Should There Be Stricter Gun Control Laws? Reasons for and Against Gun Control Rights-based arguments

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Should There Be Stricter Gun Control Laws?

Reasons for and Against Gun Control

Rights-based arguments

Rights based arguments are based upon the most fundamental question about gun control; whether or to what degree the government has the authority to regulate guns.

Fundamental Right

One point of view about firearms is that gun possession is a fundamental civil right, intimately related to the right to life, and so does not depend on the US Constitution. In this view, arguments about whether gun restrictions reduce or increase violent crime are irrelevant: "I am not here engaged in ... recommending ... policy prescriptions on the basis of the promised or probable results [on crime] ... Thus these essays are not fundamentally about guns at all. They are, foremost, about ... the kind of people we intend to be ... and the ethical and political consequences of decisions [to control firearms]."[1] Jeff Snyder, an author who has written on the topic terms the main principle behind gun control "the instrumental theory of salvation:" that, lacking the ability to change the violent intent in criminals, we often shift focus to the instrument in an attempt to "limit our ability to hurt ourselves, and one another."[2] His work discusses the consequences that flow from conditioning the liberties of all citizens upon the behavior of criminals.

The fundamental right view was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2010 when it decided McDonald v. Chicago.[3]

It is clear that the Framers . . . counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty.

The Second Amendment Argument

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted on December 15, 1791, 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."[4] Disagreement about the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is a touchstone of modern political debate about guns in America.

Before District of Columbia v. Heller there was a difference of opinion about whether or not the second amendment included an individual right.[5][6][7][8] The Heller case concluded that there was indeed such a right. There remain groups of people who believe that this was an incorrect interpretation by the court.

After the Heller decision there was an increased amount of attention on whether or not the Second Amendment applied to the states. That issue was decided in 2010 as part of McDonald v. Chicago where the Supreme Court held that it is incorporated.

State constitutions

Each of the fifty states has its own laws regarding guns. Most of the states' constitutions provide for some form of state-level right to keep and bear arms with only seven states remaining silent on the issue.a[›] Many states' constitutional provisions for firearm rights are at least similar to, if not directly derived from, the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. Hawaii's constitution simply copies the text of the Second Amendment verbatim,[9] while North Carolina and South Carolina begin with the same but continue with an injunction against maintaining standing armies.[10][11] Alaska also begins with the full text of the Second Amendment, but adds that the right "shall not be denied or infringed by the State or a political subdivision of the State".[12] Rhode Island, on the other hand, subtracts the first half of the Second Amendment, leaving only, "[t]he right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed".[13]

The majority of the remaining states' constitutions differ from the text of the United States Constitution primarily in their clarification of exactly to whom the right belongs or by the inclusion of additional, specific protections or restrictions. Seventeen states refer to the right to keep and bear arms as being an individual right, with Utah and Alaska referring to it explicitly as "[t]he individual right to keep and bear arms",[12][14] while the other fifteen refer to the right as belonging to "every citizen",[15] "all individuals",[16] "all persons",[17] or another, very similar phraseb[›]. In contrast are four states which make no mention whatever of an individual right or of defense of one's self as a valid basis for the right to arms. Arkansas, Massachusetts, and Tennessee all state that the right is "for the common defense",[18][19][20] while Virginia's constitution explicitly indicates that the right is derived from the need for a militia to defend the state.[21]

Most state constitutions go on to enumerate one or more appropriate reasons for the keeping of arms. Twenty-four states include self-defense as a valid, protected use of arms;c[›] twenty-eight cite defense of the state as a proper purpose.d[›] Ten states extend the right to defense of home and/or property,e[›] five include the defense of family,f[›] and six add hunting and recreation.g[›] Idaho is uniquely specific in its provision that "[n]o law shall impose licensure, registration, or special taxation on the ownership or possession of firearms or ammunition. Nor shall any law permit the confiscation of firearms, except those actually used in the commission of a felony".[22] Fifteen state constitutions include specific restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. Florida's constitution calls for a three-day waiting period for all modern cartridge handgun purchases, with exceptions for handgun purchases by those holding a CCW license, or for anyone who purchases a black-powder handgun.[23] Illinois prefaces the right by indicating that it is "[s] the police power".[24] Florida and the remaining thirteen states with specific restrictions all carry a provision to the effect that the state legislature may enact laws regulating the carrying, concealing, and/or wearing of arms.h[›]

