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Gun Control (a Legislative Issue)


Introduction

Our rights as they pertain to bearing arms and to owning guns are spelled out in the second amendment of the Constitution 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.

There has been a lot of debate as to the precise meaning of this amendment, with people often interpreting it in very different ways. There are some people who feel that it gives people the right to have whatever weapons they want and the government not be able to put any limits on this right. On the other hand, there are some people that it gives the government must impose fairly strict controls over gun ownership.

Given our modern world with its vastly more destructive weapons, it may be a good idea to rewrite this amendment in a way that would more clearly define our rights and obligations as to gun ownership. Even so, if we break this amendment down into its component parts, we may find it is clear enough for us to come up with the right balance of gun ownership rights and controls.

Militia

The first half of the second amendment states that a well regulated militia is needed to protect the security of a free state. At the time this amendment was written, we did not have a large standing army or the ability to move troops rapidly from one place to another. Therefore, local militias were very important for the protection of the local community.

One of the key components of this part of the amendment is the bit about the militia needing to be well regulated. To regulate means to control or to direct, so this amendment does include the idea of at least controlling the militia whose members that would keep and bear the arms or guns.

Infringe

The second half of the second amendment states that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. We must first take note of the fact that it uses infringed instead of limited. With infringed, this amendment is saying that limits can be placed on this right as long as they do not go beyond the usual limits. Therefore, this amendment does allow for the government to impose controls on our rights to keep and to bear arms. The key to determining what controls or limits can be imposed is in determining what the usual limits should be.

Whole Amendment

When talking about gun control, many gun advocates would like people to ignore the first part of the second amendment. As with any law or amendment, we cannot simply ignore some part of it just because it does not suit our needs. In order to understand what rights the second amendment gives us, we must look at the whole amendment in order to determine what its intended meaning was.

Since the idea of allowing people to keep and to bear arms stems from the second amendment’s declaration of the necessity of a well regulated militia, we could reasonably conclude that this amendment only applies to people who are part of the militia. Therefore, there would be no constitutional right for anyone else to keep or to bear arms. In addition, one could also reasonably conclude that the amendment gives the government the right to impose some limits on the rights to keep and to bear arms, as long as those limits did not go beyond what would be considered the usual limits.

Of course, it is quite possible that the writers of the amendment would have expected that everyone would want to come to the aid of their country, and to protect it and its citizens from harm, whether that harm came from an external or internal source. Therefore, in order for everyone to be assured that their right to keep and to bear arms is protected by the second amendment, we could simply presume that gun ownership comes with an implied obligation to be part of the local militia. This would mean that, in times of need, gun owners could expect to be called upon to be part of their local militia.

Usual Limits

Our next step will be to determine what usual limits we should be able to impose on keeping and bearing arms. Since the goal of a militia would be to protect our security, we would want to think in terms of setting limits on arms that would actually aid in protecting our security. The idea being that the right arms in the hands of the right people can help protect us, but the wrong arms or the wrong people could endanger our security. Therefore, the two big things to consider in setting limits on arms would be what types of arms we should allow people to keep and to bear, and who should we allow to keep and to bear these arms.

Arms

The first thing to consider when we talk about what types of arms we should allow people to keep and to bear is that we have much more destructive arms today than our ancestors did when the second amendment was written in 1791.

Back in the late eighteenth century, the state of the art in arms was a musket, which could only fire one round at a time, was not very accurate, and needed a half a minute or more to reload. A single person with a musket could often protect himself or herself from a single human or animal attacker, but did not pose much of a threat to others. It would require a large group of people to protect a community from bigger threats or to pose much of a threat to others.

Today, automatic weapons can fire a dozen or more rounds in seconds, can be quite accurate in the right hands, and can also be reloaded in seconds. In addition, we have hand grenades, rocket propelled grenades, high explosives, shoulder fired missiles, and numerous types of bombs that go all the way up to the thermo-nuclear kind. Today, a single individual may be able to protect himself or herself from multiple attackers, and could pose a real threat to many others.

In battle, we obviously want to give our troops as much fire power as needed to do the job without endangering themselves. Determining what level of fire power to use in battle is a question for the military. What we need to do here is decide how much fire power we want to give an individual when not in combat. For most of us, our day to day lives rarely, if ever, put us in a dangerous situation where we would need a firearm. Of course, there is always the chance of encountering some dangerous animal or criminal. In these cases, a simple semi-automatic pistol may be all that is needed.

