The United States Right To Bear Arms Criminology Essay

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"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." (Second Amendment of the US Constitution). In today's society Americans face a massively growing problem with violence. The streets are a battleground; women are being attacked and raped, our children are being killed by the stray bullet during the nightly gang shootings and the elderly are being beaten and robbed for their social security. This violence in our decaying society is not just in the bad parts of town; it's happening everywhere and must not be ignored. However, the efforts of people to make it illeagle to own firearms don't even scratch the surface when trying to stop the violence in our streets. All we are doing is disarming the law-abiding citizens of this country who need those arms to defend and protect their homes and their family from criminals who will undoubtedly break this law anyway. Criminals one way or another will get a firearm to do harm or rob others for what they want. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV, a large gun control activist group, want to regulate firearm ownership as a means to reduce crime. The National Rifle Association (NRA), a pro sponsor for the right of every law-abiding citizen to own and carry a firearm objects to these types of laws that gun control activists use to regulate firearms. Organizations, whether they are for or against gun control use facts, figures and mixed emotions to try to get their point across about the issues at hand. There is a constant debate between activists and their opposed counterparts on the issue of gun control but research, statistics, crime rates and the Second Amendment proves the fact that citizens of this country should have the right to bear arms.

Activists for gun control believe that by taking away firearms from our citizens, this will eliminate crime and gun related deaths in our country. They complete these tasks by voicing their opinion on the hill and passing legislation that takes away our rights as citizens of this country. An example of this legislation would be the Brady Bill which was passed in 1994. The basics of this bill consist of criminal background checks and a five day waiting periods for the purchase of a handgun. Another example would be the Assault Weapons Ban, which is used to keep assault rifles off the streets and much harder to acquire and buy. Another mission gun control enthusiast put to work was the Right-to-Carry law which made it extremely hard for law-abiding citizens to carry handguns out in public. Advocates of gun control fight the claim of use of firearms for self defense. Lee Nisbet claims that people using firearms for self defense or home protection will end up having a serious accident or death with a family member or a friend rather than actually shooting an intruder. (Nisbet, 1990) A better explanation of this would be if a child were to find a gun shoots him or herself or even someone else or a possibly a criminal taking the firearm away from the owner and killing him with their own gun. The legislation that has passed controls the ownership and use of firearms, and because of the enforcement of these laws prosecution and imprisonment is rising. An area of concern to gun control activists is the wording of the Second Amendment. Supporters of gun control would like us to believe that the words "militia" in reference to "people" is directed to the State National Guardsmen and not the public citizens of this country. In other words the military should be the only ones to operate and own firearms.

"What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms." (Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787. ME 6:373, Papers 12:356)

Activists for gun control work tirelessly to pass legislation keeping guns and firearms away from criminals. One law the Brady Bill, now called the Brady Act, which was enacted to keep citizens from immediately acquiring a handgun to kill someone or use in a criminal act was passed in 1994. While having a waiting period and a background check is a good idea, special studies in crime rates showed no significant effect. An analysis from the Journal of the American Medical Association states "Our analyses provide no evidence that implementation of the Brady Act was associated with a reduction in homicide rates. In particular, we find no differences in homicide or firearm homicide rates to adult victims in the 32 treatment states directly subject to the Brady Act provisions compared with the remaining control states." (Jens Ludwig & Philip J. Cook, 2000) While having waiting periods and conducting background checks make it harder for the underage, criminals, and mentally ill citizens acquire handguns; the measures put in place from this act still won't stop criminals from getting a firearm. Criminals violate laws and will continue to obtain weapons any way they can. Gun control activists lobbied to banish assault weapons. The Assault Weapons Ban made it illegal for citizens to manufacture, possess or import semi automatic weapons. An assault weapon as defined by the assault weapons ban of 1994 is "any firearm with a detachable magazine and at least two of certain other characteristics as an assault weapon." These characteristics include a Telescoping stock, Pistol grip, Bayonet mount, Grenade launcher, or a threaded barrel for a flash suppressor. The message that gun control activists are trying to convey is that assault weapons are evil and create murderers. The true fact is that assault weapons were involved in less than 1% of homicides in the United States before the ban was enacted in 1994. The limited access to these weapons has always been a problem for criminals even with using underground or interstate channels for weapon purchasing. This ban has not made it harder it has just made it illegal for law-abiding citizens to purchase or own one. Another controversial debate is the Right-To-Carry law, requiring law enforcement agencies to screen and issue handgun permits to qualified citizens. These qualifications for our citizens are they must have a clean criminal background and must have completed a firearm safety course. Supporters of gun control argue that allowing citizens to freely carry guns promote crime and criminal activities. Betty Friedan, The founder of the National Organization of Women stated: "lethal violence, even in self defense, only engenders more violence." According to statistics if Florida these facts rebuts this common misconception. The Right-To-Carry law was adopted in 1987. From 1987 to 1996, homicide rates dropped 36%, firearm homicide rates dropped 37% and handgun homicide rates dropped 41%. (Fairchild) To have a better understanding of these stats a criminal is less likely to harm, attack, or rob a person if that criminal feels threatened. Bottom line, when law-abiding citizens carry guns, fewer crimes are committed.