Right of self-defense

Many gun rights advocates believe Second Amendment protects the right to own guns for individual self defense, hunting, and target shooting. Gun rights supporters argue that the phrase "the people" applies to all individuals rather than an organized collective, and state that the phrase "the people" means the same individuals in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 9th, and 10th Amendments.[7][25][26] They also cite the fact that the Second Amendment resides in the Bill of Rights and argue that the Bill of Rights, by its very nature, defines individual rights of the citizen.[27][28]

Security against tyranny and invasion

Many gun rights advocates also read the Second Amendment to state that because of the need of a formal military, the people have a right to "keep and bear arms" as a protection from the government.[citation needed] The cultural basis for gun ownership traces to the American revolution, where colonists owned and used muskets equivalent to those of the British soldiers to gain independence. Thomas Jefferson also stated that the right to bear arms is necessary for the citizens to protect themselves from the "tyranny in government"[29]

A position taken by some personal gun rights advocates and organizations including Mike Huckabee,[30] Ron Paul,[31] and Gun Owners of America[32] is that an armed citizenry is the population's last line of defense against tyranny by their own government, as they believe was one of the main intents of the Second Amendment. This belief was also held by some of the authors of the Constitution, though a right of rebellion was not explicitly included in the Constitution, and instead the Constitution was designed to ensure a government deriving its power from the consent of the governed.

The Declaration of Independence itself says when discussing the abusive British rule: "...Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it..."

Abraham Lincoln, echoing the Declaration in his first inaugural address, said:

"This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it."

Thomas Jefferson wrote in defense of the Shays' Rebellion in a letter to William Stevens Smith (November 13, 1787), quoted in Padover's Jefferson On Democracy,

"What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."

Yet, the legal scholar Roscoe Pound has said:

"(a) legal right of a citizen to wage war on the government is something that cannot be admitted. ... In the urban industrial society of today a general right to bear efficient arms so as to be enabled to resist oppression by the government would mean that gangs could exercise an extra-legal rule which would defeat the whole Bill of Rights."[33]

Opponents of this right of revolution theory also argue that the intent of the Second Amendment was the need to avoid a standing army by ensuring the viability of people's militias, and that the concept of rebellious private citizens or rogue militias as a check on governmental tyranny was clearly not part of the Second Amendment. As historian Don Higginbotham notes, the well-regulated militia protected by the Second Amendment was more likely to put down rebellions than participate in them.[34] In his book "Armed People Victorious," Larry Pratt recounts how countries as dissimilar as Guatemala and the Philippines preserved their freedom against communist insurgency by arming the people and forming rural militias in the 1980s.[35] Gun-rights advocacy groups argue that the only way to enforce democracy is through having the means of resistance.[7][25][26]

Critics of the 'security against tyranny' argument argue also that replacing elected officials by voting is sufficient to keep the government in check, although there are numerous examples in history of elected officials assuming absolute power, with little regard to laws. Gun right advocates put forward the Battle of Athens on August 2, 1946 as an example of citizens in desperate circumstances using firearms where all other democratic options have failed.[36]

Then-senator John F. Kennedy recognized the intent of the founding fathers "fears of governmental tyranny" and "security of the nation" in his statement Know Your Lawmakers, Guns, April 1960, p. 4 (1960),

"By calling attention to 'a well regulated militia,' the 'security' of the nation, and the right of each citizen 'to keep and bear arms,' our founding fathers recognized the essentially civilian nature of our economy. Although it is extremely unlikely that the fears of governmental tyranny which gave rise to the Second Amendment will ever be a major danger to our nation, the Amendment still remains an important declaration of our basic civilian-military relationships, in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of his country. For that reason I believe the Second Amendment will always be important."[37]

