The Smoking Gun of the Second Amendment
In the cold, snowy day of December 15, 1791, our Founding Fathers crafted the Constitution, the document that would come to serve as the bedrock of every law that would come after it. Out of the Constitution’s 27 Amendments, the 2nd Amendment is one of the most divisive ones. At first glance, the 2nd Amendment’s definition seems clear cut: each and every citizen has the right to keep and bear arms. Upon further inspection, the statement is vague and hence has led to a myriad of interpretations, also making the 2nd Amendment one of the most controversial. Especially as gun tragedies happen in the United States with an alarming frequency, gun control is becoming a hot issue and the 2nd Amendment is at the center of it all. As the debate on whether restrictions on gun sales and ownership rages, it has become clear that conservative or right-leaning citizens do not favor changes to the 2nd Amendment.
The Guardian, one of the United Kingdom’s major news sources, conducted research on the frequency of mass shootings in the United States, starting from January 1st of 2013 to October 1st, 2015. Mass shootings were defined as four or more people shot in a gun-based incident. The results were startling; there were 994 mass shootings within 1004 days, the time period of the study. This number of mass shootings is part of an upward trend; in 2014, according to the New York Times, the FBI confirmed there has been a sharp rising of mass shootings since 2000. Specifically, from 2007 to 2013 there was an average of 16.4 mass shootings a year, while from 2000 to 2006, there were 6.4 shootings annually.
So why is it that Republican-leaning citizens are so adamant to changes to the 2nd Amendment, when it seems to be clear that guns are causing thousands of deaths annually? One reason is that conservatives believe in limited government,; rather than creating new laws, they want strict enforcement on current laws. On the other hand, liberals tend to believe in a bigger, more influential government, and hence more laws to control not just the sales of specific guns, but also on who can obtain them at all. Another major reason is the conflicting evidence that fuels both sides of the gun-control debate. For example, Chicago and Washington D.C. are two of the nation’s leading states with strict gun control, and yet their annual homicide rates actually increased after their gun bans went into effect. Similar statistics have been found for nations known for strict gun control, such as England and Australia, regarding not just homicides but also violent crime and petty theft. On the other hand, there are numerous studies claiming that guns do not deter crime or that guns contribute greatly to annual crime statistics. Combining these two opposing bodies of research and a desire for limited government, it is clear why conservatives tend to oppose gun restriction laws and changes to the 2nd Amendment much more so than liberal-leaning citizens.
All in all, the 2nd Amendment was meant to be a general guideline on the right for citizens to protect themselves against the government, and other potentially invasive forces. The general nature of the 2nd Amendment makes the Amendment vague and controversial, but also provides room for improving our society’s safety. Violent crime rates, such as those for murder and assault, have plummeted from 80 to 20 crimes per 1,000 people in the last twenty years. Gun homicide rates have also declined, as from 1993 to 2014, the death rate by firearms per 100,000 people have fallen from 15.2 to 10.5. At the same time, the US has the highest gun-homicide rate in the world. Furthermore, the linear increase of firearm-based deaths since 1999 has a strong correlation with the decline of funding for gun research. The evidence indicates that guns play a role in keeping people safe, and that the majority of their owners are law-abiding citizens who want to protect their loved ones. In fact, gun ownership has slightly fallen since 1993. However, as our society continues to become more complex, our funding toward gun research should increase to account for this increasing complexity. This way, researchers can make more well-informed, frequent recommendations toward public policy, and ultimately provide for a safer society.
- Daniel Hyun