The interpretation of the Second Amendment is surrounded by controversies because supporters of the right to keep and bear arms believe that it is the source of personal and collective safety while the opponents claim that securing it threatens the welfare of American society. Nevertheless, regardless of severe debates on the issue and the changing face of the American society, this right should be protected because it is a constitutional one and generally accepted by most states with only six states not addressing it explicitly in their supreme laws (State Constitutions, 2016; Weingarten, 2014).
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Furthermore, there is no direct link between the freedom to carry weapons and the increase in crime rates, as this right entails a lower level of gun-related homicides enhancing public safety and becoming synonymous with security (Perry, 2015; Pew Research Center, 2013). Finally, the right to the Second Amendment is the foundation of democracy in the United States of America because it helps avoid the emergence of dictatorship and implies the concentration of real power in hands of the people. The arguments mentioned above are the central reasons underscoring the importance of guaranteeing this right, although extensive educative measures on issues related to gun discipline are required.
The interpretation of the Second Amendment guaranteeing the right to keep and bear arms outside of one’s home is one of the most controversial provisions of the American Constitution. On one hand, the opponents claim that it is imperative to impose restrictions on the right to buy arms freely and carry them openly. The nature of the restrictions varies from prolonged waiting for permission to buy a weapon to an extensive background investigation of a person trying to purchase one officially.
On the other hand, the supporters of this right such as the members of the National Rifle Organization and similar foundations underscore the significance of protecting the right to the Second Amendment as one of the basic human rights ensuring personal safety and welfare. Even though the debates surrounding the issue are severe, it remains unsolved, as there are dozens of terrifying news reporting mass killings in public places.
Recall shootings at San Bernardino, California, resulting in 14 deaths and 22 wounded people or the worst mass shooting ever in Orlando, Florida, when 53 visitors of the club were injured and 50 killed (Deadliest U.S. mass shootings, 1984-2016, 2016), which might have shifted fewer lives if people were allowed to carry arms openly and have the means for self-defense.
Such incidents initiate adopting bills regulating the area of weapon relations in society. One of such legal acts is SB344 granting the right to fall upon weapons as the last resort for self-defense against criminals using deadly force and being protected under the provisions of the Stand Your Ground Law proposed by the Senate of Florida. Supporters of the Bill believe that it might become an efficient tool for reducing homicide rates and ensuring one’s safety outside of one house. On the other hand, those opposing the bill claim that it is ineffective for preventing crimes. While the times and the face of the American society have changed, as well as the perspectives on the provisions of the Amendment, the Constitution of the United States has not, pointing to the fact that the right to the Second Amendment should not be infringed.
The right to the Second Amendment is one of the most controversial issues of the contemporary legal system of the United States of America. As the concern has become more engrained in the social life and turned into the subject of numerous conflicts and controversies, two perspectives on the right to the Second Amendment have emerged – those supporting the right to keep and bear arms openly and those opposing it.
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The primary challenge is to determine whether the right to bear arms outside of an individual’s home is a basic right granted by nature just like the right to self-defense or it has been introduced with the development of human civilization and the application of legal regulations as well as the invention of weapons. Still, regardless of its roots, the right to carry weapons should not be violated.
The right to bear weapons has its roots in the ancient civilizations and can be traced in the philosophical works of Aristotle, who criticized any restrictions believing that the right to own weapons “derives from the nature of human form” (Adams, 2013, p. 22), Marcus Tullius Cicero comparing it to the right to self-defense and protection, Plato claiming that it is the civil right, and Ovid entertaining the idea that the right to carry arms should be granted and protected by law.
In continental Europe of the eighteenth century, for example, most people believed that the right to keep weapons should be guaranteed to protect one’s life in cases of extremity. Moreover, philosophers emphasized that any repressions of this right would inevitably lead to recurrences and instability in society (Adams, 2013). That said, in most cases, it was viewed as the natural right to self-preservation and personal self-defense. This knowledge affected the development of the American legal system.
Recognition that the right to bear and use arms is a natural one was the basis of the Second Amendment. However, it was viewed within a broader context related to both safety of an individual keeping weapons and those surrounding him. That said, even though the Founding Fathers adopted the provision to secure the welfare of homes and families without excessive involvement of militia, it should be strictly regulated (Meltzer, 2014; Smith, 2008).
This issue derives from the changing face of American society. The central concept of this challenge is not race or ethnicity often seen as the limitation for carrying weapons openly but citizenry because only official citizens of the United States of America should be granted the right to the Second Amendment and guaranteed its protection (Gulasekaram, 2010). This step would help regulate the concern of increasing crime rates and uncontrolled use of guns.
Even though the right to bear arms is closely related to legal issues and its legal nature is dominant, it is a cultural phenomenon as well. This concern can be viewed from two perspectives. First of all, the right to keep and use arms openly can be analyzed based on the perception of weapons. That said, there is the duality in the apprehension of arms because some people view it as the source of safety while others relate it to danger and do not feel safe once they have a gun in their house (Blocher, 2012).
Moreover, the issue is closely related to cultural bias and ambiguity of social relations, as the right to own and bear arms is often seen as a natural prerogative for some classes or races. However, the concern is polarized and interwoven with the cultural understanding of what is right or wrong and whose rights and interests should be viewed as primary ones and whose can be ignored.
This feature is interconnected with the historical development of the United States and the fact that even though the country is officially free and lives under the principles of equality without regard to ethnic and economic background, the gap between the blacks and whites, as well as between the urban and rural territories, is gigantic being the primary determinant of the perception of the right to the Second Amendment.
