Guns or No Guns? That is the Question

September 7, 2013
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Many arguments and opinions regarding gun-control and the right to bear arms have been widely shared via the internet and the media over the past year as the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut is still fresh in the minds of U.S. citizens. Following the Newtown shooting where 20 children and 6 teachers were killed, President Obama became serious about proposing new gun laws. His laws sparked much debate and controversy between those fighting for stricter gun laws and those standing firm for their right to bear arms. Gun control advocates may be good at making their views on guns seem right, but by looking at the history of the right to bear arms and the facts regarding gun control and Obama’s laws, I have come to see more and more that our right to bear arms is an important God-given right that we should understand and be willing to fight for, and that gun control is not a valid solution to gun violence.

Each person is born with the right to defend themselves and their families from harm. The right to bear arms is a right given to us by God. God wants us to take care of ourselves. Taking care of ourselves includes protecting ourselves from harm. Some people have used the verse Exodus 20:13 "You shall not murder" to say that God is against killing. In truth, God is against murder, which is killing someone out of hate or revenge or killing an innocent person; He is not against people defending themselves against attackers. In Luke 22:36, while Jesus was talking to His disciples during the Passover, He commanded them saying, "And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one." Jesus was going to be leaving His disciples and he knew that they would need to defend themselves. Jesus encouraged His disciples to go out and buy swords if they didn't have one for the purpose of defending themselves. In fact, in Bible times, it was common for people to carry weapons for self-defense.
Another verse regarding self-defense in the Bible is Exodus 22:2-3, which says, "If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft." Essentially, the meaning of this verse is that, if necessary for life protection, we are to defend ourselves against another person with fatal force. We have a right to defend ourselves, even if that means we have to kill someone to save our own life or the life of another in the process. In non-life threatening situations, however, we need to leave the delivery of justice up to law enforcement.
Even though people during Bible times didn't have guns, that doesn't mean that we should think that owning a gun is wrong. I believe that if there were guns during the Bible times, many law-abiding citizens would have owned them, and that Jesus would have encouraged the ownership of guns, knowing that guns would give law-abiding citizens a sure defense against attackers who may carry guns.

Our country’s English ancestors strongly believed in their God-given right to bear arms and brought this custom of bearing arms with them to America. Many (if not all) English colonists in the New World carried weapons for hunting and self-defense. A colonist’s survival depended on his skill of self-defense. Sometimes, to defend their territory, they would fight against native Indians and other European countries that fought against them for ownership of the same land.

The events that followed the French and Indian War and those during the Revolutionary War are what prompted our country’s English ancestors to declare their right to bear arms in the Bill of Rights. It was during the Revolutionary War when the English fought against the British that the Englishman’s undeclared right to bear arms was threatened. After the French and Indian War, instead of leaving America, the British soldiers stayed, angering the English colonists by forcing the King’s unjust laws on the colonists, violating their personal rights and privacy. The colonists hated being forced to obey the King’s unjust laws, and were strongly opposed to the British keeping their army in America to impose those laws. Before long, the Americans were battling for their freedom against the British Crown in the Revolutionary War. Militia groups (groups of citizens prepared for military duty and called to fight at a “minutes” notice) were the first to fight against the British, but the Continental Army, led by George Washington, soon came to their aid. During the war, when the Boston colonists tried to leave their city for fear of being caught in the fighting, they were stopped by the British soldiers who promised that that they could leave under the condition of giving up all of their weapons. It was after the English had given up all of their weapons, however, that they realized that the British had lied to them. The Boston colonists weren’t allowed to flee the city; instead, they were made defenseless and were held at the mercy of the British soldiers until the Continental Army drove the British from Boston. This incident, and the fact that the English Parliament sent a standing army to force rules upon the colonists against their will, was a driving motive behind the writing of the Bill of Rights later on.
The English fought bravely for their freedom in the Revolutionary War, declaring their independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776, and claiming victory over the British in 1783. In 1787, Congress formed the Constitution, which set the rules for how the United States would operate. Not all of the states were happy with the Constitution; many requested that a separate declaration be written that declared the citizen’s basic rights and liberties. They wanted their rights to be made secure so that a tyrannical government could not infringe on their rights again. It was in this declaration called “The Bill of Rights” that the citizen’s God-given right, the right to bear arms, was written as the Second Amendment. After the Second Amendment was revised and rewritten, the final version was stated this way: “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.”

