Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Let’s be reasonable; an objective look at constitutional gun questions

Published: April 19, 2013
Section: Opinions

Recently in America, debates about gun rights have raged through social discourse. But why should so much debate over this issue exist? After all, the constitution does clearly say, the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. It shouldn’t be possible to argue with such an unequivocal statement. This commonplace paraphrasing of the second amendment, however, is nothing more than misleading context. The actual text of the Second Amendment reads, “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.”

Out of context, it appears that the founding fathers were declaring the right of individual citizens to own guns. But when read in context, the Second Amendment takes on a completely different tone. The term “well regulated militia” hardly gives the right for any citizen to own an assault rifle or thousands of rounds of ammunition. The closest entity to describe “a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state” would be a police force. The obvious question in response to that would be, who protects us from the police force? This is a moot point, as nowhere in the Second Amendment does it say anything about protecting citizens from an abusive government. It is purely to maintain security in our free state. In fact, the very knowledge that the Second Amendment is the only amendment in the Bill of Rights that contains a reason for its inclusion should force us to respect the wording even more.

Although I would argue that the Supreme Court has interpreted the constitution incorrectly, my opinion doesn’t matter. In America, the constitutional law spawns from the way in which the Supreme Court interprets the Constitution. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of private citizens owning guns, I have no problem with it. I even completely understand the appeal of owning guns. I have fired an M-16 at a shooting range. It’s an experience that I can only describe as a potent blend of exhilaration, fun and daring. So now that we have established that citizens are allowed to own guns, why is there so much opposition to gun regulation?

The adamant opposition to gun control stems from a fear of government. It is quite easy to understand the root of this fear. Throughout the course of human history, governments have abused their power against the very societies they are supposed to lead and protect. The nature of why the founding fathers created America makes it understandable or even obvious that Americans are weary of this. That is what makes this country great. There are always citizens who question the extent of our freedom and thereby allow us to remain in a perpetual state of improvement, forever striving for the ideals of justice and freedom. Or that’s the dream, anyway. However, that does not mean this fear is always positive.

As of late, this positive fear has descended from a useful feeling of distrust to a crippling paranoia that stagnates progress that is desperately needed in this day and age. With that being said, the notion that guns will protect you from an abusive government is ludicrous. Does anyone truly believe that if tomorrow the U.S. government declared war on its citizens, an assault rifle would protect one’s family any better than a water pistol? It was established in the Bill of Rights that guns should be for the security of a free state, not to give Americans a false sense of security from tyranny. Hardly anyone in this country believes that citizens should be allowed to own nuclear weapons, grenade launchers or tanks. So where do we draw the line? Certainly well before any weapon that would even hope to have a chance in a fight with the U.S. military.

It is very easy to say, “Well, if we ban guns, criminals will still be able to attain guns illegally, so what’s the point?” My response to that is simply that it depends on what we are looking to prevent. I don’t argue that if we control amounts of ammunition or ban assault rifles that criminals will be unable to attain them. However, it could very easily prevent James Holmes from stockpiling 6,000 rounds of ammunition in his apartment. It could prevent Adam Lanza from having easy access to a rifle that allowed him to murder nearly 30 children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary. I understand that Americans should have a right to protect themselves with firearms, but where do we draw the line? Surely, owning thousands of rounds of ammunition and an assault rifle is not necessary for self defense. If a burglar invades your home, a simple revolver will work just fine if you are trained. It doesn’t make sense to allow the public access to weapons that are primarily for mass killings.

The concept of freedom does not imply that you are free to do as you please; it implies the exact opposite. It dictates that each member of a free society has a responsibility to everyone else in society. It means that if I buy a gun, I must be properly trained so I have a minimal chance of causing an accident. Nobody would advocate that driver’s education isn’t necessary for someone to own a car. So why wouldn’t we require anyone who seeks to buy a gun to enroll in a gun safety and training class?

I advocate for gun safety courses and more extensive background checks for anyone who wishes to buy a firearm. In addition, given the context of the Constitution, there is no question Americans should be allowed guns. But if we are seeking to prevent tragedies that have become far too common, we must ban assault rifles, massive purchases of ammunition and do away with weapons that are necessary for our protection.