Citizens constitutional rights

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Political Science

Do Law Abiding Citizens Have A Constitutional Rights To Carry A Hand Gun For Self Protection?


The Gun Control Act was established in the year 1968, the control act is also known as GCA or GCA68.the law is also codified as chapter 44 which is under the Title 18 of the United States Code (Wiliams, p.112). The Gun Control Act is a federal law that is aimed at controlling the firearm industry; it also regulates the licensed fire arm owners within the United States. Its most import role is the regulation of interstate commerce that relates to firearms, it therefore bars non licensed buyers and sellers from engaging in any kind of firearm transfers or transaction. Title 1 of the US federal laws is the GCA while Title II is the National firearms Act (NFA) of 1934.The body that enforces the Gun Control Act and the National Firearms Act is known as the ATF (which is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The issue of hand gun possession has generated a lot of heated public debates with regard to the whether possessing a hand gun is beneficial to the individual who has it in their possession.

This paper seeks to explore the impact or the effects of possessing a handgun by assessing whether the law abiding citizens are constitutionally mandated to carry different forms of firearms with the aim of protecting themselves. The discussion shall therefore be centered on addressing the constitutional provisions of the law with relation to hand gun possession by the law abiding citizens, this discussion shall be addressed through subtitles namely; Historical overview, the arguments in favor, arguments against and finally the position of this analysis based on the findings from different research materials.

Before discussing the significance of law abiding citizens possessing or carrying hand guns, attention shall be shifted to the relevant institutions that control or regulate the use, transfer and the possession of the firearms. The relevant institution in question is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). This is a federal law enforcement agency whose prime objective is to discharge regulatory obligations within the United States Department of Justice (Rothbard, p.43). Hence the responsibility of the ATF is to engage in investigation and the prevention of the federal offenses which entails the unlawful use, manufacture, and possession of firearms; this implies that the institution regulates the sale, transportation and the possession of firearms and ammunitions. The ATF was initially part of the United States Department of Treasury and was formed in the year 1886 and was previously known as the Revenue laboratory (which was in the Bureau of Internal revenue). In order to fully comprehend the constitutional provisions of the law that protects or gives rights to law abiding citizens with regard to possessing or carrying of hand guns, focus must be shifted to the critical analysis of the Second amendment.

Second Amendment

This is also known as amendment II and was done to the United States Constitution. It must be noted that this amendment is part of the United States bill of Rights. Since the aim of this paper is to establish whether the law abiding citizens are mandated by the law to carry or bear firearms specifically the handguns, the discussion of this paper shall be restricted to the importance of the Second Amendment in relation to its function, which is to protect the rights of licensed citizens to possess and bear arms.

According to Hall (p.27), the adoption of the second Amendment was done in the year 1791 on the 15th of December together with the bill of rights. This Second Amendment of the constitution has generated a lot of disagreements especially with regard to its interpretation (This was noted by the American Bar Association).Evidence has shown that the Second Amendment to the constitution was not really considered as important as it is today, this was after the ratification of the bill of rights. The interpretation of the Second Amendment by the Supreme courts has drawn a lot of interest and to some extent even caused criticism. The congress participated in passing the bill which offered protection or simply gave rights to American citizens to poses weapons. The section of the bill states that “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”

A handgun under the law can be described as any pistol, firearm or revolver that was originally designed with the objective of ejecting or firing a solid projectile, ball, missile or even bullet through the means of a cartridge or shell or it can also be through the action of an explosive through the use of a one hand. The term possess can also be described within the legal terms as the intentional control of a handgun this is coupled with the knowledge of the character. Incase an individual illegally owns or posses a handgun, it can be categorized into three kinds of possessions namely; the actual possession, which means that the individual is in possession of a handgun and is well aware of its functions and capabilitites,the individual is also aware that he/she is possessing the handgun.

Historical Overview

In order to understand whether the constitution provides rights to those who bear or carry arms for the sake of self protection, then the history of the second amendment must be properly understood .This section of the paper shall delve into the historical background of firearm possession within England. It must be noted that the term militia had its origins from the England. King Henry the second during the 12th century had allowed all the freemen within his country to bear arms for the sole purpose of defending themselves (Dijk et al., p.56). King Henry the third also gave directives to his subjects especially those who were between the age of fifteen and fifty to carry arms, his decision was pure based on the need to capture suspicious subjects in the absence of the police or the military. The law of the land required that the designated subjects offer protection to the King by ensuring that they provided the kingdom with peace, tranquility and also assisted the king in controlling riots.

In the year 1285 the Winchester Statute declared that all the districts were to be held accountable for crimes that occurred within their jurisdiction and went unsolved, this therefore compelled the citizens to bear arms as an obligation to fighting the crimes within the districts in response to the wishes of the King (Cukier and Sidel, p.69). The reign of the catholic King James II took an interesting twist when the Protestants overthrew him from power and took control over the parliament where they implemented laws through amendments, which allowed the Protestants the rights to carry and own firearms for self defence.This is so far the most notable historical event that is recorded as the origin to the law that allowed individuals to bear arms.

The law stated that, “the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defense suitable to their conditions as allowed by law” .This historical occurrence greatly influenced the shaping and the making of the bill of rights in the United States and England. Many experts like Sir William Blackstone made an effort to describe the rights to arms in England during the eighteenth century; he described these rights in his commentaries on the laws of England. The English common law also had provisions for the recognition of English subject's possession of arms. It must be noted that this particular law was selectively implemented in England, implying that most of the English subjects were not given authority or even allowed to carry or bear arms


The right to bear or carry arms in America began long time ago. This right was mostly championed by the American Settlers. There were different reasons associated with the possession of arms by the American settlers. These reasons include the need to repel invasions, the need to fight and even deter undemocratic governments, the need for self defense and finally participating in the enforcement of the law e.g. the technique used by King James to encourage the subjects to participate in maintenance of law and order in case the police or the ,military were absent. Many critiques like Dave kopel had questioned the claim of the Second Amendment on the right to poses, simply because he felt that the law had no relation with the issue of racism, especially due to the fact that many experts had tried to link the issue of slavery and the bill.