There was very little debate over the meaning of the Second Amendment after it was penned. People needed weapons to protect themselves in a growing nation and they knew the important role militias played, therefore, the people understood what the Second amendment meant. However, in later years, people began to argue over the meaning of the Second Amendment and still do so today. There are two views on the Second Amendment. The first is called the Collective Rights view. Those who believe in the Collective Rights view, say that the Second Amendment only gives states the right to form militias. They do not believe in an individual’s right to bear arms. Individual Rights supporters, however, do believe that an individual has a right to own guns for self-defense. Thomas Jefferson once stated, “On every question of construction (of the constitution) let us carry ourselves back to the time when the constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.” It is clear, by looking at the events surrounding the establishment of the Constitution and Bill of Rights that the Second Amendment was written for the purpose of declaring the rights of individuals. The Second Amendment gives individual citizens a legal and constitutional right to own firearms as well as the right to form militias. In 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals studied the history of the Second Amendment for the fifth circuit in a case named U.S. v. Emerson where the court ruled that the Second Amendment gave individuals a right to bear arms. Their conclusion was stated this way: “We find that the history of the Second Amendment reinforces the plain meaning of its text, namely that it protects individual Americans in their right to keep and bear arms whether or not they are a member of a select militia on performing active military service or training.”

Today, though there are still some anti-government, or “patriot” groups that form militias, the use of militias is still not as important as it once was. Not every man is required to serve in a militia anymore. Militias were popular during the time the Second Amendment was written, but their use became less popular after The War of 1812. For a while, every male citizen of the United States was required to serve in the militia. After The War of 1812, the United States began to see that militias could not adequately defend the country. During the War of 1812, some states refused to send troops when needed, and some men served in the war only as long as their required six months and then left. It turned out to be the federal army that was able to drive the British out of the country, not the militias. Because of the unreliability of the militias during this time, following the war, militias became not as important as they had once been and owning guns for personal use became what was common. As states wrote their constitutions, most emphasized an individual’s right to bear arms and left out mention of bearing arms for defense of state or nation. Many people thought that this lessening use of militias was a danger to the nation. In 1833, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story forewarned that, “…among the American people there is a growing indifference to any system of militia discipline…There is certainly no small danger, that indifference may…gradually undermine all the protection intended by this clause of our national bill of rights.” Despite his forewarning, militias still diminished in use and owning guns for personal use was more widely accepted. We can see this trend today as militias are hardly talked about and not very many people are a part of a militia. If there ever was a need to form a militia, however, we have the right, declared for us in the Second Amendment, to gather together as a community of people to defend ourselves.

As guns have become popular to use over the years for hunting, shooting competitions and self-defense, there has been a wide circulation of guns in the U.S., and, understandably, guns have gotten into the hands of people who choose to use them for evil purposes. When more people choose to use guns to harm others, the government believes that it should establish gun laws in hopes of decreasing gun violence. Some laws that the leaders of our country have proposed have been good, for instance, laws that have banned weapons that should only be used for military purposes, such as machine guns. Other laws, however, have been not as good. Instead of protecting citizens, they place unnecessary restrictions on law-abiding citizens, and infringe on their rights. Although the intention of those who propose gun laws may be good, the reality is, more and more gun laws affect and hurt law-abiding citizens instead of stopping criminals. If guns were banned, I have no doubt criminals would find a way to obtain them. Criminals will more than likely always find ways to get what they want. For instance, drugs aren’t legal in the U.S., yet people still get them, sell them, and use them. In regards to strict gun laws, Chicago has some of the strictest gun control laws of the nation, yet murder rates have skyrocketed and criminals have gained a monopoly over weapons. There were over 500 murders in Chicago last year, and the murder rate is expected to increase this year. Other instances of increases in crime following the adoption of gun laws have been seen in Hawaii and New Jersey. In his book Politics in America, Wayne Grudem stated that in 1996, “New Jersey adopted what was described as the ‘most stringent gun law in America’… and two years later the homicide rate had increased 46% and the reported robbery rate had doubled. After Hawaii adopted a series of increasingly restrictive measures on guns, its murder rate tripled from 2.4 per 100,000 in 1968 to 7.2 in 1977. Thomas Jefferson understood the dangers of restricting gun-laws, and warned against too much gun control saying: “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms…disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes…Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they server rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” We can see that Thomas Jefferson’s words have proven true by the evidences of what happened in Chicago, Hawaii, and New Jersey after they adopted stricter gun laws. In contrast, in 1982, the city of Kennesaw, Georgia passed a law requiring the head of every household to own a firearm as well as ammunition. Kennesaw, Georgia is now one of the safest places in the United States. In 2010, Kennesaw had zero murder or manslaughter crimes! It is true that criminals will be less likely to harm others if they know that a vast number of people carry guns. As Anna Ritgers (a modern mother fighting for gun rights) has said: “Good guys –and-gals-must be able to possess guns in order to fight evil.”

