Every period in history has its peculiar and distinct social and political whims and ideals that befit the vicissitudes of the times. However, in the life of a nation, experience has proved again and again that the changing times come along with ceaseless sweeping tides of transformation in every aspect of society’s ideals and ways of life. The American democracy that Tocqueville hailed about a united people, always forming associations to address common challenges and adapting to overcome adversity in every way has yielded a process of institutions and political arrangement that is starkly different from what the founding fathers could ever have imagined. As opposed to the conditions of the times of the founding fathers, American people today bear completely different technological and political conditions as well as a world that is transformed by global interactions and commerce.
The United States Constitution is a well-balanced document and is designed to provide adequately for the federal government, be flexible and strong to meet the needs of the republic, and also protect the guaranteed citizens’ rights. America is a nation governed by the strict observance of the law and the constitutionalism of the American democracy is its foremost important and longest enduring foundation. However, the changes witnessed in society today have a critical contrast with the experiences and the conditions of life in which the founders lived and framed their ideals. The most critical of the changes witnessed today is that society is based on technological and scientific process rather than the original designation of Christian religiosity that proscribed virtue as a useful and cardinal reference of moral predicaments. Massive changes in the country as a result of technological progress and sweeping changes in political and commercial systems have brought about fundamental challenges to the cardinal principles of constitutional and legal regulation of society.
One of the most critical challenges is the interpretations of constitutional prescription in the scenario where massive commercial and political interests are clashing with moral preconditions that derived by the traditional constitutional principles. The second amendment is largely challenged by the segment of Americans who feel that gun control should be intensified because of the recent experience in which individuals use guns to kill innocent victims. On the contrary, other Americans feel that the necessity to own guns do not pose any threats to society and that it is a constitutional right for Americans to own firearms for defense and other purposes enshrined in the constitution.
The Second Amendment has been a sticking point for years now, with the ambiguous wording being interpreted as either guns for all or guns for militias. The framers of the constitutional provisions that warranted the explicit “rights” to “the people” to bear arms made it a resounding constitutional provision far divorced from any contenting argument for a government militia or state authority to interfere in the execution of the right. As it were, the rights existed before the people founded the nation or the state.
In the view of the framers, “the people,” as opposed to any other designated agency have “the right to bear arms.” In the case of the United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, the Supreme Court made it explicit that the same people given a reference in the Second Amendment are the same “people” depicted elsewhere in the Bill of Rights. In the preamble, the constitution expressly depicts that the very constitution is established by the “People of the United States.” The people therefore refer to a large part of the national community of people annexed by a common nationhood commonly attributed in the United States and not a narrow segment of any class or special distinction. The case exemplified the Second Amendment’s prescription to clearly determine the right of the individual persons to keep and bear arms.
Federal laws stipulate the age for gun ownership, prohibit felonious acts, and ensure background checks for gun purchases with registered dealers. Gun ownership is now individualized rather than aimed to serve the greater good of the nation. In recent appellate discourses, the Supreme Court has underscored the essential attributes of the constitutional provision to warrant the protection of the rights of the people to bear and own arms in very explicit cases. In 2008, the Supreme Court was involved in a controversial matter when it ruled against the District Colombia’s statue of gun control. At the time, the District of Colombia wanted to ban individual gun ownership that wasn’t associated with militia groups. The court argued that the people had the right to own guns to defend themselves. Emerging in the background of the District of Columbia statute that bans the possession of guns, the courts held that the right to bear and keep arms existed prior to the very founding of the state. Overwhelming support for the law was exemplified in the wording that makes it plain that such a right as proscribed belong to “the people” and “shall not be infringed.” It is, therefore, evident that the right to gun ownership is currently not limited to those serving in the militia. The 2008 ruling of the Supreme Court has made it difficult to pass most firearms restrictions over the subsequent years.
The gun control or anti-gun movement argues that there are too many guns in our country. The US does, in fact, have the most guns per capita versus any other county beating out many war-torn countries like Serbia and Iraq (Morris, 2016). Some factions of the gun control movement want to see all guns abolished while others want to see only assault rifles and high-capacity magazines banned. Proponents of gun control see these weapons as the most dangerous capable of inflicted the most harm despite that the use of these weapons account for less than three percent of homicides in the US (Lopez, 2018). Often, individuals in these groups have been personally affected by gun violence, where others view guns merely as a means to an end, believing that with fewer available guns there are fewer means available to kill. Evidence they use are precedents set by other developed regions like Australia and London where guns are banned, with few exceptions.