As far as limits for individuals go, I think we can all agree that we would not want people to keep or to bear nuclear bombs. They simply would not provide any real protection and would be too much of a threat to others. The same could be said for most other bombs, missiles, high explosives or grenades. If these arms are needed to protect a community, they would be better kept in a secure armory, where they would be available in case of a threat, but would pose little threat to the community.

An automatic weapon also poses more of a risk to others than protection for the individual. Unless of course, the individual is up against a large number of attackers, which seems unlikely except if the individual is a criminal and the attackers are actually law enforcement offices. For simple protection, a semi-automatic hand gun or rifle should be sufficient. Therefore, it would also seem best to keep any automatic weapons in a secure armory with the other more deadly arms.

Owners

The next thing to consider is who should be allowed to keep and to bear arms. Again, we want to protect ourselves and our community, so we would want to limit these rights to people who can help to protect us and to keep arms out of the hands of those who would do harm. In general, most people could probably be trusted to handle a firearm responsibly, but there are many individuals who would potentially do more harm than good if they had a firearm. For instance if someone is not mature enough, has criminal intent or has some other mental deficiency then he or she may end up misusing a firearm.

To start with, we should limit firearms to those people who have proven they are mature enough to handle a firearm responsibly. This would mean children would not be allowed to keep or to bear arms until they have proven they have matured enough. This would mean criminals would need to prove they have reformed. People with mental deficiencies would need to prove they had recovered and are not prone to relapse.

Of course, being mature enough is not enough. When someone is mature enough to drive a car, we do not simply let them start driving on our streets. Instead, we make the individual take the appropriate written and driving tests to demonstrate that they have learned the skills needed to properly drive a car before we let the individual out on the road. In a similar way, we need to require people who want to keep and to bear arms to prove that they have learned how to properly handle a firearm before we let them have one.

When someone gets a drivers license, they only have to prove they can handle a car under normal driving conditions. Most of the time, this may be sufficient, but it would be better to have people also prove that they can handle themselves when the driving conditions are not as good and when in various emergency driving situations. If people had to learn and to prove they could drive defensively in these situations, our roads would be much safer.

When it comes to a firearm, there is a big difference between being on a firing range and being in various situations out in the community. We do not let our police or military personnel carry a firearm unless they have been properly certified on the firing range and in various potential real life situations. We know that even with the proper training, that the police and military personnel do occasionally still make mistakes.

If someone does not know when and how to use a firearm appropriately in public, then this person could end up doing more harm than good. Picture all the situations like robberies or attacks where one or more individuals could be threatening people with one or more weapons. In most cases, your response would not simply be to pull out your weapon and to start shooting the bad guys. Instead, you would need to evaluate each situation based on who might be in the line of fire, whether anyone else might have a gun, whether or not the police may be there or on the way, whether you could be mistaken for one of the bad guys, and all of the other relevant details and possible outcomes.

If you are in one of these deadly situations and you do not evaluate things correctly or make the proper actions, you could end up killing innocent bystanders or get yourself killed. Therefore, if people want to keep and to bear a firearm, then they should be required to get the proper training and to prove that they can not only hit a target in a firing range, but also handle themselves in various situations where various other people could be around.

Conclusion

As we can see, although the second amendment does give us some rights as they pertain to keeping and bearing arms, those rights can and should be limited. The goal is to protect ourselves and our communities, so we need to limit our arms to those that are appropriate to that task, and to the individuals who will be able to responsibly handle those arms and know how to use them properly.

To make sure that only people that have the right intensions, maturity, intelligence and training to handle a firearm properly are able to get one. Only those people, who have passed an appropriate background check and have obtained the appropriate firearm certifications, should be licensed to buy, to keep or to bear a firearm. To simplify things when buying and carrying a firearm, these individuals should be issued an appropriate gun license. No matter the venue or situation, guns could only be sold or transferred to people with a valid gun license.

To make sure we know what arms and personnel are available to protect the community, all guns and gun owners should be registered with the local community. Owners would need to properly store and secure their firearms so that they did not fall into the wrong hands. When sold, the gun title would need to be transferred to the new owner. Lost or stolen guns would need to be reported immediately to the local police.

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Last Updated:
Sunday, November 26, 2017
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