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Guns: Weapons or Rights?
From the creation of our nation, there was set a foundation for our future. As with all foundations, it did not last forever without “improvement;” adaptation is inevitable for our nation’s constitution, whether this is believed to be “right” or “wrong.” I will concede that our nation’s constitution and the “rights” that it provides to us have served our country for a great time, but not without falters and “repair.” Whether or not the ownership of weapons such as firearms is necessary in our present day society can be debatable, I believe it is our right not as citizens of the United States to own firearms, but our right as individuals and independent thinkers to do so.
Since the beginning of instinct and “nature,” organisms have killed each other for issues such as mates, territory, food, and power. This can all be summed up as the will of organisms to survive. “The desire to stay alive is an instinctive one, built into the psyche of the organism. The organism will seek those elements of its environment that will enhance its chances for survival. These include food, water, oxygen, and periods of rest to allow the body to repair any wear and tear on the tissues” (public.wsu.edu). We are very complex beings compared to many of our fellow organisms, but that does not mean we are exempt from the laws of nature, instinct, and emotions that delve in the thirst for self-advancement. Weapons do not induce more frequent killings or assaults to occur more often; as the popular quote goes, “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” I am a believer in this, because if I were in possession of a firearm, I would not feel more apt to kill or assault someone: Personally, I would feel more cautious of my actions. Of course, if someone has a gun in their hand compared to say, a baseball bat, it is much easier for the person with the gun to kill someone, but that doesn’t mean it is more likely they will do so. If someone has intent to kill, they will do it; if someone has intent to defend his or her self, they will administer a non-lethal defensive attack whether they have that gun or that bat. I do feel that some firearms should be banned from certain citizens’ use, such as automatic and very high power firearms, as there are no practical uses besides mass killings….or simply shooting range and collective pleasure. As of the United States census, “violent crimes” have only decreased a little over one percent from 1980 to 2009 (census.gov). Since that time, gun restrictions have increased: that shows that there is no correlation between the legality of guns and violent crime rates. So that brings us to a question: Should the firearm rights of the citizens of the United States be suppressed?
Many think so. Recently there have been multiple mass shootings involving full and semi-automatic firearms, such as the Sandy Hook elementary shooting which has allured and still controls a plethora of media attention. The intense media coverage of these events puts the question of gun “safety” on the minds of many, including politicians. Very recently, New York State passed a series of laws, the “NY Safe Act,” that would restrict what types of firearms law-abiding citizens in New York could own. These laws restrict the ownership of semi-automatic weapons, unless a military order is otherwise granted, along with a maximum limit of seven bullets per clip/magazine (americanfreepress.net). I would have no problem with these kinds of laws if they actually prevented gun violence and shootings, but that is not the case. These laws will not make a noticeable difference in firearm related deaths. Think about it: why would a criminal, someone who would most likely commit these crimes and does not obey laws in the first place, obey these new set of laws restricting their legal gun ownership? Many criminals do not legally own guns and do not buy them from legal gun shops; criminals buy guns from other criminals and dealers—illegally. About ten to fifteen percent of guns used in crimes are stolen (pbs.org). One of the most common ways criminals attain guns is through straw purchase sales. A straw purchase occurs when someone who may not legally acquire a firearm, or who wants to do so anonymously, has a companion buy it on their behalf (pbs.org). Supported by the National Institute of Justice and based on interviews with those recently arrested, the study acknowledges gun theft is common, with 13 percent of all arrestees interviewed admitting that they had stolen a gun (pbs.org). These guns that they buy may not have the seven bullet clip limit, and illegal gun dealers will most likely not stop selling semi-automatic weapons because the law says they should not. These people, the people who are responsible for firearm deaths, do not care what the law is and will continue to carry on their criminal lifestyle unfazed by these new gun laws.
Let us think back to the foundation for a while, specifically the Second Amendment. When our forefathers created this Constitution, they did so in a time of rebellion; rebellion against an oppressive government. This oppressive government, the British government, suppressed the rights of the colonists so greatly that the colonists felt the right to rebel against their own government just to gain back their “natural” rights (loc.gov). The Second Amendment was written partly “to guarantee that individuals acting collectively could throw off the yokes of any oppressive government which might arise,” just as they did (guncite.com). What if we had to rebel against our government today to protect our rights? I’m not saying it is an intelligent decision to do so, or that “we” would even be able to overthrow our government with only firearms in today’s society. I just think that the option should be there for us; that it should be our right to own what we please.
Of course, there should be exceptions to these rights. If someone has a violent criminal record, one should have his or her rights restricted, as he or she has lost the privilege of these rights of other law abiding citizens. Whether or not people with mental disabilities should own firearms is another issue. Although the world of science and psychology claims to know a very large amount about the mentally disabled, I feel the world is still very ignorant about the subject. As time passes, new statistics and studies find that our old beliefs were indeed false and what was once “fact” is proven incorrect, and new accepted theories are produced (sampsoncc.edu). However, I feel many of the people who commit these atrocities are mentally ill—like the atrocity at Sandy Hook. Many people may believe the same thing: “Among both Democrats and Republicans, in both the pro-gun and anti-gun lobbies, there’s a widespread belief that mental-health treatment and monitoring is key to decreasing gun violence” (prospect.org). This has been proven to be incorrect, “Mass murderers are not, according to statistics, mentally ill in the psychiatric sense” (worldcrunch.com). I believe it is because of media. More often than not, I believe whatever people see on the local news channels and popular websites like YouTube, CNN, and USA Today; they believe every word of it. News sources like these are not just supplying us with information; they are businesses trying to make money. Like any other businesses, these media sources want people to buy and be absorbed by their productions, by any means necessary. If that means skewing the facts a little, then so be it. It has been proven that there is not a correlation between the mentally ill and mass shootings, therefore, I believe the right to bear arms should be given even to the mentally ill, as long as they do not have criminal or violent pasts. Some may say that the mentally ill or unpredictable, but who’s to say your “mentally stable” neighbor is any less unpredictable than any mentally ill person? That leads back the main topic: should the government restrict the right to bear arms to anyone?
Instead of banning all semi-automatic weapons and large clips, the government could just make it significantly harder to own these. Our country’s deficit is quite high, and we constantly are making cuts to make more money. Instead, why doesn’t the government heavily tax what they do not want in society, such as semi-automatic firearms and large ammunition clips? It would most likely decrease incentive for new buyers of such guns, without making it much harder for current owners; all the while, our country is making profit. Of course, that means that only the most dedicated or the ones with the most money to “toss around” can gain access to such firearms and support their passion. This is not fair, but it may also decrease the amount of violence from firearms. In Japan, there are laws that restrict gun use, but do not ban it, to make it quite difficult for someone to own a firearm (digitaljournal.com). This has caused for them to have one of, if not the lowest, death rate by use of firearms. This is on the extreme side of gun laws; even more modest control of the market should have an impact, without infringing on our rights.
I feel our country is only taking advantage of the multiple shootings happening around the country to limit our rights for guns. If they tried to incorporate these laws at a different time, they would probably be much more despised than they are currently. The government may be afraid of future rebellions, and what better way to suppress them than by not allowing the people to have power as they actually appear? Either way, I feel the government should do its best to help the country, but not at the expense of our rights. Without rights, what do we, as people, human beings, and citizens, have? Not much.
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