"Are we at last brought to such a humiliating and debasing degradation that we cannot be trusted with firearms for our own defense? Where is the difference between having out arms under our own possession and under our own direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?" (Patrick Henry, 3 J. Elliot, Debates In the Several State Conventions 45, 2d ed. Philadelphia, 1836)

Many factors are used to deter the possession of guns from our citizens, crime rates is usually the number one statistic brought into the game plan for both sides because guns and crime are almost always linked together. Guns are the most frequently used weapon in the commission of a crime with handguns being the usual weapon of choice because of the size, making it easy to conceal and overall ease of use. The assumption that gun control will lower crime rates is of high debate and very questionable. In Alan Gottlieb's book In the Right of Gun Owners a question was asked. "Do areas with strict firearm control have reduced homicide rates? Gottlieb answers, No, in fact it has been established that twenty percent of American homicides occur in four U.S. cities that make up only six percent of the population." These four cities which are New York, Washington D.C., Detroit, and Chicago and also have the toughest gun control laws in place but have the highest homicide rate in the country. (Gottlieb, 1991)(Pg26) It does not matter how strict the gun laws are, criminals, whether legally or illegally, will obtain a firearm. Cities with very high crime rates impose the toughest gun controls on its citizens only solidifies the fact that gun controls have little or no effect on the outcome of the crime rates in their area. Another concern is crime rates in regards to self defense of one's self or property. Many states have different variation of self defense laws. In most states owners of firearms have the right to shoot to evade death or serious bodily harm but should be utilized as a last resort. The most common circumstances revolving around self defense is the right of self preservation and assaults. Nisbet conducted a study on self protection and asked respondents of robberies whether they utilized self protective measures in their encounter. The conclusion was that the ones who used a gun were able to reason with the offender or the offender just ran away and the victims of these crimes maintained their life and property. (Nisbet, 1990) The two main reasons for using firearms in self defense are for safety or self preservation and for maintaining your possessions and property. Activists for gun control would argue that citizens could use other forms of self defense for safety. The problem with that is, is that guns are easy to learn how to use and can be learned in minutes whereas a knife or martial arts can take years to master. Gottlieb noted in an analysis that the various means of self defense (fighting, handguns, running away or yelling) when used against an attacker or criminal showed the single most effective means of thwarting an attacker or criminal was the use of a handgun. (Gottlieb, 1991) Using handguns for protection does not require years of practice or patience. The awareness across the nation that guns kill has become second grade knowledge and the facts prove that firearms are successful means for the use of self defense. The prosecution and enforcement of laws of criminals and offenders are also elements of concern of whether or not gun controls lowered crime rates. The NRA makes claims that gun controls wouldn't be needed if the lawmakers would only enforce the laws currently in place. For Example, if they increased the penalties for repeat offenders who use firearms to commit crimes there would be a decrease in gun related violence. As well as, placing a mandatory sentence on such individuals would also lower it due to criminals being in the prisons for a longer period of time. Many criminals these days are just being slapped on the hand and hit with minimal jail time if any at all for crimes with the use of a firearm. More laws are being enforced today and we are prosecuting more criminals but we need tougher penalties and stricter enforcement of these laws to help reduce crime and violence involving guns. What we don't need is more gun control policies, that avenue of approach will only make our law abiding citizens defenseless in protecting themselves and their families.

