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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Gun Control and the Second Amendment

'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, Constitution of the United States of America. (1)

This is the Second Amendment which the pro-gun advocates claim will be infringed if gun-control legislation is passed in the United States.

Gun advocates often quote only a portion of the Second Amendment, '... the right of the people to keep and bear arms ... '.  Yet, before arriving at this one phrase, the Second Amendment has a preamble that establishes the context and intention of the Amendment. The Second Amendment is clear that the right of the people to keep and bear arms is dependent on the necessity for a Militia, and a 'well-regulated' Militia at that.

A militia is a civilian army. At the time the Second Amendment was passed, the United States Army was very small and relied on the use of militia to aid in its defence. The Second Amendment clearly states 'being necessary'.  Today, the USA has one of the world's largest and strongest defence forces as well as a large contingent of civilian militia in the form of the National Guard. The arming of every citizen in the country is not necessary to the security of the nation.

One of the arguments used by pro-gun advocates is that the arming of civilians is necessary in the event of a tyrannical government. Just what is a tyrannical government in their eyes? Listening to many of them, it is a government that would regulate access to guns. So are such advocates also traitors if they declare their intention to overthrow such a 'tyrannical' government? In most countries, that would amount to treason.

Another argument is self-defence. Given that the United States is one of the most violent countries in the  western world (2), it is understandable that many of its citizens live in fear. However, arming civilians is not the answer. It merely means that criminals have a soft-target if they wish to illegally acquire a weapon. They know that they can mug someone or burgle a house and the chances are they will score a free firearm. I would challenge anyone to pull a weapon in time if they are taken by surprise. How many would see a king-hit coming or even have time to pull out a gun in such a situation?

Of course, the old chestnut, 'guns don't kill people, people kill people' is logically weak. People using guns kill people and they tend to kill more people than those using other easily obtainable weapons, such as knives or baseball bats.

As a stark contrast, on the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, a man wielding a knife attacked children at a school in China. He injured 22 children and 1 adult. There were NO fatalities. (3) The outcome would have been very different if he was also armed with an assault rifle as the shooter at Sandy Hook was.

The pro-gun lobby has blamed both violent video games and mentally ill people for the mass murders. Most people who play violent video games will not feel the urge to go on a real-life rampage. Of course there are always those who are disturbed enough to kill, whether they play violent games or not. Nonetheless, blaming violent video games or mentally ill people is an admission that the rifles should be controlled, considering the number of violent video games out there and the levels of mental illness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in four people over the age of 18 suffers from a mental disorder, equating to approximately 57.7 million people. (4) Having a mental illness does not mean a person will become a murderer. However, with the prevalence of mental illness, surely the logic is not to arm people who may be inclined to commit violent crime, but instead to provide public funding of mental health programs.

There are even those who claim that the violence is related to prayer being banned in schools. Prayer has not been banned in schools. Public schools are not allowed to organise prayer, however students are free to pray under the 'free exercise' clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (1). The Government cannot prohibit individual prayer as long as it is not disrupting other students. If Christian students are not praying in school, then this is not the fault of the government. Additionally, why aren't these people praying for the safety of their children at school instead of inventing fallacious arguments to justify the provision of firearms to mass-murderers?

More guns does not equal less crime. America has more civilian-owned guns than all of the developed countries in the world, and has the highest rate of murder by firearms of any country in the developed world. (5)

Many of the recent mass shootings in the USA have been done by gunmen using assault rifles, such as Aurora, Oregon Shopping Mall and Sandy Hook Elementary School. However, the largest mass shooting, Virginia Tech, was done with two semi-automatic pistols.

While there have been a number of Supreme Court cases which have upheld the rights of individuals to 'bear arms', the US government must regulate the access to these arms given the carnage that has eventuated from access to guns, particularly from people using semi-automatics and assault rifles. No civilian has a need for an assault rifle.

Regulation does not violate the Second Amendment and is, in fact, a requirement of the Second Amendment. Given the level of gun-related murders and assaults, firearm regulation and its enforcement is well overdue.

The Second Amendment was meant to protect the security of the United States of America, not to arm civilians against each other.


1. United States Government Printing Office. 'Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America'.

2. Healy, Kieran (Sociologist at Duke University). 'America is a Violent Country'. 20 July 2012. Accessed 9 January 2013.

3. Bodeen, Christopher. 'China School Attack: Knife-Wielding Man Injures 22 Kids, 1 Adult Outside Primary School'. The Huffington Post, 14 December 2012. Accessed 9 January 2013.

4. United States Government. National Institute of Mental Health. 'The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America'. Accessed 9 January 2013.

5. 'Gun homicides and gun ownership listed by country', The Guardian online, 22 July 2012. Accessed 9 January 2013.

1 comment:

  1. in Australia, gun deaths as a percentage of the motor vehicle deaths is just above 17%, and Australia has strict gun control laws.

    In the USA, gun deaths as a percentage of the motor vehicle deaths is 14.5%.

    I guess gun related stories sell more newspapers, and achieve higher TV ratings, than do motor vehicle accidents. Motor vehicle accidents do not have the same 'shock' or 'horror' value that gun incidence have.

    This is not an advocacy for or against gun control.

    I just find it interesting that we (as a society) are more concerned about guns, then we are about cars, when there is a higher probability that you will die in a motor vehicle accident than being shot.

    just a thought