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Gun Control in the United States: The Fundamental Issues
A woman is walking home from the grocery store in Chicago. She had thought walking to the store would be the perfect way to get things her family and she had needed and get some fresh air, not to mention exercise. She had reservations about going out alone and unarmed while her concealed carry permit application was tied up with the Illinois state police. However, she decided she shouldn’t live in fear and she “couldn’t fight city hall.”
Also on a walk is the man that will never leave her horrified memory until her last breath, whether that be in the next 40 years or the next 40 seconds.
The man turns a corner and suddenly the woman catches his eye. She is on his block. She’s clearly wealthy and she decided to walk through his slum of a neighborhood for “fresh air.” She buys groceries for her family so her children could have a few snacks and be happy while his children go hungry if he can’t scrape together the money for a good meal. She walks for exercise and fresh air while he walks because he had to sell his car to cover basic expenses for his home. He decides he will no longer be complacent in this injustice and she will pay the deficit between their situations with her life.
The man approaches her. Faintly hearing quickening footsteps, she quickens her own as what she thinks of as a superstitious precaution. This continues until she is almost running. She drops her groceries but dares not go back, look back, or even think about such a miniscule happening in the nightmare in which she is now involved. She can only think of her family, her husband, her children, all of whom she would leave the burden of grief if she dared to stop.
This could very well be the scene of one of the hundreds of murders that occur in Chicago, Illinois each year. Many of these murderers occur because ordinary citizens can’t defend themselves from those that wish to harm them. Gun control is practically ineffective, and is an unconstitutional practice that is in opposition to the very principles that the United States was founded upon.
It takes but one simple google search to find out that the gun crime situation in the city of Chicago, Illinois is horrendous. 751 people were shot and killed there in 2016 alone. Yet, the city has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. This illustrates a simple point with complex implications. Gun Laws are ineffective in any large federalist country or society.
Let me first define federalism for the sake of clarity. Federalism is a system of governance by which power is shared equally by a central, or federal, government and smaller, regional levels of government. What this means in the context of the gun control debate is that there are many different regions and many different sets of laws throughout the country because of regional governments representing differing ideological beliefs and legislating differently based on them.
The murders in Chicago are an example of how strict gun laws are rendered ineffective by this system. According to former Chicago Police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, “more than 20 percent of guns recovered here [Chicago], come from Indiana.” This means that over one fifth of guns confiscated because they were not in compliance with Chicago’s tough gun laws were from Indiana, where gun laws are not nearly as strict.
Furthermore, according to the New York Times over 40 percent of confiscated and recovered guns came from outside of the state of Illinois and a large percentage of those originating in Illinois came from areas just outside of Chicago with less strict gun control measures. This points to the conclusion that most guns violating Chicago’s gun laws are being brought to the city from outside sources.
Gun control advocates will point to this clear and present reality to suggest that we must begin regulating guns nationally and in more localities. This, however, is simply unrealistic. Andrew Morris, of the Selinsgrove Area High School in central Pennsylvania says that, “The right to own a gun for generally lawful and common purposes should be upheld and not restricted more than it already is.” A public opinion poll done by CNN shows that he is in fact part of the majority of Americans. It indicates that 52 percent of Americans oppose stricter gun control measures while only 46 percent support them with a 3 percent margin of error. This means that over half of Americans oppose more regulations on the common and generally lawful ownership of firearms.
At the national level, gun control measures must pass the Senate and the House of Representatives, and receive a signature from the president to become law. 52 percent of the nationwide vote is enough to elect a large majority in the house and senate, as well as elect a president. So, if those who voted in the poll vote in federal elections, any meaningful increase in federal gun control measures is effectively dead on arrival.
