It is astounding that there are people who argue for the Second Amendment on the basis that we are taking away their constitutional rights. Yet, throughout our history, when our laws — and even the Constitution — have been found to no longer suit the needs of the country, we have changed them. Without such change, we would still have slavery (banned in 1865), women would not be allowed to vote (passed in 1919) and schools would still be segregated (deemed unconstitutional in 1954). Many gun supporters might wish that the old standards were still in place, but they — though originally based on an understanding of the Constitution — were eventually altered to fit the needs of a changing population in a new era.
The need of the current era is restrictions on the guns that people are allowed to own and use. According to Hunting Business Marketing’s statistics from 2011, only 4 percent of the United States population hunts. In 2010 alone, there were 8,122 firearm accidents while hunting. That same year, there were 31,672 deaths by firearms in the United States. This equals more than 85 deaths each day, and there were another 73,505 non-fatal injuries.
Out of all of those deaths by firearms, the FBI counted an average of only 213 instances of justified “defensive gun use” (a.k.a. self-defense) homicides per year over the period 2005-2010. This suggests that of the 31,672 deaths by firearms in 2010, only 0.67 percent of those deaths were in self-defense. This does not even touch on information regarding the 31 school shootings that have happened just in the past three years, including the most recent mass killing of elementary school children.
While statistics do not tell all, these are certainly alarming. If those arguing for their right to bear arms claim that it is within their constitutional right to hunt and own a gun for self-defense, the statistics surely demonstrate that this is rarely what guns are being used for.
The Second Amendment was introduced in 1789, stating: “A well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” “The people,” as clearly defined in the first part of the sentence, refers directly to those composing “a well-regulated militia.” When the Second Amendment was first being debated, the phrasing of the amendment changed to fit the grammar and dialect of the time. As the language shifted and changed, the original meaning and intent of the amendment was lost. Now people believe they have the “constitutional right” to bear arms for their personal use.
If only 0.67 percent of firearm deaths are from self-defense and only 7 percent of the U.S. population hunts, how can we understand what all these gun rights activists feel they need their guns for? They are arguing against people who have lost their children, siblings, parents and friends to people whose families had guns in their homes for “self-defense.” They are arguing against people who have seen gun violence destroy their families and their cities.
For those of you who claim the Second Amendment gave you the right to have your own guns, even assault weapons that have no real hunting or self-defense purpose, what legitimate argument can you possibly make for why you have a right to own guns for the sole purpose of owning guns (since apparently you are not using them for self-defense or hunting)? How can you argue that your “constitutional right” to own a gun is more important than the safety of innocent people? Where are your values and priorities in life that make your ability to own a weapon more important than the lives of others? What will it take for you to realize that your hobby puts others in danger? Will it take the loss of your child or sibling or friend to someone’s “defensive” or hunting gun? Of course, no one wants that for anyone. But by fighting for your right to own a gun, you minimize the value of the lives of others.
Kira Silk is a student in the School of Policy & Practice. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.