16, he proposed background checks on all gun sales and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines as part of a plethora of steps to reduce gun violence as a result of the Newtown school massacre last month. With relatives of some of the 20 children killed in the Connecticut rampage watching, Obama signed 23 executive actions (presidential decrees that don’t require congressional approval), to strengthen existing gun laws and take related steps on mental health and school safety.

He also forcingly encouraged Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, to restrict ammunition magazines to no more than 10 rounds, and expand background checks to anyone buying a gun, whether at a stores, private sales, auctions, or gun shows. Many people out there are supporting the “anti- gun control cause” with the excuse of self-defense. Not everyone will acquire a gun for self-defense. Some feel that having a gun is a sign of power. One of the bigger ambitions that one has is to obtain power; the easier it is to get a gun, the faster a criminal will gain that “power” over an innocent, non-gun-wielding person. When one is in possession of a gun, that person has complete control of their actions and may act upon the weapon however the person pleases, even if they know that their actions will cause harm to defenseless people. There are many deaths caused by guns that could have been potentially stopped by controlling the ownership of guns. There’s no technical definition of an “assault weapon”, however there are fully-automatic weapons, which fire continuously when the trigger is held down.

These have been strictly regulated since 1934. Then, there are semi-automatic weapons that reload automatically but fire only once each time the trigger is pulled. Semiautomatic pistols and rifles come in all shapes and sizes and are extremely common in the United States. Congress didn’t want to ban all semiautomatic weapons, because that would ban most guns in this country. So, while writing the 1994 ban, lawmakers focused on 18 specific firearms, as well as certain military-style attachments. Certain models of AR-15’s and AK-47’s were banned, along with any semi-automatic rifle with a pistol grip or bayonet mount. But, a semi-automatic rifle with just a pistol grip was okay. Its presentation and word choice was complicated, however, and this made it easy to evade. For the 10 years that the ban was in effect, it was illegal to manufacture the assault weapons described above for use by private citizens as well. The law also set a limit of 10 rounds on high-capacity magazines.

As in almost every legal document or decree, there was an important loophole. Any assault weapon or magazine that was manufactured before the law went into effect in 1994 was perfectly legal to own or sell. At the time, there were about 1.5 million assault weapons and more than 24 million high-capacity magazines owned by normal citizens. An anonymous gentleman was once quoted saying: “Dangerous laws created by well-intentioned people today, can be used by dangerous people with evil intentions tomorrow”. It is understood that there may be different points of view on everything from everyone. Eppers’ quote could be interpreted in two different ways, but the way most see it is in favor of gun control. The well-intentioned people are the people out there trying to allow others to own a gun in order to use it as a self-defense tool, while the “people with evil intentions” are the criminals or mentally disturbed citizens that use guns because they were brainwashed to kill.

If the well-intentioned people were to go against gun control and ban gun laws, this decree would make guns accessible to everyone. Whenever a criminal decides that he or she wants to assault someone, they will be able to do so readily. Once gun control is taken away, violence will increase. People will have the ability to walk around daily with guns, which will in turn cause more deaths and violence. If gun control laws such as banning of assault rifles, mandatory registration of all firearms, and thorough background checks prior to each sale are strongly implemented however, hopefully this will cut down on the availability of guns to criminals and mentally disabled citizens, thus limiting ease of access and dropping the number of injuries, deaths, and tragedies overall, such as the recent Newtown, Connecticut episode.

[ 1 ]. “National Rifle Association (NRA) Statistics – Statistic Brain.” 2012 Statistic Brain Research Institute; Statistic Brain. 2/23/12 http://www.statisticbrain.com/national-rifle-association-nra-statistics/ [ 2 ]. “Gun Control – 210 Carefully Selected Quotations Divided into 8 Sections”. Compilation Copyright © MCR Agency, LLC, 12/27/11


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