2nd Amendment 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. The Second Amendment has been a major issue in American politics since 1876. In question is the intent of this Amendment. Was it meant to insure that people in general have arms for personal service, or was it intended to insure arms for military service The nations powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, holds that it means the right to keep and bear arms -any arms. This privileged right is given to those 60-65 million people who choose to own guns. The NRA also believes that human character defects cannot be changed by a simple regulation of guns.
They argue that problems with firearm ownership cannot be, in any way, associated with criminal violence. The lobbyist give credibility to this statement by adding that criminal violence continues to increase in cities like New York and Washington DC, even though gun control statutes were put into affect. They point out that gun laws would not have stopped most addicted killers. According to the NRA, anti-crime measures are the way to conquer urban violence, not anti-gun measures. The hope of most members in the association is to educate people about guns. The association is willing to reveal proper usage of guns to non-gun owners. They feel that this training could help reduce some of the tragedies involving guns. The issue of gun control has become a dividing line in America. To gun control activists, the issue is about crime and the regulation of the weapons used to commit these crimes. In their opinion, law abiding citizens should have no need for guns. In this respect, the big controversy seems shallow . However, to the NRA population, a much deeper issue is in question, the issue is freedom. The members believe that the Second Amendment is crucial to the maintenances of the democratic process. From their point of view, people who advocate gun control are ready to disregard a constitutional right. They believe that, if the Second Amendment is abridged, the First Amendment will be the next to go. The Executive Branch of the Federal Government is in a high-profile position on the issue of gun control.
During this current Presidential election season, much rhetoric is being exchanged on the issue. It would almost appear that one must play to either camp in order to receive the desired endorsement of the strong political lobby groups. In the case of Bob Dole, the Republican Presidential candidate, his platform on gun control at times are contradictory, but his pattern of voting on gun-related issues in the senate seem to follow the characteristic Republican-NRA view on gun control. President Clinton takes a very different stand on gun control. His current re-election platform calls for further restrictions on guns and on people who buy guns. This characteristic “Democrat” attitude on gun control closely follows the view of Handgun Control, Inc., a political lobby group dedicated to governmental control and regulation of guns in the United States. Gun control and drug control are usually associated with opposite ends of the political spectrum. Presidents Reagan and Bush were eager to pursue the war on drugs but generally wary of gun control.
However, President Clinton has made gun control a major goal, while his drug strategy is almost invisible. During President Clintons administration, the Brady Bill on gun control was passed. This bill was gridlocked in the House for seven years. The Brady Bill (named for James Brady, press secretary to President Ronald Reagan, who was seriously injured when he was shot during a 1981 assassination attempt against Reagan) was signed by President Clinton, on November 30, 1993, and took effect in March 1994. This measure imposes a 5-day waiting period for the purchase of handguns and provides for the creation of a national computer network to check the backgrounds of gun buyers. The Clinton Administration was also able to pass an assault-style firearms bill that banned the sale and distribution of certain types of automatic weapons. The ban, part of a 1994 crime bill, took effect just months before Republicans gained control of Congress. During the past year, President Clintons Administration pushed to get a terrorism bill passed and signed into law. During the whole fight, the President and his allies insinuated more than once that opponents of the bill were weak on crime. Gun laws tend to be passed in an atmosphere of hysteria that discourages critical reflection.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 was approved soon after the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. In fact, on the very day that Kennedy died, President Johnson issued an emotional appeal to Congress demanding passage of a federal gun-control law. Two dramatic incidents had helped create a sense of crisis, which Johnson used to his advantage. President Clinton tried to do something similar after last Decembers shootings on the Long Island Railroad. Indeed, supporters of gun control are usually quick to seize upon sensational acts of violence to justify more regulation. The attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981 ultimately gave us the Brady law, and the Stockton massacre generated assault weapon legislation throughout the country. According to The Washington Post, the President is now quietly working to repeal certain parts of the terror bill which are clearly unconstitutional. The immigration reform bill (S. 1664), which is now in a conference committee, will be the chosen vehicle for undoing some of the unconstitutional points in the terror bill.
