Foreign Affairs

A Guide to and Defence of America’s Current Gun Policies

UWA student Keegan Nazzari takes a look at the intentions behind the Second Amendment to the US Constitution and argues in defence of the right of Americans to bear arms.

“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.”

One of the most controversial statements ever written into law, the United States’ Second Amendment needs to be understood by anyone who cares about their freedom.

To understand the Second Amendment, the writers’ intentions must be understood. In 1789 James Madison presented what would later become the Bill of Rights; the first 10 amendments of the U.S. Constitution. A series of articles which limit Congress’ power, and ensure the citizens’ rights. These include freedom of expression, religion and assembly, amongst others.

The Second Amendment was written after America’s War of Independence; it was designed to ensure a safeguard against a democratically elected government becoming tyrannical. This was a clear and overarching worry of the founding fathers and so they saw fit to establish a means of protection for the people.

A rather persuasive argument proposed by the Jewish, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro is, “I fear the possibility of a tyranny rising in this country in the next 50 to 100 years. Let me tell you something, Piers. The fact that my grandparents and great grandparents in Europe didn’t fear that is why they’re now ashes in Europe.” Shapiro stated this whilst appearing on the Piers Morgan Show on CNN in January of 2013.

In the book Hitler’s Table Talk, 1941-1944: Secret Conversations, Hitler said “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subjugated races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subjugated races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is…  for the overthrow of any sovereignty.”

The likelihood of America turning dictatorial or fascistic is often challenged as absurd or ridiculous. However, it would be arrogant to suggest that governments, including democratically elected ones, have not historically done so. This has happened in France, Spain, Japan, Italy and most obviously Germany. Many often forget that Hitler came to power through a fair election. Some of the gravest atrocities of human history are a result of these occurrences.

Whilst the argument in favour is often straw manned into self defence or hunting, this is not in any way an accurate reflection of the law. It is not why the Second Amendment was written and it does not reflect the need to preserve the safety of the people from an oppressive government.

Another often touted argument favouring gun control’s implementation in the U.S. is that, ‘more guns equal more gun deaths.’ While many would view this as common sense, it is grossly ignorant and warrants further inspection. In truth more guns will only result in more gun crime when those guns are illegal. According to a 1997 – 2017 study by the Crime Prevention Research Center, it has been found that the majority of all gun murders committed in America are committed in just 2% of all counties. The great irony is that these counties often impose the strictest gun laws, with cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles, dominating the the murder statistic. The myth that guns cause gun crimes is just that, a myth. It takes only a cursory analysis of the statistics to see that the only guns which increase gun crimes are illegal guns. Gun control merely takes the guns off the law-abiding citizens, and leaves the criminals with theirs.

One of the most important and difficult things for people opposing America’s current gun laws to understand is that more guns do not threaten more lives. For instance, an examination of Australia would find that the amount of legal and registered guns in Australia is larger than ever before according to Philip Alpers, a University of Sydney public health researcher, gun control expert and founding director of GunPolicy.org, and yet no mass shootings have occurred since Port Arthur, and there is almost no gun violence. A look at Switzerland would find that according to the Small Weapons Survey there were 46 firearms for every 100 citizens, and yet they have the lowest crime rate in the world.

In order to save lives it cannot be forgotten that making currently legal guns illegal will not achieve this. A study by researchers Professors James Wright and Peter Rossi analysed convicted prisoners and found that the firearms that were used by criminals were legally obtained just 3 percent of the time. To make more guns illegal would make no positive difference to the number of gun crimes in America. In fact a study by the Northwest University School of Law found that each year, guns thwart a crime or save a life 2.1 million to 2.5 million times. A Crime Prevention Research Center study conducted from 1950 to 2016 found that 98.4% of all mass shootings (shootings of 4+ people) occur in gun free zones. This is the clearest indicator that the removal of legal guns results in more death and damage. No one is for more illegal guns but it is simply wrong to suggest less legal guns is a good thing. Citizens need to remain armed because criminals who already are willing to murder won’t politely surrender their guns.

