right to keep and bear arms

April, 1995
It is a popular argument in the modern world to get tough on crime and ban guns, citing the fact that guns are involve din many crimes. I believe that our society can decrease the crime rate, and repeal all government restrictions, regulations and requirements regarding the ownership of weapons. I believe that gun ownership and crime do not go hand in hand, and that gun ownership is not the cause of crimes. I plan to demonstrate and prove my philosophy by critically analyzing the current state of our gun laws.

The Second Amendment to our Constitution states, "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 amendment has not yet been incorporated to all of the states via the Fourteenth Amendment, but all of the states have a provision in their constitutions to allow the people to carry weapons, to differing degrees of concealment. In California, applicants for a concealed weapons permit must demonstrate a need to carry a concealed weapon, such as a job-related need (Van Biema, 28).

Certainly, it would have been easier and less deadly if guns simply were not invented, or if they had simply been totally banned since the time they were invented, but that was not the case. Our country was founded on the principle of personal freedoms, liberties and responsibilities. The gun clause of the Constitution was second in importance only to speech, religion and the press. Clearly, the writers of the Constitution did not want guns banned.

Gun control advocates make the point that we already have a "well-regulated militia" and arming the citizens of our country with weapons is not "well-regulated" but rather chaos. I argue that the militia which we currently have is ineffective, costly, and unable to do their job to the satisfaction of the people. I am not advocating taking the law into our own hands, but I am advocating the right to self-defense. I believe that a modern, loose-constructionist interpretation of the Second Amendment is that we are in need of a "well-regulated militia" composed of citizens to battle the rising crime rate by exercising their right to self defense. The "well-regulated" aspect comes into play through voluntary training classes, which are currently available.

The government has demonstrated an inability to deal with violent crime. The government's answer to violent crime is to take away the only effective weapons we have to defend ourselves against this crime. In this way, the government regulations on guns undermines the people's sense of justice with regard to crime. Instead, I advocate the government suppressing crime through consistent and impartial enforcement of laws protecting the people (Libertarian Platform, Section 2).

The answer to our violent crime problem is not banning and prohibiting things. Bans and prohibitions, as demonstrated by the alcohol prohibition era of the 1920's and by the current "war on drugs," serves only to increase our violent crime rate. Prohibition did not stop liquor use, the drug laws can not stop drug use, and making gun ownership illegal will not stop gun ownership. Banning guns will make guns more expensive and give organized crime a great opportunity to make profits in a new black market for weapons. This will result in an increase in street violence. (Liberty Today, Issue 3).

Instead, we should hold the people who commit violent crimes personally responsible for their actions, and punish them in a consistent, impartial and very tough way, including having to make full restitution to the victim at the expense of the criminal.

This has been demonstrated in El Paso County, Colorado, where the sheriff adopted the most lenient standards in Colorado for concealed weapons: Any citizen with no prior felonies who fills out a form and pays $85 can carry a concealed weapon, with no mandatory training or explanation needed. The state of Colorado is now looking at the El Paso County legislation to make that policy a statewide law. Colorado is only one of many states looking to liberalize their gun laws (Van Biema, 27).

Gary Huttenhoff, a real estate appraiser in El Paso County was quoted by Time Magazine as saying, "The police take care of the public, not the individual. This is a great chance for people to defend themselves," (Van Biema, 28).

The statistics seem to support this argument. Florida has a very liberal concealed carry law. Critics predicted "deadly traffic squabbles and cross fire at the mall" (Van Biema, 29). The opposite is true now that the law has gone into effect: Since 1987, 266,700 Floridians have been granted CCW permits. Only nineteen have been revoked for firearms-related crime. Since 1987, when the CCW laws were liberalized, Florida's homicide rate has dropped 29%, while the national murder rate has increased 12% (Van Biema, 19).

In Chicago, like many other cities, the police track what weapons are used to commit crimes. The Chicago Police Department statistics show that cutlery (the standard kitchen knife) are far more popular than the assault weapons Congress recently banned. Yet Congress is not moving to ban kitchen knives.

Guns are a form of private property. They are an object which people own, much like a car, boat or knife. Guns have several purposes, ranging from sport hunting, hunting for survival, defense, and even senseless violence. It is illogical to ban an item of personal property simply because it has the potential to harm someone. If this were a logical argument, just about everything, from cars to houses to zippers, and certainly alcohol, could be banned. Instead, with these other objects of private property, we let the citizens use these objects, and trust that they will use them properly and for their own benefit, not to infringe on the rights of others. When they do infringe on the rights of others, then action is taken. This is true with driving a car, with owning a house, and with most of our laws. Knowing that there is a severe punishment for misuse of an object, such as using a car to kill someone, deters most people from using the objects in those ways. We should not be punishing the possession of an object, but rather the action of using that object against another person.

Research by Gary Kleck, of Florida State University, shows that private gun ownership is one of the most effective deterrents against crime. According to Kleck's study, victims use handguns to defeat crimes three times more often than criminals misuse them committing crimes. Professor Ted Gurr, a member of the Eisenhower Commission that advocated making guns less available, stated that, "The irony of most gun control proposals is that they would criminalize much of the citizenry but have only marginal effects on professional criminals." (Libertarian Party news, July 1994).

Guns are not the problem - they are simply objects, much like a parked car. People who use guns responsibly, without attacking others or causing injury negligently should not be deemed criminals, for no harm has been done. If a person commits a crime with a gun, then impose the severest penalties for the injury done to the victim. Hold the negligent gun user fully liable for all harm which his negligence does to others. A responsible, well-armed and trained citizenry is the best protection against domestic crime and the threat of foreign invasion (Liberty Today, Issue 3).
Van Biema, David. "License to Conceal." Time Magazine. March 27, 1995. 26-29.
Libertarian Party Newspaper. July, 1994.
Libertarian Platform, 1994.
Liberty Today. Issue 3. N.D.
United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. "1995 Weapons Statistics Report."

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