However, gun enthusiasts and Second Amendment activists argue the opposite. They say that the implication of more guns amounting to more gun violence is a false narrative perpetuated by the gun control movement. They cite FBI and Pew Research Center statistics detailing a drop in gun violence since the federal ban on assault weapons was lifted in 1993. ‘In general, though, fewer Americans are dying as a result of gun violence — a shift that began about two decades ago’ (Ehrenfreund, 2015). Another talking point was added to the pro-gun rhetoric this year when the homicide rate of London surpassed that of New York city indicating that fewer guns does not necessarily lead to fewer deaths (Smout, 2018).
With the increase in mass shootings in our society in recent years, the main-stream media has placed a microscope on the gun lobby and its constant battle defending Second Amendment rights. Gun control movements like March for Our Lives and Never Again put pressure on our representatives in congress to push gun control legislation. All the media attention focused on gun violence gives the perception that there is a dramatic upswing in gun violence in the past few years. This is compounded by the constant manufacture of guns in this country along with the gun ownership and gun per capita rate increasing.
However, looking at the data one can easily recognize that the gun violence off all forms is declining. This figure below illustrates the recent gun violence trends in the country. It depicts the slow decline of gun violence despite the perception given by the media that gun violence is on the rise. This gun violence is further sub –divided into homicides and nonfatal injuries. Both categories show a decline despite the growing number of guns per capita in the country. The table below demonstrates that a rise in gun availability and ownership does not correlate to a rise in gun violence.
Gun control advocates argue that the local government services like police, sheriffs, and constables are available to aid citizens when needed. However, for many living in rural areas, a call to the local police department can elicit a responding police cruiser upwards of 45 min. For those living in rural areas, gun ownership is needed when reliance on local authorities is not feasible. In addition to the need for gun for self-defense purposes for the those living in rural areas, there is also a difference in rural and urban gun culture.
Those living in rural environments typically grow up around guns and are exposed to shooing at an early age. While the primary reason for gun ownership is self-defense for those living in both urban and rural environments, rural gun owners typically grow up around guns and hunting becomes a major reason for gun ownership (Blotcher, 2013). The below figure depicts the difference in exposure to guns comparing urban, suburban, and rural areas.
There are also more moderate groups our society that are not as polarized as the two aforementioned groups. Christians believe in self-defense, gun-owning or not, and support the laws on our books, the decisions of our Supreme Court, and accede to their governing authority. Because of this, the ambiguous interpretation of the Second Amendment by the founding fathers is in supported within a Christian worldview as it is supported by our nation. However, the current perception of the right to gun ownership along with the moral decay of society has contributed to chaos rather than enhancing the stipulated notion of self-defense. The notion of the right to self-defense has served as the downfall of effective gun ownership regulation in our current society. The framers of the constitution nonetheless made a lasting plea in the wording of the Bill of Rights that each man deserves to have and bear arms because of the persistent and unrelenting conditions that are based on the state of nature, which civilizations have long tended to improve and govern with little success.
- Smout, Alistair. 2018. London murder rate overtakes New York as knife crime rises. Reuters
- Morris, Hugh. 2016. Mapped: The countries with the most guns (no prizes for guessing #1) The Telegraph https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/maps-and-graphics/mapped-the-countries-with-the-most-guns/
- Krogstad, Jens Manuel. 2015. “Gun Homicides Steady after Decline in ’90s; Suicide Rate Edges Up.” Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center. October 21. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/10/21/gun-homicides-steady-after-decline-in-90s-suicide-rate-edges-up/.
- Geiger, Abigail. 2017. “Nearly Six-in-Ten Rural Americans Have a Gun in Their Household.” Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center. July http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/07/10/rural-and-urban-gun-owners-have-different-experiences-views-on-gun-policy/ft_17-07-05_urbanruralguns_household/.
- Blocher, Joseph. ‘Firearm localism.’ Yale Law Journal, Oct. 2013, p. 82+. General Reference Center GOLD, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/apps/doc/A351432351/GRGM?u=vic_liberty&sid=GRGM&xid=d9a64bf3. Accessed 17 June 2018.
- Ehrenfreund, Max. 2015. We’v had a massive decline in gun violence in the United States. Here’s why. The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/03/weve-had-a-massive-decline-in-gun-violence-in-the-united-states-heres-why/?utm_term=.f80fee55b7e3
- Lopez. 2018. “The Capital Gazette Shooting and the Limits of an Assault Weapons Ban.” Vox. Vox. April 3. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/4/3/17174160/assault-weapons-ar-15-ban.