“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
—Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Just one week ago, our nation narrowly (and technically didn’t) avoided falling off the so-called “fiscal cliff.” On the eve of the president’s inauguration for a second term, our nation still faces daunting fiscal problems, several of the president’s new cabinet nominees face contentious approval proceedings and the economy is still “growing” at a crawl. Yet, by any indication, the president and his allies in Congress appear to be far more interested in something else: restarting the culture wars of the 1990s.
Following the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, liberal interest groups and many Democratic members of Congress have been up in arms (no pun intended) about their favorite pet peeve in the Constitution, the Second Amendment. Restricting everything from the type of weapon you can own to the number of bullets you can fire, they insist, will make us all safer and decrease the number of people killed by guns. While I can concede that some of these efforts are well-intentioned, they are at best misdirected and at worst a purposeful attempt to limit Constitutional liberty.
In examining why liberals are dead wrong (as per usual), it is useful, as liberals always want to do, to look at European countries as an example. In Great Britain, ownership of firearms is almost entirely prohibited. In fact, except for extremely specialized circumstances, the possession of pistols, shotguns and assault weapons is totally illegal, and anyone who does own a gun has to undergo an extensive licensing process with the police (who are also not allowed to carry guns as standard procedure). Yet, Britain consistently ranks as the most violent country in the European Union, with a violent crime rate of 2,034 crimes per 100,000 people and nearly 1.2 million violent crimes overall in 2009. That’s nearly five times the rate of violent crime in the United States and an average of two crimes every minute. In comparison, the alpine nation of Switzerland has one of the highest levels of gun ownership in the world (including assault rifles) and even allows citizens to carry weapons out in the open, yet simultaneously has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. For example, while over 1,000 homicides or attempted homicides occur in Great Britain every year, that number is consistently less than 100 per year in Switzerland.
Now, I will grant that Switzerland’s stellar record is in part due to the nature of their national defense, seeing as how every male is required to join the militia and know how to operate military grade weapons. Still, Switzerland’s model suggests an entirely different way forward on the gun issue than what is currently being examined by the president’s commission and other liberals in Washington. While they insist on starting us down the road Britain has already paved and driven, which crime statistics self-evidently prove has been ineffective at decreasing violent crimes and homicide rates, the Swiss model provides an alternative where the right to bear arms would not be infringed upon while simultaneously being well-regulated.
And that, particularly in this time of political division, is something that we can all (theoretically) agree to.
Jeffrey Robin is a fourth-year political science and history major.
Rebuttal to the Left’s position:
I do not deny that our nation could be described as having a “violent” culture based on my counterpart’s criteria. What I do question is whether it could be characterized as any more violent than any other culture. Our Revolution was indeed violent, yet France’s was by any measure much more so. Modern Europeans have no problem displaying pornography on television and movies while they effectively prohibit violent images, yet many European countries have disproportionately high rates of violent crimes. I do not have nearly enough room to even begin to consider any country on any other continent. And yes, Jared Loughner, James Holmes and Adam Lanza were certifiably insane. To say that such a condition had no effect on their choices is laughably inane.