by Christina Nordby '19
From Virginia Tech to Parkland, it is clear that the United States has a gun violence problem. In the first two months of 2019 alone, there have been forty-eight mass shootings and four school shootings (Gun Violence Archive). While all Americans want to ensure the safety of this nation, there is serious disagreement over the solution. Historically, Americans have taken two major approaches to this problem. One embraces the protections granted by the Second Amendment and encourages all Americans to be armed. The other places stricter regulations to limit access to guns.
Those who support gun control and those who do not operate from the same core American values of safety and freedom. The pro-gun view tends to be that guns are fundamental to our identity as Americans, our right to self-defense, and the protection of our liberties. Therefore, many gun rights advocates argue that key to preventing school and other shootings is armed citizens and the elimination of gun-free zones.
Though well-intentioned, gun-free zones allow gunmen to enter an area knowing that people are unarmed and thus vulnerable. Furthermore, some argue that properly trained and armed teachers could both discourage and stop an active shooter. Beyond the issue of mass shootings, proponents of gun-rights also maintain that gun control laws do not stop criminals; instead, gun ownership by law-abiding Americans hinders criminals who can easily access the illegal gun market.
Moreover, in a 2008 case, District of Columbia vs. Heller, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects individuals’ rights to possess a firearm— unconnected with service in a militia— for purposes such as self-defense. Therefore, D.C.’s ban on handguns and restrictions on rifles and shotguns were unconstitutional and violated the right to safety (Supreme Court of the United States; District of Columbia et al. v. Heller). The Heller case solidifies the view that individuals have the right to possess guns for protection and, hence, any further limitations that infringed upon a person’s right to self-defense would be deemed unconstitutional. In short, gun right supporters view that the safest option for Americans is to follow the given Constitutional right to own guns in order to protect themselves and their property.
Conversely, gun control advocates believe that stricter gun control laws are essential to ensuring a safe environment for all. Proponents of gun control believe laws, ranging from increasing background checks to bans on high capacity magazines, would reduce the number of gun deaths and frequency of mass shootings. A 2013 study by the American Journal of Public Health states “Ecological studies have correlated higher levels of gun ownership rates in the United States with higher national rates of homicide than are experienced in other countries” (Siegel, Ross, & King). Based on this evidence, gun control advocates believe that by regulating and reducing the number of guns in the US, stricter laws would decrease the number of gun-related murders. In contrast to gun rights supporters, the majority of gun control proponents agree that the foundation of public safety lies in strict gun-control.
Many gun owners have called for greater firearm restrictions since the Parkland shooting. In a Quinnipiac poll, over sixty percent of Americans support better control laws with fifty percent of them being gun owners (US. Support for Gun Control Tops 2-1). Despite having opposing views on solutions, all Americans want to ensure the safety of our nation and protect the right for children to attend school without the fear of being killed.
However, neither the regulatory approach nor the arming approach have worked. In 2017, both California and Texas had over three thousand gun-related deaths despite having drastically different laws ranging from permissive to restrictive (Firearm Mortality by State). Their common denominator, however, still allowing guns in their states.
The presence of guns in our society is deeply problematic. Therefore, repealing the Second Amendment and banning guns is the most viable and direct option to ensure the safety and freedom of Americans.
From new means of protection to a more cohesive relationship between the citizens and the government, the US no longer needs to rely on personal gun ownership for safety. There are now alternative, less-lethal methods of self-protection. Perhaps an amendment that guarantees a general right to protection would be more effective, and lessen the reliance on guns as a means of self-protection, and encourage the use of other measures.
Americans should address the root cause of gun-violence and repeal the Second Amendment to remove the barrier of gun ownership as a Constitutional right. Only then would debates about how to end gun violence and ensure safety in the United States be truly left to the consideration of the people.