Talk of gun rights and gun control is back on full boil after Nikolas Cruz, the gunman who carried out the massacre of students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018, pleaded guilty in a Florida courtroom Wednesday to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder. Cruz, 23, faces a minimum of life in prison and maximum of the death penalty, which will be decided by a jury in the upcoming sentencing phase of the trial.
So what is the basis for the right to bear arms?
The Second Amendment
So where did the Second Amendment come from? To understand that, you have to understand where the Bill of Rights came from — that late-day addition to the Constitution that was opposed by many of the framers, including its principal architect, James Madison.
During the 1791 constitutional convention, there was much squabbling between federalists like Madison, who pushed for a strong centralized U.S. government, and opponents who were afraid that the top-down federal system, laid out in the new Constitution, would lead to tyranny.
The Bill of Rights was a sop to the anti-federalist faction. It guaranteed things like free speech and right of fair trial, and the rights of individual states to defend themselves, should federal tyranny arise.
That, says Cornell, is how we should understand the phrase “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state…”
It was to enable the free states — New York, Virginia, Maryland and so on — to maintain citizen armies to defend their own interests. And these militias would be regulated by the state — not lawless crowds.
“What they’re concerned about is the state being able to protect itself from a potential tyranny,” Cornell said. “The militia are to be controlled by the state government. If you organize yourself as your own militia, you’re not a militia, you’re a mob.”
That’s certainly not how Roubian understands the phrase “well-regulated.”
“It doesn’t mean regulated in regard to laws, and being controlled,” he said. “It means ‘finely tuned’ — ‘having those abilities.’ That’s something a lot of people misconstrue.”
What does “well regulated militia” mean?
The militia was a group of local men who could act as a military force in times of emergency. In 1791 it represented a group that armed itself against the British army. The militia could be called upon to help to fight off Indian raids, invasions, or even act as the local police force. A “well regulated” militia was one that was trained, organized, and disciplined. In other words, not just a bunch of guys with guns.
What does “bear arms” really mean?
The term “bear arms” means to “carry a weapon.” Although there is no description of what kind of “arms”, the writers of the amendment at the time certainly included guns within the definition of “arms.”`
How Many Guns Are in the U.S.?
The U.S. has a lot of guns — so many, in fact, that there’s more than one firearm for every person who lives in the country. According to the Geneva, Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey, in 2017 there were an estimated 393 million guns in the U.S., including 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles and 86 million shotguns [source: Karp]. This already huge privately held arsenal is growing at a very fast rate. In 2020 alone, Americans purchased nearly 40 million firearms, according to FBI data
How often do gun owners actually prevent crimes?
People opposed to gun control often have argued that they need firepower to protect themselves against criminals. Take this example from January 2013 when a Georgia woman shot a crowbar-wielding intruder who broke into her home and confronted her and her two young children [source: CBS News]. A number of armed American citizens have also used their firearms to stop or limit mass killings, including Stephen Willeford, the armed citizen who intervened to confront and pursue a gunman who attacked First Baptist Church of Sutherland Spring, Texas in 2017 [source: CNN].
Gun control opponents say that a vast number of crimes are prevented by armed citizens, who either shoot an assailant — an event that happened 326 times in 2010, according to a 2012 Wall Street Journal state-by-state analysis of crime statistics — or more often, chase the would-be criminal away by brandishing a weapon [source: Palazzolo and Barry].
Should schools arm teachers and guards?
Gun control advocates argue that training all teachers and guards would be a huge and expensive undertaking, and even then there’s no guarantee that guns wouldn’t be fired accidentally or in a moment of passion. A 2000 review by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, for instance, found that guns in the home are more often used to threaten people the gun owner knows rather than to thwart crime.
Gun advocates say armed guards have helped decrease school violence, citing a 2009 study that found the presence of school officers, who are sometimes armed, was attributable to a nearly 73 percent decrease in arrests involving possession of a weapon on school property
Does media violence have any impact on actual violence?