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Essay/Term paper: The second amendment and the right to bear arms

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WORKS CITED

[1] Cottrol, Robert, ed. Gun Control and the Constitution: Sources and Explorations on the
Second Amendment. New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1994
[2] Dowlut, Robert. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms in State Bills of Rights and Judicial
Interpretation. SAF 1993
[3] Freedman, Warren. The Privilege to Keep and Bear Arms. Connecticut: Quorum Books,
1989
[4] Hickok, Eugene Jr., ed. The Bill of Rights: Original Meaning and Current Understanding. Virginia: University Press of Virginia, 1991
[5] Kruschke, Earl PHD. Gun Control: A Reference Handbook. California: ABC-CLIO Inc.,
1995
[6] Image on the cover page taken from TIME. Photographer unknown.
[7] Prune Yard Shopping Center v. Robins, 447 U.S. 74, 81 (1980)
[8] 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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EXAMPLES OF PRO GUN CONTROL ARTICLES

Pro gun control articles are talking about the necessity of stricter regulations of individual gun possessions or call to ban it altogether. Here are some of the most recent and insightful articles:

  1. 4 Pro-Gun Arguments We're Sick of Hearing by Amanda Marcotte, Rolling Stone
  2. Gun control is being talked about all over, so you should not be surprised to find an article about it in media like the Rolling Stone magazine. What is surprising, however, is how insightful this short piece is. Marcotte does not claim expertise in the subject-matter. Instead, she speaks as an outsider at whom pro-gun arguments are aimed and explains why they don't appeal to her.
  3. Battleground America by Jill LePore, The New Yorker
  4. This article is a priceless piece if you want a brief yet deep overview of the entire historical background of the gun control issue. It starts with investigating the language and the spirit of the Second Amendment and goes on talking about how our understanding, as well as the situation with firearms, has changed over the years since then.
  5. California's Proposed Gun Laws Won't Change Our Culture of Violence, But They Will Make Us Safer by LA Times Editorial Board
  6. This is an editorial piece with a profound overview of the present-day gun control regulations in the state of California, which are some of the strictest in the country. The authors discuss the effectiveness of these laws and conclude that the existing regulations are still not strict enough.
  7. Gun Control and the Constitution: Should We Amend the Second Amendment? by Paul M. Barrett, Bloomberg Businessweek
  8. This article tackles the issue from a linguistic standpoint and states that the very language of the Second Amendment is just too vague and leaves too much room for speculation. Barrett suggests that instead of trying to fix it by clarifying, we should introduce a whole new, more clear and strict set of regulations that distinctly limit the individual possession of firearms to the militia.
  9. It's Time to Ban Guns. Yes, All of Them by Phoebe Maltz Bovy, New Republic
  10. Bovy stands on a more radical position. She insists that the very concept of individual firearm possession is wrong and should be banned altogether.
  11. Why We Can't Talk About Gun Control by James Hamblin, The Atlantic
  12. Before he started working at The Atlantic, Hamblin was fired from his previous office for writing about gun control. Based on his own experience, he concludes that the topic is too politicized and any attempt to start a talk is viewed as an attack on our sacred rights and liberties. He suggests that we drop the political bias from this talk and start taking this matter the way it is.

ANTI GUN CONTROL ARTICLES

Anti gun control articles are put out by experts who claim that gun control regulations should not be made stricter, but rather weakened or dropped altogether. Here are some recent and insightful examples:

  1. 5 Arguments Against Gun Control - And Why They Are All Wrong by Evan DePhilippis and Devin Hughes, LA Times
  2. This article is written by the co-founders of a gun prevention site Armed With Reason. They claim that gun violence cannot be dealt with by stricter regulations. They see it as a myth that needs to be debunked, because actual criminals do not act based on any regulations.
  3. A Criminologist's Case Against Gun Control by Jacob Davidson, Time
  4. In this piece, Davidson has a very informative conversation with James Jacobs, the director of the Center for Research in Crime and Justice at New York University School of Law, where they (finally!) give a clear definition of gun control and critically scrutinize the most popular gun control methods - both practiced and suggested.
  5. 'American Sniper' Widow: Gun Control Won't Protect Us by Taya Kyle, CNN
  6. Taya Kyle is the widow of Chris Kyle - the one whose story is depicted in the movie American Sniper. As one may expect, it is a deeply emotion-driven piece. If you want to know more about her story, feel free to check out her book American Wife: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith, and Renewal.
  7. Gun Control Isn't the Answer by James Q. Wilson, LA Times
  8. Wilson's expertise in the subject-matter leaves no doubt, as he is a respected teacher at Pepperdine University and the author of several books on crime. In this article, he blames the gun control lobby for being populist and suggesting no concrete plan of action - particularly, on what to do with about the existing individual gun owners.
  9. How Gun Control Kills by Jack Hunter, The American Conservative
  10. Hunter works with the conservative Senator Rand Paul's team. He wrote this article to express his discontent with the unfairness of pro gun control lobbyists who, according to him, focus on instances of individual gun owners cause crime and ignore those when such people have stopped or confronted crime. He also lists several latter cases.
  11. Why Gun Owners Are Right to Fight Against Gun Control by David T. Hardy, Reason.com
  12. Hardy practices as an attorney in the state of Arizona. He sees pro gun control lobbyists as fanatics on a crusade, completely incapable of a constructive dialogue, who won't stop until individual gun ownership exists no more.

