America and Gun Violence

The US, more than any other modern developed nation, is prone to an incredibly high number of mass shootings. One would think that the US would develop stricter restraints on gun ownership given the deaths due to guns alone, as have many other nations in the developed world. Yet, unlike Australia, which imposed firearm regulations after the Port Arthur massacre, ironically enough under John Howard’s conservative administration, the US has yet to implement such measures, even the modest proposal by President Barack Obama.

One of the arguments used in the US that justifies this incredible loss of life is the idea that the second amendment to the American constitution guarantees the right to bear firearms. There are some key problems with this idea. First, the most obvious is that the wording of the American constitution clearly states that the right to bear arms is only guaranteed within a state militia:

“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.”

The second problem is that the term “arms” is often conflated with “gun”, but by the definitions of the Founding Fathers, arms would not have included anything beyond the weapons of the 18th century. The true originalist argument would be, quite frankly, antiquated. Hence, the ability of states to regulate certain arms. I doubt that even the most ardent gun right’s supporter would support the right of an individual to a dirty bomb (portable nuclear weapon), Howitzer, or grenade launcher.

These are just legal issues. The practical issues of maintaining guns without regulation are just too numerous to name. Criminals have more access to guns, especially in states with no background checks. However, even in states with gun control laws, there are still problems of interstate travel of firearms.  While there are numerous examples of mentally ill people committing mass murders, that does not account for all, or even a majority, of shootings, and even more so, gun control would prevent these particular people from accessing firearms. This issue can and must be dealt with at a national level.

However, a complete ban on firearms is not necessary, as proven by both Switzerland and America’s neighbor to the north, Canada. While there is regulation, there are also a significant number of firearms in both countries, both have far lower levels of gun-related violence and deaths than the US.

There are many problems with the current situation, but also many examples of solutions that could be implemented immediately. So rather than attempt an ahistorical and untenable defense of unregulated gun ownership, it would be more ideal to attempt a compromise for the security of American society.

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