Essay/Term paper: Informative speech for gun ownership
Essay, term paper, research paper: Gun Control
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Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms. This is not to say that firearms should not be very carefully used and that definite rules of precaution should not be taught and enforced. But the right of the citizen to bear arms is just one more safeguard against a tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible. -Hubert Humphrey, 1960 My background is probably atypical for a somewhat high-profile supporter of the right to keep and bear arms. I am black and grew up in Manhattan"s East Harlem, far removed from the great American gun culture of rural, white America. Although my voting patterns have become somewhat more conservative in recent years, I remain in my heart of hearts a 1960s Humphrey Democrat concerned with the plight of those most vulnerable in American society-minorities, the poor, the elderly, and single women-groups whose day-to-day realities are often overlooked in our public policy debates, people whose lives too often go unnoticed by our intellectually timid chattering classes. This is happening in the public debate over the right to bear arms. For the nation"s elites, the Second Amendment has become the Rodney Dangerfield of the Bill of Rights, constantly attacked by editorial writers, police chiefs seeking scapegoats, demagoging politicians, and most recently even by Rosie O"Donnell, no less. It is threatened by opportunistic legislative efforts, even when sponsors acknowledge their proposed legislation would have little impact on crime and violence. Professional champions of civil rights and civil liberties have been unwilling to defend the underlying principle of the right to arms. Even the conservative defense has been timid and often inept, tied less, one suspects, to abiding principle and more to the dynamics of contemporary Republican politics. Thus a right older than the Republic, one that the drafters of two constitutional amendments the Second and the Fourteenth intended to protect, and a right whose critical importance has been painfully revealed by twentieth-century history, is left undefended by the lawyers, writers, and scholars we routinely expect to defend other constitutional rights. Instead, the Second Amendment"s intellectual as well as political defense has been left in the unlikely hands of the National Rifle Association (NRA). And although the NRA deserves considerably better than the demonized reputation it has acquired, it should not be the sole or even principal voice in defense of a major constitutional provision. This anemic defense is all the more embarrassing because it occurs as mounting evidence severely undermines the three propositions that have been central to the anti-gun movement since its appearance on the national radar screen in the 1960s. The first proposition is that the Constitution, particularly the Second Amendment, poses no barrier to radical gun control, even total prohibition of private firearms. The second is that ordinary citizens with firearms are unlikely to defend themselves and are more likely to harm innocent parties with their guns. The final proposition is that the case for radical gun control is buttressed by comparing the United States to nations with more restrictive firearms policies. These propositions, now conventional wisdom, simply do not stand up to scrutiny. The proposition that the Second Amendment poses no barrier to gun prohibition-a claim largely unknown before the 1960s-has run up against stubborn, contrary historical facts. Increasingly, historians and legal scholars, including many who support stricter gun control, have examined the history of the Second Amendment, the development of the right to arms in English political thought, judicial commentaries on the right in antebellum America, and the debates over the Fourteenth Amendment. The consensus among scholars who have actually looked at the evidence is that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments were meant to protect the citizen"s right to arms. (See, for example, historian Joyce Lee Malcolm"s Harvard University Press book, To Keep and Bear Arms, or the historical documents assembled in the three Gun Control and the Constitution volumes I"ve edited.) Similarly, the criminological premises of the anti-gun movement have collapsed in the face of serious social science. For better than three decades the American public has been solemnly assured that peaceable citizens who possess guns for self-defense are disasters in waiting. "A gun in the home is more likely to kill a member of the family than to defend against an intruder," we hear. "Allowing citizens to carry firearms outside the home for self-protection will turn our streets into Dodge City and our parking lots into the O.K. Corral," the refrain goes. Yet the criminological literature provides little support for this caricature of gun owners. Instead, careful research has discovered an incredibly high amount of firearms" being responsibly used in self-defense. Research by Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck and others indicate between two and three million cases of self-defense per year. Overwhelmingly these incidents involve not firing the weapon at the attacker, but simply brandishing it and thereby causing the attacker"s withdrawal. In recent years a majority of states have passed laws permitting honest citizens to carry concealed weapons, and the results tell us much about self-defense and the responsibility of the average citizen. Once it was passionately argued that such laws would turn minor altercations into bloody shoot-outs; now we know better. Over 1 million Americans have licenses to carry firearms, but firearms misuse by this group has been utterly negligible. Criminologists now debate not how much harm has been caused by concealed-carry laws, but how much good. The most thorough research, by John Lott of the University of Chicago, reveals that concealed-carry laws have had a substantial deterrent effect on crimes of violence. His work shows that women, especially, have benefitted, as substantial drops in rapes and attacks on women have occurred where the laws have been enacted. Lott also discovered dramatic benefits for the urban poor and minorities: "Not only do urban areas tend to gain in their fight against crime, but reductions in crime rates are greatest precisely in those urban areas that have the highest crime rates, largest and most dense populations, and greatest concentrations of