During the initial days of the United States as an independent nation, the founding fathers worked together to form a governing set of laws that would apply to all people. It would begin with the Constitution, and then proceed to the Bill of Rights.
The Bill of Rights is a set of amendments that are treated as if they were part of the original Constitution. Each amendment is given a number under American law, and then implemented immediately once three-quarters of the state’s ratify any new ideas. One of the most important amendments in the U.S. is the Second Amendment, which states the following.
“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.”
The founding fathers adapted the wording of the Second Amendment from clauses that were nearly identical in some of the original state constitutions that were written during the 18th century. Recent rulings by the Supreme Court have set the precedent that all people in good standing can own a gun or guns without being part of a recognized state militia.
“The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own,” Jeff Cooper wrote in Art of the Rifle. “Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.”
Is this perspective correct? Or should Americans work to embrace more gun control legislation that could reduce the ownership of weapons that could create mass casualties?
Here are some of the pros and cons of the Second Amendment to consider.
List of the Pros of the Second Amendment
1. Gun ownership works to reduce other types of crime in society.
Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “I’m all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let’s start with typewriters.” The fact will always be that a gun is a tool and nothing more. Can it be used to kill someone? Yes. Is it possible to inflict mass casualties with certain types of firearms? Yes. It can also be useful for hunting to provide food for one’s family. Guns can protect you when someone breaks into your home. People use them to drive off predators that try to take their livestock. Owning a gun can even reduce homicide numbers, sexual assault, and aggravated assault by at least 5%.
2. The Second Amendment offers people a chance to defend themselves.
According to information published by the National Sheriffs’ Association, the average amount of time for a school shooting to take place is 12.5 minutes, but it takes police officers 18 minutes to respond to the first calls that come across emergency lines. Active shooter incidents in all locations, but especially schools, have risen at an alarming rate in recent years. During the entire decade of the 1960s, there was one incident. In 2015, there were 55 active shooter incidents in American schools. As Cooper wrote, the only choice that we can make is one that allows us to protect ourselves. We can’t stop bad people from getting their hands on a gun to use it for evil purposes, but we can help good people find ways to stop them with the same tool.
3. It reinforces the laws of the Constitution by its mere presence in the Bill of Rights.
Alan Dershowitz may not be a fan favorite of every conservative in the United States, but he does offer this observation about the Second Amendment. “Foolish liberals who are trying to read the Second Amendment out of the Constitution by claiming it’s not an individual right or that it’s too much of a public safety hazard don’t see the danger in the big picture. They’re courting disaster by encouraging others to use the same means to eliminate portions of the Constitution they don’t like.”
Guns might be controversial in some ways because of the ease that they inflict damage, but it is also because of this tool that people in the U.S. have the freedoms that are available to them. When you start to erode one granted right, it does not take long for more of them to experience the same outcome.
4. The Second Amendment allows the average person to defend their country.
In Priority, Aaron Powell makes this observation about the Second Amendment. “When the Chinese invade our country, who do you want to depend on? The over-extended police force and the National Guard? Or the next-door neighbor who is a former Marine and has enough guns and ammunition for your entire block?”
The entire point of the Second Amendment from the perspective of the founding fathers is still valid. When you own a gun, then it is more difficult to take away what you have earned in life than if you did not own this weapon. People will think twice (or more times) about trying to take something from you, including domestic and foreign governments, if you have the capacity to defend yourself adequately.
5. It allows for a well-regulated militia to be part of U.S. culture.
The focus on the Second Amendment is often on the right of gun ownership, but it is also essential to note that there is the right for states to have a well-regulated militia because of this addition to the Bill of Rights. Even though we have numerous levels of law enforcement that work to serve and protect our communities, there may still come a time when there is a need to keep the peace in other ways. This option allows for states to develop their own defensive resources without costing taxpayers in other locations any money to do so. If you need to defend your home for any reason, all you need to do is get together, form a militia, and follow whatever state rules are in place for organization.
