Over the past eight years, out-of-control spending, Iraq, economic concerns, and the culture wars have eclipsed gun control in the public debate over politics. However, the renewed debate that accompanied the expiration the assault weapons ban has shown that Americans remain deeply divided on the subject of gun rights. Unlike some political fields of discussion, there are no new arguments when it comes to the issue of gun rights. However, the importance of the issue is reason enough to revisit the fundamentals of the case for private ownership and use of firearms.
Supporters of and detractors of gun rights can generally be sorted into their respective categories based on their views on crime. Those who favor stronger gun control measures tend to believe that readily available guns increase crime. Those who disagree tend to believe that crime, like all unsavory activities, stems from human nature; prior to guns, crimes were committed at knifepoint.
In the laboratory of the real world, the dismal success rate of gun control laws tend to support the latter position. England, notorious for its strict gun control laws, has seen violent crimes increase by nearly forty-five percent since 1997. Australia, which also tightened its gun control laws in 1997, saw violent crimes increase by thirty-two percent.
The common sense explanation for the results in the data is simply this: an armed citizenry does little to incentivize robberies, muggings, and carjackings-the “jobs” become much more hazardous. Additionally, few criminals submit to a background check to acquire their weapons-the black market is their source of armament.
In other words, gun laws are for the law-abiding, which means that gun control only disarms ordinary citizens. However, the knowledge that potential victims are most likely armed will cause many criminals to think twice.
The Founding Fathers knew that assuring citizens of their rights to life, liberty, and property meant nothing if those citizens did not have the authority to act under their own power to protect themselves, their families, and their livelihoods.
By the same token, freedom could not be guaranteed without a tangible limit to state power which could be reinforced on a daily basis. That limit is the right of all citizens to bear arms. While it is common on the left to slander gun rights enthusiasts as “gun nuts” and lump them in with survivalist militias, they are missing the point-the Founders intended that the Second Amendment serve as a kind of shield against tyranny.
This idea, while often papered over or forgotten, is intrinsic to the intent of the Second Amendment, and the Constitution itself: the rule of law is preserved by placing limits on power. The Second Amendment is a reminder that no one–especially the government–is above the law.
When revisiting the issue of gun rights, once the hyperbole has been stripped away from the debate, two facts remain: gun control empowers criminals while leaving ordinary citizens defenseless. However, a robust set of gun rights reduces crime, allows citizens to protect themselves, and acts as a check on government power. Like all rights, there will always be legally-defined limits to the right to bear arms, but we must not forget the vital importance of the Second Amendment, for all our liberties depend upon it. Without the right to bear arms, we cannot truly be considered free.