The Clinton administration, however, has proven to take a hard stand for tougher gun restriction laws, and if reelected will push harder for more gun control laws. The President of the United States is responsible for enforcing the legislation passed by Congress and to enforce the rulings of the Supreme Court. The President is the gatekeeper in the area of National Agendas. The outcome of the Presidential Election this November 5th will determine Administrative agenda and policy on crime, guns, and gun-control into the twenty-first century. The Legislative branch of the government controls the enactment of laws and the legislative process. While the president may be in charge of national agendas, it is ultimately up to congress to pass bills into law. When Clinton first came into office, Congress was dominated by the Democrat Party. As mentioned earlier, Clinton was able to get the Brady Bill signed into law, as well as get the ban on assault weapons passed through Congress before the majority of the House shifted to favor the Republicans. Laws passed in the States of Florida and Texas have gone in the opposite direction. The Right to Carry Laws, were designed to reduce violent crime by making personal weapons an equalizer between violent criminals and potential victims. The Fort Worth Star Telegram recently reported that the fears raised about those laws had been proven unfounded, that the feared “Bloodbath” had not come, and never would. And according to the FBIs Uniform Crime Reports, in those states that had passed Right To Carry laws, Violent Crime had been reduced. After the Congressional shift took place, the president found it tougher to have his political agenda on gun control carried out. Instead, the Republican congress attempted to reverse some of the laws passed by the previous session of Congress.
In March of this year, House Republican leaders, fulfilling a longtime promise to the National Rifle Association, voted to repeal the ban on assault-style firearms. Representative Charles Schumer, chief author of the 1994 legislation (that banned the weapons), described the expedited scheduling of the vote, announced by House Majority Leader Dick Armey, as “a sneak attack”. The measure had not even been scheduled for action by the Rules Committee, which must act before a bill goes to the floor. The ban, part of the 1994 crime bill, took effect just months before Republicans gained control of Congress despite active lobbying against it by the NRA. Overturning it has been the associations top legislative priority. The House of Representatives voted to repeal the ban on 19 types of semiautomatic weapons, but President Clinton said he would veto the legislation if it gets to his desk. The vote came on a bill to remove the ban on weapons like the AK-47 and the Uzi from the 1994 crime bill that passed when Democrats controlled Congress. The final vote was 239-173. “It is an outrage for the Congress to vote to repeal the assault weapon ban. Its an IOU to the National Rifle Association,” Vice President Al Gore said at a news briefing. Supporters of the bill said the ban was ineffective and violated the constitutional right of Americans to own guns.
Clinton had denounced the bill earlier, saying, “I believe it would be deeply wrong for Congress to repeal this assault weapon ban. It doesnt need to be voted on in the House or the Senate and if it is passed, I will veto it.” Several House Republican freshmen have been pressuring leaders for the repeal, which they promised during their 1994 campaigns that created the Houses first Republican majority in 40 years. “Promises made. Promises kept,” Armey said. The majority leaders spokeswoman, Michele Davis, added later: “House Republican leaders are fulfilling a promise made in January of 1995 to Republican and Democratic members who asked for and were told they would get a vote on repeal sometime in this Congress.” Representative John Conyers of Michigan, the Judiciary Committees top Democrat, was furious. “The NRA must consider the Republican Congress the gift that keeps on giving,” Conyers said. “Last week, the Republicans destroyed the anti-terrorism bill because the NRA didnt like it, and now they want Uzis and AK-47s back in mass production.” Both House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, who clinched the GOP nomination for president Tuesday, promised last year to put repeal to a vote. The terror bombing of Oklahoma Citys federal building and the stalemate with the Clinton administration over the federal budget helped keep the measure off both chambers schedules.
On March 22, 1996 the bipartisan House voted to repeal the Clinton gun ban and get tough with armed criminals was achieved despite efforts by Administration allies who resorted to personal attacks. “What we are going to have is a partnership of strengthening laws against the criminal misuse of firearms, which everyone agrees is the real problem issue, and eliminating harassment of law-abiding gun owners who are not the problem.” –House Speaker Newt Gingrich 183 Republicans and 56 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives backed up those words when they voted to repeal the 1994 Clinton gun and magazine ban. Last year, Bernie Ward, a prominent Radio Talk Show host on KGO radio out of San Francisco said “The Supreme Court has yet to strike down any law affecting gun control” and he is right. The Supreme Court has not heard a case involving gun control since 1934. In that case… a man was to defend his right to possess a sawed off shotgun. The ruling was such that, since he could not prove that the shotgun was standard military equipment, he had no right to possess it. Therefore, had it been military equipment, he had the right to own the weapon. Sawed off shotguns are banned in the United States as a result. The same thinking went into the “Ban” of fully automatic fire arms, such as the Tompson Sub Machine Gun, which was popular with organized crime during the 20s and 30s. Lawmakers did not “ban” the weapon, so much as control it by making it a requirement to register and obtain a license to own one. As a result, sales of the Tommy Gun dropped to nothing until World War II when the weapon was used extensively by US forces, and those of other nations. Had the weapon been “banned,” the Supreme Court would undoubtedly have overturned the law. The myth that the sub machine gun was banned, however, has persisted. In April, 1995 the Supreme Court ruled that gun possession at school was not a federal offense, (U.S. v Lopez, No. 93-1260, April 26, 1995). In this landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that Congress overstepped its constitutional authority to intervene in local affairs when it enacted the 1990 Gun Free School Zone, a federal law banning possession of a gun within a 1000 feet of a school. Whats at issue here is how much authority Congress can exercise over the states. Since 1930, Congress has relied heavily on a clause in the Constitution giving Congress power to “regulate commerce…among the several states,” to enact a slew of federal laws formerly left-up to the states. Congress has only had to show that the activity somehow involved interstate commerce to justify making a federal law against it. In the Lopez ruling, Chief Justice William Rehnquist called the 1990 Gun-Free School Zone Act “a criminal statute that by its terms has nothing to do with commerce or any sort of economic enterprise.” He also stressed that federal authority to regulate interstate commerce cannot be used to “obliterate the distinction between what is national and what is local and create a completely centralized government.” The outcome of the Lopez ruling was that Congress received a strong message from the Supreme Court to curb its practice of broadly interpreting the commerce clause to enact legislation that can be handled by the states.
