This is a college essay I just finished typing up for my American Government class. It covers a bit more than my last article on this subject, so I'm posting this here for y'all to check out.
Because it's a college essay, it's not in my usual format, so forgive the fact that I'm using footnotes rather than direct links and all that.
The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees its citizens the right to keep and bear arms. However, despite its cementation in the highest judicial document in the United States, the divisive nature of the topic remains a staple issue in American politics even today. And while the Constitution is applicable and bearing on all 50 states in the union, the District of Columbia -- the very capitol of our country -- will not issue the right to keep and bear arms. Likewise, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Hawaii and certain counties in both California and New York (two of the most populous states in the country) are either "No Issue" states or "May Issue" on record, but "No Issue" in practice.  Due to this interstate discrepancy, some have called into question whether the Second Amendment is still relevant today and if so, why? And if not, what are the repercussions of a contemporary society with access to firearms?
To understand any issue, it's always vital to understand the historical precedent of the issue -- an issue that ties back to our founding after the American Revolution. James Madison and the rest of our Founding Fathers, having meticulously studied the follies and failures of history's leaders ad nauseum, carefully crafted and constructed a Republican form of government upon the conclusion that its nature was not only the most suitable to man -- but most successful. Though much deliberation and debate surrounded the craftsmanship of the U.S. Constitution, the final product ended up being the most prolific document toward man's freedom ever created. Though a Republic was not new, the means by which it was brought forward was a bastion of hope for all of humanity -- eventually leading to global revolutions (albeit, these revolutions often perverted the ideas of liberty, as is seen with the French Revolution.) Much of the Constitution is still widely agreed upon by most, if not all -- but none is more divisive than the Second Amendment.
The most important Amendment in the Constitution is arguably the First Amendment (hence its relative position amidst the Bill of Rights)-- which is the purveyor of man's freedoms (cementing freedoms of speech, religion, assembly and the press as fundamental to our country's lore.) Naturally, with a message so strong, the Founders must have been aware that the Second Amendment must be just as important -- or at least moreso than those that will proceed it. Ultimately, the Second Amendment was scribed by hand, "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."  The reasoning for choosing this particular issue as second is simple: while the First Amendment is the purveyor of man's liberties, the Second Amendment is the security of those liberties. Which means, in turn, that the Second Amendment has equal or measurable clout to the title of "most important Amendment." Because, in the attributed words of Thomas Jefferson, "When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."
One of the biggest concerns for the classical liberal revolutionaries of the late 18th century was that their fight would be in vain; that man's avarice would eventually undo America's freedom through sheer force, thereby creating the very tyranny they worked so hard to repel during the American Revolution. This is best reflected by George Mason during the Address to the Virginia Ratifying Convention 1788 on June 14, "Forty years ago, when the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man [Sir William Keith], who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual was to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually, by totally disusing and neglecting the militia."
Historically, we can see that this concern was not ill-conceived. Governments throughout history have used disarmament and gun control as a means of diminishing the fear in the people that Jefferson alluded to. Notably, through the gradual methodology described by George Mason. In 1929, the U.S.S.R. introduced gun control legislation; the result was the systematic round-up and extermination of over 20 million people from 1929 to 1953, who -- debarred the right to defend themselves -- were easy prey. These events were paralleled in Turkey in 1911 (wherein there was a subsequent genocide of 1.5 million Armenians), China in 1935 (20 million were rounded up and exterminated), Germany in 1938 (which was followed by the more commonly known events of the Third Reich, wherein 13 million were rounded up and exterminated), Guatemala in 1964 (100,000 Mayan Indians were rounded up and exterminated), Uganda in 1970 (300,000 Christians were rounded up and exterminated), Cambodia in 1956 (1 million were rounded up and exterminated.)  Given the proclivities of government to commit democide throughout history -- frequently in the aftermath of debarring its citizens the right to defend themselves -- it's evident that the Founders were not simply paranoid or misguided.
Some may argue that the context of the Second Amendment specifically revolves around the right of a militia member to keep and bear arms; not private citizens. This, of course, flies in the face of the original intent of the Founders -- those who wrote that Amendment -- who were all (and given that they were men who did not agree on everything or even most things, this is quite a prominent notion) staunch advocates of private gun ownership.  This deduction also presumes that militia, in this context, is a nationalized military. However, bear in mind that the militia, in this context, refers to every able bodied man; George Mason, on June 18 at the Virginia Ratifying Convention of 1788, spoke on this subject exactly: "I ask who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers."
