Gun Control in America

Guest Opinion, guest opinions are welcomed on Right Side News, especially from students.  Today’s article is from Jeremy Sandberg on gun control in America.

Have guns become obsolete in American life, possibly an ugly reminder of violence and war?  Should we grant our elected representatives the power to remove them from the public at large? 

That is the question that Americans have faced throughout our country’s history, and will continue to face for the foreseeable future. I do not think so, and can prove that it was the intent of our founding fathers to safeguard our right to arm and defend ourselves, our families and our personal property. 

gun-control-2There are many who would disagree with me, for a variety of reasons.  I concede the existence of well intentioned individuals, who honestly feel that there is no right to bear arms.  While I disagree with their opinion, I can respect both it, and them.  The people who I find troubling are those who seek to achieve their goal of a disarmed public through deception.  They would strip American citizens of their firearms through the legislative process against their will.  I would argue that any gun control by our federal government is, by its very existence, un-Constitutional.  The federal government of the United States has no legal right to legislate and exercise gun control over its citizenry.

Where do American citizens get the right to “keep and bear arms” is a question that I have heard many people ask, from both sides of this contentious issue.  To answer this question, we must first turn to the United States Constitution, and it’s Second Amendment.  It 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.”  For those who would like to promote further gun controls, this is interpreted with an emphasis on the “well regulated militia”, with the “militia” being the only ones allowed to have guns.  This is not surprising, especially since most Americans have very little Constitutional knowledge, a fact borne out by a survey conducted by the National Constitution Center (NCC) in 1997. 

The NCC poll showed “that only 5 percent of Americans can correctly answer 10 rudimentary questions about the Constitution.”  I have included the list of questions, along with their correct answers at the end of this paper.  On the other side of this issue, a growing number of Americans are calling for a halt of further gun controls.  I fall into this category. 

The Constitution was the final product of much public debate, as many people did not want a central, or federal, government to be formed.  They feared that the federal government would seek to draw power to it’s self and deny rights and freedoms to the people.  To convince the people that their fears were in vain, and assure them that the necessary safeguards against a tyrannical central government would be included, three of the founding fathers of our government publicly debated the merits and pitfalls of various elements of our federal government.  The debate took place from 1787 to 1788 through a series of 85 articles, or essays, that were published for public dissemination and scrutiny.  The papers are known as “The Federalist Papers”, or simply “The Federalist”, and were authored by; Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay. 

The issue of an armed citizenry is addressed most specifically in “The Federalist Papers” “Federalist No. 28”, written by Alexander Hamilton.  It discusses the need for the public to retain its “original right of self-defense [,] which is paramount to all positive forms of government.”  Hamilton goes on to state that this right, above all, is to protect the citizens against their governments, both state and federal.  This leads me to believe that it is the individual citizen who has the right to arm him/herself, because the government would never use the organized militia/military against itself as a tyrannical power.

To explain why the Constitution was written in a manner that placed guns effectively off-the-table for the federal government, it is important to understand the history behind the passion.  America is a country established, defined and defended through the use of arms.  Without an armed citizenry, this country would have never been able to break the oppressive bonds of the English Crown, a fact that was acknowledged by the British.  Gun power and arms imports were intercepted and the powder and guns already in the colonies were sought for confiscation.  The colonists were painfully aware of the potential danger posed by a government who is able to disarm its subjects.  Had the British succeeded in their attempt to disarm the colonists, independence could not have occurred.  The framers of the United States Constitution recognized the need to provide their posterity the ability to defend themselves, both collectively and as individuals, against any source of tyranny or violence, but the source most feared was clearly the government.  Alexander Hamilton, in “The Federalist No. 28” wrote;

 “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government, and which against the usurpations of the national rulers may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success than against those of the rulers of an individual State. In a single State, if the persons intrusted with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair. ”   

This statement seems to clearly define the historical importance of the right to bear arms, and the intent of the Second Amendment.

How did we get here? 