Following the Newton shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 students (ages 5-10) and 6 teachers were murdered, President Obama stood at the Newtown, CT vigil and stated that "if there's even one step we can take to save another [life] … then surely we have an obligation to try." In January, President Obama proposed new laws that he believed and still believes would help make American lives safer; among his main points were requiring universal background checks, and banning assault weapons. What’s interesting is that these laws would have done nothing to stop Adam Lanza, the Newtown killer, from murdering the children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary school.
Adam Lanza had committed no crimes before the Sandy Hook shooting. If he had decided to buy a gun instead of stealing the guns from his mother, a background check wouldn’t have stopped him from doing so. Background checks are unable to stop people with clean records who are planning on doing evil after purchasing their guns.
Also, the truth about the NICS (the National Instant Criminal Background Check System) is that it isn’t as reliable as it should be. Under the Obama administration, Congress has failed to fully fund the NICS, providing little incentive for states to report felony and mental health data to the NICS. Because of this, the Virginia Tech shooter, who killed 35 people and wounded 17, was able to buy a gun before the shooting, passing a background check. The state hadn’t delivered his mental health information to the NICS. Also, the Obama Administration Justice Department has failed to prosecute many people who lie when filling out their background checks. Out of 71,000 instances of people lying on their background checks in 2009, the Justice Department prosecuted 77 cases or a mere fraction of 1%. Jim Baker, an NRA representative, stated that he thinks it is problematic when the government fails to enforce the laws that are already made and instead promotes the establishment of more and more laws. He warns that: “If we are not going to enforce the laws that are on the books, it… engenders disrespect for the law…”

Another problem is that background checks don’t address illegal trafficking or straw man purchases. A straw man purchase is when someone uses another person with a clean record to buy a gun for him/her and then obtains the gun from that person when he himself is prohibited from owning a gun. According to a 2001 Department of Justice study, 78.8% of criminals get their guns from sources outside of retail store purchases, 39.6% get guns from friends or family while another 39.2% get guns from the street or other illegal means. . Background checks have stopped at least some people from obtaining guns. 153,000 people were denied the purchase of guns in 2010. So, the NICS isn’t entirely unhelpful, but it can still use improvement.

