The Right To Bear Arms

There are few issues in this country that cause more controversy than the debate over the right to keep and bear arms. The debate over the 2nd amendment of the U.S constitution’s affirmation of the natural, god given right to self defense, has been going on for decades. The Supreme Court has ruled in 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller, and again in 2010 with McDonald v. Chicago, that the second amendment protects the individual right to possess (keep) firearms for lawful use, such as self-defense. However, the right to bear arms (carry on your person) has not had a definitive Supreme Court ruling, leaving it up to each state to determine who can carry a firearm and how (open or concealed, pistol or rifle), so long as the state does not have a complete ban on carry. Because of this, a patchwork of laws, which vary from state to state, leave gun owners at risk of severe penalties, including prison, for the simply exercising their constitutionally protected right to bear arms. Congress needs to act to protect the citizens of this country from undeserved punishment for exercising a constitutionally protected right; we need national concealed carry reciprocity. Just as a driver’s license from one state is honored by all other states, so should be a concealed carry permit. Although ideally a permit should not be required to exercise a right, I will give at least a little room for reasonable regulation due to the responsibility involved in carrying a firearm.

As seen in the case against Shaneen Allen, unconstitutional firearms laws hurt law-abiding citizens while doing nothing to reduce crime, as criminals do not follow the law. Allen, a health care worker and single mother of two with no criminal record, legally purchased her pistol and qualified for a concealed carry license in Pennsylvania. Living in a high crime rate neighborhood and being the victim of armed robbery, Allen decided she needed to protect herself. Not realizing that her permit was invalid in New Jersey, Allen brought her pistol with her on a trip to visit family in New Jersey, a state with extremely strict gun laws. She now faces a minimum of three years in prison and the possibility of losing custody of her children. Or the case of Brian Aitken, a successful media consultant and father who was sentenced to seven years in prison for having and transporting legally purchased guns, unloaded and locked in the truck of his car, while in New Jersey. While his sentence was later commuted by the governor his life was forever changed and he wrongly spent years of his life fighting for his freedom. These are just two examples out of thousands, in which otherwise law-abiding citizens are being made into criminals and punished excessively for exercising a constitutionally protected right.

To be fair, I can appreciate the fears held by those against the idea of legally armed citizens and in support of gun control. They worry that if more people are allowed to carry weapons that homicide and suicide rates will go up, that banning guns will save lives. They argue that nobody needs an assault rifle except the military and that the idea that armed citizens could stand any chance against a tyrannical government in control of the modern U.S. military is laughable. That the second amendment only protects the right of the militia or military to bear arms, not average citizens to use for personal protection. However, upon closer examination each of these arguments can be proven false. If you study the federalist papers written by the founding fathers describing their ideas and reasons for the way the constitution was written. The second amendment was written to protect a natural right to defend ones life. It was not written to grant us rights but to protect those natural rights that the founding fathers believe were important to ensure freedom for all. The founding fathers intended that the second amendment included the individual right to bear arms as noted by Thomas Jefferson, “No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”

Reports from the Crime Prevention Research Group, which reviewed the relationship between crime statistics and concealed carry permits, shows that as gun ownership and concealed carry permits rise crime rates fall. As of 2013 there are at least 11,113,013 adults with concealed carry permits in this country up from 4.5 million in 2007 and these numbers don’t count the people who live in states like Arizona which do not require a permit. Yet even with this sharp increase in weapons permits the violent crime and murder rates are both down by 22% in the same time period. The National Crime Victimization Survey concluded that, “robbery and assault victims who used a gun to resist were less likely to be attacked or to suffer an injury than those who used any other methods of self-protection or those who did not resist at all.” As well as the fact that guns are used many more times to defend against crime than to perpetrate it, with estimates of more than 2 million defensive gun uses every year, most with no shots being fired. Having a firearm greatly reduces your chance of becoming a victim. Even a Harvard study could not find a link between America’s high rate of gun ownership and an increase in murder or suicide rates. Finding instead that murder rates were more reflective of socio-economic and cultural variations between countries, than they were of gun ownership. The same study did however find a correlation between the advent and proliferation of firearms and a decrease in murder rates, using England as an example, murder rates seem to have fallen sharply as guns became progressively more efficient and widely owned during the five centuries after the invention of firearms”.

 

Having a firearm greatly reduces your chance of becoming a victim, plain and simple. This lesson was recently learned by 63-year-old grandmother Phyliss Law. Intruders broke into her house while she and her granddaughter were home. She was able to retrieve her pistol and shoot one of the home invaders causing them to flee the house, leaving her and her granddaughter safe. There are thousands of defensive gun uses across the country. As seen in this example, firearms level the playing field between good guys and bad, between the strong and the weak.

Another group of laws that often cause problems for otherwise law-abiding citizens are laws restricting so called assault weapons. Semi-automatic military style rifles, commonly and incorrectly referred to as, assault weapons, are often a subject of debate and the target of more ineffective gun control. People argue that the average person does not need these military style weapons and that they often used in mass shootings. This argument like so many anti-gun arguments is easily refuted by the facts. Including the fact that rifles of any type are used in less than 2% of all gun crimes. Should we enact laws restricting people’s rights because of a statistically insignificant misuse? The previous assault weapon ban and other gun control laws were determined by the CDC, National Academy of Sciences, and other sources, to have had no measurable effect on gun crime. Adding to that, the Supreme Court has ruled that the second amendment protects all arms in common use. Considering that there is an estimated 5-8 million of these types of rifles in the privately owned in the US, and are used by numerous police and military units, it would seem that they are in very common use and therefore protected by the second amendment.

I can agree that some regulation is needed to reduce the number of criminals and mentally unstable with access to firearms. I fully support universal background checks, which are already mandatory for most legal firearms purchases, I think they should even include an investigation of a persons mental health history to check if that person has been deemed incompetent or a danger to self or others. However, most other restrictions on what type of weapons one can pose and how someone may carry them should be removed. Most importantly, we need national reciprocity for concealed permit holders, just like a driver’s license. If a person is able to pass the background and psychological history checks, there is no good reason that law-abiding individuals should be denied their natural right to armed self-defense. We should not be reading stories about people like Shaneen Allen and Brian Aitkens, honest citizens should not have their freedom taken and lives ruined for simply being prepared to protect themselves, a natural and fundamental right. The police can’t always protect you and are under no legal obligation to do so, as affirmed by the Supreme Court ruling in Warren v. District of Columbia. You are responsible for your own protection, and a gun is the most effective means of self-defense, it is the only thing that can level the field when someone want to do you harm. The right to bear arms should be equally available to all who qualify regardless of what state you are in.

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