Shootings are a somewhat frequent crime in the United States, along with the generally high incidence of gun crime. The tragedies have caused some groups of the population to oppose the existing firearm control legislation. However, support for a lenient gun policy remains strong, and the right is supported by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. This essay discusses whether changes should be introduced into the Amendment and outlines the nature of the new document.
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The Incidence of Shootings
Shootings are often referred to as rare events that are the fault of the criminal more than the weapon. Furthermore, researchers such as Schildkraut note that the media tends to represent the incidents as more significant than they are (27). The statement has merit, as this type of crime does not occur as often as other ones, such as robberies or individual murders. However, the scale of the situation should be taken into account, as each shooting incident endangers the health and lives of numerous people. Nevertheless, it is significantly less likely that the average citizen of the United States would become a victim of shooting than of another kind of crime. However, this decrease does not mean that the issue should be disregarded.
Shootings can be viewed as the culmination of a more general problem with gun control in the United States. The widespread availability of firearms escalates the severity of violent incidents when they occur. Furthermore, federal and state laws on gun ownership allow almost any person to purchase and sometimes carry a gun, with screening that may be insufficient for the purpose. As such, the current laws represent easy opportunities for potential shooters to obtain and use a weapon, with the only possible safeguard being the ability of other citizens to possess their own firearms and utilize them to prevent or stop such acts of violence.
The fundamental right to own firearms is supported by the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which states that the right to keep and bear arms is integral to the existence of a well-regulated militia, which, in turn, is crucial to the security of the United States. Furthermore, the state does not impose significant restrictions on gun ownership besides the prohibitions for minors, mentally disabled people, criminals, and other risk groups. According to Masters, the U.S. is significantly more lenient with its gun control than the other developed democracies, which results in the country having the highest gun per capita rate among them. Individual states may choose to impose stricter or more relaxed firearm policies, but attempting to nullify the federal legislation on the matter is considered unconstitutional.
The leniency with gun control is accompanied by a high firearm crime rate, which may be associated with the number of weapons available to people. Masters describes the frequency of gun homicides per capita in the United States as the highest of all wealthy democracies and over three times that of the second-highest entry on the list, Israel. He also notes that countries such as Canada and Australia chose to respond to shooting incidents that happened in their territories with stricter gun control laws, which has resulted in significantly lower firearm ownership rates and massively decreased gun homicides per capita compared to the United States. However, supporters of the current firearm legislation claim that the two values do not correlate and that the rate of firearm crimes is dropping in the U.S. despite the lack of gun prohibitions.
The Necessity of Change
The current situation in the United States is characterized by a relatively high incidence of firearm violence and lenient control over firearm ownership and use. Despite the claims of gun control opposition, it is likely that stricter gun laws and reduced firearm ownership rates will lead to a reduction in the frequency of gun crimes, particularly shootings. As long as the Second Amendment remains in its current form, it may serve as an enabler for future incidents, as a person that is planning a shooting may find a way to obtain a firearm as long as the channels for doing so exist. However, stricter legislation may help reduce the number of spontaneous shooting incidents by denying gun ownership or carrying rights to people who do not display sufficient mental stability.
Furthermore, the purpose of the Second Amendment, the formation of a militia, is outdated and ineffective. Modern methods of warfare involve the use of vehicles that are impervious to the small arms that are permitted for the citizens as well as weapons with great range and massive destructive potential. In addition, infantry is better armed and armored and uses more advanced tactics than in the times of the Second Amendment’s creation, further diminishing the validity of the militia approached. Ultimately, a militia would be ineffective against an invading force, and the high gun ownership rate would only lead to the treatment of citizens as a dangerous category and a consequent increase in the casualties of war.
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Overall, the Second Amendment is mostly irrelevant to the current situation in the United States. Furthermore, it may be associated with the high gun homicide rate and serves as an enabler for shooting incidents. There does not appear to be a valid reason to retain the policy in its current form that can outweigh the disadvantages of doing so. At the same time, the strong opposition to firearm control laws and the current ownership rate, as well as the status of firearm ownership as a national tradition, suggest that a complete prohibition of firearms is not a viable approach, either. The solution to the issue should lie in a middle-ground approach, where guns are not distributed as freely as before, but not prohibited, either.
The changes to the Second Amendment should begin with its statement of purpose. Maintaining a militia and expecting it to provide significant resistance to potential invading forces is not a viable approach in modern times, assuming that civilians are only allowed to own small light arms. At the same time, permitting citizens to possess heavy weaponry, explosives, and other tools of modern warfare is not a feasible approach, either, due to the necessary training and potential danger as well as low general utility of such items.
As such, firearms owned by the population should have a new purpose, or set of goals, such as recreation or home defense. The purpose of the weapon should determine the boundaries of its lawful use; for example, home defense weapons may be required to be stored in secure containers and only removed for maintenance and self-defense within the homestead.
Weapons that are easy to conceal, such as handguns, and those with an unjustifiably high destructive potential for their intended use, should be prohibited for citizens and only available to government-authorized personnel, such as the police, army, or private security agencies. Carrying firearms in public should be banned in most situations that are not directly related to the weapon’s purpose, such as going on a hunt with a hunting shotgun. This approach reduces the potency of guns for self-defense, but it also decreases the likelihood of them being used by the attacker, and in most cases, superior alternatives that do not escalate the danger of a situation as much as firearms do exist.
The new changes would require gun owners to apply for new registrations for their firearms. As with previous firearm prohibitions, the newly banned weapons would not be confiscated, but the purchase and change of ownership of such arms would be strictly controlled, and their permitted purposes would be restricted to home defense. Eventually, the guns would circulate out of the citizens’ possession as their owners died or chose to turn in their weapons to the state for compensation.
The current gun policy in the United States is heavily influenced by the Second Amendment, which may be an outdated policy that does not benefit the citizens. The lack of firearm control enables both premeditated and spontaneous shooting incidents to happen on a semi-frequent basis. The law may require a fundamental change to reduce the overall rate of gun crimes in the U.S., especially that of shootings. The changes should address the purpose of permitting citizens to own guns, reflecting the modern uses of small arms and restricting their ownership and carrying rules accordingly.
Masters, Jonathan. “U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparisons.” Council on Foreign Relations. 2017. Web.
Schildkraut, Jaclyn. “Mass Murder and the Mass Media: Understanding the Construction of the Social Problem of Mass Shootings in the US.” Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice and Criminology, vol. 4, no. 1, 2016, pp. 1-41.