Gun rights advocacy groups rarely believe in the plausibility of an "instant" rebellion's success through traditional warfare. Those who believe that arms allow for successful rebellions against tyranny hold that guerrilla warfare is the method in which liberty could once again (or even for the first time) be achieved. The right of free people to form militias to protect life, liberty, and property, Larry Pratt argues, has been shown historically to be essential for the preservation of freedom.[38]

Public policy arguments

A second class of political arguments is founded on the premise that even if the government has the authority to regulate guns, to do so may or may not be sound public policy.[39]

Importance of a militia

Opponents of a restrictive interpretation of the Second Amendment point out that at the time of the Second Amendment in the late 18th century, the word "militia" meant all able-bodied male citizens between the ages of 17 and 45. Even today, the United States Code states that the militia is all male citizens and resident aliens at least 17 up to 45 with or without military service experience, including additionally those under 64 having former military service experience, as well as including female citizens who are members of the National Guard.[40] Some people argue about even the number of commas in the amendment.[41] Also, there is disagreement about the difference between organized militias and unorganized militias and their relationship to the Second Amendment. The general question here is, "Does the right pertain to only organized, well-regulated militias or all citizens?"

All interpretation of the Bill of Rights is to be viewed strictly in terms of Original Intent in the society the nation's founders created. For instance, the language of well-regulated in the framing era meant independent and self-regulated. The Federal Government had not yet been formed; when it was, it was a creation of the states. Regarding confusion with National Guard, America had no National Guard until 130 years later. Author John Longenecker writes that one of the best evidence facts of who militia is lies in United States Code [USC Title 10, Section 311] where the original militia within the meaning of the second amendment endures since the founding, and is officially recognized as a category of its own (specifically named the unorganized militia); these unorganized militias are subsequently recognized further in various state codes as coming under the command of the Governor as the unorganized militia's Commander-in-Chief (among other militias also defined). Until summoned, militia members acquire, own, and carry their own weapons, which are traditionally recognized but not to be provided them by their state in their readiness of being summoned in emergency. This defeats the legal argument that one must be part of a militia to own, keep and bear arms, since nearly anyone of legal age is automatically part of a [the] militia as part of an accepted, well-established, conventional readiness asset.[42][self-published source?]
Firearm deaths

In the United States in 2009 there were 3.0 recorded intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants; for comparison, the figure for the United Kingdom, with very restrictive firearm laws (handguns are totally prohibited, for example) was 0.07, about 40 times lower, and for Germany 0.2.[43] However, Brazil also has stricter guns laws than the United States of America, yet has a homicide rate of 18.1 per 100,000 inhabitants. The U.S. ranks 28 in the world for gun homicides per capita.[44] From the same source, of the 107 countries where complete data was available, the U.S. ranked 41 out of 107 for total homicides per capita. This inconsistent data makes direct correlation of gun laws to gun crime difficult.

Those concerned about high levels of gun violence in the United States in comparison to other developed countries look to restrictions on gun ownership as a way to stem the violence.[45][46] Those supportive of long-standing rights to keep and bear arms point to the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which some interpret as specifically preventing infringement of the "right of the people to keep and bear arms", independent of serving in a militia, as the means by which to stem the violence.[47][48]

Within the gun politics debate, gun control advocates and gun rights advocates disagree on more practical questions as well. There is an ongoing debate over the role that guns play in crime. Gun-rights groups say that a well-armed citizenry prevents crime and that making civilian ownership of firearms illegal would increase the crime rate by making law-abiding citizens vulnerable to those who choose to disregard the law.[49][50] They note that more people defend themselves with a gun every year than the police arrest for violent crimes and burglary[51] and that private citizens legally shoot almost as many criminals as public police officers do.[52] Some gun control organizations say that increased gun ownership leads to higher levels of crime, suicide and other negative outcomes. Others point to successes outside the US such as, for example, to the absence of mass shooting events in the UK since the banning of handguns in response to the 1996 Dunblane massacre, in marked contrast to the US over the same period.[53]

