The dichotomy between the thinking of Gun rights activists, and gun control activists is extremely severe. I have little doubt that either group will ever see eye to eye. This is largely due to the avenue of thought each group takes. Those who support the right to bear arms argue that their right to defend themselves outweighs any perceived threat to other citizens. For those who want to limit the use of guns in America, they argue that a citizen’s right to feel safe in public is more important. I do acknowledge that there are many people that fall into the grey area in-between, but in the current political climate only the polar opposites are coming though.
First let’s look behind the thinking of a gun rights activist. To them the second amendment is a right they hold just as dearly as their right to free speech, or their right to religious freedom. Any law that is passed that limits the right to bear arms would be the equivalent to banning religions or limiting speech in their eyes. The best way I can explain it would be in relation to a quote form Edward Snowden. He stated that “Arguing that you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide s no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say”. To those who vehemently defend their right to bear arms, apathy toward these laws would be just as absurd as what Snowden said about privacy. Then there is the argument that the laws are useless in the first place because criminals will not follow them. I’ve never heard of a criminal buying lower capacity magazines so their illegally possessed firearm could be state compliant, but I digress.
To those that support gun control the idea of safety over individual rights seems to be the goal overall. Many gun control groups like to state that “This is about the right to life of people who are killed by mass murderers”. So to someone who supports gun control, regulating firearms is something that needs to be done for the public good. To many of them the right to bear arms should not be a right. It should be a privilege. They would prefer a world where the government was able to protect every citizen. One where only police and soldiers had guns. A world where firearms are controlled and kept out of the hands of criminals. They want to make this a reality though legislation, and reform. Most of which ends up being halfhearted and ineffective.
So here lies the problem. Pro gunners live in a time that has long past, and anti-gunners live in a utopian dream that will never become a reality. Pro gunners want the ability to make their own decisions in terms of self defense, while anti-gunners want to create a system where the government is everywhere and always watching. One assumes that violence is bound to happen and cannot be prevented. The other assumes that people will be willing to allow a “Big Brother” to be watching over their daily life and take charge of their security.
There has been a lot of talk about what the second amendment really means. “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. For many the second amendment means a guarantee that they have the right to arms. For others it does not.
The controversy surrounding the second amendment revolves around the two clauses of the sentence. Many argue that the second amendment only guarantees the right to bear arms to the militia. This is what has come to be known as the collective rights theory. It argues that citizens have no individual right to bear arms and since there is no individual right, government has the authority to regulate. Unites States v. Miller set this precedent after declaring that the National Firearms Act of 1934 was legal and did not infringe on individual rights.
The collective rights theory is completely contradictory to the intent of the framers. That is why District of Columbia v. Heller overturned the precedent set before. To understand why we should first look at what the definition of militia is. Militia is defined as “all able-bodied civilians eligible by law for military service” by the Merriam Webster dictionary. That would mean that every man and now woman who is of military age has the right to bear arms. Some people may point out that the second amendment mentions a “well-regulated” militia and not every able bodied man. The best response I can offer to this comes from the co-author of the second amendment George Mason. He states the following “I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them”. So it is quite clear that the framers did intend for the second amendment to be an individual right. Besides, is there a single amendment in the bill of rights that does not guarantee an individual right? Why would the second amendment be the exception? As for the original ruling in United States v. Miller it must be noted that this occurred under the Presidency of FDR. FDR had already threatened to pack the court if they continued to shoot down his programs. So there was no way the court would go against the president on one of his largest reforms. There was also a serious issue with organized crime that made the law understandable. However, it is important to note that the National Firearms Act did not ban any firearms. It only required the firearm to be registered and a tax to be paid. The court ruled that this fell under interstate commerce and was within the right of the Federal Government.
There is a lot of bad information about the second amendment. No matter what your political ideology is, or what you personally believe, it is hard to argue with historical fact. It is irrelevant whether you think people need firearms or not. Until it is changed, the second amendment guarantees the right of a United States Citizen to purchase a firearm in defense of home and liberty.