Americans love their guns. So much so that the gun has become the quintessential symbol of American patriotism. The origin of the constitutional right to bear arms has been rooted in our history from the beginning. Though the politics of gun control is as timeless a debate as ever, things have changed since the second amendment’s adoption in 1791. It is precisely these progressions that should cause us to reassess the validity and costs associated with allowing Americans to possess firearms. Citizens must come to apprehend the sobering reality that guns have no place in the twenty-first century.
Unlike Americans today, early American settlers legitimately needed their right to possess firearms for purposes of actually organizing militias, defending against real threats of foreign invasion (and for forcibly acquiring land from Native Americans), for enforcing martial law, and hunting for the necessity of human survival. The justifications made a lot of sense, at the time. But can we say the same for modern day gun rights? In 1791 the gun was a tool to be used when needed for the sake of life and something called “liberty”; it meant much more than a recreational toy to be shot off for amusement.
The kinds of guns the framers had in mind when drafting the second amendment are pathetic in comparison to the monstrosities that are currently being purchased; semi-automatic shotguns and assault rifles capable of pumping out a hailstorm of bullets and tearing through flesh and bone like butter. At the time however they were rudimentary and firearms like the musket, blunderbuss, and small-lever action pistol were sometimes less than reliable. With parts made from gunsmiths these single shot weapons were filled with gunpowder, loaded through the muzzle, and activated by use of the flintlock. Americans must come to realize this very grotesque contrast; with the only remaining commonality being their ability to still kill.
It seems the defense of using firearms for self-defense has empirically been a myth. In a recent TIME article author Michael Grunwald cites “Nationally, less than 1% of all gun deaths involve self-defense; the rest are homicides, suicides and accidents.” The truth is you probably can’t think of someone you know who has used a firearm in self-defense.
American gun culture warrants a second look. In the wake of the Tucson shooting it’s hard to rationalize the acceptance of something as dangerous and passé as the gun. Buy a bow and arrow if you’re so inclined to harm something or someone, at least your victim will have a better chance of survival.
American patriotism isn’t about our ability to bear arms, but our ability to know the worth of giving up something that has long brought us strife. I want you to simply think for yourself; consider the role of guns in the America you live in today. In an America where we censor people’s first amendment rights in rap lyrics for being seemingly “too violent”, but not people’s second amendment rights for legitimately committing violent acts.