Amendment 2 to the Constitution, as written by the Founding Fathers, states that, “as a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed upon.”
Nearly 230 years have gone by since the Second Amendment was ratified, and the original purpose of the amendment has become heavily debated.
Many Americans believe the amendment was intended to protect states from laws that would restrict their rights to adequate self-defense.
Other Americans believe the language of the amendment creates an individual right to own firearms.
Regardless of what the amendment’s intended purpose was, the right to possess firearms has become one of the most controversial issues facing the nation.
According to the Chicago Police Department, 762 people were killed in Chicago with firearms. There were thousands of incidents, and the murder rate per 100,000 residents reached its highest level since the 1990s. Saint Louis, Detroit and New Orleans all had proportionally higher murder rates than Chicago did.
Mass shootings also made headlines in 2016. The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history took place at Pulse nightclub in Orlando when 49 people were killed and another 53 were wounded by Omar Mateen, a homegrown terrorist, with an assault rifle and pistol.
Mass shootings and homicides involving firearms are becoming increasingly more common. Practically any place where people gather could potentially be targeted. In the face of this danger, some politicians tout gun restrictions and background checks as the solution to our fatal problem.
Background checks and restrictions on the size of magazines, the sale of semi-automatic weapons and other aspects of gun sales are a good first line of defense against the mass violences that frequent the headlines; however, further steps must be taken to minimize the potential for damage to law-abiding Americans.
While background checks are, in theory, a great way to make sure that only those who should be trusted to responsibly keep firearms get their hands on them, the checks are not required at gun shows in most states.
Even firearms that are purchased legally with background checks can easily come into the possession of those who should not be allowed to have them (like Adam Lanza, who shot and killed his mother with her legally purchased firearms before driving to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he killed 20 children and six adults).
Cases like the one involving Lanza, who may have had Asperger’s syndrome, show that there is a need for better treatment of mental illness in the United States. However, mentally ill people are not predominantly the perpetrators of homicide via firearm; radicalized American terrorists, gang members and others are often the assailants in mass shootings.
As gun violence can only be limited to a certain extent by restrictions on gun sales, background checks and treatment for mental illness, many Americans have begun supporting the right to carry firearms openly.
Missouri recently introduced a law allowing the open carry of firearms for concealed carry permit holders in hopes that allowing law-abiding citizens to carry arms would better allow the majority of people to defend themselves from the minority that intends to harm others.
Some people, like Florida Senator Greg Steube, feel open carry is not enough, pushing for the right to carry in traditionally gun free zones– even in school zones or the unrestricted sides of airports (like the area where five people were shot and killed earlier this month in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), where mass shootings commonly occur.
Americans on both sides of the argument over the right to possess firearms seem to believe that there is one metaphorical silver bullet to end mass shootings.
The truth is there is no sure-fire way to end gun violence. A combination of background checks to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands; treatment for mental illness to decrease the likelihood of out-of-the-blue incidents like the Sandy Hook shooting; and open carry to allow law-abiding citizens to defend themselves when safeguards fail should be implemented in order to prevent more mass shootings.
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