Have those who oppose the regulation of firearms ever noticed that the Second Amendment in fact contains the word “regulated?”
Guns, for better or for worse, have become an integral part of global contemporary society over the previous few centuries. However, they perpetually lend themselves to illegitimate use as irresponsible individuals repeatedly abuse the powerful means with which guns empower them. Nowhere is this abuse more prevalent than the United States of America.
Unfortunately, the stark polarization of American politics has led to irrational and unfavorable policy positions from both sides, that will ultimately do little to solve the wider problem of guns in the United States. Neither Senator Feinstein (D-Calif.) nor Wayne LaPierre (CEO of the National Rifle Association) has proposed a practical solution to eradicate gun violence. Americans must cease to think within this polarized framework and instead view the issue from a rational, non-partisan standpoint in order to provide a balancing act to sub-optimal Congressional policy solutions.
Thus, I propose a “third” solution to the issue of guns that employs the rhetoric of a “well-regulated militia” of the Second Amendment in the form of a prerequisite of practical training and education to owning a firearm. Such a requirement will certainly not infringe upon any individual’s right to bear arms; it would simply act to ensure that such arms are no longer abused in the hands of untrained, irresponsible citizens. Dangerous firearms can, and certainly do, act as highly effective and legitimate instruments of security, defense, and social order in the hands of well-trained individuals. Mandatory militia and weapons training in Switzerland, to which one can certainly draw parallels with the rhetoric of the Second Amendment, certainly demonstrate this reality. Hopefully, both sides can find some common ground upon this solution and ultimately work towards facilitating lasting change.
Before I continue, I feel somewhat obligated to confess that I loathe the concept of firearms in a general sense. The thought of owning an object manufactured for the sole purpose of harming another human being sickens me. Thus, I will surprise many by my assertion that guns can indeed create a safer society – and do so every day, so long as they are properly “regulated.”
Furthermore, I would advocate that the direct regulation of the firearm itself will in the long run do little to solve the wider problem of gun crime in the United States. Though there may be practical benefits to making absurdly and needlessly powerful automatic rifles much more difficult to obtain, Americans admittedly (though not necessarily rationally) will continue to perceive their firearms as security in an apparently insecure environment. The fundamental overarching attitude of Americans towards firearms is likely the reason for the prevalence of such firearms, and changing their availability is unlikely to change the behavior of an American who needs a firearm in order to experience a sense of personal security.
Indeed, though successfully disposing of the guns that perpetuate hundreds of thousands of casualties each year is unlikely in itself, a ban that legalizes such a disposal is even less likely to have a positive impact. Truthfully, the potential feelings of insecurity generated in most Americans would more than likely result in an increase in violence. The Second Amendment is here to stay.
Nor would I be so naïve to assume that increasing the amount of unregulated, privately-owned firearms would somehow curb the ludicrously large number of fatalities suffered each year in the United States at the hands of guns. Privately-owned firearms in the hands of untrained, unlicensed individuals are rarely, if ever, successful in thwarting an armed perpetrator. Unless one was expecting to see an elementary school teacher or a teenage movie-goer suddenly evolve into Jack Bauer or Jason Bourne, increased gun ownership would have done little to prevent the two deadliest shootings of 2012. After all, the man who committed the atrocities in Aurora was aided by tear gas as well as body armor that left mere inches of his torso vulnerable to a bullet.
In reality, these unregulated firearms are significantly more likely to harm an intimate rather than a perpetrator, as well as significantly more likely to be used to intimidate rather than protect or defend. Any basic statistic wholly demonstrates that firearms are far more often used aggressively than defensively, whether explicitly to harm another or implicitly to threaten or coerce. Hence, an increase in unregulated firearms would only give way to an increase in such aggression. The United States simply cannot continue to ignorantly distribute unregulated firearms to any and every untrained individual, as the NRA would have it, and expect our society to magically become safer. The need for change is undeniable.
