Armed Violence in America as a Matter of Public Policy Meets the Requirements

Updated June 25, 2022

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Armed Violence in America as a Matter of Public Policy Meets the Requirements essay

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In an age when it seems the divide among Americans is stronger than it ever has been, few topics enlist such strong responses as that of guns. Many stick to theirs, vehemently supporting the second amendment as though it were divinely inspired; while others yearn for some kind of Scandinavian pipe dream where guns don’t exist and we all sing kumbaya in a field of flowers on our paid paternity leave. But at the core of it all rests the question of rights. What rights ought to be protected? Whose rights claims are most legitimate? And whose job is it to protect them? Questions like these have been asked of society since the beginning of time, but in an age where the number of mass shootings rivals the days in the year, these questions and their answers seem much more urgent. But the rate at which we have chosen to address this issue as a nation seems entirely unsatisfactory. Sometimes slow, seemingly pragmatic progress fails to achieve substantial change. Occasionally an issue arises whose nature is such that the most pragmatic action is immediate and decisive. The epidemic of gun violence in America fits the bill, and as a matter of public policy strong federal action solves best. Thus, despite concerns of the potential rise of a tyrannical state, the substantial curtailment or outright ban of hand-guns is necessary to adequately protect the rights of the citizenry.

Examining and debating public policy is a frivolous task if not for an understanding of the political philosophy by which we are motivated. Philosophies within any given system can be broad and diverse, often leading to feelings of impasse. However, it is with the system in which these ideologies exist, that we should be concerned. While individuals may vigorously argue to what extent states have the right to determine their own drug policy, it is necessary that we agree that states do in fact have rights. Try to have the same conversation with an Inuit tribe, and the very concept of a centralized government will be called into question. Indeed, discourse is only possible provided individuals share a basic framework making discussion possible. Before beginning to make value claims and policy proposals it is necessary that a basic framework for U.S. policy be laid out.

In Thomas Hobbes’ The Leviathan, he describes man’s state of nature as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” (13). If this is true, we can assume that the natural state of human existence is such that the formation of social constructs arise due to the desire of man to exist outside of a state of chaos. John Locke makes this case in his Second Treatise of Government explaining “as we are not by ourselves sufficient to furnish ourselves with competent store of things, needful for such a life as our nature doth desire… we are naturally induced to seek communion and fellowship with others: this was the cause of men’s uniting themselves at first in politic societies.” (2). This formational understanding of society paves the way for regulatory action to promote the public good and quell man’s inherently chaotic state of nature. Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy expands on Locke’s political theory claims, explaining that “The aim of a legitimate government is to preserve…the rights to life, liberty, health and property of its citizens…and to pursue the public good even where this may conflict with the rights of individuals.”. From this we can deduce that the role of just governance is foremost to protect the natural rights of the citizenry; therefore, any government that fails to act in the face of violated rights ceases to be just.

If we are to place the protection of rights at the core of public policy decisions, it is paramount that we agree rights exist in a hierarchy precluding the availability of some rights until others have been met. This provides a mechanism for evaluating competing rights claims to provide the greatest public good. For example, human rights will always supersede civil rights, where natural rights will supersede human. So, when evaluating the rights claims of handgun ownership we must first evaluate the impact on the rights of others through the hierarchy with the expressed goal of providing the greatest public good.

A lack of regulatory oversight regarding private handgun ownership undermines the rights of citizens. Our rights, as outlined through our constitution and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, can only be achieved when the right to life is not infringed upon. Intuitively, the moment when one is stripped of their right to life, the availability of all other rights is stripped as well. Thus, on balance, the imperative action of a just government is to protect citizens right to life, or at least limit preventable death. The problem arises because the private ownership of handguns creates a culture of violence. According to the CDC, the total number of firearm related deaths in 2017 exceeded 32,000. This figure is pertinent because in 2008 the Law Center to Prevent Violence conducted a study finding:

From 1993 to 2001, an average of 737, 360 violent crimes were committed with handguns in the U.S. each year, making handguns seven times more likely to be used to commit violent crimes than other firearms. Although handguns make up only 34% of firearms, approximately 80% of firearm homicides are committed with a handgun.”. In a more recent study it was found that handguns are “the firearm of choice of criminals, being used in at least 72 percent of firearm homicides in the years 2006—2015. (Dixon)

The Private ownership of handguns allows for easier access to weaponry, thus bolstering opportunistic violent crime and limiting non-violent alternatives to conflict resolution. Moreover, the governmental obligation to protect rights for the citizenry, is such that to protect the public good the limitation of property may exist to uphold rights in the hierarchy. For example, property rights can be limited to preclude an individual from owning cruise missiles, because we recognize that any benefit derived, is far outweighed by the harm to the public good. On a smaller scale the use of brass knuckles, even in cases of self-defense is a felony offense. However, we do not view these restrictions as violations of our rights because of the benefit they provide to public good. In the same regard, the private ownership of handguns allows for a disproportionate ability to strip others of their rights and thus any benefit derived is far outweighed by the harm to the rights of the public.

Now it has long been touted that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. But claims of handguns promoting public safety and self-defense is vigilantism in disguise making justice subjective and undermining basic human rights. When victims are the judge of their own crimes it undermines the rule of law and due process. The prevalence of handguns in society often “turn (us) toward extra legal channels to realize the principles (we) seek in (our) society…which Locke expects to create confusion and disorder.” but arguably more dangerous is that “Men will punish excessively, and they will fail to punish themselves or their friends for crimes similar to those for which they punish others.” (Nel). This imbalance of the application of law exacerbates disparities in rights protection. Legal avenues must come first as even unjust laws rely on the rule of law, but we cannot change them if we do not have a system of social order. As vigilantism further worsens violence, a ban would facilitate the role of the disciplined and trained police for which moral legitimacy justifies in community protection.

It is important to mention that the aim of these arguments is not a direct criticism of the second amendment, nor is the argument being made that the second amendment ought to be altered in any way. Rather the core argument is twofold: first, on balance limitations on rights can, should and do exist when public safety is at risk, and second handguns pose a unique threat to public safety that other firearms do not. Therefore, the substantial curtailment or outright ban of handguns serves best to protect public interest absent a violation of civil rights. The unique problem handguns pose to society is bared out by a study conducted by Mercer University School of Medicine. “Examining 626 shootings in or around a residence in three U.S. cities revealed that, for every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and eleven attempted or completed suicides.” (Mercer). Because a large portion of gun related injury is caused by either suicide or unintentional violence, a ban on handguns helps to diminish the possibility of harm. This is corroborated by the FBI Supplementary Homicide Report which showed that out of the 14,828 reported homicides in 2012 “handguns (were) used in nearly…80 percent of firearm homicides.” Of these “In 2012, across the nation there were only 259 justifiable homicides” (Violence Policy Center). This disparity ought to serve as the basis for substantive policy action, as well as the core justification for the limitation of second amendment rights.

Issues of public policy are always complicated, and no single policy proposal can solve holistically. But as the epidemic of gun violence grows, ignoring damage in the status quo in lieu of preventing hypothetical damage in the future becomes more and more difficult. If we are to agree that individuals ought to have their rights protected, then naturally we should seek policy that best prevents the loss of rights that are being tangibly stripped currently. By identifying the greatest source of damage and choosing to act there, it may be possible to walk the political tightrope required to make progress in our climate.

Armed Violence in America as a Matter of Public Policy Meets the Requirements essay

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Armed Violence in America as a Matter of Public Policy Meets the Requirements. (2022, Jun 25). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/armed-violence-in-america-as-a-matter-of-public-policy-meets-the-requirements/

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