Guns are an inextricable component of American culture, dating back to the country’s inception in the Revolutionary War of the late 1700’s. An article in Slate highlights the rarity of the enshrinement of rights toward gun ownership on the international stage, and points out that Guatemala is possibly the only other country on the planet with a constitutional guarantee as broad as that in the United States. Many other countries that have statutory provisions to ensure the right to bear arms do little to limit their ability to restrict certain weapons along criteria that they are flexible to continually re-determine.
America has, by far, the highest rate of private firearm ownership of any nation in the world. There are estimated to be 90 guns for every 100 people living in the U.S., far ahead of second-place Serbia, with 58. In a paper found on the Social Science Resource Network, a strong case is made correlating the proliferation of private firearm ownership with positive values in many indexes pertaining to objective valuations of concepts like freedom and societal corruption. That finding is very much in keeping with an understanding of the Second Amendment, that private firearm ownership in early America was intended to be the people’s check and balance in the newly-formed government, in hopes of preventing it from degenerating into nothing better than the monarchy it replaced.
The moral justification for that perspective is found in the philosophical ideal of the “consent of the governed” being the basis of governments’ legitimacy and authority. If a governed people have no means with which to realistically dissent, then they proportionately would have no means to consent to governance, and that ideal would have to be left abandoned and unfulfilled. As far as the idea of dissent through voting, it is not a practical or realistic avenue of expressing dissent because all of the terms are controlled by one side of the equation. It would be like a judge judging their own legal case. Private gun ownership is therefore an essential component of liberty, coinciding with the aforementioned paper’s findings.
The oft-cited negative in regards to firearm ownership is the perception of a correlation between guns and criminal homicide. Anecdotal evidence presented to support this idea often comes in the form of examining the percentage of murders which are committed with guns, which is roughly two-thirds in America. While the expedience of pulling the trigger of a gun rather than attempting murder through a more direct physical contest may actually somewhat add to the gross total of murders, that effect is much harder to evidence specifically and studies often conflate data to support their bias.
In one example of this, a Harvard Law paper by Don Kates and Gary Mauser criticizes the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as being “vehemently anti-gun” and points towards the department’s selective interpretation of data, in an instance where rather than admitting that their point was factually unsupported, they simply characterized the study they were citing as “inconclusive.” Furthermore, murder rates and gun violence are often examined by city or state jurisdictions. When looking at state data, it is regularly excluded that the major metropolitan areas within often have their own municipal firearms prohibitions and drastically higher rates of gun violence than the rural and suburban areas surrounding, which have far higher rates of registered, legal gun ownership.
All in all, few studies have been conducted that examine a sufficiently broad data set to paint the thorough picture of the effects of private firearms ownership, though there is a greater tendency to over-report imperfectly collected, incomplete data that demonizes firearms than the converse. Either way, Americans by and large love two of the things that make their country unique; guns and freedom.
Opinion by Brian Whittemore
Photo Courtesy of overdrive_cz – flickr License