Currently, the federal government of the United States of America exercises a great deal of control over firearms.  The government has injected itself into every aspect of the firearm from design and production to purchase, storage and use.  I have not heard any sensible argument for the complete de-regulation of the firearm at every level, however I do think that a reasonable case could be made for the removal of the federal government from the equation.  The regulatory power that the federal government exercises is the result of the National Firearms Act of 1934, which derives its power from the Interstate Commerce Clause. 

The Interstate Commerce Clause was included in the United States Constitution to grant the federal government the ability to regulate trade between the States, primarily to prevent one state from passing discriminatory legislation against another state.  Through expansive and liberal interpretation of the Commerce Clause, the federal government has given itself the right to regulate and tax commerce between the states.  It was also used to justify the federal government’s authority to pass the National Firearms Act in 1934, which gave the federal government the authority to impose taxes well beyond the value of the firearms being sold, as well as initiating a requirement for federal registration of certain types of weapons.  Ever seeking to expand control, the federal government passed the Gun Control Act of 1968, calling for restrictions on people who may purchase, sell, repair or import guns, and again implementing taxes and fees at each step along the way, justifying involvement by citing public safety concerns.

Guns have been used by criminals to commit brutal and heinous crimes.  That is unfortunate and undisputable, but also unavoidable.  Politicians seeking to disarm Americans try to make the case that if they are allowed to further regulate, or even completely ban guns, that Americans will be safer.  The facts do not bear the truth of this assertion.  In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  Also known as the Brady Bill, this ban of assault weapons has been reported to have reduced violent crimes involving those firearms. 

The facts show that the ban actually only covered 1.39% of firearm models according to the National Institute of Justice report “An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.”  The ban was not successful in any way, other than proving that it could be passed.  On the subject of the Brady Bill, Charles Krauthammer, writing for The Washington Post, stated in his article titled “Disarm The Citizenry”, that “Ultimately, a civilized society must disarm its citizenry if it is to have a modicum of domestic tranquility…”, and that “Passing a law like the assault weapons ban is a symbolic, purely symbolic move […] Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation.”  The Federal Assault Weapons Ban which had minimal to no effect on crime, was allowed to expire in 2008.  Since we do not have a handgun ban in America, it is necessary to look to the experiences of other countries.

The United Kingdom banned handguns in 1997, based on the hope that violent crimes involving firearms would drop.  According to the report “Criminal Statistics, England and Wales 2000”, published by the British Home Office, firearm use in crimes actually doubled between 1997 (gun ban) and 2007, and 67%  of those surveyed by YouGov in the United Kingdom in 2007 felt less safe than before the ban.

As with any multi-faceted issue, there are multiple sides to the conversation, and even more motivations within those sides.  Our framers wanted to guarantee that should we need to overthrow a tyrannical government, we would have the means necessary to do so.  Having had to throw off an oppressive government which had tried to disarm them to prevent the overthrow most certainly influenced their writing of the Constitution.  It is with apprehension that I ponder the future of this great nation, as the general public becomes more and more apathetic toward their rights and freedoms. 

Our rights and freedoms, granted by God, are slowly being eroded, regulated and removed by an ever-overreaching government.  It seems that as long as citizens, in increasing numbers, are willing to trade freedoms for handouts, we will continue to see more and more intervention in our personal lives.  If continued, the intervention will become control, and the citizen a subject.  The firearm is a tool.  In the right hands it has been used to build nations of free citizens, protect public safety and liberty, protect hearth and home, and provide sustenance.  In evil hands it has caused terrible atrocities.  The world has had both kinds of people for as long as records have been kept, with no sign of change for the future.  Living in this imperfect world, it makes more sense to take the responsibility of protecting my family seriously, and to be as prepared as I can be. 

A gun is nothing more than a tool.  No different than a fire extinguisher to put out a fire in a home, even though we have fire departments throughout the United States.  Protecting your family is your duty; it is up to you to decide how to fulfill that duty.  

Jeremy Sandberg is a student at Pikes Peak Community College studying business management and is a freelance journalist.

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