Gun violence has been a prominent presence in America for as long as I can remember. The first time I remember hearing about an incident of gun violence was when I was in my 6th grade social studies classroom when the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut took place.
I knew how bad it was and I understood for the most part what was going on, but I never really thought about being scared for my safety in school at the time even though they began to talk about the similar incidents that took place Columbine and Virginia Tech at school. Today, as a high school student who lives less than an hour away from Parkland Florida where one of the deadliest school shootings took place at this February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I, along with many others, feel the presence of gun violence closer to home than ever. In a country where students feel that they have to fear for their lives when going to school, changes, no matter how major or minor, need to be made. The 2nd Amendment and what it stands for has been one of the most hotly debated elements of the U.S. Constitution especially due to the countless incidents of gun violence in our country.
Because of the vast disagreement within the issue and points of validity on either side of the argument of gun control, America must find a common ground that recognizes that this country has changed drastically since Colonial and Revolutionary times and that preserves the original intent of the 2nd Amendment which is the protection of the American people. The 2nd Amendment has been interpreted in many different ways especially in contemporary America due to the outburst of recent events regarding gun violence. Pinpointing exactly what the Framers meant in the language they used in this amendment has been virtually impossible to historians and scholars to this day. The most accurate interpretation of the 2nd Amendment would be to uphold its original intent. The original intent of the 2nd Amendment is the protection of the American people. In Revolutionary America, protection meant protection from the war in their home front which resulted in the allowance of anyone being able to own a gun for means of self defense.
In contemporary America, the original intent still stands and the protection of American people is still of utmost importance, but what was used to protect Americans once is now what some Americans feel they need to be protected from. American politics seem to split between gun rights activists who believe in an “individual right theory”- individuals have the right to own guns for self defense and recreational purposes- and gun control activists who believe in a “collective right theory”- firearms should not be in the hands of the everyday person and that national defense should be up to federal bodies (Source A). One of the most important factors in determining the present day relevance that the belief of the “individual right theory” has is how much weaponry has evolved. In 1700s America, the deadliest form of firearms were muskets which everyday people owned due to the impending threat of British soldiers and a war on their homeland. Americans felt protected by having these weapons at a state of war such as this.
In present day, anyone can buy military grade weapons which have evolved drastically since the musket. They are now high-powered, semi-automatic assault rifles which when they are possessed by everyday individuals raise the question of why anyone would need such a weapon. The ownership of firearms within America has been the cause of over 30,000 deaths per year and are unbelievably easy to access(Source F).Gun laws in America must be reevaluated to find a way wear arms can still be used for self defense, but such a high degree of weaponry such as assault rifles should not be available to just anyone or should at least be harder to obtain. Changes in politics and society are also two things that should be noted when determining the relevance of the 2nd Amendment in contemporary America. In the war ridden time of Revolutionary America, Americans lived in fear of British tyranny that they had been facing as colonists.
When the Founding Fathers were drafting the Constitution, they wanted Americans to feel safe and secure with the establishment of their new country and they wanted the citizens to know that they had trust in the American people. The Framers granted us many freedoms in the Constitution in the establishment of a new government and a new country which they wanted to make appealing to the public. By granting them the right to bear arms, the Framers proved their ideal of democracy and let Americans live in an environment where they felt safe from any feeling of approaching tyranny which they had so explicitly known in the years before (Source E). Nowadays, America is a fully established country whose democratic government has survived. The threat of a tyrannical government hasn’t touched America since the Colonial era due to our systems of checks and balances and the three branches of government which balance our nations federal powers.
The government upholds the right to bear arms as a sign of trust between themselves and the American people, but when that trust is broken in the misuse of arms that is seen to often today, what is the government supposed to do? While firearms were used to make Americans feel safe from a fear of tyranny they knew too well in the Revolutionary period, that reasoning doesn’t apply well to our government today which is not tyrannical and doesn’t impose any direct threat to become that way. The fact that the right to bear arms is a “right of the people” just as the rights to things such as freedom of speech and religion are is a common argument made by those who believe restricting gun laws is an infringement of our rights as American citizens (Source C).What makes the “rights of the people” different in this amendment than all the others is that the 2nd Amendment holds potential life or death situations in the balance while our other rights don’t. This amendment cannot be treated like the others and needs to be addressed with an equal amount of severity to all the pain and damage it has caused. This amendment is the most difficult to interpret because both sides of the debate of gun control use the same evidence to make their arguments.
Self-defense is an important and extremely necessary factor in our nation, but the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of innocent people must be taken into account when gun control is being discussed. Guns have the potential to do a lot of harm in the perspective of those that have died from their use and have the potential to also do a lot of good in a protective perspective. Not all guns should be taken away because there are good reasons to keep them such as the point of self-defense, but I believe that limitations need to be placed on the degree of severity of firearms that are purchased by everyday Americans and that regulations should be passed on who can buy certain weaponry. Finding a common ground is the only way to solve the prevalent issue of abuse of firearms in our country and to preserve the intent of the Framers of the government to protect the American people.