Arguments In Favor Of

It must be remembered that the law abiding citizens have a constitutional right to carry or even bear weapons, this is so because of the constitutional provisions of the law. These law abiding citizens have been mandated by the second amendment to the American Constitution (Peterson, p.34). The increasing wave of crime within the United States of America especially from gangs or gang related violence have pushed the citizens to acquire hand guns in their homes in order to ensure they are able to defend themselves incase of attacks. Most of the Homicides reported are as a result of gang violence which has become a real threat to the safety of the American society.

Even though the security agencies try their very best within the Law to ensure that the citizens are safe it is common knowledge that there are many challenges that these security agencies face and therefore can not offer 24 hour security to these citizens who are faced with the insecurity threats. The different forms of violence like rape, violent robberies especially in stores, car high jacking have really affected the citizens and can not just be wished away hence there is need to do something about it.

It is evident that many Americans are already in possession of guns, the Gallup poll in that was conducted during the 2000 presidential election showed that out of every ten Americans their were already four of them who possessed guns for their self defense (Hamilton, Madison and Jay, p.73). A random survey which was done on the gun owners revealed that three quarters of this number offhand gun owners supported the idea of owning licensed guns ,only a few of the hand gun owners rejected the need of licensing the hand gums.

The survey also showed that three fifth of this number were of the idea that the hand gun regulations should be more strict and that the federal law should ensure it maintains very high control and regulation on the purchase and sale of firearms to ensure that the fire arms do not find their ways to the wrong people (criminals or those who can potentially use the firearms to cause danger to other people).The Amendment allowed the citizens to own guns because experts had assessed the potential threat that faces these citizens and concluded or discovered that the first line of defense for these law abiding citizen was the ability to defend themselves against criminals incase of an attack.

It has become increasingly challenging for law enforcement officers to respond in time to some of these attacks, this is because some of these attacks are random and do not show a particular pattern hence the best way of ensuring the safety of these citizens is by arming them (Vizzard, p.82).

The best way of ensuring that these armed citizens act responsible or use the guns responsibly is by ensuring that they are all exposed to licensing procedures that would ensure that the gun owners are completely vetted and that the gun owners are only given the guns after being taught how to handle the guns. This training is very important because it would help the citizens know how to handle the guns and therefore not to pose a direct threat to themselves and also endanger the lives of other citizens. They should also be taught how to maintain the guns simply because a faulty gun is also a danger to the owner and other members of the family.

The storage of the firearms of within the houses requires a lot of precaution and sensitivity lest the gun falls in the hands of children who could unknowingly use the firearms against the family members and therefore cause harm to them. It is therefore important for the state to establish a comprehensive program that would monitor the use of these guns in a responsible and safe manner.

Arguments Against

This section of the discussion shall focus on the studies that have been conducted by different agencies to establish whether constitutional mandate or right given to the law abiding citizens is actually beneficial or is counter productive. The main study that will be used in this particular discussion is the America Journal of Public health which is in advance of the November print Publication 2009.The main debate in the United States has been centered around the question whether the handguns are protective or dangerous. The study presented in this journal was researched by Charles C, Branas, who is a PhD holder and also an associate Professor of Epidemiology. The Pen study revealed that an average of five citizens from Philadelphia were shot on a daily basis and that out of the five incidences there was one death as a result of the gun shot injuries.

The conclusion made by the research team sent shock waves to security agencies simply because the research showed that defensive gun utilization was possible but the showed very little or low percentages of success rate. Meaning, the possession of the guns demands comprehensive safety countermeasures in order to avert the possible harm the guns could pose to the owners and other citizens. According to Dwyer (p.1), less than 10% of those charged with 2nd degree murders are actually convicted of the charges. There is still a lot of loopholes in our legal systems.

My Own Opinion

It is important for the constitution to allow the law abiding citizens to posses the guns largely because of the increased wave of crime which threatens the safety of these citizens. The ever increasing population has also led to an overwhelmed security agencies who can therefore not offer the round the clock security top the citizens, this type of round the clock security to the citizens might be too costly to the tax payers, the states and the federal Government. The constantly changing techniques of criminals also contribute to whether the citizens should bear weapons (handguns) in order to protect themselves.

Works Cited

Cukier Wendy and Vicotr W. Sidel. The global gun epidemic: from Saturday night specials to

AK-47s. California: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006.

Dijk, J.J.M. et al. Experiences of crime across the world: key findings from the 1989

international crime survey. Washington: Brill Archive, 1990.

Dwyer Jim. When Handguns Are Accompanied by Stupidity, Anything Can Happen. The New

York Times. December 02, 2008. October 07, 2009.

Hall Kermit L. The Oxford guide to United States Supreme Court decisions. Cambridge: Oxford

University Press US, 2001.

Hamilton Alexander, James Madison and John Jay. The Federalist Papers. California: Filiquarian

Publishing, LLC., 2007.

Rothbard Murray Newton. For a New Liberty. 2nd ed. Berlin: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2006.

Peterson Christine. The U.S. Constitution. New York: Capstone Press, 2008.

Vizzard, William. J. Shots in the dark: the policy, politics, and symbolism of gun control. Berlin:

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000.

Wiliams Jean Kinney. The U.S. Constitution. Washington: Compass Point Books, 2003.