minorities." The final proposition-that international comparisons prove the case for radical gun control-may be the most problematic of all. Certainly the simplistic conclusion that American homicide rates are higher than those in Western Europe and Japan because of the greater prevalence of firearms glosses over significant cultural and demographic differences between us and other advanced industrial nations. The American population is younger and more diverse. Unlike Western Europe and Japan, the United States has always had a large number of immigrants and internal migrants. We also have a history of racial exclusion and a struggle against that exclusion as old as the Republic and without real parallel in comparable nations. All of these have contributed to crime rates higher than those in other western nations. Indeed, when a number of the cultural and demographic variables are controlled for, much of the apparent difference between American and Western European homicide rates disappearsdespite the greater presence of firearms in American society. But international comparisons should raise deeper and more disturbing questions, questions too rarely asked in serious company. The central and usually unchallenged premise of the gun control movement is that society becomes more civilized when the citizen surrenders the means of self-defense, leaving the state a monopoly of force. That this premise goes largely unchallenged is the most remarkable feature of our gun control debate. We are ending a century that has repeatedly witnessed the consequences of unchecked state monopolies of force. University of Hawaii political scientist Rudolph J. Rummel, one of the leading students of democide (mass murder of civilian populations by governments), has estimated that nearly 170 million people have been murdered by their own governments in our century. The familiar list of mass murderers- Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot-only scratches the surface. The mass slaughter of helpless, unarmed civilian populations continues to this very day in Sudan, Rwanda, and parts of the former Yugoslavia. The reluctance of outside forces to intervene is well documented. And yet the obvious question is strangely absent: Would arms in the hands of average citizens have made a difference? Could the overstretched Nazi war machine have murdered 11 million armed and resisting Europeans while also taking on the Soviet and Anglo-American armies? Could 50,000-70,000 Khmer Rouge have butchered 2-3 million armed Cambodians? These questions bear repeating. The answers are by no means clear, but it is unconscionable they are not being asked. Need Americans have such concerns? Well, we have been spared rule by dictators, but state tyranny can come in other forms. It can come when government refuses to protect unpopular groups-people who are disfavored because of their political or religious beliefs, or their ancestry, or the color of their skin. Our past has certainly not been free of this brand of state tyranny. In the Jim Crow South, for example, government failed and indeed refused to protect blacks from extra-legal violence. Given our history, it"s stunning we fail to question those who would force upon us a total reliance on the state for defense. Nor should our discussion of freedom and the right to arms be limited to foreign or historical examples. The lives and freedoms of decent, law-abiding citizens throughout our nation, especially in our dangerous inner cities, are constantly threatened by criminal predators. This has devastated minority communities. And yet the effort to limit the right to armed self-defense has been most intense in such communities. Bans on firearms ownership in public housing, the constant effort to ban pistols poor people can afford-scornfully labeled "Saturday Night Specials" and more recently "junk guns"-are denying the means of self-defense to entire communities in a failed attempt to disarm criminal predators. In too many communities, particularly under-protected minority communities, citizens have simply been disarmed and left to the mercy of well-armed criminals. This has led to further curtailment of freedom. Consider initiatives in recent years to require tenants in public housing to allow their apartments to be searched: First, police failed for decades, for justifiable but also far too frequently unjustifiable reasons, to protect citizens in many of our most dangerous public housing projects. Next, as the situation became sufficiently desperate, tenants were prohibited from owning firearms for their own defense. Finally the demand came, "Surrender your right to privacy in your home." The message could not be clearer: A people incapable of protecting themselves will lose their rights as a free people, becoming either servile dependents of the state or of the criminal predators who are their de facto masters. All of this should force us to reconsider our debate over arms and rights. For too long, it has been framed as a question of the rights of sportsmen. It is far more serious: The Second Amendment has something critical to say about the relationship between the citizen and the state. For most of human history, in most of the nations in the world, the individual has all too often been a helpless dependent of the state, beholden to the state"s benevolence and indeed competence for his physical survival. The notion of a right to arms bespeaks a very different relationship. It says the individual is not simply a helpless bystander in the difficult and dangerous task of ensuring his or her safety. Instead, the citizen is an active participant, an equal partner with the state in ensuring not only his own safety but that of his community. This is a serious right for serious people. It takes the individual from servile dependency on the state to the status of participating citizen, capable of making intelligent choices in defense of one"s life and ultimately one"s freedom. This conception of citizenship recognizes that the ultimate civil right is the right to defend one"s own life, that without that right all other rights are meaningless, and that without the means of self-defense the right to self-defense is but an empty promise. Our serious thinkers have been absent from this debate for too long. The Second Amendment is simply too important to leave to the gun nuts. Robert J. Cottrol is professor of law and history and the Harold Paul Green Research Professor at the George Washington University. His most recent book is From African to Yankee: Narratives of Slavery and Freedom in Antebellum New England.
