In 1791, ten amendments were added to the document that would shape the newly-separated America into a country its people would be proud of. America is a country founded upon the ideals of individuality, freedom, and popular sovereignty, and thus is governed by the people, for the people. The Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution to ensure special rights to Americans as individuals, so that the federal government would have limited power in comparison. One of those ten newly added amendments is the right to bear arms, enabling the American people to contribute to their own safety, by protecting themselves. While an abundance of shootings have been seen on the news, from which many controversies have arisen, are we sure that taking away a right to defend ourselves is the best plan of action against this type of public tragedy? I believe that the second amendment should be sustained as is as an amendment in our Constitution, without parameters or restrictions placed upon it.
The second amendment was passed by Congress September 25, 1789 (Lund and Winkler, par 1). Similar to the nine other amendments added to the Bill of Rights, the second amendment served as another right acquired by the American people, rather than the federal government. In the Bill of Rights, the second amendment directly 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” (Lund and Winkler, par 1). In other words, even though it is the duty of militia members to protect the American people, a right to protect themselves will be maintained. As a nation, our involvement in foreign affairs has grown exponentially since 1789. As a result, our militia is needed at a much more frequent rate, to protect us Americans from outside countries, rather than debacles between states, regions, and peoples of our home country.
Since 2012, dozens of mass shootings have been committed, interspersed throughout the United States. One of the largest and well-known among them referred to as the Sandy Hook Shooting, the shooting that is said to have started the snowball effect of mass shootings happening in the US. On December 14, 2012, a shooter opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 28 students and teachers and injuring 2 others. The perpetrator, twenty year old, Adam Lanza, before leaving for the school, shot and killed his mother in their home with her own guns [the same used in the school shooting] (Ray, par 1). October 1, 2017 a gunman opened fire in a crowd at a music festival in Las Vegas, killing 59. June 12, 2016 a security guard shot and killed 49 people and injured 53 in a LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida (Buchanan, et al). No matter the situation or circumstance, had a defense weapon been present for the sake of the victims of any of these incidents, the number of casualties could have been significantly less. How are we to protect those we care about when we have nothing to defend ourselves with?
In light of these various shootings, controversies over gun control have presented themselves time and time again. It is claimed that had we had stricter gun laws, or rather no guns at all, phenomenons such as these would never happen. Because of the Bill of Rights and its ideals, the federal government has little to no say in this matter, but only the states and its American citizens. Although, a law has been issued by the federal government that background checks are required by licensed dealers, but is not needed for unlicensed dealers. Roughly 85% of the United States require a permit, or more specifically, concealed carry permit, to purchase and/or carry arms of any kind. Out of the three mass shootings listed above, only the Sandy Hook shooter, Adam Lanza, did not legally obtain his weapons. The other two perpetrators passed background checks and legally acquired their arms (Buchanan, et al). While I do believe that the second amendment should not be removed or altered in any way, I do believe that the laws already in place should be enforced to their fullest extent. For example, background checks for buying weapons, a law I previously mentioned is already in place, should be thorough and extensive. Cracking down on this law would enable authorities to apprehend many people that otherwise would have flown under their radar, as well as keep an eye on other conspicuous persons.
Today, crime and violence has flooded into societies across our nation rather abruptly. While there are local police units and agencies that enforce laws and lend a helping hand when it comes to crime rates, there is only so much these people can do. It has been proposed that the most efficient way to reduce crime is to take weapons out of the equation entirely, but how efficient is this method? Chicago, Illinois is the third most populous city in the United States, housing 2,687,682 people, as of 2018. The Chicago Police Department (CPD) constitutes approximately 45 officers for every 10,000 people, totalling 11,954 police officers in the city alone (Governing, par 4). The “windy city” is also home to the 8th most harsh gun laws in the United States.
Yet, data gathered by the Major Cities Chiefs Association, shows that out of the 63 most populous cities in the US, Chicago contained the highest homicide rates (Lewis, par 12). These results prove that strict gun laws and reduced crime rates are not related. If gun bans had been enforced in these areas and all law-abiding citizens surrendered their weapons, do we really believe criminals would be as cooperative? This would endanger our citizens and put a large dependence on the aid of our local police officers, which we already know there are not enough of. Criminals would be even more likely to act and commit crimes if they know there are no way the victims could protect themselves, in turn leading to even higher crime and homicide rates.
The Bill of Rights gave and continues to give American citizens control over their own civil and individual freedoms, a theme which is seen in each of the amendments, the second amendment especially. Protecting oneself and their loved ones is a domestic responsibility, not a civic one. Sheltering others from harm is an innate ability in human nature, not something we feel obligated to do. Without weapons to carry out this familial responsibility, how do we intend to lead safe, happy lives as Americans? America symbolizes freedom; freedom to live where and how we want and the freedom to control our own paths, which includes our own safety and security. Is a country based upon life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness willing to deny us this right?