Therefore, how can guns positively contribute to society? Historically, firearms are not simply helpful in the facilitation of peace and safety in any society, but arguably essential to the process. Those who perceive firearms as analogous to evil seem to forget that they empower certain well-trained individuals with an absolutely vital means of providing security and social order in society. Indeed, very few advocates of gun control would propose taking them away from law enforcement officials. A basic function of government is to facilitate hierarchical order in what would otherwise be a state of anarchical disorder. This function is efficiently and effectively carried out by well-trained individuals with firearms. The state frequently employs the legitimate means with which guns empower it in the name of domestic social order.
The legitimacy of these actions is not simply found in the monopoly of legitimate force held by the state. Instead, the rigorous combat and weaponry training which enabled these certain individuals to safely and effectively employ their firearms for the benefit of society legitimizes such actions. The affiliation of an individual with the government does not in itself legitimize their use of a firearm; instead, their ability to responsibly use a firearm in order to provide social order accomplishes this. The left cannot and should not deny that guns do indeed preserve social order and security.
Thus, if Americans intend to cling to their right to bear arms, I propose a strict requirement of intensive combat and weapons training (similar to that undergone by law enforcement officials) paired with educational and informational programs prior to ownership of a firearm. Though the prevalence of firearms that at present facilitate horrible crimes against humanity is unlikely to change, such a measure can ensure that those who bear arms will use them in a responsible, beneficial manner. If any American is unwilling to undergo such training, however, I contend that his or her Second Amendment rights simply do not make sense given the present social context and hence should be revoked. Indeed, if Americans intend to cling to their right to bear arms, they should recognize the danger posed by such arms and accordingly agree to undergo training to use them. In this way, guns might truly create a safer society.
After all, it is difficult to argue that at present the benefits of guns outweigh the costs when any statistic regarding their blatant daily misuse is taken into account. The fact that both sides seek rectification and improvement of the current state of gun crime, albeit in different manners, wholly verifies this reality. This is in no way a breach of Second Amendment rights; in fact, I argue that it more accurately applies the rhetoric of the Second Amendment in that it takes into account the “well-regulated militia” clause that has been ignored for nearly two centuries.
The current state of gun laws in Switzerland serves to further legitimize such a policy proposal. Switzerland has long been an anomaly among European countries in terms of gun ownership, in that it not only discourages stricter gun control (it rejected a referendum on the matter in February 2011), but in fact also places firearms in the home of the vast majority of males upon their 20th birthday. Conservatives in the United States have recently cried that the prevalence of guns in Switzerland, when paired with the remarkably low rate of gun crime in the country, serve to legitimize their agenda that more guns in America would entail more safety. After all, the rate of gun crime is so low in Switzerland that officials do not even bother to keep statistics.
In reality, the case of Switzerland serves to delegitimize this claim. As Switzerland does not have a standing army, a large majority of males between the ages of 20 and 30 undergo mandatory militia training, which includes intensive weapons and combat training. I by no means advocate mandatory militia training in the United States. I do, however, suggest that the United States should, to some degree, mirror such a policy for gun owners, as militia training in Switzerland is undoubtedly directly responsible for the low rate of gun crime. The United States will certainly reduce its rate of gun crime if gun owners are required to learn to effectively use their weapons to promote security and social order.
Obviously, as with any policy proposal, there are logical incongruences that must be addressed. Perhaps most blatant is the possibility of simply empowering those with a preexistent determination to commit a crime. Though I acknowledge this reality, I argue that any such person determined to kill or harm is capable of receiving such training. In fact, Switzerland could at this present moment be forcing a twenty year old killer to learn to effectively employ an automatic rifle (not to mention giving him the rifle). However, when the statistics of gun crime in Switzerland (or lack thereof) are taken into consideration, it is evident that such a situation is highly unlikely. Moreover, a training requirement could deter as well as altogether prevent an irresponsible individual from committing an impulsive crime, a situation all too common under the current state of gun laws.
Americans are in desperate need of a practical solution to guns that active politicians are incapable of producing. The rigid, polarized platforms of the two parties have led to sub-optimal policymaking. In search of a more rational solution to guns that can be embraced by both parties, I propose a prerequisite of training to gun ownership in America. In this manner, America can hopefully ensure that guns are used to promote order instead of disorder.