A (Theoretical) Defense of Guns


“Guns Across America” rally in 2013

After the horrible tragedy in Las Vegas this Monday, many people are wondering what happens next. Some say that tragedies like these are unavoidable, and that we as a people must move on. Others believe that we have to learn from events like these to pass laws that strengthen gun control.

In the United States the biggest reason why we have guns is the 2nd Amendment. The 2nd Amendment says “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.” This means that people have the right to weapons because they have the right to defend themselves. There were a couple reasons for the enactment of the 2nd Amendment. The U.S. needed militias to help defend their new land, and in order to have militias that were always on the ready, people needed guns. Another reason was to provide safety for people in their homes and allow them to have protection if attacked by someone or something. Finally, the 2nd Amendment is a way to protect citizens from tyranny; people are allowed to have guns so they can use them in case the government goes too far. This is important because before the Revolutionary War it was hard to get guns and fight back against British tyranny.

Although the 2nd Amendment was passed over 200 years ago, and many of the reasons for the right to bear arms are less applicable, it does not mean that people still shouldn’t be allowed to have guns. One of the biggest reasons for gun ownership today is self-defense. A gun is the fastest way to defend yourself in a home invasion or a robbery. Also, Americans should not have their right to bear arms infringed upon is because guns are important for hunting, both as a pastime and as a way to get food. Another reason for the protection of gun rights is the “good guy with a gun” idea. If people have guns with them during an active shooter situation, the “good guy with a gun” would be able and ready to respond faster than law enforcement could. This would save lives. Many people also fear that if the 2nd Amendment is repealed or infringed upon, it could have negative consequences for other rights, like the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Although the 2nd Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, the guns available to people today are far different than those of 200 years ago. When the United States was created, all weapons were single shot. After shooting, one had to reload before shooting again. Now people have weapons that can fire hundreds of bullets per minute. Because of this, guns have become much more dangerous than our founders may have envisioned. But this does not mean that we should stop owning guns. Instead what has happened is this: people are moving to put in place rules that control the types of firearms available and the requirements one has to fulfill to purchase them. In order to buy guns, people need to pass background checks and jump through certain hoops. There exists a ban on fully automatic assault rifles that was put in place in 1986 in addition to many regulations on interstate trading of firearms. The problem with background checks and other methods of halting gun ownership is they could be interpreted as violations of privacy: the system designed to enforce these regulations, the NICS, looks through your health and criminal history to determine whether you are eligible to purchase a firearm. This search through criminal history also alarms some people because it is a major disqualifier even for people with non violent drug related offenses. Some studies have even shown that background checks can be ineffective in preventing people from obtaining weapons. These flaws in the system allowed people like Dylan Roof to obtain firearms. If people can get firearms through channels beside the usual ones, that’s just another reason to have “good guys with guns.

Ultimately, the debate on guns will not end with one side conceding. People will need to find a healthy balance between privacy, protection for those with and without weapons, and the historical importance and implications of the 2nd Amendment. But in order to have this debate it is important for everyone to understand that both sides agree about one fundamental thing: everyone is trying to keep this country safe, even if they disagree on the way to do this.