The Second Amendment in the United States Constitution involves the right to keep and bear arms for personal protection. The text of it follows below.
“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 is the placement of the commas within the text which has been debated for more than two centuries. Were America’s founding fathers wanting the right to keep and bear arms only with state-backed militias for self-defense? Or were they suggesting that every person in the country has a right to keep a gun for their protection?
The Supreme Court sided with the idea of collective rights over militia rights when determining how to apply the Second Amendment. It began with United States vs. Miller in 1939, where the justices determined that transporting a shotgun did not constitute the preservation of a well-regulated militia. The Court then held in the Heller case in 2008, on a 5-4 decision, that there was an individual right to own firearms. That decision continues to stand as the current precedent for legality.
These are the essential pros and cons to consider when reviewing the Second Amendment of the United States.
List of the Pros of the Second Amendment
1. The Second Amendment creates a deterrent for crime.
There is a significant decrease in crime levels when individuals have the right to protect themselves with a firearm. Dr. Gary Kleck noted in his research from 1997 that assault and robbery victims who use a gun to resist a crime are less likely to be attacked, or suffer an injury, when compared to those who use other forms of self-defense. When a victim displays a gun to protect themselves, the criminal retreats over 55% of the time. If everyone has the right to protect their homes in this way, then the levels of uncertainty create a deterrent for crime.
2. The Second Amendment can reduce other forms of crime.
Dr. John Lott research the impact that the right to own firearms has on other potentially violent crimes in society. He discovered that the presence of gun laws that support ownership reduce homicide levels by roughly 9%, aggravated assault by 7%, and sexual assault, including rape, by 5%. Lott also found that positive gun laws like the Second Amendment can lower the rate of robberies in society by up to 3%.
3. The Second Amendment allows people to feel safe, even if they never use it.
Although it would be a benefit to society for law enforcement to be highly responsive in every possible situation, that is not always the case. It is impossible for the government to protect every person or household from potential harm. Police are a resource to use in emergency situations, but they are not a guarantee of help. That means it is the responsibility of the adult in each household to defend themselves and their loved ones from a possible attack.
Home invasions are not always violent, but they do have the potential to create harm. 11% of burglars will remove a door or window during their attempt while the owners are still at home. Over 1 million home invasions occur each year in the United States. Most happened between 10 AM and 3 PM. If you are home at this time, then you can protect yourself thanks to the Second Amendment.
4. The Second Amendment allows for legal fairness in a dangerous situation.
It is not a proper argument to say that all criminals carry guns. Some will, but many others do not. When you look at this issue from a societal perspective, no one knows if a criminal decided to bring a deadly weapon with them when they made the decision to commit a crime. The Second Amendment makes it possible for the average person to legally protect themselves from the possibility of an armed attack.
5. The Second Amendment discourages crime in other ways as well.
The Texas Concealed Handgun Association researched the levels of crime committed in the demographic of a legal concealed carry weapon permit holder compared to the general population. They found that someone approved to carry a handgun in public while concealed is about six times less likely to commit a crime then the rest of the population when non-violent offenses were considered. Because of the stringent background investigation that occurs in most states for concealed carry permit, most adults in this situation tend to be law-abiding citizens.
6. The Second Amendment seems to follow the desire of the founding fathers in its current implementation.
The Second Amendment as it is currently applied to individual ownership seems to be the implied intent of the founding fathers. When you look at the various document drafts that these men created or the speeches they offered, then there is a clear preference for the right to own a firearm.
George Washington once said that a people who are free out not only to be armed, but also disciplined. Thomas Jefferson wrote that free men should never be debarred from the use of arms. Benjamin Franklin suggested that the people who were willing to give up liberty for sanctioned security deserved neither. George Mason said that disarming people was the most effectual way to enslave them.
7. The Second Amendment allows for responsible ownership.
If there is a failure about responsible gun ownership in the United States, then the fault doesn’t lie with the Second Amendment. It is an issue that we must address as a culture. There is nothing in the way to stop people from own specific types of weapons. Licensing requirements could become part of this legal structure. There are ways to allow anyone to own a gun for legal purposes without getting permission from the government while still asking people to know how to use it responsibly.
It is essential that we remember that a gun is a tool. We are the ones who are responsible for wielding it ways that are beneficial. That structures gives us the freedom to own firearms for sporting purposes, self-defense, and hunting without relying on a bureaucracy.
8. The Second Amendment is a symbol of freedom.
From an internal perspective for many Americans, the Second Amendment is symbol of their freedom. Even if they don’t want to own a firearm, having the ability to purchase one if they change their mind is an important part of the society. It is a reflection of the individual liberties which are present in the culture. When you have permission to own a gun, then it becomes an effective check-and-balance on the rest of society. That’s why there is a lot of resistance to gun control measures when they come up.
9. The Second Amendment also secures the right of a well-regulated militia.
Let’s not forget about this advantage when discussing the pros and cons of the Second Amendment. The right to have a well-regulated militia that contributes to the overall defense of a community helps to keep people safe as well. Although we have moved on to a volunteer military and use police officers to keep the peace, this structure makes it possible for people to get together and defend their homes should the need to do so ever arise.
