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The United States of America is one of the few countries that still follow a constitution that was enacted many centuries ago. Although drafters of the U.S. Constitution claim to have been guided by the desire to secure the rights of American citizens, some clauses have continuously been debated due to their controversial wording. This paper focuses on the Second Amendment (Amendment II), which was solely approved in 1791 with a view to safeguarding the civil liberties of various U.S. citizens who owned guns for personal defense reasons.
Issues such as its contentious nature and the observed outright violation of the rights people informed the decision to have the Second Amendment revised as a way of preventing further human tragedies. Nonetheless, this paper argues that although Amendment II was enacted to defend the lives of the American population, courts cannot continue to overlook the idea of revising it at a time when unauthorized people, including school-going children, have been linked with shootings and killings of innocent citizens.
This paper is organized into three sections. The first part gives a brief background of the Second Amendment, while the succeeding section offers evidence of excessive gun ownership and, consequently, the root of many deaths, a situation that calls for revisions to have the use of weapons regulated in America. The last section provides the position of those who advocate for Amendment II.
The House of Representatives presented the initial outline of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Council in 1789. According to Rutkow, Vernick, Webster, and Teret, the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment states, “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”. It forms part of the ten amendments, which constitute the Bill of Rights endorsed by the American Congress in 1791.
This particular segment of the U.S. fundamental civil liberties was implemented with a view to empowering citizens to use guns for their personal protection purposes. According to Cornell and Cornell, the Second Amendment encouraged the regulation of gun ownership among some specified groups of well-trained people, including the U.S. Army. To demonstrate this country’s desire to guarantee safety among its citizens, this part of the American Constitution also gave individuals the privilege of owning and keeping firearms in their homes.
These people were required by law not to take advantage of this dispensation to engage in violence and aggression. Sadhra, Dick, and Smedley define violence and aggression as “any incident in which a person is abused, threatened, or assaulted in the circumstances relating to their work, whether by colleagues or others.”
Despite many legal suits being filed to clarify the implications of the above clauses due to their controversial nature, cases, including District of Columbia v Heller, was ruled in favor of the Second Amendment. As revealed in an article by Miller, the Second Amendment contains two clauses, which mention the issue of gun control among members of the American armed forces and the idea of giving the common U.S. citizen the privilege of possessing firearms for self-defense at their homes. According to Miller, when questioned about the meaning of “regulated militia,” judges handling the District of Columbia v Heller case asserted that this clause treated the U.S. citizens as part of a well-organized group.
Consequently, people included in this faction needed to be given the right to use weapons to a particular degree for personal security. In another case of 2010, namely, McDonald v City of Chicago, judges interpreted Amendment II as a provision that was solely enacted to protect individuals and the wider American population, although they acknowledged its underlying impact on the authority of national and local governments.
When examining the history of the Second Amendment, Vandercoy offers a detailed clarification regarding the idea of American citizens enjoying constitutional rights of owning weapons. According to this author, the U.S. population was allowed to carry arms only on conditions that they did not use them to undertake criminal activities or threaten the lives of the broader public. North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York, among other regions in the United States, welcomed the approval of the Second Amendment due to its potential of availing the much-needed safety of the American property, including its people.
However, instances of innocent killings and illegal possession of guns were reported in the period that followed the approval of the Second Amendment. The ensuing legal battles indicated the extent to which gun control was inevitable, implying a revision of this part of the U.S. Bill of Rights with a view to protecting innocent citizens against further deaths or tragedies. As revealed in the next section, the available literature offers adequate evidence in favor of revising the Second Amendment.
The above-mentioned court cases reveal the degree of challenges that followed the ratification of the Second Amendment, including creating an avenue for children and unlawful individuals to acquire weapons for malicious reasons. According to Rutkow, Vernick, Webster, and Teret, the Second Amendment is among the top contested sections of the American Bill of Rights because drafters failed to incorporate the views of researchers and policymakers.
These stakeholders would have offered scientifically proven opinions regarding the need for safer weapon designs to curb issues of unintentional use by children, the supervision of gun producers, and stern warnings against firearm trafficking and smuggling. The failure of the Second Amendment to capture these crucial components has ended up attracting continuous court cases whereby citizens demand revisions of this law to curb the observed preventable human deaths.