Some gun rights advocates are skeptical about Obama’s plan to make background checks for guns universal because Obama’s own experts say that universal background checks will not be effective unless gun registration is required. If gun registration is required, then the government will know who owns guns and where they live. This is something gun rights advocates are not happy about. As the National Rifle Association says, gun registration is an illegal abuse of our privacy and freedom. Many worry that gun registration may lead to government confiscation of their firearms sometime in the future.
Maybe President Obama should stop focusing on enforcing universal background checks, and instead focus on making the NICS more reliable by fully funding the NICS, therefore providing incentives for states to report felony and mental health data.
As for banning assault weapons, this has already been tried. From September 13, 1994 to September 13, 2004, assault weapons were banned or at least American citizens thought they were banned. The government tricked American citizens into thinking that this Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) would ban machine guns and “weapons of war”. In reality, those guns were already banned. The term “assault weapons” was a term invented by the government to cause civilians to think that the guns they were using were guns like those used in war, when in reality, they were just like certain ranch rifles, pistols, and double action revolvers many people used. These guns are similar in that they fire one round every time the trigger is pulled. The AWB banned AR-15’s and certain other guns naming them “assault weapons” because of certain features of the guns that made them look different from other guns. The AWB defined assault weapons as semi-automatic firearms that shared too many cosmetic features with their fully automatic counterparts. Besides the fact that these features don’t do anything to make the gun more deadly, these so called assault weapons are really semi-automatic firearms that are used by millions of law-abiding Americans.
The AWB was not renewed in 2004 because there was not significant evidence that it actually worked. In the Newtown massacre, Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster rifle, a type of semi-automatic gun. This gun wasn’t under the assault weapons list. So, the AWB would have done nothing to stop Adam Lanza from murdering the children and teachers in Newtown. It is surprising that Obama wants to ban “assault weapons” again even after there was no significant evidence that the ban worked and even though this law would not have stopped Adam Lanza.
Even if the gun Adam Lanza used was under the assault weapons list, banning assault weapons just because an evil person decided to use them in a mass murder is faulty reasoning. Assault weapons” are used in fewer murders than shotguns are. According to Senator Feinstein, so called “assault weapons” have been used in 48 murders per year since the expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban. In 2011, there were 8,583 murders with guns in the U.S. This means that assault weapons were used 0.6% of the time. It doesn’t make logical sense to ban certain guns because an evil person decided to use them for a mass murder when more murders are committed using other weapons each year. Assault weapons were used in nearly 2 percent of gun crimes before they were banned in 1994, whereas shotguns were used in 5 percent of gun related crime. It is faulty logic to decide to name certain guns bad and others good when it is not the guns but the people using them that are the true problems. Another reason some people are against the Assault Weapons Ban is because Obama’s own experts say that banning assault weapons is unlikely to affect gun violence, and will not work without government confiscation of legal firearms owned by law-abiding citizens.

Along with banning assault weapons, Obama wants to ban the manufacture and sale of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. People say that limiting the rounds would have allowed more children to escape from the shooter at Sandy Hook when he had to reload. However, these magazines will still be in circulation even after the ban because of the mass amount of magazines in the world. This law may hurt more people than it saves because criminals will still be able to have these magazines. More people will be at risk because they won’t have a weapon that is able to match those of criminals who may want to hurt them.

Even law enforcement officers see the fault in Obama’s gun laws. According to an extensive survey, law enforcement officers do not agree with Obama’s gun control laws. Ninety-nine percent of law enforcement officers who took the survey said that policies other than an “assault weapons” ban are most important to prevent mass shootings. More than 70 percent said that a ban on “assault weapons” would not reduce violent crime while 68 percent said that magazine capacity restrictions would negatively affect them personally.
According to the executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, Chris W. Cox, “The American people, and particularly the members of law enforcement, want politicians in Washington to stop pursuing a failed political agenda and get to work fixing our broken mental health system, improving school security, and getting criminals off the streets.”

Even though Obama may not see it, his words and deeds are contradicting themselves. Obama says that he believes in an individual’s right to bear arms, yet he is still pushing for gun control measures. Speaking for Obama on March 25, 2013, Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said “What we want to make sure is that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, but without interfering with the ability of law-abiding citizens to get their guns that they would like to buy.” Banning guns doesn’t take guns away from criminals; it takes more guns away from law-abiding citizens. Josh Earnest also stated that the President is “not seeking registry.” But, as I have already stated, Obama’s own experts say that background checks will not be effective without gun registration. So if Obama were not seeking gun registration, why would he propose a law that requires gun registration?

A troubling fact is that, while Obama is pushing for more gun laws here in the U.S., he is selling guns widely to other nations. The amount of guns sold by the U.S. to other nations in 2011 was increased three times from the previous year. Christopher Blakely, writing on how troubling it is to see Obama selling guns widely to other nations while pushing for gun control in the U.S. says, speaking about Obama, “he’ll deserve real credit when he stops the massive increase in arms sales that has taken place under his administration. To increase foreign arms sales threefold in one year, yet spend time traveling around the country clamoring for domestic gun control is very bold.” Who’s to say that those nations he is selling guns to are not going to be our enemies in the future? In a nation where citizens are restricted from owning guns, what is going to take place except for a frightening picture of American citizens without a sure way of defense against their enemies? Who was it that said, “To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens”? Frighteningly enough, it was Adolf Hitler.