Logical pitfalls in the gun-violence debate

The essential question in the gun policy debate is, "Will restrictions on gun ownership (or, for a particular proposed law, will this restriction) cause violent crime to decrease?" Debate attends even this question, with some claiming that overall reduction in violent crime is the goal, while others claiming that reduction in gun-crime is a good in itself (even if replaced by equal numbers of, say, knife-crime) because of the gun's assumed higher potential for lethality.[54]

The "gold standard" for how an intervention (such as a new law) affects a human population is the double-blinded, randomized control study. Such studies are almost never available to answer public policy questions. Current studies (see below) examining guns and violence have either tried to stratify the risk of violence based on gun ownership (determined by interview for individuals within one locale,[55] or by population statistics for international comparisons[56]) or by level of legal restriction, using either an international comparison for different levels of regulation or a historical one (i.e. how did the regional crime rate change when a new gun law was introduced there).[57]

These studies have different faults. The chief problem of the gun-ownership-as-risk-factor studies is that while they can – if well-designed – show the numerical correlation between gun-ownership and gun violence, they cannot determine whether the correlation is due to cause and effect, due to a common cause, or due to chance. John Lott uses the example of hospitals: there may be a significant degree of correlation between those who recently died and those who recently were in hospital, but that does not necessarily mean the hospital stay caused their deaths. A third factor (e.g. severe illness) may have caused both the hospitalization and the death.[58]

The internationally controlled comparisons are flawed by the fact that other international differences (such as level of illegal drug trafficking or level of civil-rights limitations on police surveillance) may overwhelm the gun-restriction or gun-ownership differences as a source of difference in violent crime rate.[59]

Similarly, the historically controlled studies may miss other trends over time (e.g. economic cycles, changes in gang presence, changes in other laws etc.) that are more important than the introduction of the studied gun law.[60]

No study can be free of all of these faults and so part of the policy debate will center on which studies are "most free" of confounding error. It must be considered, however, whenever a public policy change concerning firearms is proposed (either loosening or tightening gun restrictions) that three assumptions are being made.

First, it is assumed that the proposed law, if enforced as intended, would actually reduce overall violent crime (or simply gun-related crime, if that is the goal). Second, it is assumed that enforcement of the law as intended (that is, its application to the target population–, e.g. criminals or identifiable potential criminals– without its simply being ignored or easily circumvented by that group) can, in fact, be accomplished. Any study claiming that its data "shows" that a given law produced a given effect is simultaneously asserting that these first two assumptions were true.

Finally, as the resources to prevent violence will never be infinite, there is a third assumption: that devoting the resources to implement the new law will make more of a difference in violence prevention than simply devoting those same resources to (better?) implementation of existing laws.[61]
Relationships between crime, violence, and gun ownership

There is an open debate regarding the relationship between gun control and violence and other crimes. The numbers of lives saved or lost by gun ownership is debated by criminologists. Research difficulties include the difficulty of accounting accurately for confrontations in which no shots are fired and jurisdictional differences in the definition of "crime".

Frequent talk show guest, Gun Rights columnist and author John Longenecker argues that the nation's founders' Original Intent continues to align with the interests of the nation across all time.[62] Longenecker sees the Founding Fathers' defeat of the abuse of due process in their overthrowing of British rule as a crucial aspect of lasting personal independence, without which the nation will perish for unwelcome dependency on government. Longenecker adds that the Founders did not write the Constitution for citizens, but entirely for officials in expressing limits on government at all levels. Regarding the Second Amendment, the Founders did not fear nor imagine weapons of the future, but saw more clearly abuses of due process in all eras of the future. They wrote that the citizen is the supreme authority to protect the new nation against such abuses in every generation. The Second Amendment embodies this by backing that ultimate citizen authority with lethal force, in fact citizen supervision and control of all force in America. Longenecker emphasizes that crime is often used as an excuse to disarm that ultimate authority - the people - for the unhampered growth of cottage industries, cronyism, boondoggles, crises, and bureaucracies based on anti-crime policy. Finally, Longenecker shows how claims of no improvements in right-to-carry states crime stats are untrue, and shows how, rather, that no state has been made to regret its support of the armed citizen.[citation needed]

