It’s a common reaction in the aftermath of a mass shooting in the United States to state that guns are the problem and that the second amendment should be repealed or diluted. However, blaming guns for mass shootings is simplistic and misguided. After all, guns don’t shoot themselves, it’s the people behind them who are responsible for the violence. Knee-jerk reactions to restrict gun ownership are counterproductive and misguided.
The Second Amendment was included in the Constitution as a means of protecting individual liberty. The Founding Fathers recognised the importance of an armed citizenry in defending against government tyranny and preserving individual freedom.
Historically, the Second Amendment was based on English common law right to self-defence. The English Bill of Rights of 1689 recognised the right of Protestants to bear arms for self-defence and the defence of the realm against foreign enemies. The American colonists were also familiar with the English concept of the militia, which was made up of ordinary citizens who were expected to serve in times of emergency.
During the American Revolution, the militia played a vital role in securing American independence. The Founding Fathers, most of whom were themselves members of the militia, recognised its importance in defending the new nation against external threats and in preserving individual liberties against the government.
However, many people today believe that the amendment is not fit for purpose in a modern society. According to the National Interest, these people believe that the Founding Fathers could not have foreseen how potent firearms would become, and that the Second Amendment should not be interpreted to protect the right to own them. They often suggest that the military or police make the concept of civilian militia outdated. By granting individuals the right to bear arms, the Second Amendment serves as a means of equipping civilians to counterbalance the overwhelming military might of the government. Additionally, it fortifies America’s defence against foreign forces. This remains relevant as evidenced in Ukraine, where the significance of civilian gun possession was recognised during the Russian invasion, prompting the mass distribution of firearms to its people to bolster the country’s defence.
In many cities and rural areas in the United States, it can take significant time for police to arrive at reported crime scenes. According to a study by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are an estimated 500,000 to 3 million defensive gun uses per year in the United States. The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that between 2007 and 2011, there were an average of 67,740 defensive uses of firearms each year. Without the Second Amendment, many more people would have been victimised, rather than empowered, in the face of violence.
Most importantly the Second Amendment is deeply ingrained in American culture. For many Americans, the Second Amendment represents the right to self-defence, the ability to protect one’s family and property, and a way to deter government tyranny. It is seen as a fundamental aspect of American liberty and is deeply intertwined with the country’s history of frontier expansion, rugged individualism, and a mistrust of centralised government power. Gun ownership is an integral part of their way of life and a symbol of their political and cultural identity.
The United States has a high number of guns in circulation, with estimates suggesting that there are already 433.9 million guns in the country. This means that guns are readily available to a significant portion of the population, and the federal government cannot simply take them all away. Moreover, criminals who are already banned from owning guns are unlikely to comply with any laws aimed at taking away their firearms. These individuals have already shown a willingness to break the law, and they may continue to acquire and use guns illegally regardless of any government restrictions.
Furthermore, critics of the Second Amendment ought to examine evidence that strongly correlates mass shootings with cultural and societal factors. Mass shooters often exhibit signs of social isolation and disconnection from their communities. This sense of isolation may stem from a variety of factors, including economic inequality, discrimination, and a lack of social support. To illustrate, individuals who commit acts of school violence are aware that they will receive extensive media coverage if they carry out their actions. They may specifically choose to target schools because those institutions may represent areas of their life where they have experienced hardship.
The Second Amendment serves as a crucial protection of individual freedoms and the right to bear arms. The ability to defend oneself and one’s property is a fundamental human right, and the Second Amendment ensures that citizens can access the means to exercise that right.
While there may be debates over the interpretation and implementation of the Second Amendment, it remains a cornerstone of American democracy and a safeguard against government overreach. The freedom to bear arms is a fundamental part of the American identity and should continue to be protected and respected for generations to come.