According to a study by Vernick, the Second Amendment was associated with more than 11000 weapon-related shootings observed in America in 2010. Almost 90% of such killings were executed using handguns. The period of 2010 was also marked by close to 54000 gun-linked accidents whereby victims were forced to seek emergency medical services in various American hospitals, a situation that has so far consumed approximately 20 billion U.S. dollars.
This statistical data points to various weaknesses that were not addressed when the American House of Representatives was drafting the Second Amendment to be delivered to the legislative chamber for ratification. For instance, in the Woollard v Sheridan case, early interpreters of Amendment II asserted that the liberty granted to gun owners was limited to their homes unless they were part of the U.S. armed forces.
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However, based on the ruling made regarding the above case, it was further determined that the deployment of firearms could not be restricted to gun owners’ doorsteps, a situation that paved the way for criminal activities and shootings away from one’s home compound. According to Donohue, increased cases of human tragedies in the U.S. since the endorsement of the Second Amendment indicate the reason why America needs to consider revising the underlying clauses to realize its intended goal of securing the lives of all citizens. According to Sadhra, Dick, and Smedley, excessive exposure of the American population to handguns as enshrined in the Constitution is the root of the heightened levels of violence and aggression reported among school-going children and other unauthorized people.
The idea of carrying guns in institutions of learning, thanks to gaps in the Second Amendment, threatened the security of teachers and other unarmed students following the rising cases of learners using their weapons to fire aimlessly. According to Masters, in 2012, 20 students died because of mass shootings that took place in Newtown, Connecticut. This situation informed the study by Morabia, which sought to find out whether teachers could be given the necessary continuous training on how to use guns in schools as a way of controlling possible student rampages. This strategy was practical but unsustainable because it could cost America more than 17 billion U.S. dollars per year.
Santilli et al. offer examples of educational facilities where students engaged in riots using guns. For example, a firing of guns was reported in a Columbine academic center in 1999 before other similar instances occurred in Orlando, Florida, and Dallas, Texas, in 2016.
This particular article regards violence using firearms as among the major causes of more than 30000 fatalities recorded every year in America. Consequently, according to Branas et al., in a move to recover more than 300 million firearms that are thought to be in the hands of the wrong people contrary to the conditions set for gun ownership in the Second Amendment, campaigns against attacks using weapons began in 2016. Schools formed part of the targeted institutions because of the above cases of killings undertaken by students who could access and carry guns, despite the lack of sufficient reasons stipulated in the Second Amendment.
Scholars advocate for the idea of gun control through a revision of the above section of the Bill of Rights aimed at reducing the amount of suffering experienced by the U.S. population. For example, according to Cornell and Cornell, the current increasing number of initiatives and calls to amend a section of the American Constitution resulted from this country’s “first gun violence epidemic, a public health crisis that emerged decades after the adoption of the Second Amendment in the early 19th century”. This specific article points to the need for securing the lives of many innocent United States citizens who have suffered directly or indirectly due to the massive presence of illegal guns.
From a personal experience, I witnessed a case whereby two students almost fired at an innocent civilian on their way home in Dalla, Texas. It took my intervention to calm these youthful learners following their claims that the targeted citizen had intimidated them. He was unaware that they were in possession of handguns, which they allegedly took from their unlicensed parents. Upon questioning them calmly, they revealed to me that they had been carrying guns in school for more than two years after being informed that it was legally acceptable to do so. They also knew additional uncertified individuals who possessed guns within their localities. It is possible that many shootings reported in this area are a byproduct of the Second Amendment, which opened the way for unauthorized individuals to acquire guns.
The victim, who later joined the conversation appeared traumatized. This information may be fruitful in informing authorities about the need to revisit the U.S. Constitution. Such a move will help to curb similar incidents that have led to the death of many Americans, including the earlier mentioned huge expenses incurred in treating victims of gun violence.
Nevertheless, despite the apparent need for revising the Second Amendment to prevent human suffering, a section of other scholars has contradicting perceptions of this law. Hence, as revealed in this section, they have vowed to support it, citing court cases that were ruled in favor of this part of the Bill of Rights. In 2008, Justice Scalia made an important ruling during the District of Columbia v Heller case. According to Birnbaum, this judge asserted that the Second Amendment protected the gun ownership rights of the individual U.S. citizen.
Justice Scalia emphasized that this law not only secured armed forces from threats but also members of the public. Thus, according to the drafters of the Second Amendment, it was reasonable for U.S. militias and citizens to own armaments for self-defense against potential threats posed by intruding armies or ill-reasoned individuals. Therefore, revising the Second Amendment to disarm some citizens and militias would not only infringe their gun ownership rights but also expose them to the threat of being viewed as helpless targets by their enemies.