TYPES OF GUN CONTROL ESSAYS

When you are already well-informed on the topic of gun control and know where to get more information, should you need it, you can consider yourself ready to write a gun control essay. But regardless of how well-informed you may be on any given issue, you still need to know what kind of essay you are writing, because on that depends what will be expected of you. You can be assigned to write the following types of gun control essays:

  • Argumentative essay on gun control. An argumentative essay uses logic to convince the reader that the author's argument is correct. In this case, it will be either pro or anti gun control argument.
  • Cause and effect gun control essay. A cause and effect essay investigates a particular event that happened or can happen and suggests what it leads to or can lead to.
  • Compare and contrast gun control essay. A compare and contrast essay lists the similarities and differences between two subjects. In this case, it can be, for example, pro and anti gun control standpoints or between the people with such standpoints.
  • Critical gun control essay. A critical essay talks about advantages and disadvantages of something. Here, we can talk about pros and cons of a particular approach to gun control.
  • Definition gun control essay. A definition essay is not unlike a dictionary article. You can define gun control or some other related notion.
  • Descriptive gun control essay. A descriptive essay describes its subject in terms of senses. For example, you can talk about what the world around you would look, sound, or perhaps even smell like if there were no gun control regulations or if they were utterly strict.
  • Expository gun control essay. The definitive feature of an expository essay is that it leaves no room for personal opinion. All you do here is present the subject the way it is. For example, you can expose the current gun control regulations in your state or the current state of the discussion.
  • Narrative gun control essay. A narrative essay is when you tell a story - real or fiction. If it should be about gun control, you can talk about what happened because of the gun control regulations effective in your story.
  • Persuasive essay on gun control. A persuasive essay aims at convincing an opponent of your rightness. For example, you can convince an anti gun control lobbyist that s/he is wrong and you are right.
  • Process gun control essay. A process essay usually has the form of a how-to guide. You describe a problem - for example, gun violence - and explain how it can be solved - for example, with stricter gun control regulations.

You can see that with such a topic as gun control, it is both easiest and most interesting to write a persuasive or an argumentative essay. So, these are the kinds of essays that you will most likely have to write about gun control.

WRITING A GUN CONTROL PERSUASIVE ESSAY

When faced with a concrete task to write a persuasive essay, the first thing you will need is a controversial topic with at least two possible opposing opinions. There is hardly a topic more controversial topic than gun control so you won't have to worry about that. Secondly, you need a strong argument that you will persuade your reader of. Both pro and anti gun control standpoints can produce such an argument.

When you have a topic and an argument, you can begin your research. First and foremost, this involves the historical background of the issue, but you should not limit yourself to that. You should also be informed about what various reputable experts have to say on the topic. Importantly, you need to be well-informed about both sides of the debate, so you could effectively rebuke all the arguments that your hypothetical opponent may have.

Once you conclude your research, you should outline your essay and start writing. Typically, all essays, including persuasive ones, are divided into three sections:

  1. Introduction. Here, you introduce your topic to your reader by providing some background information and formulating your argument in your essay's main thesis.
  2. Main body. Here, you present your argument and the opposing argument and explain why your argument is correct and the opposing one is not.
  3. Conclusion. Here, you briefly restate your argument and why it is superior to that of your opponent.

As we have mentioned, a persuasive essay writings is aimed at convincing your supposedly opponent reader that your standpoint on a particular issue is right and their standpoint is wrong. To achieve this, you can employ all three known methods of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos. Using ethos, you appeal to your reader's sense of ethics by employing your authority or that of the authors to whom you refer. Using pathos, you appeal to your reader's emotions with irrational or seemingly irrational arguments. Using logos, you appeal to your reader's common sense by employing dry facts and logic. A gun control persuasive essay centers around its goal - to persuade the reader, so all any persuasion method is good, as long as it is effective. In the best case scenario, you will use all three.

WRITING AN ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY ON GUN CONTROL

An argumentative essay on gun control will be a more challenging piece of writing than a persuasive one because you are strictly limited to logos, i.e., you have to employ only logic to convince your opponent of your rightness. It is hard to investigate gun control-related issues without the emotionally-loaded context of the tragic events causing these discussions, as hard as it is to stay neutral and steer clear of emotions, as a gun control argumentative essay demands, when you talk about it.

However, this is the most significant difference between a persuasive and an argumentative essay that you should keep in mind. As for the research, the outline, and the writing process itself, a gun control argumentative essay will not be all that different from a persuasive one, and you follow the same steps that you would with a persuasive essay.

WRITING A GUN CONTROL RESEARCH PAPER

Once you start digging into the gun control issue, you will see that this topic is so broad and multi-angled that it can be investigated on and on in much larger works than an essay. You can easily have enough material for a gun control research paper, a term paper, or even a degree paper and build an entire academic career on this topic.

Still, if we talk about a research paper, it will be too small to talk about gun control in general and on the whole. You will have to make your topic more narrow and specific. This will be your first step in writing a research paper on gun control. Note that your initial research paper topic does not need to be finite. In the course of your pre-writing process, you will be able to modify your topic on the go to make it more original and exciting.

Another important detail of a research paper is that you have to use (or, at least, cite) an extended number of sources. Two or three sources will usually suffice for an essay, but a research paper needs no less than five. Interestingly, your sources do not have to be all about the works of other authors. You are also allowed - or, sometimes, even encouraged to refer to your own empirical research data. For example, you can conduct a survey of your own and refer to it in your research paper.

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