"When the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually...I ask, who are the militia? They consist of now of the whole people, except a few public officers. But I cannot say who will be the militia of the future day. If that paper on the table gets no alteration, the militia of the future day may not consist of all classes, high and low, and rich and poor..." (George Mason, Virginia Constitution Convention)

The last area of debate between the pro and anti gun control supporters is the Second Amendment. The debate revolves around the meaning of the words. In order to understand the meaning one must know the history of how it was established and the roles that firearms played in creating this amendment. The American colonists were beginning to feel the oppressive thumb of British rule and began to oppose British rule. It was at this time that regular citizens began to gather together and pick up their arms in revolt. On April 19 1775, A handful of colonist militia and minutemen stood before the British Army, who was considered the greatest military force in the world, in defiance for their rights. (History, 2003)These militias were not formed from the military, they were fathers and sons, and they were farmers, blacksmiths, and carpenters of a normal society just wanting their freedom and rights as we do today. So they grabbed their sons, picked up their guns and kissed their families goodbye and fought for their freedoms. Our fore fathers understood this war against oppression could only be won with the help of its citizens and with their guns in hand. Our Fore Fathers got it right. Our Bill of Rights was not built to grant us our rights it was built to preserve our already pre-existing individual rights. The Second Amendment 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." (States, 1791) What this Amendment basically says is all citizens of this country to have the right to own and use firearms, and any laws that may try to control or infringe that right should be considered unconstitutional. Others have a different interpretation to this Amendment, gun control activists would argue that the word "militia" and "people" is not a reference to citizens but is references the National Guard Units for the states. Proponents for gun control push back by referring back to the beginning when the Amendment was made. The word "militia" and "people" do in fact refer to the citizens of this country as it is the common people that made up the militia and the minutemen not the National Guard for the states during the Revolutionary War. Gottlieb mentions that the rights of the people are guaranteed by the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution. The interpretations of these Amendments, in the eyes of the Supreme Court are they are to be considered as individual rights of the people. So if the Supreme Court and the Constitution see these Amendments as the rights of the people as stated in the Bill of Rights and the same words are used elsewhere in this document, then it would be correct to say that it should have the same meaning in the Second Amendment. (Gottlieb, 1991) So the question is, if the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledges that the word "people" is considered an individual right, why is it that the gun control activists cannot agree? The Constitution is a living breathing document. In other words, it has the ability to be changed and like any other document can be interpreted and twisted to mean whatever the reader wants it to be. It is hard for people to understand what our Fore Fathers was exactly trying to say, it was a different time back then, we just have to not read in-between the lines. The Second Amendment is not difficult to understand, it is our right to keep and bear arms.

"And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms; or to raise standing armies, unless necessary for the defense of the United States, or of some one or more of them; or to prevent the people from petitioning, in a peaceable and orderly manner, the federal legislature, for a redress of grievances; or to subject the people to unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons, papers or possessions." (Samuel Adams, Debates of the Massachusetts Convention of 1788)

In conclusion, the statistics and research has ultimately shown us the gun controls have little and even no effect on the crime rate in our cities. Gun control does not take our criminals off our streets, it does not stop the killings or the assaults and rapes that our on the news and in our cities every day. The only thing Gun Control is doing is keeping our law-abiding citizens the ability to protect themselves and their families if the need should ever arise. It has been proven that when the citizens of this country are armed, criminals are more apprehensive of committing a crime against others because of fear for their own lives. Gun control is neither a realistic or effective means in reducing crime; therefore we must press our efforts in controlling crime, not controlling the ownership of firearms. Benjamin Franklin said "Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Our Fore Fathers who designed the Second Amendment owned firearms. Our Fore Fathers were just like us, citizens, hard working and law-abiding citizens that they used those firearms against those who would oppress their rights allowing citizens today to enjoy these rights we hold most dear in this country. Alexander Hamilton Says it best.

"The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed." (Alexander Hamilton, the Federalist Papers at 184-188)