(OPINION) Gun Control is Unreasonable
Updated: Feb 25, 2020
Contributor: Jack Carlson
Gun control has become one of the most polarizing and controversial issues today.
Arguments for and against the regulation of the Second Amendment have continued to descend into nothing more than misled, ill-informed opinions. Of course, we should be open to reasonable debate on the issue, considering the problems America faces with gun violence. That said, we should also recognize the constitutional problems behind many of the proposed solutions.
I would like to make the argument as to why many of the proposals to regulate guns are unreasonable and, above all, unconstitutional.
Let’s first recognize that the idea of the Second Amendment is not unique to the American Constitution. One common criticism of the Second Amendment is that it is a uniquely American ideal not found in other government constitutions, which somehow delegitimizes it. However, reading the language behind the amendment, the text reveals that it was an idea taken from other governments and principles.
The Second Amendment refers to the ‘“right to bear arms” as though it were a pre-existing right. The language of the text does not say “the people shall have the right” or even “the government shall not take away the right.” Rather, the Constitution stipulates that “the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” as if it were a right already recognized by other governments.
In fact it was. The English Bill of Rights of 1689, under which colonial America was subject,, mentioned the right to gun ownership. This leads to the second and more important point to be made about the meaning of the Second Amendment.
Consider the argument that attempts to support policies regulating gun ownership: the Second Amendment was designed only to protect the right to form militias, not individual gun ownership.
At first glance this argument may sound correct. Indeed, the first four words of the second amendment read, “A well-regulated militia,” but that assertion is entirely wrong. Any quick reading of history, something every college student has time for, leads back to the earlier point about the old English Bill of Rights.
Though the old English Bill of Rights mentioned the right to gun ownership, the rights of those in England and the colonies to keep and bear arms became nonexistent. In order to destroy the ability of the militia to rise against the monarchy, the kings simply stripped the citizenry of their right to use or own firearms, creating an unarmed militia.
Understanding this historical fact, the Second Amendment's stipulation of “a well regulated militia” makes perfect sense. The only way to protect the existence of an effective militia was to protect the right of individual gun ownership.
After all, if the sole purpose of the Second Amendment was to only protect the right to form a militia, why add “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”? Isn’t a militia presumed to be armed?
It would equally make no sense that the right to form a militia alone, without the individual right to own a firearm, would exist in the bill of rights, because it is a document that exclusively lists individual rights of which forming a militia would not be.
Take another frequently used argument: the Second Amendment only permits ownership of weapons from the time in which it was written. Following this same logic, no one is entitled to free speech on a platform like Twitter, or even the entirety of the internet, since it did not exist when the First Amendment was written.
This is simply not how we read amendments.
However, I am not making the case that it may be unconstitutional to for government to regulate or influence the Second Amendment. Like other rights, the right to bear arms is not unlimited.
Take, for instance, affrightning laws in colonial America which banned people from carrying an ax around a street. Considering these laws existed when the Second Amendment was written, it follows that a weapon that would elicit similar fears such as a gun should be restricted in public. That is not to say open carry should or should not be banned; rather, it is to say it would be constitutional.
Hopefully, I have made the case that proposed gun control is unreasonable, unconstitutional, and an unwarranted attack on any proper reading of the Constitution.
It is important to recognize that in order to discuss issues like gun control with the possibility of reasonable compromise, facts must take the place of opinions.
Still disagree with me? Read the majority decision in District of Columbia v. Heller. Antonin Scalia explains it in better detail, and certainly better than I did.
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