It is too early to know how or if this decision will impact other gun laws, but it is a move that may help to reduce the scope of the federal government. The gun controllers like to argue that the courts have found no constitutional right of individuals to bear arms. That merely means that the courts have seldom had occasion to rule on gun control laws. As The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court notes, one reason for the absence of court rulings on the Second Amendment is that, for much of American history, there were few regulations concerning firearms ownership. In June of this year, The United States Supreme Court agreed to review the Brady Law. Soon after the law took effect, lawsuits were filed in federal district courts in seven states. The plaintiffs in those cases were local sheriffs, whom the law requires to conduct background checks of handgun purchasers. Each of the suits alleges that the Brady Law violates the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects state and local governments from certain types of federal mandates. Within the last year, three circuits of the U.S. Court Of Appeals have issued rulings. In two cases, the Ninth Circuit and Second Circuit, the courts ruled that the background check provision of the law did not violate the 10th Amendment. The Fifth Circuit rendered a different decision — striking down the background check as a violation of the 10th Amendment. No court has ever struck down the waiting period. “We are confident that the Supreme Court, upon hearing the case, will agree with the decisions made in the Ninth and Second Circuits,” said Sarah Brady, chairperson of Handgun Control, Inc. “We are not surprised that the Supreme Court agreed to examine the case given the split in the circuits. Since going into effect on Feb. 28, 1994, the law has stopped tens of thousands of prohibited individuals from making over-the-counter handgun purchases. Furthermore, polls have consistently shown more than 90 percent of the American public supporting the law. As stated earlier, there is little jurisprudence in the area of gun control by the Supreme Court. Until the Lopez case, which is really a commerce clause case, not a gun control case, the Supreme Court had not heard a gun control issue since the Miller case in 1939. This, however, seems to be changing with the announcement that the Supreme Court will review the Brady Bill Case. The issue of gun control is heating up… soon it will be up to the Supreme Court to decide on the Constitutionality of gun control. Special interest groups have been part of the American political process since its beginning and have been viewed ambivalently for more than 200 years.
As early as 1787, James Madison warned about the “mischiefs of `factions.” Beginning in the late 1970s, pressure groups took on new importance in U.S. politics. In the area of gun-control, political special interest groups are polarized. There is no middle of the road groups, they are either devoutly for or against gun control. On either side of the gun control issue are two very prominent, high profile groups, the NRA and Handgun Control, Inc. The NRA (National Rifle Association) strongly opposes any type of gun regulation. The NRA publishes “fact sheets” and “congressional ratings sheets” to inform their members and non-members on their views and how their Congressional representative rates in the area of gun-control laws. In 1992 the organization had about 2,500,000 members. With headquarters and a strong lobby in Washington, D. C., the NRA mobilizes its members through some 14,000 affiliates. Its activities are both educational and recreational (educating police firearms instructors, sponsoring shooting competitions, promoting safety) and political (lobbying against gun-control legislation). Although polls show that the U. S. public favors gun-control laws, the NRA has so far successfully, if less and less decisively, opposed broad-based legislation. The NRA has a slogan: “guns dont kill people, people kill people.” Groups for stricter gun control, such as Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI), argue that guns do kill people. They think that it is the gun that makes people feel they are in the right and have the power to take someones life and control a situation. Handgun Control, Inc. is the nations largest citizens gun control lobbying organization. HCI, based in Washington, D.C., works to enact stronger federal, state, and local gun control laws, but does not seek to ban handguns. Founded in 1974, HCI has more than 400,000 members nationwide. The Brady Law, which was passed in February 1994, was strongly lobbied for by interest groups such as HCI. These types of interest groups are actively working to counteract the NRAs force in Washington. The NRA, HCI, and other interest groups endorse political candidates to give members a means of knowing where that candidate stands on an issue. This single-issue politics,” creates a political race where many individuals and groups support or reject candidates based solely on their views on particular questions. Interest groups are increasingly supplying the public with more and more guidelines on how its members should vote for candidates. The preamble of the United States Constitution clearly states its objective: to establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. The bill of rights is the set of amendments to the constitution intended to secure these objectives for the individual citizens of the United States. The second amendment 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 was written in the wake of the revolutionary war, when the ability to raise arms against the imperial force made the new republic possible. Securing the ownership of arms, as a right, was central to creating a government that would not infringe on the liberty of its citizens. The use of arms, however, is the last option reserved when all other attempts at the preservation of liberty have failed. Today we live in a much different world than that of our founders. The rise of the United States into world dominance, the shift of population into the cities, and the increase of drug use and violence have produced great change in our society. Americans once feared the loss of the free state would come from foreign invasion or political corruption, but now the greatest threat is the violence we see on the evening news. The increase in violence and murder has sparked the greatest debate over gun ownership in our nations history.
