What Does the Second Amendment Truly Mean?

Recent mass shootings have brought to the forefront the debate of whether the second amendment of the Bill of Rights should be amended or not. The Second Amendment was adopted in 1791, and it protected the rights of US citizens to “keep and bear arms”. Second amendment rights have brought to light the need to confront the issue of gun control amongst politicians, special interest groups, and the United States citizens. The question all Americans need to address is what the Second amendment really means. More definitive laws should be put in place determining who can own firearms and what types of guns citizens can own will partially help solve this epidemic in our country.

Earlier this month, a student at Umpqua Community College in Oregon entered the school with numerous firearms and tragically killed nine people in a span of just a few minutes before taking his own life. Authorities soon thereafter found that the gunman owned thirteen firearms, which he had been purchased over the prior three years legally. This shooting is one of many that have recently hit the headlines and sparked the argument of whether gun control legislation and the Second Amendment should be ratified.Umpqua

The first question that needs to be addressed is who can purchase firearms? The Second Amendment gives this right to all American citizens, but as time moves on we need to limit those who have access to firearms. In the Second Treatise, John Locke shares his views on the social contract. He argues that the governed have the right to dissolve the government if the government does not work in the country’s best interest. The gun control debate is relevant to this argument, as I believe that as the governed, we must work for our government to reform gun laws as many mass shootings have occurred recently due to the accessibility of them. In the case of the Oregon shooting CNN reported, “The gunman’s family told investigators that he suffered from mental health issues and had sought treatment”. More work needs to be done to identify these mentally ill people are so that legislators can establish laws that limit their access to guns. Citizens who have a record of criminal or domestic violence also need to be put under more serious scrutiny before being able to purchase their own guns. Legislators can do a better job of controlling this minority group of citizens who abuse their second amendment rights and still allow law-abiding citizens to uphold their protections under the Second Amendment.

The second question that we must address is what types of guns citizens should be allowed to own? Since the Second Amendment was established, firearms have obviously become more lethal and have the ability to kill more people over a shorter period of time. In the Umpqua Community College shooting, the gunman used assault weapons, which allowed him to fire several rounds of ammunition over the course of just three minutes. Concealed handguns are also controversial and many states have adopted very strict handgun laws. Are these types of guns really necessary for US citizens to own and for what purpose do they own them?

The Second Amendment debate is an ongoing conversation between politicians and lawmakers and will be a topic in the 2016 elections. Several Republicans believe that Second Amendment rights should be upheld under any and all circumstances. For example, Donald Trump said, “The bad guys are going to have them anyway”, and is in favor of protecting citizens rights to bear any and all guns. The left wing candidates seem to agree that limitations should be placed on guns owners and the types of guns they can own. They believe that violent crimes can be reduced lives spared by enforcing more stringent limitations. One of the leading Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton recently said that, “We have to rein in what has become an almost article of faith, that anybody can own a gun anywhere. And I don’t believe that”.Donald Trump

I believe that although the Second Amendment gives citizens the right to bear arms, limiting people’s gun rights could have some positive effects on our society’s issues of violent mass shootings. But the epidemic of mass shootings in our country has much deeper roots than simply access to guns and the types of guns we are allowed to own. Hatred, mental illness, and violent behavior are really the trigger to any and all guns and unless the American people, our legislators, and politicians identify and help solve these problems, the violence will continue and the 2nd Amendment rights of all American’s will be in jeopardy.

Luke A.

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About SaintsGOV16
We are students in Dr. Ostroff's sections of U.S. Government at All Saints' Episcopal School in Fort Worth, Texas. (www.aseschool.org).

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