The Second Amendment says, “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.” It was established to create a nationwide civilian army during a time when Britain’s organized and professional army threatened the development of an independent America. At this time, many families lived in isolation, and it was necessary to hunt and kill animals to supply food. Guns were essential in protecting and providing for families.
But today, the majority of American citizens can live their daily lives easily and securely without the use of arms; the United States takes pride in the overall well-being and safety of its citizens. For protection, we have diverse and organized military services as well as law enforcement agencies at all levels of government. For sustenance, we have companies that raise and kill animals for mass food production. Guns have become decreasingly essential for personal survival. Why bother owning one?
Many of the 70 million American gun owners claim they own guns for self defense. The American Journal of Public Health determined that, in comparison to all other developed nations, Americans own significantly more firearms, and this accounts for our higher rate of homicide. The National Institute of Justice reported that in 2006 alone, firearms were involved in 68 percent of murders, and more than 90 percent of today’s gang-related homicides involve guns. Instead of minimizing the number of arms available to the public, the “sensible” argument would be to eliminate gun violence by providing more guns to the public.
Violence in the media constantly reinforces destructive behavior. The American Academy of Family Physicians reported that 66 percent of television programs contain violence. Instead of portraying realistic violence, these programs tend to associate violence with humor. For example, the popular video game Grand Theft Auto rewards players for murdering law enforcement. Through such an overdose of irresponsible violence in the media, today’s youth are becoming desensitized to the dangers of guns.
Federal law doesn’t restrict the number of guns that can be purchased at one time. Only four states (California, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia) limit their citizens to one gun purchase per 30 days. And once an individual is at least 21 years old, he or she can choose from an uncomfortably wide range of arms and ammunition. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban established in 1994 prohibited the manufacture and sale of certain semi-automatic firearms. But since its expiration in 2004, Americans have had access to assault weapons, including the high-capacity magazine that Jared Loughner used in the recent Arizona shooting.
The debate over gun control has been long and uncompromising. Events such as the Columbine High School shooting, the Virginia Tech shooting and most recently the Arizona shooting have forced us to address the issue. But the Second Amendment’s promise of a right to bear arms creates a fragile environment when determining what should be done. While most people are focusing on gun laws, an alternative approach would be focusing on what really causes the problems: bullets. Perhaps Americans should be allowed to bear all the arms they desire, but they should do without ammunition. I believe we should turn our attention to the comedian Chris Rock: “Everybody is talking about gun control … I think we need some bullet control! … If a bullet costs $5,000, there’d be no more innocent bystanders.”
Megan Weintraut is a senior mathematics major. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.