The second amendment has been reinterpreted by those who feel the mere presents of guns have led to increased violence. I believe that the threat violence poses to personal liberty is the best reason to protect gun rights. We must assume that the founders understood the responsibilities that are inherent with gun ownership. The exclusion of criminals and the insane had to be seen in the interest of the republic. These specific decisions are constitutionally the responsibility of individual states. The regulations placed on the ownership of guns fall into two categories. The first set of regulations are penalties and deterrents for those who should not have guns. Second is the regulations that help to protect law abiding gun owners. Guns must be regulated to prevent criminals and others who might use weapons against the good of the state from attaining weapons legally or illegally. President George Bush indicated the true problem in a 1992 speech, when he said, “I am firmly committed to keeping guns out of criminals hands and keeping criminals off the street. Ultimately, the only gun control that will really work is crime control.” Several reforms are needed in order to decrease the number of criminals in possession of guns. Mandatory sentences should be established for criminals who perpetrate crimes using guns and for felons caught with guns. This regulation will serve as a deterrent for using guns, and will help keep the armed criminal behind bars. A minimum sentence for the theft of firearms may help to slow down the flow of guns into the black market. A waiting period or a pre-check system on all gun purchases will help keep ineligible buyers from attaining guns legally. The system must be efficient and accurate before the cost to taxpayers can be justified. Stricter rules for the licensing of gun dealers will help to limit the number of people with access to new weapons. Stricter business regulations and an effort to increase compliance will help to weed out the bad dealers. The most stringent of regulations can not solve the problem of violence in America. The black market is strong and will continue to serve the needs of the criminal. The United States has no hope of truly improving its social dilemma without a return to values. Until the situation improves, the lawful citizen must be allowed to protect him/herself in the spirit of the second amendment. Compliance with simple regulations that will help protect the owner and others demonstrates responsibility in gun ownership. I feel that gun ownership should be handled in the same fashion as car ownership. The first step should be thorough training. Mandatory safety classes will teach how and when the use of a gun is appropriate. When the training is completed, a gun can be registered and a license for use issued. Despite all the training in the world, accidents still occur. A gun owner liability policy should be required for anyone who wishes to own or use a gun. This policy would probably become part of a homeowners policy, and could be used as a pre-checking system for the purchase of handguns. This would place the responsibility of background checks on the insurance companies rather than the taxpayer. It would also allow those with a policy to pick out and take home a gun the same day of purchase, eliminating the need for a waiting period. The insurance industry is the foremost expert in the prevention of accidents. The regulations they would place on gun owners would be more effective than any the government bureaucracy could develop for the prevention of accidents. In any situation, guns should be seen as the last option. In some cases, however, the use of deadly force is your only protection. In 1992, firearms were used for self-defense over 82 thousand times. In 63% of these incidents, the victim only had to show the gun to stop the attack. With proper training, a gun is an effective deterrent and a lethal defense. Perhaps the people who know the best about gun control are police officers. In a 1988 survey of police officers, most unanimously agreed on mandatory prison sentences, stricter laws on handgun sales, and increased requirements for handgun dealers. In this same survey, they also agreed that citizens should be allowed guns in their homes for self protection. This shows that police officers know they can not protect everyone at once; at times it falls on the individual to make up their own mind regarding self defense.
Bibliography: Association 6 February 1996: p. 1. Malone, Michael, “Clintons Gun Control Legacy,” The Washington Post May 01, 1996, Home ed., sec. 2nd: p. 11. NRA Firearm Fact Card 1996. p. 13 Snyder, Jeffery R., “A Nation of Cowards,” The Public Interest Vol./Issue (Fall of 93): pp. 24-31. Sowell, Thomas, “Gun Control Proponents Have Hidden Agenda,” The Times- Mirror 02 February 1996, Evening ed., sec. Metro: pp. 7+. U.S. Department of Justice, April 1994 -C