Some writers, such as John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime, say they have discovered a positive correlation between gun control legislation and crimes in which criminals victimize law-abiding citizens. Lott asserts that criminals ignore gun control laws and are effectively deterred by armed intended victims just as higher penalties deter crime. His work involved comparison and analysis from data collected from all the counties in the United States.[63] Lott's study has been criticized for not adequately controlling for other factors, including other state laws also enacted, such as Florida's laws requiring background checks and waiting period for handgun buyers.[60] More recent similar findings by Jens Ludwig further support John Lott statistical evidence.[64] Since concealed-carry permits are only given to adults, John J. Donohue suggests that analysis should focus on the relationship with adult and not juvenile gun incident rates.[65] He finds a small, positive effect of concealed-carry laws on adult homicide rates, but states the effect is not statistically significant.[65] NAS suggests that new analytical approaches and datasets at the county or local level are needed to evaluate adequately the impact of right-to-carry laws.[66]

Another researcher, Dr. Gary Kleck, a criminologist at Florida State University, estimated that approximately 2.5 million people used their gun in self-defense or to prevent crime each year, often by merely displaying a weapon. The incidents that Kleck studied generally did not involve the firing of the gun and he estimates that as many as 1.9 million of those instances involved a handgun.[67] The National Rifle Association regularly reprints locally-published stories of ordinary citizens whose lives were saved by their guns.

One study found that homicide rates as a whole, especially homicides as a result of firearms use, are not always significantly lower in many other developed countries. This is apparent in the UK and Japan, which have very strict gun control laws, while Israel, Canada and Switzerland at the same time have lower homicide rates and high rates of gun distribution. Dr Kleck has stated, "...cross-national comparisons do not provide a sound basis for assessing the impact of gun ownership levels on crime rates."[68] One study published in the [International Journal of Epidemiology], which found that for the year of 1998:[69]

During the one-year study period (1998), 88 649 firearm deaths were reported. Overall firearm mortality rates are five to six times higher in high-income (HI) and upper middle-income (UMI) countries in the Americas (12.72) than in Europe (2.17) or Oceania (2.57) and 95 times higher than in Asia (0.13). The rate of firearm deaths in the United States (14.24 per 100 000) exceeds that of its economic counterparts (1.76) eightfold and that of UMI countries (9.69) by a factor of 1.5. Suicide and homicide contribute equally to total firearm deaths in the US, but most firearm deaths are suicides (71%) in HI countries and homicides (72%) in UMI countries.

Similarly statistics from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) show that the number of homicides per 100,000 in the UK at 1.14 as of 2006, was considerably below that of the US (5.62 per 100,000) in 2006, and again far below the rate of homicides in the US specifically using a firearm (3.36 per 100,000 people) in the same year.[70] The UK rate of homicide was also below that of Canada in 2006 (1.86 per 100,000).[70] However, the UNODC statistics from the same year also show Switzerland to have a homicide rate of 0.8 per 100,000, again indicating the difficulties of direct international comparisons.

