The 2nd Amendment and Gun Control
We are the most violent country in the developed world according to statistics. Gun violence on all levels is up in recent years from mass shootings to inner city gang wars. The debate rages on. One side says, “People kill people, not guns. So don’t restrict guns otherwise only the bad people will have them.” The other side says, “We don’t need these automatic weapons on the streets. The rapid fire power coupled with hate rhetoric makes gatherings of people easy targets.”
As I have pondered this gut wrenching issue, I began to do some research. The first thing I did was to actually read the Second Amendment. This is what it 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.” So the question I then asked was, “what does this actually mean?”
The key section of the Amendment is “the right of people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” Legal scholars noted that historically this amendment came to be so individuals should have arms (guns) in order to protect themselves against a tyrannical federal government. This basic understanding was upheld by the Supreme Court in a 2008 case called District of Columbia v. Heller. The Supreme Court said that “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”
So now we have it. Having a lawful weapon for self defense in our home is in keeping with the Second Amendment. But this still leaves many unanswered questions. These would include, “Can it be any weapon, even something like a machine gun?” “Should everyone be allowed to own a gun, regardless of age, mental state, or having served in prison for a violent offense?” “Should there be a long waiting period and other kinds of documentation before a weapon is sold?”
I then decided why not research countries in the world where the rate of gun violence is very low so maybe we can learn something from these other nations. The most interesting discovery was that some countries with very low violence had extreme gun control and low gun ownership and other countries with low violence had a high rate of gun ownership.
So I thought, “Are there common denominators in both instances?” Lo and behold there were.
Japan is a nation with strict laws for obtaining firearms and a culture that discourages people from owning a gun. Iceland also has some strict laws, but as a nation they encourage gun ownership.
What I discovered was that both of these countries along with other low violence nations had a lot of hoops to jump through before one could own a gun. Everyone has to go through extensive classes and take both written and shooting tests that they have to pass to qualify. Second, people had to pass mental health evaluations and background checks to see if anything would prevent them from being issued a gun. In many cases this took several months before approval was granted.
In some of my reading regarding Iceland, many of the gun owners couldn’t conceive of not owning a gun, but they also couldn’t conceive that you just walk into a store and after a short period of time you can buy a weapon. They believed strongly that when they go through training on a firing range with an instructor, it instilled in them the responsibility of what it means to own a firearm.
There also was universal belief in low violence countries that certain weapons shouldn’t be allowed for purchase. In other words, criteria were established as to what weapon is legitimate for personal defense and legal hunting, and what are totally unnecessary to own.
As I thought about these issues this is what I have come to believe as a Christian, a believer in second amendment law, and violence in our nation. People should have the right to own weapons, but limited to what is reasonable and necessary for defense and hunting. Secondly, individuals should have to go through classes and training to know how to use a weapon. Third, extensive background checks and testing should also be criteria in order to get a gun. We make people go through a lot to get a driver’s license. Shouldn’t owning a gun be subject to that same scrutiny? Fourth, people with verified mental illness and felons with violent convictions should forfeit the right to own a weapon.
No matter what is proposed, we are kidding ourselves that if every suggestion I listed above is enacted, that all gun violence will stop. As a follower of Jesus, I should be committed to two undeniable facts: praying all the time for violence to end and to share the love of Jesus to everyone. If people become committed Christians, that would be a more permanent solution to stopping gun violence. Also, research has shown if Christians in a certain geographical area pray for an end to violence that God shows up and answers that prayer. These are the most powerful weapons of all.