Another argument proposed regularly in America is to ban assault weapons. A term with no actual meaning, as an assault weapon or assault rifle has no definition. This commonly proposed idea has its basis in mass shootings. In 2014 the Sandy Hook Shooting occurred using an assault weapon. It is proposed that banning assault weapons would have prevented this, however the state (Connecticut) already had an assault rifle ban.

Most murders in America are committed using handguns, however some of the highest profile gun crime incidents involve the use of fully automatic (fires continuously as the trigger is pulled) and semi automatic (fires a single bullet each trigger pull) weapons. These are often confused terms, and many people fail to realise that all fully automatic weapons are illegal in America, except to a small few exceptionally qualified individuals who require them for their profession, for instance bodyguards. As such the only people in possession of Fully Automatic weapons are people such as the Secret Service, military and criminals.

Clearly people proposing laws on these weapons should actually know what these weapons are, however the vast majority do not understand the difference between the two. Another worry about this proposal is that the majority of all gun murders in America use a handgun. Many who argue against “automatic” weapons are still supporting the right to bear and own a handgun, most of which are semi automatic. This shows a clear lack of an underlying principle.

Why do we want to prevent mass murders? Because we don’t want people to die. If we don’t want people to die, then why keep handguns legal and not semi automatic weapons?

It can be generally stated that most people in the debate want to avoid harm to people. Yet it remains incontrovertible that to do this legal guns must remain available to the general public. Making good people helpless won’t make bad people harmless.

Once it has been established that keeping handguns and semi automatic weapons legal saves lives, the next question becomes: “Who should be allowed to have them?”

Thankfully a much less controversial issue mostly. Most people would agree (96% according to a 2017 Gallup Poll on the matter) that to purchase a gun a criminal background check should be mandatory. This remains consistent when regarding those suffering mental illnesses, as most people would agree that they should not be allowed access to guns in the same capacity as a healthy person, be it due to a risk to others or themselves.

However, an area where this does become more controversial is the No Flight List. The No Flight List requires no trial, no witnesses and no due process. It has been noted that the No Flight List seems to target priests, elderly nuns, Green Party campaign operatives, left-wing journalists, right-wing activists and people affiliated with Arab or Arab-American groups. People are also caught up if they have similar names to terrorists or criminals or others on the No Flight List; this includes babies and children. Clearly this is not a valid way to effectively prevent criminals from possessing weapons.

So yes, whilst some concessions are reasonable, it still remains that saving lives can happen without stripping innocents of their rights. We should instead ensure that the good, law-abiding, morally upright citizens of America are allowed their fundamental human right to bear arms, and focus our efforts on the illegal guns possessed by criminals. If we cannot come together and agree on that then we truly are lost.

Overwhelming evidence shows that removing legal guns from a city, county or even a small building results in more deaths than not. Gun-owners and non-owners both agree that stricter measures need to be taken to prevent the mentally ill and violent criminals from gaining guns.

The misconception that gun ownership is a fundamental human right for the purposes of hunting, self defence and ‘fighting the British,’ is a lie. The Second Amendment completely safeguards the people’s ability to overthrow tyrants.

With this intent behind the Second Amendment it comes as no surprise that one of Hitler’s first steps was enforcing gun control; one of Stalin’s first steps was enforcing gun control; one of Mao’s first steps was enforcing gun control; one of Mussolini’s first steps was enforcing gun control. This list goes on. This is because it allows their own secret policies and militaries to freely operate, allowing the tyrant to enforce their will on the people.

No we don’t think that today’s, tomorrow’s or even the day after’s leaders will turn into dictators. But it could happen, 50 or 100 years from now. How can we stop such a cruelty? By ensuring that the future tyrants know that those they oppress are not helpless.

As President Ronald Reagan wrote in 1975 “The gun has been called the great equalizer, meaning that a small person with a gun is equal to a large person, but it is a great equalizer in another way, too. It ensures that the people are the equal of their government whenever that government forgets that it is servant and not master of the governed…  [America has] a Constitution; a Constitution that, as those who wrote it were determined, would keep men free. If we give up part of that Constitution we…  increase the chance that we will lose it all. I am not ready to take that risk.”

And nor should you.

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