“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.”
That is the text of the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution in its entirety.
I am not big on the original intent of the founding fathers. However it is obvious from this text that they were thinking of guns as a tool for self defense. At the birth of the United States during the late 1700s, there were very real threats from Native Americans, other countries, and the colonies of countries. The need for an impromptu armed force of ordinary citizens to defend the state or country was possible. This is why the first part of the 2nd Amendment references the need for a militia (impromptu armed force).
In addition, and this is not addressed in our Constitution, guns were a major part of the food industry during our countries early history. Along the Atlantic coast and in older cities where European style civilization was present, farming was the main method of nutrition. But in frontier areas hunting was a valuable avenue to a meal. For this reason owning and operating guns were important to Americans in the late 18th century.
To recap: guns were important for defense of the nation and for food.
The reason I don’t emphasize the original intent of the founding fathers is because the country has changed so drastically from the realities of 1783. More specifically in the case of guns in our society, the way in which we defend our states and nation, and the way we secure food in 2012. Most of the food production in modern America is done by large entities; when meat is processed it is typically done in huge quantities at plants, not by individuals out in a forest.
Furthermore we as a country have a standing army and each state has a national guard. All of the individuals who participate in the defense of their country or state do so at the expense of society. In other words they are using equipment (guns) paid for by everyone’s taxes which means they are not being asked to show up for service with their own gun.
The nature of society in 2012 makes it unnecessary for people to own guns. But saying people don’t need to own guns is not the same as saying they should not be allowed to own guns. In fact I don’t have a problem with people owning guns, but because of the lethal nature of guns a process needs to be in place that makes it harder to buy a gun than buying a frying pan.
In the wake of last weekend’s tragic shooting in Colorado there will be numerous calls to ban guns in society. These will be countered by numerous calls to allow for the free sale of guns in society. But both of these outlooks is extreme and wrong. Gun control laws create a barrier for hopeful gun owners to deal with before possessing a tool with the ability to end another’s life. Gun control laws allow for government to screen potential gun owners to assess whether they should own a gun.
The tragedy in Colorado should remind all of those at both ends of the spectrum why gun control laws are necessary. Gun control laws allow for fewer guns to be in the hands of dangerous people. This should make those advocating no guns in society happy because they are trying to minimize the lethal threats to their life. This should make those advocating no gun regulation happy because it would lessen the amount of dangerous gun owners that give responsible gun owners a bad reputation.
The 2nd Amendment doesn’t guarantee the “right” to gun ownership in today’s America. But in the spirit of the 2nd Amendment we should allow for guns and allow for their regulation.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.