Gun Ownership in America


The issue of gun control seems to be a never-ending debate in the United States. The clash between the ideas of Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and personal safety seems to create a massive divide among the citizens of a nation claiming unity by its very name. We, those citizens, are entitled to our right to bear arms as written in the Second Amendment of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Amendment II 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.” As such, it follows that it is the duty of a good citizen is to keep arms so as to be able to serve in a militia and to be able to come to the defense of his or her country. In fact, this is precisely what occurred the Revolutionary War of the Americas. Even after the Revolutionary War, it was still of great importance for the security of our nation for citizens to own weapons. Further use of militia forces in security, as well as westward expansion demanded gun ownership among citizens. As such, guns have played an integral role in the formation and continued independence of the United States.

Why, then, is there debate today? Why does a citizen, guaranteed the right to carry a gun, exercising his or her Second Amendment right, get viewed in a different context today than some two and a half centuries ago? While some things remain the same now as they were then, others have changed. Today’s citizens live in a different world, one far more intertwined and connected, even across great distances, than ever before. Unexplored lands are, more and more, a thing of the past. Wild frontiers with ever present dangers, though still present, are not part of the everyday lives of nearly so many of our citizens today. The guns that people carry now are different as well. Though modern at the time, the types guns of the revolutionary period are antiques today. Muskets exist in museums and reenactment battles, and rifles have evolved beyond the wildest notions of those in the days of colonial America. Do these considerations necessitate a different attitude and perspective on guns?

The significance of historical documents lies not just in their words, but also in the context of the times and places in which they were written. In this way, they are not unlike living things, evolving according to the environments in which they live. Consider the stated purpose of the Second Amendment. Is a well-regulated Militia necessary in the present to maintain the security of a free State? At the time of the writing of the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, the United States of America had yet to exist as a formalized nation. That is why those documents needed to be written. The yet-to-be nation had no formal military, and during the Revolution, still fresh in the founders’ minds, a militia was key to any semblance of military strength. Since the days of colonial America and the Revolutionary War, the federal government has grown in its power according to the needs of the country. The United States possesses arguably the most powerful military in the world at present, nullifying the need for an armed and equipped militia. Indeed, even a well-equipped militia of private citizens would pale in comparison to the forces of the US Military.

In exercising our rights as granted by the Constitution, its Bill of Rights, and subsequent amendments, we as citizens are taking on a responsibility to our country and our neighbors. If we wish to say untrue things of others, we are not free to do so with impunity, despite our freedom of speech. Similarly, should we choose to exercise our freedoms to bear arms, we must do so with an understanding of the responsibility that goes along with it. When we wish to own and operate a car, a dangerous tool when handled improperly, we must demonstrate our competence to do so. Driving a car irresponsibly is not only a hazard to the driver, but the people around the driver whose right to peace of mind must also be respected. A gun is quite similar, a tool that can be handled responsibly or irresponsibly by its wielder. As such, it seems logical that some measure of competence ought to be demonstrated before a person owns and carries a gun. In fact, surveys have shown that the majority of citizens favor rational and sensible gun control policies. Political pressure from special interest groups frames a great deal of the decision-making process in our government. An unwillingness to compromise for fear of demonstrating weakness in the face of conflict shows a juvenile mentality unsuitable for those on the political stage.

No one can tell another what to believe when it comes to the gun control debate, it is up to individuals to come to their own conclusions. However, it is important when engaging in such debate to be able to reflect on one’s own beliefs and consider the opinions of others to arrive at justified conclusions. Expanding on one’s own understanding is part of the process, as is growing to appreciate others’ points of view. So, engage in conversation with others, especially those of different opinions who are willing to show the same respect you show them. Anything less does an injustice to the very notion of freedom itself.


About Matthew Moore

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