6. You must qualify to own a gun in the United States already.
There are already regulations in place that make it impossible for anyone to walk into a gun shop to make a purchase. Any store that sells firearms must use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, called NICS, to see if there are any records in place that would prevent a customer from owning a gun. This system scans three different databases to ensure there are no matches. Anyone declared mentally unfit, convicted of a felony, or receives a misdemeanor sentence of 2+ years will not qualify for the purchase. Lying on the form in an attempt to purchase the gun is also considered an illegal act which could strip you of the firearm when discovered.
7. The Second Amendment offers more checks-and-balances for society.
When the founding fathers creating the structure of the American government, they wanted to make sure that no one branch of it could hold more power than the other. The system of checks-and-balances ensures that the executive, legislative, and judicial branches must work together to the benefit of society.
The Second Amendment offers this same benefit for the average person in their daily routines. It is a way to protect your individual liberties to ensure that you are not deprived of the right to pursue happiness. “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted,” said James Madison. Gun ownership is a way to ensure that the government is obliged to control itself in addition to supervising the governed.
List of the Cons of the Second Amendment
1. It does not provide for the safe usage and implementation of a gun in society.
“Saying gun control hurts our freedom is a false argument amounting to propaganda,” said DaShanne Stokes. “Gun laws don’t curtail freedom any more than speed limits or seat belts. You still get to drive your car and have guns. We’re just trying to save lives as you do.” Although the Second Amendment does allow for the private ownership of guns according to the current interpretation offered by the Supreme Court, it does not contain provisions that require the safe use of this tool. That level of implementation is left to the states, which means there is a patchwork series of laws that gun owners must follow to stay in compliance.
2. There is no guarantee that a good guy with a gun is going to be around.
DaShanne Stokes has also said that gun violence in the United States is not a Republican or Democrat problem, but an American problem – and one that requires an American solution. “When a country with less than 5% of the world’s population has nearly 50% of the world’s privately-owned guns and makes up nearly a third of the world’s mass shootings, it’s time to stop saying guns make us safer,” he said.
Even though there are plenty of stories about a good guy with a gun stopping a crime that you can find, there are also more than 14,000 homicides attributed to firearms each year in the United States. That means 4.5 deaths per 100,000 population are because of guns.
3. Gun ownership comes with great risk to the owner’s household.
There are plenty of good reasons to own a gun in today’s American society, but there are also a few reasons why some families believe that the rights given under the Second Amendment are not something they want to use. That is because up to 95% of the suicides that occur with a firearm are potentially preventable if the gun wasn’t present in the home. Households that own just one gun carry a 7 times higher risk of experiencing premature death than those without one.
Even the states which have the least amount of controls places on gun ownership see homicide rates that are more than double those of states with the most extensive restrictions. The problem with a firearm is that this tool doesn’t offer many second chances.
4. There are multiple ways to deter crime other than gun ownership.
In Guns Part 2, Aaron Powell makes this observation.
- “So, disturbed kids are taking guns to school and killing teachers and classmates. We better make sure kids can’t get guns.”
- So, disturbed kids are taking guns to school and killing teachers and classmates. We better find out what’s making these kids want to kill, fix that, and then they won’t want to use guns to kill teachers and classmates.”
Both sides of the Second Amendment debate can quote statistics which support their argument. There are stories about how gun ownership can save lives, just as there are times when it takes lives. Saying that guns are the only way to deter crime is laziness. There are multiple facets of protection that we can implement every day if we are willing to take bold steps to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. Can guns stop a crime? Sure. So can an alarm system, an airlock system in schools, metal detectors, and many more methods. We cannot have tunnel vision on just one outcome.
5. It creates the potential for a domestic arms race.
“If Jesus Christ himself were to come down off the cross and grant you one wish, would you opt for a world without guns – or the one we live in now?” asks Quentin Bufogle. “If every gun owner truly feared for their life and liberty, the answer would be obvious.”
When we push toward a world of gun ownership, then we are creating a society where good and evil are both racing toward a place where each feel like it can be a dominant force. This perspective is what fueled the nuclear race during the Cold War, and it is also what causes some people to stockpile firearms. There are an estimated 89-100 guns for every 100 Americans, but only up to 29% of households actually own one. 14% of owners have between 8 to 140 guns in their possession, accounting for 50% of civilian ownership.
