The Right To Keep And Bear Arms
Thursday, 19 August, 1996
"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" (Bill of Rights, Article II).
This seemingly simple phrase is probably the source of more debate and argument than any other single sentence in American history. The argument is not black or white, pro or con. Rather, it encompasses many shades of gray. At the one end of the spectrum you have the National Rifle Association (NRA) which currently views any type of gun control as an infraction against the Second Amendment of the Constitution ("What is the NRA" 1). At the other end of the spectrum you have groups like the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) and Handgun Control, Inc. seek to make most firearms accessible only to law enforcement and the military ("CSGV" 1). In the middle there are organizations such as the American Firearms Association, who seek compromise regarding our rights (Lissabet, "Return" 2). Some organizations that one would expect to participate in this debate are noticeably quiet. One such group is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In "The ACLU on Gun Control", the national ACLU policy is neutrality (1).
All factions in this debate have some merit, some more than others. All use a mixture of facts, figures, and emotions to express their views. I will be presenting some of their history, their views, and how they make their cases.
The NRA is perhaps the most well known of the participants. They were formed after the Civil War, in 1871, as an organization dedicated to the rifle marksmanship of the state Militias. This was due to Union Army's lack of marksmanship. Following World War II, many returning veterans joined the ranks of the NRA. They endured their share of military life and over time the NRA's mission was changed to that of a sportsman's organization. This did not last long.
Following the assassination of President Kennedy the Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed. The act banned the mail-order sale of guns and ammunition. This act was even supported by the NRA's leaders. Within the NRA however, there was a growing faction that opposed gun control in any form. This faction was set up as the subordinate committee, Institute for Legislative Action (ILA). This faction gained support and power and in 1977 gained control of the NRA. They have held that power ever since.
Today's NRA works to foster support for the shooting sports, to promote firearms safety, responsibility, and freedom, and to protect Second Amendment rights from infringement ("What is the NRA" 1). They take a very hard line in their protection of Second Amendment rights. They believe that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right and work to oppose any legislation that will infringe that right.
The AFA was founded in 1993. It seeks to protect the constitutional right to bear arms while supporting fair and reasonable gun controls. They seek to preserve the sportsman's arms, rifles and shotguns, at the cost of the recreational shooters arms, handguns (Lissabet, "Return" 3). This approach is presented as a compromise to safeguard Second Amendment rights. They espouse to support the Second Amendment, they also support the implementation of stricter gun controls (Lissabet, "Anti-Federalism" 4). The AFA counts among its membership many ex-NRA members. Some of these include the board members who were forced out of the NRA in 1977.
The CSGV was founded in 1974. Its mission was to fight what they saw as a growing problem of gun violence in the US. Their main goal is:
_the orderly elimination of the private sale of handguns and assault weapons in the United States. CSGV seeks to ban handguns and assault weapons from importation, manufacture, sale, or transfer by the general American public, with reasonable exceptions made for police, military, security personnel, gun clubs where guns are secured on club premises, gun dealers trading in antique and collectable firearms kept and sold in inoperable condition. ("CSGV" 1).
They also seek to make the acquisition of the firearms that are still legal very difficult. They seek to do this through limiting dealer licenses, restrictive gun owner fees and regulations. Many other gun control measures are supported and supported by the CSGV. They feel that the Second Amendment is a collective right, to be held by the government and law enforcement agencies.
These three factions all manipulate the figures to show support for their views, they use fear to gain the support of the people. In their own way they all present valid arguments, yet none are completely right in their stand. The NRA would be better served by supporting some measures of gun control such as the national waiting period on the purchase of firearms. This measure will not infringe on any ones right to keep and bear arms. By supporting this and other reasonable measures, they will disarm the anti-gun lobby's arguments against firearms. The CSGV would get better results if they stopped attacking a citizens rights and started working to combat the real problem, the criminal who uses firearms. Despite all the numbers the CSGV uses to make the spectre of firearms violence seem overwhelming, firearms in and of themselves are not dangerous, it is the person who possesses the firearm that is dangerous (The Facts of Gun Violence_ 1).
Gun controls do not control the criminal, they only keep the law abiding citizen from protecting themselves. In a recent study, the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence reported that the states with restrictive gun laws have some of the highest violent crime rates in the nation. Conversely, the states with "right to carry" laws have a 21% lower violent crime rate (Cloud 1).
Cloud, David. "Anti-Gun Study Highlights Failure of Gun Control." Fundamental Baptist News Service 3 May 1996: 1
Lissabet, Ernest. "Anti-Federalism and the Second Amendment." American Firearms Association WWW Site: http://www.firearms.org/afa/federal.html.
Lissabet, Ernest. "The Return of the Old Guard." American Firearms Association WWW Site: http://www.firearms.org/afa/return.html.
"The ACLU on Gun Control." ACLU WWW Site: http://www.aclu.org/library/aaguns.html.
"The Facts of Gun Violence_" Coalition to Stop Gun Violence WWW Site: http://www.gunfree.inter.net/csgv/basicnfo.html.
"What is the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence?" Coalition to Stop Gun Violence WWW Site: http://www.gunfree.inter.net/csgv/csgvsumm.html.
"What is the NRA and how does it work?" National Rifle Association WWW Site: http://www.nra.org/nra-precis.html.
Source: Essay UK - http://www.essay.uk.com/coursework/the-right-to-keep-and-bear-arms.php