That said, the cultural phenomenon is such that the blacks and those living in the rural neighborhoods are seen as the source of danger. Infringing the right to the Second Amendment is “a cultural gulf separating rural gun owners from those worried about crime in crowded urban neighborhood” (Waldman, 2014, p. 93). That is why most Americans subconsciously believe that those groups of the population should not be granted the right to carry weapons openly.
To sum up, it is imperative to note that although cultural duality is strongly engrained in the consciousness of American society, there is no direct link between ethnic background and crime rates. This fact underpins the necessity of drawing attention to the significance of upgrading law enforcement strategies instead of implementing strict gun laws as the foundation for the safe future of the American people (Makarios & Pratt, 2012). Because the right to the Second Amendment is not what stimulates crimes, it should be guaranteed and protected to ensure the safety of American homes.
Why Guarantee the Right to the Second Amendment?
Regardless of the controversy surrounding issues related to the right to own and bear arms openly, it should be guaranteed and protected by the state. There are numerous arguments for supporting it. However, the central reasons for drawing attention to the necessity of ensuring this right are the constitutional nature of the provision, the negative correlation between carrying arms and the crime rate, and the connection between the Second Amendment and personal safety as well as the protection of the state.
First of all, the right to the Second Amendment is a constitutional one, and restricting it is a violation of citizens’ rights. Adopting this provision, the Founding Fathers were driven by the belief that the right to carry arms openly is a natural, individual one synonymous with the right to personal safety and wellbeing. As for now, it is provided not only by the United States Constitution but also constitutions of the states with only six states not protecting the right explicitly keeping citizens officially disarmed and two of them including the clauses of using guns for self-protection (State Constitutions, 2016; Weingarten, 2014).
This fact proves that the issue is deeply engrained in the U.S. legal system and should not be ignored or violated. Moreover, the issue is regulated by the U.S. Supreme Court decisions such as District of Columbia et al. v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago. According to these rulings, the right to keep and bear arms is an individual one protecting the opportunity of self-defense inside and outside of an individual’s home and it should not be infringed (Magarian, 2012). Still, the constitutionality of the provision is not the only argument for advocating it.
Another reason for supporting the Second Amendment is the fact that there is no positive correlation between the crime rates and allowing buying and possessing arms. That said, strict gun laws are not what deters crimes, specifically gun-related murders, while the official freedom to own weapons is. This statement can be proved by a simple fact: even though the number of legally purchased guns doubled during the twentieth century, the rate of gun killings went down (Sowell, 2012). It means that the recognition of the possibility to rebuke a criminal with a gun is a better precaution than imposing rigid regulations on getting a weapon.
Furthermore, even though the gun ownership rate increased by 56 percent in 2013 as compared to 1993, gun violence dropped by 49 percent (Perry, 2015). This trend highlights the role of gun freedom in decreasing crime rates, as it makes the country a safer place because the rate of gun-related homicides becomes lower. Even though the connection is strong, it is tied with other significant issues.
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Regardless of the role of the right to keep and bear arms openly in decreasing crime rates, it is as well one of the ways to enhance personal safety. This trend pertains to the perception of weapons and owning them. In 2013, more than 80 percent of Americans believed that owning a gun fosters the feeling of safety and 48 percent claimed that a weapon is a perfect tool for personal protection making homes safer (Pew Research Center, 2013).
Similar public opinion points to the fact that the violation of the right to the Second Amendment is synonymous with infringing personal safety and taking away the opportunity to secure one’s self and home. In addition to it, guns are widely used for self-protection, as the National Rifle Association reports more than 2.5 million instances of self-defense falling upon weapons annually as compared to less than 1 million occurrences during the 1990s (Cox, 2015).
It proves that guns help secure Americans and, according to news reports, they are efficient for saving lives (Nolan, 2012). All arguments mentioned above underpin the significance of preserving the right to the Second Amendment; however, there is one more critical point to consider.
Finally, the right to the Second Amendment is closely related not only to personal safety but also to the protection of liberty. The central idea is using it as a tool for avoiding the emergence of dictatorship in the state and limiting the powers of the government leaving it to citizens. Thomas Jefferson once said, “What country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms” (Coffman, 2012, p. 25).
Such an opinion on the right to keep and bear arms openly inside and outside of one’s home is the representation of democracy and the rule of the people, as they are free to control their governments and oppose them in cases of violating the liberty of the state and violating the rights and freedoms of individuals. If authorities succeed in promoting strict gun laws and disarming citizens, it would mean that real power is taken away from people and given to governments, thus leading to the establishment of dictatorship (Ford, 2016). Such developments are undesirable underpinning the necessity of the Second Amendment for the stability of society and the welfare of citizens.
The right to the Second Amendment is one of the most controversial issues of the contemporary U.S. legal system because it is closely related to both personal and collective safety. It is aggravated by severe debates surrounding individual freedoms due to frequent cases of mass shootings and killings as well as raising awareness of public welfare. At the same time, the challenge is serious because of the fine line between falling upon weapons as the last resort for guaranteeing one’s safety and seeing them as a tool for mass disorders. Still, regardless of the controversy, the right to keep and bear arms should not be violated because it is one of the fundamental rights about safety and liberty.
Instead of restricting citizens’ right to carry weapons outside of their homes, it is imperative to take steps to foster it and draw attention to the significance of educative measures, so that people have an extensive background on the issue and are unbiased when it comes to perceiving the role of guns in society. To sum up, protecting this right is the foundation for the safe future of American society and the further development of democracy in the United States.
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Blocher, J. (2012). The right not to keep or bear arms. Stanford Law Review, 64(1), 1-54.
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