In a New England Journal of Medicine article, Kellermann found that people who keep a gun at home increase their risk of homicide.[55] Florida State University professor Gary Kleck disagrees with the journal authors' interpretation of the evidence and he notes that there is no evidence that the guns involved in the home homicides studied by Kellermann, et al. were kept in the victim's home.[67] Indeed, it was later discovered that Kellermann's own data indicated that no more than 1.7% of the homicides committed in the counties he studied were committed with a gun kept in the victim's home. Thus, victim gun ownership could not have had more than a negligible effect in elevating the risk of being murdered.[71] Similarly, Dave Kopel, writing in National Review, criticized Kellermann's study.[72] Researchers John Lott, Gary Kleck and many others still dispute Kellermann's work.[73][74][75][76] Kellerman's work has also been severely criticized because he ignores factors such as guns being used to protect property, save lives and deter crime without killing the criminal—which, Kleck and others argue, accounts for the large majority of defensive gun uses.[57][77][78] Kellermann responded to similar criticisms of the data behind his study in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, ammending his original claim to reflect that "sixty-two percent of this group reported that the victim lived in a home where one or more guns were kept" instead of the original ninety-three, which does not change the validity of his original assertion. [79] Finally, another argument cited by academics researching gun violence points to the positive correlation between guns in the home and an already violent neighborhood. Lott's results suggest that only allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed firearms, deters crime because potential criminals do not know who may or may not be carrying a firearm. The possibility of getting shot by an armed victim is a substantial deterrent to crime and prevents not only petty crime but physical confrontation as well from criminals who do not possess the means to match an increase in force. Lott's data comes from the FBI's massive crime statistics from all 3,054 US counties.[80] Other scholars, such as Gary Kleck, dispute Lott's findings, arguing that there is no evidence that total rates of gun carrying (legal and illegal) actually increased after Right-to-Carry laws made it easier to get a carry permit, or that criminals' perceptions of crime as risky increased after the laws were passed.[81] While criticizing Lott's theories as overemphasizing the threat to the average American from armed crime and therefore the need for armed defense, Kleck's work speaks towards similar support for firearm rights by showing that the number of Americans who report incidents where their guns averted a threat vastly outnumber those who report being the victim of a firearm-related crime.[82] Others have pointed out that the beneficial effects of firearms, not only in self-protection, deterring crime and protecting property, but also in preserving freedom, have not been properly studied by public health researchers.[49][50]

In his book Private Guns, Public Health, David Hemenway makes the argument in favor of gun control and he provides evidence for the more guns, more gun violence and suicide hypothesis. Rather than compare America to countries with radically different cultures and historical experiences, he focuses on Canada, New Zealand and Australia and asserts that the case for gun control is a strong one based on the relationship he finds (contrary to most other researchers) between lower crime rates and gun control.[83] More thorough reviews of the research literature, however, do not support Hemenway's optimistic claims about the impact of gun laws [84]

Firearms are also the most common method of suicide, accounting for 53.7% of all suicides committed in the United States in 2003.[85] Most research has nevertheless found no relationship between gun availability and suicide rates, suggesting that other suicide methods, such as hanging, can usually be substituted for shooting.[86]

A 2003 CDC study determined "The Task Force found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws or combinations of laws reviewed on violent outcomes."[87] They go on to state "a finding of insufficient evidence to determine effectiveness should not be interpreted as evidence of ineffectiveness but rather as an indicator that additional research is needed before an intervention can be

Public Health Law Research

Public Health Law Research,[88] an independent organization, published in 2009 several evidence briefs summarizing the research assessing the effect of a specific law or policy on public health, that concern the effectiveness of various laws related to gun safety .

There is not enough evidence to establish the effectiveness of "shall issue" laws, as distinct from "may issue" laws, as a public health intervention to reduce violent crime.[89]

There is insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of waiting period laws as public health interventions aimed at preventing gun-related violence and suicide.[90]

Although child access prevention laws may represent a promising intervention for reducing gun-related morbidity and mortality among children, there is currently insufficient evidence to validate their effectiveness as a public health intervention aimed at reducing gun-related harms.[91]

There is insufficient evidence to establish the effectiveness of such bans as public health interventions aimed at reducing gun-related harms.[92]

There is insufficient evidence to validate the effectiveness of firearm licensing and registration requirements as legal interventions aimed a reducing fire-arm related harms.[93]

Supreme Court decisions

Since the late 19th century, with three key cases from the pre-incorporation era, the Supreme Court consistently ruled that the Second Amendment (and the Bill of Rights) restricts only the federal Congress, and not the States, in the regulation of guns.[94] Scholars predicted that the Court's incorporation of other rights suggests that they may incorporate the Second, should a suitable case come before them.[95]

