The right to possess and carry weapons is enshrined in the United States as a constitutional norm. However, the very essence of this right is highly controversial. Debate on gun control comes up regularly, highlighting the topic from both a practical and a moral point of view. Given the need to combine these two concepts, it is helpful to consider this problem from the standpoint of utilitarianism. This paper aims to analyze the issue of gun control in the United States using utilitarian views.
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Despite the popularity of the second amendment to the US constitution, its relevance in the modern world is highly controversial. According to history, it was introduced to address the possible need for a well-organized militia (Lawrence). However, at the moment, the United States is a much more civilized place. Therefore, it makes sense to reconsider the attitude toward the right to keep weapons by ordinary citizens.
First of all, to assess this issue from utilitarianism, it is necessary to determine the fundamental definitions of pleasure and pain in human life, which constitute the first principle of the concept. Within the framework of this theory, any action is considered from the point of view of usefulness, how much happiness or pain it brings to a person. In the context of gun control laws, happiness is the public good of the American people, their safety, and the benefit that these rights bring to society. Accordingly, the harm caused by the presence of such laws acts as “pain”. Moreover, following the fourth principle of utilitarianism, the damage done and the benefits brought can be assessed, for example, using statistics on the proliferation of weapons and their impact on crime.
Practice shows that the propagation of weapons does much more harm. The right to bear arms is not as fundamental as the right to access food and shelter (Lawrence). Still, gun lobby groups are fiercely defending the second amendment. At the same time, the presence of a wide circulation of weapons leads to a noticeable increase in the number of various shootings that cripple and take people’s lives. Thus, as a benefit in this context, the abstract constitutional right of people to have weapons for theoretical self-defense can be considered. On the other hand, the actual statistics of victims of people who legally acquired their guns, after which they staged mass executions, acts as harm and “pain”. Given the scale of the tragedies and negativity, from the point of view of utilitarian concepts, the right to own a gun does not justify itself as a helpful phenomenon.
For a more detailed consideration, the algorithm developed by Jeremy Bentham can be applied. This list of seven points allows for assessing the degree of pleasure that a particular action will bring. The intensity and duration of pleasure are highly questionable and most likely maximum when buying a new gun, after which the pleasure subsides. In addition, there is no certainty that happiness will come at all since the concept of security is extremely vague. Fortunately, the hypothetical situation of self-defense may never happen, and most people who buy a weapon never use it for its intended purpose. From the perspective of fecundity and purity, the action for which the gun is purchased is unlikely to be accompanied by pleasure and is likely to bring more negativity. Finally, in the context of extent, the purchase of a weapon will directly affect only one person. However, at the same time, many people around them are at risk if weapons suddenly fall into the wrong hands or are misused.
Thus, it can be concluded that having a law like the second amendment to the constitution does not make sense and bring a lot of harm. Following Mill’s claims, such legislation does not consider the benefits for all people and does not take into account that such a view can have far-reaching consequences. Therefore, it is necessary to revise the legislation on arms control. Given the number of unfortunate incidents, changes must be made to ensure the good, i.e., safety, of all US citizens.
Lawrence, Desmonda. “Gun Control and the Ethics of Constitutional Rights.” The Prindle Post, 2019. Web.
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