10. The Second Amendment can encourage people to make a better life for themselves.
If you want to own a firearm under the current structure of the United States, then there are some background issues that you must pass before this is allowed. There are categories of prohibited people who cannot purchase or possess guns, despite the language of the Second Amendment. Background checks have prevented over 3 million transactions that were potentially dangerous since their inception.
List of the Cons of the Second Amendment
1. The Second Amendment cannot stop stupidity with a firearm.
One of the primary issues that the Second Amendment cannot address his stupidity. If someone decides to handle their firearm irresponsibly, then local laws must provide a deterrent from this behavior. The constitution under its current interpretation allows for ownership, but it does not create requirements for individual responsibility. Without proper training, someone can unintentionally harm themselves or someone else without much effort.
The statistics of the risks of having a gun at home bear this disadvantage out.
• Roughly 95% of gun-related suicides would not occur under the same circumstances if there was not a firearm in the house.
• The fatality rate is seven times higher in states where gun ownership is high when compared to the places that have the lowest levels of household firearm ownership.
• The states which have the highest levels of firearm ownership are 114% higher with their gun-related homicide rates and have 60% higher homicide rates than the states with the lowest levels of gun ownership.
• Every time someone uses a gun in a positive way for self-defense, another firearm is used 11 times for attempted or completed suicide attempts, seven times in criminal assaults, and four times for an unintentional injury.
2. The Second Amendment is only one method of deterrent for criminal behavior.
There are multiple ways to deter crime without needing the use of a gun. People can arm themselves in ways that include knives or other concealable weapons that are not illegal and do not require specific training to handle safely. Even self-defense classes can help people learn to defend themselves against attackers that may have a gun. When these other deterrents are utilized by the general population, they might not cause attackers to back down as often, but they do help to stop the event from coming to a successful conclusion.
3. The Second Amendment may create a societal arms race.
One of the reasons why criminals might pursue gun ownership in the first place is the fact that people can legally own them. When people purchase a firearm to protect themselves, then criminals may be encouraged to arm themselves as well. If your desire is to confront a law-abiding citizen who could be armed with a deadly weapon, then you need to have one in your possession as well. This process creates an arms race where no one but the gun manufacturers comes out as a winner.
4. The Second Amendment can cause police resources to be wasted.
People can become nervous when someone displays a firearm in public, even if that individual has the legal right to do so. Police officials across the United States receive calls from their citizens that report suspicious behaviors from people who might be armed with this weapon. It can be challenging to distinguish people who have a gun from those who do not as well. Several high-profile cases have ripped through the headlines since 2000 where an initial call turned into a police-involved shooting incident when a real gun wasn’t involved in the incident for the person in question.
5. The Second Amendment does nothing about the “other guy.”
Sociologist David Yamane from Wake Forest University told Vice that there are times when a gun can be a problem for people, even though he supports firearm ownership. “if you do something stupid because you have a gun that you wouldn’t otherwise have done if you didn’t have a gun, then indirectly, your gun becomes a problem for you.” That is one reason, according to Yamane, that the people who carry guns are about 4.5 times more likely to be shot as part of an assault compared to someone without a firearm.
The Second Amendment protects your right to own a firearm. It doesn’t do anything about what the other person in a situation might decide to do with their gun.
6. The Second Amendment was applied differently in the country’s early days.
Although there was a clear preference for gun ownership during the first days of the United States, it is critical to remember that there were specific prohibitions to follow with this opportunity. When the Second Amendment was adopted, there was no overall right of armed travel throughout the country. You had a duty to retreat when confronted instead of standing your ground. Loaded firearms were not allowed in city dwellings. If you refused to swear a loyalty oath, then your right to own a weapon went away.
7. The Second Amendment doesn’t address the core issue of misuse.
Unless you are a felon or live in a state where there are legal orders that can rescind your permission to own firearms, just about anyone who wants to own a gun can purchase it. Most regions do not have any kind of training that must be completed before they item can be owned. As long as the individual can pass a background check when they initiate this process, they can have it in their possession even if they don’t have a clue about how to use it or maintain the firearm correctly.
8. The Second Amendment does not guarantee affordability.
When you read the language of the Second Amendment, then you can see both sides of the argument of ownership. It could apply to only militias or it could also apply to individuals. What is not mentioned within the language is affordability. One of the easiest ways for gun control activists to limit ownership would be to add taxes or tariffs to firearm sales that would make them more expensive. People would still have the right to own a gun, but it might cost $2,000 instead of $200. The only right you are guaranteed is the chance to finish a transaction when you can afford it.
9. The Second Amendment does not exclude behaviors that create high risks of harm as part of the background check.
Although the Second Amendment does receive some protection through background checks, there are high-risk groups that can still purchase a firearm despite the potential issues for abuse. Anyone convicted of a violent or gun-related misdemeanor will still pass the background checks. Those convicted of juvenile offenses still qualify. Anyone with a history of drug or alcohol use can purchase a gun. Even individuals with a severe mental illness can get one. There are currently 13 states where even incarcerated gun offenders could purchase a gun to commit a crime because of this lenience.
The pros and cons of the second amendment show us that it is essential to find ways that encourage individual protection. We must not allow criminals to have the upper hand in our society. At the same time, it is our responsibility to balance out the effectiveness of this tool with the other methods of self-defense that are available to us. We must encourage responsible ownership, train firearm owners for safe use, and teach safety concepts from an early age to reduce instances of accidental harm.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.