"Americans also have a right to defend their homes, and we need not challenge that. Nor does anyone seriously question that the Constitution protects the right of hunters to own and keep sporting guns for hunting game any more than anyone would challenge the right to own and keep fishing rods and other equipment for fishing – or to own automobiles. To "keep and bear arms" for hunting today is essentially a recreational activity and not an imperative of survival, as it was 200 years ago. "Saturday night specials" and machine guns are not recreational weapons and surely are as much in need of regulation as motor vehicles." — Ex-Chief Justice Warren Burger, 1990.[96]

Until recently, there had been only one modern Supreme Court case that dealt directly with the Second Amendment, United States v. Miller.[97] In that case, the Supreme Court did not address the incorporation issue, but the case instead hinged on whether a sawed-off shotgun "has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia."[95] In quashing the indictment against Miller, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas stated that the National Firearms Act of 1934, "offend[ed] the inhibition of the Second Amendment to the Constitution." The federal government then appealed directly to the US Supreme Court. On appeal the federal government did not object to Miller's release since he had died by then, seeking only to have the trial judge's ruling on the unconstitutionality of the federal law overturned. Under these circumstances, neither Miller nor his attorney appeared before the US Supreme Court to argue the case. The Court only heard argument from the federal prosecutor. In its ruling, the Supreme Court overturned the trial court and upheld the law.[98]

District of Columbia v. Heller

See also: District of Columbia v. Heller and Firearm case law in the United States

On June 26, 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller,[99] the United States Supreme Court affirmed, by a 5-4 vote, the decision of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.[100] This decision struck down the D.C. gun law. It also clarifies the scope of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, stating that it stipulates an individual right irrespective of membership in a militia. The dissenting justices considered the majority had broken established precedent on the Second Amendment and reiterated the opinion that it refers to the right to maintain a militia, not an individual right.[101] However the majority opinion allowed that, like other rights, the right to bear arms is not "unlimited".[102]

"2. Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."

The decision declined to rule on the individual state incorporation of the Second Amendment, leaving its applicability to the states unsettled.[103]

"While the status of the Second Amendment within the twentieth-century incorporation debate is a matter of importance for the many challenges to state gun control laws, it is an issue that we need not decide."

McDonald v. Chicago

Further information: McDonald v. Chicago

June 28, 2010, Chicago gun control law struck down 5 to 4. "The Fourteenth Amendment makes the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms fully applicable to the States."

Gun laws

Gun control laws and regulations exist at all levels of government, with the vast majority being local codes which vary between jurisdictions. The NRA reports 20,000 gun laws nationwide.[104] A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine notes 300 federal and state laws regarding the manufacture, design, sale, purchase, or possession of guns.[105]

At the federal level, fully automatic weapons, short barrel shotguns, and short barrel rifles have been taxed and mandated to be registered since 1934 with the National Firearms Act. The Gun Control Act of 1968 adds prohibition of mail-order sales and prohibits transfers to minors. The 1968 Act requires that guns carry serial numbers and implemented a tracking system to determine the purchaser of a gun whose make, model, and serial number are known. It also prohibited gun ownership by convicted felons and certain other individuals. The Act was updated in the 1990s with the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, mainly to add a mechanism for the criminal history of gun purchasers to be checked at the point of sale, and in 1996 with the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban to prohibit ownership and use of guns by individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence.

The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act enacted the now-defunct Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which banned the purchase, sale, or transfer of any weapon specifically named in the act, other weapons with a certain number of "defining features", and detachable magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, that had been manufactured after the beginning date of the ban. The Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004, but H.R. 6257 introduced June 12, 2008 sought to re-instate the ban indefinitely as well as to expand the list of banned weapons. The bill ultimately died in committee. New York, California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Connecticut, and New Jersey and several municipalities have codified some provisions of the expired Federal ban into State and local laws.

