The proliferation of firearms in the United States arms both law abiding citizens and criminals/dangerous vigilantes. American vigilantes intend to facilitate the capturing or subduing of criminals, but an environment that encourages private citizens to act as a law enforcer is a dangerous one. In 2008, over 12 thousand firearm-related homicides happened in the US alone, and 587 of those incidents were by firearms that discharged accidentally. Comparatively, Japan saw all of 11 firearm-related homicides in the same year.
Three major national surveys suggest that gun ownership across the country has gone down, but a Washington Post analysis from 2015 has suggested that the number of guns owned by American gun owners has doubled since the 1990s. Furthermore, a 2004 study discovered that the average gun owner possessed 6.6 firearms, with the top three percent owning roughly 25 guns each.
To comprehend the proliferation of firearms in the United States, it is pertinent to analyze the legal evolution of the Second Amendment. The amendment reads, “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.” Taking historical perspective into consideration, the reasoning for defending the right to bears arms stems from the Revolutionary War. During the American Revolutionary War, the British confiscated arms from the people. The British, an occupying force, was afraid of a larger insurrection propelled by a consortium of American militias. Within historical context, the Second Amendment was intended to protect the right to bear arms for a well-regulated people’s militia – not to have the latter divorced from the former.
Interpretations of the Second Amendment began to change after the 1968 Gun Control Act. The notional divorce was carried out by the efforts of the National Rifle Association. Since the 1970s the NRA advanced the argument through funding scholars to advance legal and historical arguments about the individual right to bear arms. The interesting development is that the notion of an individual’s right to bear arms has become the prevailing understanding of the Second Amendment due to the NRA’s successful efforts, despite their inaccurate reading of history. The overarching theme is that groups, such as the NRA, now have the power to remake history and reframe the context of an issue to fit their present rhetoric.
An example of contradiction by the opposing camp is seen through the assertion of constitutional originalism. In their national headquarters, the NRA features a bold engraving in their central lobby of the Second Amendment, but a segmented version. The NRA instead houses an ellipse to strengthen their assertion, but if they are claiming originalism, then why not display the full amendment?
For Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, the remedy to the gun issue is this: the expansion of background checks, taking on the gun lobby and keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, other violent criminals and the severely mentally ill. Contrary to many of the other camp, Secretary Clinton’s policies do not suggest the abrogation of the Second Amendment, as that would be an abridgement of the constitution, but instead to put in place common sense and moderate legislation that would halt gun sales for dangerous individuals. Yes, the Democratic nominee misrepresented Democratic measures, which aimed to ban gun sales for individuals on a terrorist watch list, but it is imperative that sales are halted to individuals deemed a threat to national security. The Democratic Party’s nominee, like many in the party do not believe in repealing the Second Amendment, but instead wish to preserve the integrity of the Amendment for law abiding citizens – not for criminals or terrorists.