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Essay/Term paper: The second amendment and the right to bear arms
Essay, term paper, research paper: Gun Control
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 Cottrol, Robert, ed. Gun Control and the Constitution: Sources and Explorations on the
Second Amendment. New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1994
 Dowlut, Robert. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms in State Bills of Rights and Judicial
Interpretation. SAF 1993
 Freedman, Warren. The Privilege to Keep and Bear Arms. Connecticut: Quorum Books,
 Hickok, Eugene Jr., ed. The Bill of Rights: Original Meaning and Current Understanding. Virginia: University Press of Virginia, 1991
 Kruschke, Earl PHD. Gun Control: A Reference Handbook. California: ABC-CLIO Inc.,
 Image on the cover page taken from TIME. Photographer unknown.
 Prune Yard Shopping Center v. Robins, 447 U.S. 74, 81 (1980)
 Zimring, Franklin E., Gun Control. Encyclopedia Encarta: 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation.
Throughout the years there has been an ongoing debate over the Second Amendment and how it should be interpreted. The issue that is being debated is whether our government has the right to regulate guns. The answer of who has which rights lies within how one interprets the Second Amendment. With this being the case, one must also think about what circumstances the Framers were under when this Amendment was written. There are two major sides to this debate, one being the collective side, which feels that the right was given for collective purposes only. This side is in favor of having stricter gun control laws, as they feel that by having stricter laws the number of crimes that are being committed with guns will be reduced and thus save lives. However while gun control laws may decrease criminals" access to guns, the same laws restricts gun owning citizens who abide by the law; these citizens make up a great majority of the opposing side of this argument. These people argue that the law was made with the individual citizens in mind. This group believes that the Amendment should be interpreted to guarantee citizens free access to firearms. One major group that is in strong opposition of stricter gun control laws is the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA argues that having stricter gun control laws will only hinder law-abiding citizens. The final outcome on this debate will mainly depend on how this Amendment is going to be interpreted.
The Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights 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. (Amendment II 1791)
This debate has produced two familiar interpretations of the Second Amendment. Advocates of stricter gun control laws have tended to stress that the amendment"s militia clause guarantees nothing to the individual and that it only protects the states" rights to be able to maintain organized military units. These people argue that the Second Amendment was merely used to place the states" organized military forces beyond the federal government"s power to be able to disarm them. This would guarantee that the states would always have sufficient force at their command to abolish federal restraints on their rights and to resist by arms if necessary. The Second Amendment was written shortly after the colonist had gained their freedom from Britain, and the reason for their gaining independence is that they were tired of living under British rule and especially under the leadership of King George the III. These gun control advocates argue that the Second Amendment grew out of the colonists" fear of standing armies and their belief that having militias that were composed of ordinary citizens was the surest way of maintaining their freedom (3).
The opposite side of this debate consists of those who claim that the amendment guarantees some sort of individual right to arms. This view comes from the literal wording of the Second Amendment, which states, "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Along with this argument, the NRA and other groups in opposition of gun control argue that the first, fourth, ninth, and tenth amendments are all constructed to refer to the citizens as individuals and not as a collective state. These gun advocates feel that if one is to give a rational interpretation of the collective view to the constitution, then one would have to assume that the Framers referred to the individuals in the first, fourth, and ninth amendments; to the states in the second amendment, and then separated the states and the people in the tenth amendment, although they feel that this was inconsistent with the wording of the second amendment (5).
Proponents of strict gun control laws, including Handgun Control Inc., and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence argue that the Second Amendment guarantees a collective right rather than an individual right. When the occasion occurs that Americans find it necessary to band together to defend their rights, they are constitutionally guaranteed the right to own the firearms they need for that purpose. They advocate restrictions on some types of firearms by citing high numbers of gun-related deaths in the United States. These proponents argue that by making stricter gun laws this will in turn reduce the number to crimes that are committed with guns and would thus save lives. One of their supporting arguments is that each year in the United States, more than 35,000 people are killed by guns, which is a death rate that is much higher than any other nation. Attacks involving a gun are five times more likely to result in a death than in any similar attacks made with a knife. Also, in 1992 guns were the weapons used in approximately two-thirds of the murders of the United States (8). However, while gun control laws may decrease criminals access to guns, those same laws restrict law-abiding citizens.
