A simple and entirely non-debatable fact before we begin:
Guns do one thing.
And yet the United States Constitution states that, quote, “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.”
This piece will not spend long on the intention of the second amendment. To do so would be a pointless exercise in grammar, not ideology.
The “right to bear arms” is not a sovereign idea within a larger statement. It is simply another name for “a well regulated militia” which is the only idea to which the amendment is referring. The actual direct meaning of the second amendment, therefore, if stripped of unnecessary descriptions, would read as follows: A well-regulated militia shall not be infringed upon. The amendment is thus satisfied by the existence of the National Guard, a modern day militia, and speaks nothing of private gun ownership.
There. Current problem with Second Amendment resolved. Now that that’s out of the way we can focus on a much more worthy topic. If the Constitution is silent on private gun ownership, what should the position of the United States Government be?
It is a fact that guns account for more accidental deaths than they do justified self-defense deaths. In 2006, there were 642 accidental gun deaths in the United States. This detail alone should be enough to outlaw private gun ownership in the U.S. No? To restate: weapons intended for self-defense are not fulfilling their intended role as often as they are taking the lives of innocent people. To me, this fact speaks clearly enough to justify the elimination of privately owned guns.
But sadly this statistic is not enough. As of today, there are eighty-nine privately owned guns for every one hundred people in the United States. No other country in the world comes close to matching this number.
“Don’t I have the right to protect myself with guns?” This is the question so often posed by gun advocates. I answer with this: Considering that more deaths from guns are accidental, don’t I have the right to protect myself by advocating the absence of guns?
Then there is the stale declaration: “If we outlaw guns, only the outlaws will have guns.” My answer is this: do we not have any faith in our own police force? We live in the most affluent, most prosperous country in the world and yet, as a nation, we have less faith in our own police force than in places where corruption is open and rampant in law enforcement ranks. We all pay taxes for the formation, armament, and upkeep of a police force. Why not let them do their job and protect us? Until the day comes when weapons can be expelled totally from our society, let us at least trust the police officers who are trained in their use.
If you are in a location where you honestly, truly feel a gun is necessary for your own self-preservation, why are you in that area? America, for the most part, is a safe, open, tolerant, peace-loving society. I know that at times it seems hard to remember this.
But pay attention to the news. Watch the riots in Egypt, the civil war in Syria, the suppression in North Korea. Watch the death. Watch the suffering. Watch the hate. Watch the violence. Yes, watch the guns. Watch all this lest we forget how good we really have it, how free we are as a people, how safe we are in our beds at night. Many people in the world need guns for their own protection and the protection of their rights. We, I would argue, do not. The days of the American gunslinger are over. We no longer need to a six-shooter at our hip for protection, as cool as it may look.
For a moment, I ask you to put political statements aside, the second amendment aside, personal liberties, the right to bear arms, and the NRA aside, and remember this, again:
Guns do one thing. They kill.
The battle over gun control has morphed into a political fight. Guns ownership has become a symbol for just about everything right-wing while anti-gun is a calling card of the political left. I am not exempt from this mindset. I wrote this article with nothing less than the intention of smashing the puny Conservative thought process beneath my righteous, Liberal boot of justice. But how can I call myself anti-gun if I am not also anti-hate? Regardless of what side of the debate you are on, do not let the gun argument morph into something it should not be. If it must be an argument, let it be one of honest pros and cons and of no political symbolism.
We must not let guns become symbols. Please do not sling an assault rifle on your back and walk down Main Street because it is your Constitutional Right to do so. (It’s not — we discussed that at the beginning.) It’s just not worth the cost. It’s just not worth another Newtown. It’s just not worth 642 deaths a year.
Colin Smith is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, and a guest columnist for the Daily Free Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org