For More Restrictive Gun LawsArguments in favor of more restrictive gun laws are:
- Societal needs for reasonable gun control laws
- High rate of gun-related violence and death
- Second Amendment does not provide for individual gun rights
The federal, state and local governments enact laws to protect and defend the people and property of the U.S.
Proponents of more restrictive gun ownership laws contend that under-regulation puts U.S. residents at unreasonable risk.
A 1999 Harvard School of Public Health study revealed that "Americans feel less safe as more people in their community being to carry guns," and that 90% believe that "regular" citizens should be prohibited from bringing guns into most public places, including stadiums, restaurants, hospitals, college campuses and places of worship.
U.S. residents have a right to reasonable protection from dangers, including danger from guns. Examples cited include the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting deaths of 32 students and teachers and the 1999 killings at Colorado's Columbine High School of 13 students and teachers.
High Rate of Gun-Related Crime
Americans favoring more restrictive gun ownership/use laws believe that such measures will reduce gun-related crime, homicide and suicide in the U.S.
About 80 million Americans, representing 50% of U.S homes, own 223 million guns , easily the highest private gun ownership rate of any country in the world.
Gun use in the United States is associated with the majority of homicides and over half the suicide, per Wikipedia.
More than 30,000 U.S. men, women and children die each year from gunshot wounds, the highest homicide rate from guns in the world. Of those 30,000 deaths, only about 1,500 are due to accidental shootings.
Per the Harvard 1999 study, most Americans believe that U.S. gun violence and homicide would decrease by reducing the private ownership and use of guns.
Constitution Does Not Provide for Individual Gun Rights
"... nine federal appeals courts around the nation have adopted the collective rights view, opposing the notion that the amendment protects individual gun rights. The only exceptions are the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, and the District of Columbia Circuit," per the New York Times.
For hundreds of years, the prevailing opinion of Constitutional scholars has been that the Second Amendment does not address private gun ownership rights, but only guarantees the collective right of states to maintain militias.
For Less Restrictive Gun LawsArguments in favor of less restrictive gun laws include:
- Individual resistance to tyranny is a civil right guaranteed by the Second Amendment
- Self defense
- Recreational use of guns
No one disputes that the intended purpose of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is to empower U.S. residents to resist governmental tyranny. The controversy is whether that empowerment is intended to be on a individual or collective basis.
Holders of the Individual Rights position, which is considered the conservative stance, believe that the Second Amendment gives private gun ownership and use to individuals as a basic civil right to protection from government tyranny, such as the tyranny faced by the founders of the United States.
Per the New York Times on May 6, 2007:
"There used to be an almost complete scholarly and judicial consensus that the Second Amendment protects only a collective right of the states to maintain militias.
"That consensus no longer exists - thanks largely to the work over the last 20 years of several leading liberal law professors, who have come to embrace the view that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own guns."
Self-Defense in Response to Crime and Violence
Holders of the Individual Rights position believe that allowing increased private ownership and use of guns as self-protection is the effective response to controlling gun violence and homicide.
The argument is if gun ownership is legally restricted, then all and only law-abiding Americans will be unarmed, and therefore would be the easy prey of criminals and law-breakers.
Proponents of less restrictive gun laws cite a number of instances in which stringent new laws resulted in a dramatic increase, not decrease, in gun-related crimes and violence.
Recreational Use of Guns
In many states, majority of citizens contend that restrictive gun ownership/use laws impede safe hunting and shooting, which to them are important cultural traditions and popular recreational pursuits.
"'For us, guns and hunting is a way of life,' said Mr. Helms, the manager of Marstiller's Gun Shop (in Morgantown, West Virginia)" per the New York Times on March 8, 2008.
In fact, a bill was recently passed in the West Virginia legislature to allow hunting education classes in all schools where twenty or more students express interest.
Where It StandsGun control laws are difficult to pass in Congress because gun rights groups and lobbyists wield enormous influence on Capitol Hill via campaign contributions, and have had great success in defeating pro-gun control candidates.
Explained the Center for Responsive Politics in 2007:
"Gun rights groups have given more than $17 million in... contributions to federal candidates and party committees since 1989. Nearly $15 million, or 85 percent of the total, has gone to Republicans. The National Rifle Association is by far the gun rights lobby's biggest donor, having contributed more than $14 million over the past 15 years.
"Gun control advocates... contribute far less money than their rivals -- a total of nearly $1.7 million since 1989, of which 94 percent went to Democrats."
Per the Washington Post, in the 2006 elections:
"Republicans received 166 times as much money from pro-gun groups as from anti-gun groups. Democrats received three times as much from pro-gun as anti-gun groups."
Congressional Democrats and Gun Laws
A sizeable minority of Congressional Democrats are gun rights advocates, especially among those newly elected to office in 2006. Freshman senators who strongly favor gun rights include Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA), and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT).
Per the NRA, House members newly elected in 2006 include 24 pro-gun rights advocates: 11 Democrats and 13 Republicans.
Presidential Politics and Gun Laws
Statistically, Americans most likely to own guns are men, whites and southerners... not by coincidence, the demographics of the so-called swing vote that often decides the victors of presidential and other national elections.
President Barack Obama believes "that the country must do 'whatever it takes' to eradicate gun violence... but he believes in an individual's right to bear arms," per Fox News.
In contrast, Sen. John McCain, 2008 Republican presidential candidate, reaffirmed his unequivocal support of unfettered gun laws, saying on the day of the Virginia Tech massacre:
"I do believe in the constitutional right that everyone has, in the Second Amendment to the Constitution, to carry a weapon."