Opponents of gun control laws, including organizations such as the National Rifle Association (NRA), object to the inconvenience these laws may cause to law-abiding gun buyers or owners and would not prevent the possession of guns by criminals. The NRA argues that about half of all United Stated families own at least one gun, and that the most frequent motives for owning a gun is to protect the home, hunting or target shooting, and for collecting. Those who oppose restrictions on gun ownership find support in the language of the Second Amendment and believe that it should be interpreted to guarantee citizens free access to fire arms. The NRA has strenuously lobbied for the passage of state laws allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons. In arguing that the Second Amendment gives citizens the right to bear arm, the NRA argues that the Fourteenth Amendment enforces the Second (3). The Fourteenth Amendment states:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. (From Amendment XIV section 1.1868)
In this argument the NRA stresses that "no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." They feel that this clearly makes it unlawful for the state to pose restrictions on firearms which is a privilege that is given to the citizens of the United States in the Second Amendment.
The Second Amendment has not yet been applied to the states, either directly or through incorporation of the Fourteenth Amendment. In the United States v. Cruickshank the United States Supreme Court in 1875 held that the Second Amendment restricts only Congress and the federal government; this was later affirmed by the same court in Presser v Illinois in 1886. Thus, the nature of the Second Amendment does not provide a right that is enforced by the Fourteenth Amendment. The courts view that the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to protect the states against the federal or national government, and not to create a personal right that either the state or federal authorities are bound to respect.
Guarantees of individual liberties under federalism have two components: the federal constitution and state constitutions. Dependence should be first placed in the state"s Bill of Rights, declaration of rights, because the United States Supreme Court has explicitly acknowledged each state"s "sovereign right to adopt in it own Constitution individual liberties more expansive than those conferred by the Federal Constitution."(7). The written content of most states bills of rights provides greater protection of the right to arms than does the Second Amendment. Currently the constitutions of forty-three states guarantee a right to arms. Of the seven states that do not have a clear constitutional guarantee to arms, three of those have a right to self-defense and one considers the right to life a built-in right. The right to self-defense can only be given force and effect if its guarantee includes the right to own arms for defensive purposes (2).
In addition, state courts consider the right to bear arms to be a civil right and consider such a right to protect liberty and property interest. This has allowed plaintiffs to the use of the Federal Civil Rights Act to sue state officials for violating a state created property or liberty interest to keep and bear arms.
The NRA"s opposition to the Brady Bill, which is a federal hand gun law that was first proposed in 1985, helped to delay its passage for seven years. Congress finally passed the bill in 1993 and it went into effect in 1994. This law provides a five-day waiting period to allow local law enforcement officials to make sure the purchaser is qualified to own a hang gun. The law also established a $200 federal firearm license fee and a $90 annual license renewal fee. The NRA also unsuccessfully opposed a 1994-crime bill because it included a ban on the importation of semiautomatic "assault" weapons (8). Currently the constitutionality of the Brady Bill is going to be decided by the Supreme Court this term. The issue being the constitutionality of federal involvement in basically states issues. In 1995 the U.S. Supreme Court declared another gun law, one that banned guns within 1,000 feet of schools, unconstitutional. The States, not Congress, have the authority to enact such criminal laws the Court held. The Brady Bill would appear in the same category.
The constitutional issue at stake is the question, do we, or do we not, have the right as individuals to possess firearms. The courts have never struck down a gun control law because many people feel that the Amendment guarantees citizens free access to fire arms. The courts have interpreted the Second Amendment as applying only to militia weapons. The federal government and all U.S. states do have some gun control laws. These laws are based on several strategies: forbidding people who are considered to be unreliable from obtaining any firearms; prohibiting anyone other than the police, the military, and persons with special needs from acquiring high-risk guns; and requiring waiting periods before purchasing a gun or a gun license. The most common strategies are based on preventing unreliable people from obtaining guns, such as people who have committed a felony. Federal and state laws also prohibit minors from purchasing guns. In 1993 the U.S Congress passed the Brady Bill, which was named after a former White House press secretary James Brady. Brady and his wife because proponents of gun control after Brady was shot and seriously wounded during the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan (4).
As the debate over slavery gradually changed from being constitutional to unconstitutional so will the debate over gun control. The political culture that once supported slavery changed gradually over time once people saw more and more how unequal it was. It is inevitable that overtime, the political culture on gun control will also change, it will only take a few instances to help in the defining moment on deciding the danger of having a world without restrictions on guns. These moments will be seen throughout our nation in the form of examples of gun-related accidents and kids committing "Columbine High School" like acts. Once these things are taken into consideration only then will our "right to bear arms" be clearly defined. Currently public opinion seems to be in favor of having tighter gun restrictions as was shown with the passing of the Brady Bill. Though with this majority being in favor of gun control these acts of legislation are rather slow in forming, due to the NRA and the vagueness of the Second Amendment. Another hindering factor is that in spite of the public majority being in favor of stricter gun control, the states are moving in a different direction. The reason behind this action is that the constitutionality of tighter gun control laws is becoming a question. Once the Supreme Court of the United States answers this question on the legality of infringing on the right to bear arms we will know what our exact right is.
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