Despite the fact that Obama’s proposed laws-those to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and require universal background checks-failed to be passed by Congress, he is not yet done fighting to make these plans into laws. Vice President Joe Biden says that if those in Congress don’t fight for gun control measures then legislatures may pay for their inaction in the 2014 midterms. “Sooner or later we will get this right,” said Obama after his laws failed to pass in Congress.

I believe that Obama should stop focusing on gun control as the solution to gun violence and instead focus on other measures that will make American lives safer. According to the research of an award winning expert on crime, Prof. Gary Kleck of Florida State University, firearms are used as often as 2.5 million times a year for protection which is three to five times more often than they are used for criminal purposes. We can see that it is false to believe that more gun control will stop violence. More gun control will only prohibit law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves and make it easier for criminals to hurt others. If the government makes it harder to obtain guns, the laws will affect law-abiding citizens and criminals will be virtually unaffected. Criminals by definition break the law, and they will only continue to do so. If Obama succeeds in his efforts for more gun control, law-abiding citizens will be forced to give up their weapons, while criminals will be less likely to give them up. This will leave those people whom the laws are trying to protect, unprotected, with weapons that are unable to match those weapons used by criminals. As the popular slogan goes, “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

The Father of one of the child victims at Newtown, Mark Mattioli, agrees that gun control is not the answer to gun violence. Instead of proposing more gun laws, Mark Mattioli believes that the government should focus on accountability for actions, enforcing their existing laws, and building stronger health systems. He also is a firm believer in the importance of the parental role and encourages parents to take their role as parents seriously. Speaking on parenting he said, “focus on your kids, there’s no more important job-nurturing, loving, being present and positive force in their lives.”
I agree with Mr. Mattioli. Parenting is an extremely important job. All parents should take their parenting roles seriously, choosing to guard their children from wrong influences, teaching them to respect themselves and others, and encouraging them to guard their hearts from evil. However there is no amount of instruction and teaching a parent can do that will stop their children from going astray if their hearts are cold. The Bible says, in Jeremiah 17:9, that “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it.” The best thing parents can do to help their children to grow up to be good, moral, respectable people is to teach them to follow the Lord and pray for them constantly that their hearts would be changed by the one and only heart changer, the Lord Jesus Christ. Psalm 111: 10 states: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” Jesus will change people’s hearts and help them to see their worth and the worth of others, causing them to want to treat people with respect and love.

The government can’t stop the evil that will continue to be in this world, but there are steps the government can take to make American lives safer that don’t include more gun control. Among these steps are making sure law-abiding citizens are able to obtain guns, securing school safety, providing just penalties for gun crime, keeping weapons away from the mentally unstable, and keeping criminals off of the street. Places where more guns are present in the hands of law-abiding citizens are safer. I believe that right-to-carry laws are important. Law-abiding citizens should be able to carry concealed weapons for safety, especially women. Criminals are less likely to attack when they are unsure as to who is carrying a gun.

As we can see, there are many alternatives to gun control; no one should be able to make laws that put more restrictions on law-abiding citizens and infringe on their right to bear arms. Maybe the alternatives to gun control that I mentioned will take longer and require more effort and money to put into place than restricting guns and requiring universal background checks, but if President Obama really means what he says when he talks about how important it is to protect lives, he should be willing to do whatever it takes to protect U.S. citizens, and realize that more gun control will not protect the people he says he wants to protect.
I believe that our country will become safer when more and more law-abiding citizens are able to exercise their rights and obtain guns for their safety. As George Washington once stated: “…The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference — they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.”

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Gramps said...
Sept. 18, 2013 at 2:29 am
I've just read a thorough, balanced, insiteful and meaningful article about the gun control.  I especially like the evidence that a good amount of research was considered by Madison in stating her position so eloquently.  Clearly, the interjection of scripture was essential and onpoint in support of her perspective  and I commend her courage in doing so.  Well done...keep thinking and writing!
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