Gun control– up in arms

Seamus Dowdell, Contributing Writer

The issue of gun rights in America has been a hot-bed for political controversy for years. Dating back to the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., legislative battle between pro-gun organizations, such as the NRA, and anti-gun organizations have engaged in a legislative tug-of-war to promote their respective causes. In the latest of the controversies is the argument made by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, in which he calls for the extension of the SecondAmendment (the amendment that claims the “right of the people to keep and bear arms”) by five important words. In my opinion, moderate gun control could lead to the reduction and deterrence of general crime. Through the use of universal background checks, distributors could provide a safeguard against those who wish to purchase weapons for bad intent. Although the system is clearly not without its flaws, background checks at the minimum foster the acknowledgement that guns are indeed lethal weapons that require a degree of control.

First, it is important to understand the Second Amendment for what it says literally. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that “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.” The original intent of the amendment was to put the power in the people, in order to fight off tyrannies such as the British Empire during the American Revolution. In the initial fragile state of the new American democracy, this amendment was seen as integral to preserving such a new system. Furthermore, it served as a vanguard against the new American government if it were to attempt to override democracy or the rights of the people, a cause central to the Constitution.

The applicability of the amendment in the past was perfectly justified. However, the notion that the amendment has effectively expired in modern application has raised certain organizations and government officials to call for the control of guns and arms. The issues peaked in the wake of the successive assassinations. This led to the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968 under President Lyndon B. Johnson, which sought to primarily regulate interstate commerce of firearms. A simultaneous initiative for gun control and wake-up call for gun advocates, this piece of legislature can be referred to as the beginning of the legislative battle we continue to see play out today.

Relating back to the controversy of today, Stevens has put an interesting spin on the topic of gun control. He proposes an extension of the Second Amendment to actively limit the “right to bear arms” to the military, in the following way: “a well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, when serving in the militia, shall not be infringed (note italics). Although this addition would be seen as a clear victory for anti-gun activists and organizations, its probability of occurring is rather low. The most current Supreme Court case regarding gun laws was McDonald vs. Chicago, in which the right to bear arms was upheld by the due process clause in the Fourteenth Amendment and therefore applied at the state level.

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