Gun Free School Zones Act of 1995

The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 severely limited where a person may legally carry a firearm, although this was voided by United States v. Lopez as exceeding Congress' Commerce Clause authority.[106] The act was passed again in its current form in 1995. The act makes it generally unlawful for an armed citizen to travel on any public sidewalk, road, or highway, that passes within one thousand (1000) feet of the property line of any K-12 school in the nation. Only if one has a state permit to carry a firearm are they exempt from the one-thousand foot rule. In which case, depending on the laws of the individual states, full access to the schools is lawful under the Act. "(B) Subparagraph (A) does not apply to the possession of a firearm— ...(ii) if the individual possessing the firearm is licensed to do so by the State in which the school zone is located"

Should civilian possession of handguns and other non-hunting guns be banned or severely restricted?


  1. Most violent crimes are committed with guns; thus, restricting gun ownership will likely reduce the number of such crimes.

  2. Lunatics, bullied school kids, disgruntled workers, and others can inflict mass casualties with guns that otherwise wouldn't be possible.

  3. A crime victim who has a gun may be in more danger than an unarmed person since the criminal may kill in perceived self-defense.

  4. Suicides and crimes of passion are higher with gun availability, as it's much easier to act immediately on your impulses when a gun is available.

  5. The 2nd Amendment of the Constitution was targeted towards militia, e.g. the National Guard, rather than individuals.

  6. Crimes that may have been less harmful can be made more dangerous by adding a gun.

  7. Legalized gun ownership means guns have a greater chance of falling into the hands of kids, potentially resulting in some deadly accidents.

  8. Terrorism, school shootings, and other modern circumstances make guns more dangerous nowadays.


  1. Criminals will always find a way to obtain their guns, leaving law-abiding citizens without any weapons to use in defense.

  2. Crimes are often prevented by the deterrent effect of the possibility of victim gun possession.

  3. The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution protects the individual's right to gun ownership.

  4. Woman and weaker individuals may have no means of self-defense from rape or other crimes, especially in the inner city.

  5. Guns in the possession of citizens are an added protection against government tyranny.

  6. Police are often too overwhelmed to protect all citizens from violent crime.

  7. Banning guns will create another potentially large source of organized criminal revenue, as a black market for guns will surely develop.

  8. Banning guns will take away yet another piece of our liberty, which is one more step to socialism and totalitarianism.

  9. Reasonable gun control & education steps can be put in place, so an outright ban is unnecessary.

A List of Gun Control Pros and Cons

Here is a small list of gun control pros and cons. I have listed only a few of the gun control facts among the large number of gun control pros and cons since most of these have been widely discussed in gun control debates.

Let me start with arguments in support of gun control:

1) Gun control facts reveal that though the population of the United States is only 5 percent of the population of the world, the number of privately owned guns in the US is 50 percent of the privately owned guns in the world. This mismatch between the share of the population of the world and that of the number of guns available in the world is a strong factor in favor of gun control. This appears to be a strong point.

2) Gun control pros and cons should also include experiences of countries that implemented stricter gun control. These countries have been able to get positive results. Australia, for example, has found that after it had tightened the gun control laws, the gun violence was brought down by about 60 percent. This part of the gun death statistics is a strong factor in favor of stricter gun control laws for the US. This also counters the argument made by the anti gun control groups that allowing people to own guns will help in reduction of crime.

Here are the arguments against gun control that form a part of gun control pros and cons.

1) In a democracy, there cannot be any control. Hence there should be no gun control laws. This argument does not appear to be reasonable for two reasons. One, having controls is not against democracy. Control is a part of governance. Two, gun control has the aim of curbing violence, not gun ownership. Since violence can lead to anarchy, preventing anarchy is essential to help the cause of democracy.

2) The right to own and bear guns is a sovereign right given by the second amendment and this right cannot be taken away by other laws. This argument can be countered on the fact that since nearly 99 percent of the second amendment was created on the basis of inputs given by people with no legal background, amending the right given by this amendment may not be wrong.

The policy of the NRA not to accept any compromise cannot be included in gun control pros and cons.

This entry was posted in Gun control article, Gun control essay on March 3, 2013.

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