Justification’s Expanse: Why We Need the Right to Bear Arms

By Jordan R. Williams

The issue over whether or not Americans should be entrusted with the right to purchase and own firearms is not a new one, nor will it diminish in its relevancy any time soon.  The reason behind the existence of the Second Amendment seems fairly unquestionable. Several figures through history have advocated the concept of a necessity for an armed populace:

“No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” – Thomas Jefferson

“One of the ordinary modes, by which tyrants accomplish their purposes without resistance, is, by disarming the people, and making it an offense to keep arms.” – Constitutional scholar Joseph Story

“Taking my gun away because I might shoot someone is like cutting my tongue out because I might yell `Fire!’ in a crowded theater.” – Peter Venetoklis

The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.” – Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story of the John Marshall Court

“False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes.” – Cesare Beccaria

The most popular reasoning for the essentiality of firearm ownership seems to be that it may become an inevitability that the citizenry will have to fight off a tyrannical government in self defense for the sake of protecting their freedoms. The first question, then, is how valid are the fears? Are there legitimate reasons for people to feel compelled to prepare for potential conflict? Or is it simply radical paranoia? The second question would have to be: when speaking in terms of interpretation of constitutionality, does it matter?

Being an avid shooter and gun owner myself, once upon a time I might have immediately bandwagon-leapt into the fray shouting affirmations of my right to whatever weapon I darn well wished. But having grown into the capability to dissect a scenario slightly more efficiently before jumping to conclusions, let’s look into some of the red flags that instill such uneasy tensions amongst gun advocates.

The Department of Homeland Security is stocking up large amounts of ammunition (1.6 billion rounds, currently) over the next four to five years, submitting that it was largely for training purposes and those on duty, despite an approximate ratio of five rounds to each person in America.

This along with the Social Security Administration amassing 174,000 rounds of hollow-point ammunition has many Second Amendment backers nervous. Equally alarming is the rapid rate at which American police forces have reached borderline militarization. Many federal agencies now possess well-armed SWAT teams, including NASA, the Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Department of Education. In 2011, the DOE conducted a raid on a woman initially reported to be under investigation for failure to pay her student loans. Another instance involved a heavily armed detachment from the Department of Natural Resources conducting a raid on an animal shelter to kill an orphaned baby deer that had been left there.

Gun control activists allege that increased regulations on gun sales, or banning them outright, would serve a significant blow to American violent crimes, whereas Second Amendment backers counter that disarming the population only encourages criminals and would-be criminals. They ask what might have happened had recent mass shootings involved armed citizens amongst the crowds being fired upon, and how many lives might have been spared. A frequently used example is that shooters don’t obey signs that declare an area gun-free; inversely, this serves as a sigh of relief as they now know that they can reign unchallenged in these areas of unarmed opposition.

Recently controversy has begun to stir in Connecticut and now Missouri; Connecticut officials issued a request for owners of what are known as “assault-style” weapons to register their arms in possible preparation for a confiscation movement of outlawed items.

This is where the hair begins to stand up on the back of my neck. Indecision and debate over the morality behind private ownership of firearms is one thing, but instituting laws which serve as precursors to mass expropriation cause me worry. Many Americans, myself included, feel no obligation to turn in their guns because the government decides that it’s the best thing for everybody. Indeed, many would consider that to be the very purpose for which the Second Amendment was created. A friend of mine once said “Them asking why I should have it justifies my owning it in the first place,” which at first seemed a circular statement to me. Thinking more deeply upon it, I could sympathize with the insecurity grown from a government questioning why it should allow its citizens to remain armed.

Caution above all else need be practiced in this time. Nobody wants to see shots fired by gun holders staunch in their beliefs over misguided legislation or improper execution/enforcement of regulatory laws. These situations create dangerous times, the immediate answer to which must be diplomacy.

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