6. We already know that the current gun control laws don’t work.
According to reporting from The New York Times, only 8 states have laws which provide an explicit mechanism so that people who are suspected of owning guns in violation of their prohibitions are required to hand them over. Some of these laws allow, but do not require, the police to seek a court order for confiscation.
Authorities in Chicago knew for over 4 years that Gary Martin was a felon with a violent history, yet did nothing to make sure that he surrendered his Smith and Wesson handgun with a laser sight. He used that weapon to kill five of his co-workers in Aurora, IL, in February 2019. It would be helpful to enforce the laws on our books to ensure that we are doing all that we can to stop the bad guys with guns.
7. The Second Amendment increases the cost of law enforcement.
Open-carry laws for gun ownership because of the Second Amendment create a phobia about this tool that increases the amount of resources that law enforcement must receive each year. 40% of Americans already say that one of their biggest fears is that they will end up being the victim of a mass shooting. Firearms are already the second-leading cause of death for American children and teens. Women are 21 times more likely to be killed with a gun in the United States than they are in other high-income countries.
Because there are so many guns on the streets, even if they are owned by a minority of the population, the resources dedicated to law enforcement activities are that much higher. Even a slight reduction in this cost could be directed toward something more useful, like free firearm education programs.
8. This amendment has seen inconsistent application in the law.
Before the recent Heller ruling set the precedent for individual ownership as a right, the judicial system interpreted the Second Amendment as applying to militias only. That meant no one had the right to travel with their gun across state lines. The common law standard was that there was a duty to retreat if someone wanted to take your things. If you lived in the city, then a loaded firearm was banned from being in your home.
Once upon a time, you even had to swear a loyalty oath as an American to have the right to own a firearm. Refusing to take that pledge meant that your right to gun ownership disappeared. It is an inaccurate statement to say that the U.S. has never had gun restrictions in place before. What we are doing is creating inconsistent case law based on current political desires.
9. There is no right to own a firearm if you cannot afford the cost.
One of the unique aspects of the Second Amendment is that it doesn’t mention the cost of ownership as part of your individual rights as an American. There is nothing that would stop Congress from passing a law which required a minimum price for this item, similar to the expense one must pay to obtain a passport or a driver’s license. The only thing that the Bill of Rights guarantees is that if you can afford the cost of a gun and there are no other restrictions in place for you, then this is an opportunity that you can have.
10. The Second Amendment does not exclude specific actions, behaviors, or choices.
The Second Amendment would be arguably more powerful if it created specific restrictions to ownership based on high-risk behaviors. Several demographics, including teens with a history of violence, can still purchase firearms despite their history of choices. Even people convicted of a gun crime can still buy more of them if they are not convicted of a felony and their misdemeanor sentence is less than 2 years in some states.
One Final Thought on the Second Amendment
Most people read the key pros and cons of the Second Amendment in the form of an echo chamber. They will see the areas in which they agree and use that information to support their position while dismissing everything else. Although it is true that guns have long been part of the culture in the United States, we cannot be honest with ourselves by saying that we treat this tool differently than other elements of life.
When terrorists flew airplanes into the twin towers, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 was retaken by passengers to crash so it couldn’t do more damage, the legislative response from the U.S. government was immediate. The focus is on the outside threats more than it is the domestic ones. We cannot change the actions of a person with evil intent when they get their hands on a gun, but what we can do is initiate an extensive, accurate, and mandatory screening and licensing process which allows each person to access their right to own a gun if they should so choose.
You cannot legally drive without a driver’s license that you earn by proving you have the skills and knowledge to be successful. You must also renew that license periodically. Some states make a similar requirement for those who wish to have a concealed carry permit. Extending that process to all gun ownership with minimal fees to process the paperwork seems like a common-sense compromise that could help to reduce the amount of violence that is present in U.S. society.
The status quo is not working. It is time to do something.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.