With little chance of a comprehensive increase in gun control measures nationally, those advocates are forced to look at the local or state options. Their outlook is even grimmer on that path. Of the 46 percent of those polled that support stricter gun control measures a disproportionate amount live in cities where those measures are already in place. That leaves small towns with large majorities composed of the 52 percent. In addition, on the state level, there are 26 states with a completely Republican controlled legislature and a Republican governor, 7 additional states with a completely Republican controlled legislature, and 8 more states with a Republican governorship, according to Ballotpedia. The Republican Party is generally against gun control and their control only increases on the state level. This spells doom for statewide laws.
Even so, let’s assume for a moment that it is possible to enact gun laws on a large scale nationwide basis. The only possible way to make citizens safer through the use of gun laws is to make all guns completely unattainable for the average person, because as seen in Chicago, the citizens who follow the law become sitting ducks when the guns keep flowing in. That is simply unconstitutional. Even if there was enough consensus it would be an illegal endeavor.
Let’s look more closely at the right to self-defense laid out in the second amendment, and the protections it grants the people of the United States. The text of the amendment is as follows: “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.” That seems rather straightforward, doesn’t it? The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The people have a natural right to possess weapons and the government may not impose its will past the barriers of that right. It’s all right there in the text.
The founding fathers sought to protect the citizens of the United States from deprivation of their right to self-defense and preservation. What’s more is that when thinking of rights to codify in this new “Bill of Rights” and writing them down, they decided that the right to own weapons in a generally peaceful and common way was second only to the right to communicate and express oneself without fear of legal recourse. The motive behind this is the second amendment, in practice, protects any other right from being infringed upon by other citizens, the United States government, or any foreign government. It seems obvious that based on the nature of the struggle they underwent, the founding fathers would support upholding the right of average citizens to own the tools they need or think they need to protect them and their families.
Gun control advocates often argue that because of the preamble to the amendment, “a well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state,” it only protects gun ownership connected to military service. This is blatantly ridiculous.
First of all, as I stated above, the intent of the founding fathers was clear. The people that won the revolutionary war were average citizens that took up arms to fight for what they believed in. Most of them weren’t in any formal military organization before there was a need to defend their home. So, why would the founders not seek to protect the ability of future Americans to do the same as they did if the same situation would confront them? Thomas Jefferson, one of the men who helped write the constitution, himself wrote that, “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” He states outright his belief that ordinary citizens should be able to own guns. Therefore, it is preposterous that a constitution that he partially drafted would not at all reflect that belief.
Since the motives of the founders clearly don’t support the argument of those advocates they must disregard the motives of the founders and rely only on the text of the amendment. However, linguistically, a perambulatory clause states a purpose but does not affect the meaning of the operative clause. The current official interpretation of the United States reinforces that assertion and the previous one as stated in the holding of DC v. Heller where the court states, “The Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms.”
It also cannot be ignored that even if the perambulatory clause were to change the meaning of the operative clause it would still not change the fact that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own guns unconnected with military service. Militia is defined as “all able-bodied civilians eligible by law for military service.” This means that every citizen legally eligible for military service can own a firearm regardless of actual service in a military organization or connection to that service. As for the well-regulated stipulation in the perambulatory clause, well-regulated in the context of the framers intention and the second amendment, takes on the definition, “kept in good order”. The founding fathers were saying a well-organized and maintained body of citizens with guns is necessary to the safety of a free country and its freedom.
With that I ask you to come back to the image of that distressed woman running for her life. She is sprinting now. She is entirely sure that her life will end in the next few minutes by a liberal estimate. She makes peace with the spiritual beings in which she believes and prepares for the inevitable. She mourns not for herself or her own life but for her children with whom she will never share another touching moment or warm embrace. The gory reality of what happens next isn’t something about which I wish to elaborate.
I am not unaware of the possible sadness caused by this story but I can assure you it could never compare to the absolute grief felt by those whose family have been taken away from them because of their government’s restrictions on their own self-defense, and I hope it makes greater the sense of urgency you feel to fight for a society without gun restrictive gun control, in which law-abiding citizens can effectively and legally protect themselves from all who wish to cause them any kind of harm.