According to the advocates of the Second Amendment, the proposed regulations were compatible with the definition of well-regulated firearms tenure as provided for in this law. According to Vernick, revision proposals presented in the litigation included prohibitions on assault weapons, elongated waiting periods for firearm purchases, and comprehensive and broad background checks. These revision requests were deemed unnecessary since the U.S. Government had already enacted protective measures regarding gun use.
Judges, including Justice Scalia, argued that longstanding firearm prohibitions have existed in the U.S. to restrict the possession of weapons to undeserving individuals such as the psychologically sick and criminals. In addition, regarding the issue of rampage and shootings triggered by school-going children, laws have also been enacted limiting the carrying of firearms in sensitive environments such as government buildings and learning institutions. Therefore, incorporating such proposals into the Second Amendment was not necessary.
According to Kleck, the Supreme Court made a ruling for the Caetano v Massachusetts case of 2016 by holding that the Second Amendment applies to all forms of bearable arms. Consequently, the public is given the right to own guns for self-defense purposes only. As argued by this Court, provisions of the Second Amendment extend to all instruments, which form bearable arms, including those that did not exist during the establishment of this law. Concurring with this position, Spitzer asserts that the Second Amendment is applicable to the entire U.S., hence implying that further revisions are redundant.
Agencies such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) do not support the issue of endorsing new restrictions for gun ownership in the U.S. According to them, people who propose revisions for the Second Amendment detest individual freedom. According to Kleck, they infringe the rights of American citizens in the name of fighting gun violence and mass shootings.
The NRA has been supporting politicians who uphold the provisions of the Second Amendment since it acts as a complete and functional gun control regulation. As the head of the NRA alliance observes, school shootings mentioned earlier should not imply that the Second Amendment requires revisions. Instead, factors that led to these heinous acts need to be investigated. Overall, any efforts made to revise the Second Amendment should be viewed as aimless agendas that contravene America’s deeply founded legacy of protecting the welfare of its citizens.
Although the Second Amendment was ratified with the aim of safeguarding the rights of the American population, it has ended up paving the way for illegal gun ownership and, consequently, unwarranted human suffering due to excessive shootings targeted at innocent citizens. Amendment II was approved as part of the American Constitution in 1791. However, the massive acquiring of guns by the U.S. population was accompanied by unanticipated shootings that have so far claimed the lives of many innocent citizens. While some scholars campaign for the revision of this part of the American Constitution to reduce human deaths, others argue for its execution as it is, claiming that any reported sufferings are not linked to this law.
Proponents of the Second Amendment assert that the U.S. Constitution has other provisions that address elements of gun ownership and misuse, including who is eligible for acquiring firearms. Nonetheless, based on the rising cases of killings due to the increasing number of illegally possessed firearms, I support the idea of revising this section of the Bill of Rights to limit the category of people who can own a gun, including declaring stern penalties for any weapon trafficking offenders. This move is important because it will restore the American image and legacy, which the drafters of the Constitution wanted to achieve through the Second Amendment.
Birnbaum, Robert. “Ready, Fire, Aim: The College Campus Gun Fight.” Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 45, no. 5 (2013): 6-14.
Branas, Charles C., Andrew Flescher, Margaret K. Formica, Sandro Galea, Nils Hennig, Karen D. Liller, Hala N. Madanat, Andrew Park, and John E. Rosenthal. “Academic Public Health and the Firearm Crisis: An Agenda for Action.” American Journal of Public Health 107, no. 3 (2017): 365-367. Web.
Cornell, Saul, and Emma Cornell. “The Second Amendment and Firearms Regulation: A Venerable Tradition Regulating Liberty While Securing Public Safety.” American Journal of Public Health 108, no. 7 (2018): 867-868.
Donohue, John J. “How U.S. Gun Control Compares to the Rest of the World.” Stanford Law School, 2017. Web.
Kleck, Gary. Targeting Guns: Firearms and Their Control. Abingdon, England: Taylor & Francis, 1997.
Masters, Jonathan. “U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparisons.” Council on Foreign Relations, 2017. Web.
Miller, Darrell A. H. “Institutions and the Second Amendment.” Duke Law Journal 66, no. 69 (2016): 70-119.