Term Paper: 2nd Amendment the Right to Bear Arms

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Second Amendment Rights: A Discussion

The Second Amendment, while developed long ago, is still extremely relevant today as evidenced by the huge political and cultural firestorm created any time gun rights are put into question. We will take a look at the Second Amendment; determine its relevance, the pros vs. cons, and whether gun control works. We will also discuss if the Second Amendment has been tested in today's Supreme Court using the recent landmark case, District of Columbia v. Heller (2008). This case was the first Supreme Court case in United States history to decide whether the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense. It has become an important beacon of light for those on the pro-gun side of the debate and it has also provided many gun owners comfort in knowing that the United States Supreme Court is working to uphold their rights as an American. As you will see, this right is still extremely relevant today, as people continue to bear arms and hold physical power and the citizen's ability to arm themselves as necessary and prudent rights. Without the right to bear arms, the citizens of the United States would be powerless in preventing government tyranny.

History

Besides using guns for personal protection, an American citizen is also free to utilize firearms for hunting or other legal uses. Many gun rights activists do not feel as though the government is attacking these uses directly, but instead feel very strongly that owning a firearm helps to balance out the power and potential force that the government could exert on the rest of the citizens. Ideally, the Second Amendment is useful in keeping an oppressive government from physically harming its citizens, or making sure that the people still have a voice when it comes to drastic governmental measures or the possibility of necessary revolution or government overthrow. The actual verbiage of the Second Amendment is quite clear, "The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution 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." (Levin, 1971). While this is contained within the United States Constitution, a document that was written well over 200 years ago, it is quite clear that its words leave little room for interpretation.

Traditionally, the right to keep and bear arms was an amendment added that affects militia members. How the term "militia" is interpreted has a lot to do with a person's feelings on gun control. The right to a well-regulated militia is just as much a part of this amendment as the right to keep and bear arms. Without a militia, the forefathers felt that the government could easily overrun the United States, or that the government could use the military against its own people (O'Connor, K., & Sabato, L. 2000). Originally the Second Amendment allowed citizens to share in the power of keeping their own government in check. The Second Amendment rights have become part of the contemporary American landscape, and gun control laws and efforts to curb gun ownership have sprouted up regularly for the past few decades. In the past, the Second Amendment was a much more practical law, since guns were owned by people who used them to hunt for food or when the U.S. military was still in its infancy and people had to supply their own weapons.

Gun Control Issues and Gun Culture

The conclusion that many people come to regarding gun ownership and crime rates is that the more guns that are present the lower the crime rate. This in fact, is not supported statistically. In fact, history shows that the fewer guns there are in a location the lower the crime rate. People might feel safer with a gun, but some of the most violent and crime-plagued cities in America have passed gun ownership regulations in order to cut down on crime rates. This tactic has been employed unsuccessfully in Chicago as well as Washington DC (Lott, 2000). The type of firearm however, has much to do with crime rates. Handguns are closely linked to criminal activity. While not unheard of, it is rare to see robberies and crimes being committed with long guns. Handgun activity, which is a product of 19th century technological developments in cartages, guns, and marketing, has changed the face of gun ownership and put the argument of gun control vs. The right to bear arms squarely in the center of a political power struggle. Author Lott (2000) argues that more guns equals less crime, and uses the statistical data of Chicago to prove his point. According to his research, in places where concealed weapons were allowed, crime rates went down almost uniformly (Lott, 2000). This includes murder, rape, violent crime, and burglary rates. It is little wonder why weapons help to regulate crime rates. Criminals are far less apt to attack someone if they know there is a good chance that they are armed. Criminals prefer unarmed victims.

Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Cooper, longtime gun activist and author writes, "The media insist that crime is the major concern of the American public today. In this connection they generally push the point that a disarmed society would be a crime-free society. They will not accept the truth that if you take all the guns off the street you still will have a crime problem, whereas if you take the criminals off the street you cannot have a gun problem." (Cooper, 2003). Many totalitarian regimes have passed gun ownership restrictions, including the Nazis and Mussolini's fascists. Gun rights activists often use this justification in order to argue that taking away guns is one of the first acts of an authoritarian government. Cooper's statement and the attitudes toward gun control that many within the gun culture possess represent a cultural focus on self-reliance and independent power. For many, the idea of gun ownership harkens back to the days of the American Revolution, where patriots fought against a tyrannical government for independence. Many Americans believe that gun rights are one of the only things standing between them and an authoritarian government.

Many other developed nations do not have gun rights. Their crime rates are significantly lower than those in most U.S. cities and their governments have not begun a tyrannical takeover just because the citizenry isn't armed. One of the best examples of these countries is Japan. It is very difficult to obtain a firearms license there, and even when a person does obtain on, it is rare to see one issued for anything except firearms collecting (Jacobs, 2002). Australia and New Zealand do not have a Second Amendment, yet they have mandatory gun licensing laws that keep guns out of the hands of minors (Jacobs, 2002). Neither of these countries ranks very high when it comes to countries with high crime rates. However, these countries do not have the same cultural background as the United States. They did not have to ever fight back against a tyrannical government in the same way that Americans did during the Revolutionary war, so their experience and national history is quite different from Americans' (Lott, 2000). This goes a long way in helping to explain why the United States and other developed nations have such different attitudes regarding gun control and why Americans are so fearful that gun control is a product of and precursor to tyrannical government oppression.

Certainly the founding fathers could have never envisioned such a scenario where people were fighting for their rights to own guns. Back in the late 1700's, people had to own guns for survival, as they were used to hunt and for personal protection. No police forces or armies existed the day the United States Constitution was adopted, and the founding fathers intended that the "militia" be every free, able-bodied man in the nation (Levin, 1971). It is these men's duty to uphold the Constitution and helps prevent the potential for government tyranny through government regulations and actions. The way in which the Second Amendment is interpreted sets the stage for how laws and regulations are enacted, and ultimately how American citizens will be affected by these potential changes.

District of Columbia v. Heller

Much of the debate recently about the Second Amendment has come from those who argue that the right to keep and bear arms only applies to members of a militia, and not to average American citizens (O'Connor, K., & Sabato, L. 2000). One very recent landmark gun rights case came before the Supreme Court in 2008. The case, District of Columbia v. Heller was decided by a single vote, putting those on each side of the gun debate further at odds with each other. Many of the Justices felt as though an overturning or modification of the Second Amendment would represent a threat to traditional American values as well as to precedent, and the decision was 5 to 4 in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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