As can be expected, the militia refers to the whole of our civilization. Moreover, the Second Amendment, in no way claims that the only reason for the right to keep and bear arms is for militia purposes. Quite the contrary, this right is obviously extended to all people; a preamble acknowledging the national necessity for this Amendment does not negate the fact that this right is extended to the American people.
Is it fair, however, to deduce that the Founders intended to only extend this right as a means of national security? Some argue that the Founders do not face the same kind of violence that we do in the 21st century. But this is a misread of history. The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 to declare the United States of America a sovereign nation. However, a year prior to this, the North Carolina Newburn Gazette reported a "Demoniac" going on a shooting rampage.  This incident, however, was quelled when private citizens opened fire on the perpetrator. To claim that man was any less violent then than they are now is a flagrant and bizarre mischaracterization of humanity. The drafters of the Constitution would have taken such into account and if they had truly 'meant' (as so many gun control advocates imply when speaking of the Founders' intent) that it was not applicable to self-defense, it would have been specified. It was not an alien concept to them.
Do you believe that more or less people would have been harmed had private citizens not taken action in the case of the Demoniac? According to Michael Bloomberg's Mayor's Management Report in 2011, the average wait time for a squad car in New York City to arrive on the scene from the moment you hang up with the dispatcher is 8.4 minutes (up from 7.5 in 2010.)  And according to the New York Times, in Nassau County, your emergency call may be greeted with a quaint, little recording and/or some calming music.  Believe it or not, New York's averages are not as unusual as you'd think. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the average police response time for high-priority calls is almost fourteen minutes.  That, of course, is dependent on if your call even goes through. According to the same New York Times article, "Police officers supervising the 911 center near police headquarters in Garden City said the waiting time can be anywhere from three seconds to more than three minutes." In fact, according to a 1998 Washington Times report, an estimated 90,000 callers to 9-1-1 had to wait at least a minute and a half for a response and another 32,000 either couldn't connect at all or gave up waiting. 
Of course, even if the police do respond, they have no legal obligation to defend you from anything (albeit, their moral obligation certainly supersedes such legal loopholes.) Such can be seen in the case of Warren v. The District of Columbia, wherein three women were raped, robbed and beaten for 14 consecutive hours despite repeated calls to the police over the course of a half hour. The District of Columbia's Court of Appeals "ruled that the police do not have a legal responsibility to provide personal protection to individuals and absolved the police and the city of any liability." The same decision was concluded in the case of Castle Rock v. Gonzales, where the Supreme Court ruled that a town and its police force cannot be sued due to negligence in enforcing a restraining order. This decision, of course, pardoned the Colorado Police Department on its negligence in enforcing a restraining order that led to the murder of three children.
Gun control advocates like to cite statistics about how the U.S. has one of the highest gun violence rates among all developed countries. As the saying goes, however, "statistics don't lie, but liars use statistics." What these lobbyists fail to inform you, though, is that not all states in the U.S. even permit you to legally own a gun. As we observed earlier, a few states have adopted "no issue" legislation. Among the fifty states, there are a mere four where no permit is required. Of those four, two of them have among the lowest gun homicide rates in the U.S  and the other two are less than half of the national average of 9.1 per 100,000 of the population.  Those four states are Vermont at 0.48 per 100,000 of the population, Alaska at 2.58 per 100,000 of the population, Arizona at 4.54 per 100,000 of the population and Wyoming at 0.59 per 100,000 of the population. And the state with the highest rate out of those four, Arizona, maintains that position even despite issues with drug cartels on the border.
A closer representation of gun violence per capita is achieved with individual state policies and the individual, aforementioned developed countries being compared to the U.S. as a whole. The majority of states are "shall issue", where ownership is possible, but predicated on meeting individual requirements. And while Louisiana is one of these states and has the highest gun homicide rate among the states at 10.13, it should first be noted that Louisiana has a substantially high base homicide rate of 12.74.
Nevertheless, the point we should take from this is that Louisiana has a 10.13 rate for gun homicide -- which stands above the national average. However, the second highest is Maryland (with some of the strictest gun laws in the country) at 6.95, which is already lower than the national average by a third and is also lower than the national average of countries that are otherwise below the United States in terms of gun homicide rates. When there is such a disparity, a better means of collecting an average is via the median, which is a whopping 2.67 per 100,000 of the population -- a far cry from the claim gun control advocates would have you believe.
Interestingly enough, even though Louisiana has the highest per capita gun homicide rate among the states, it's still dwarfed in comparison by Washington D.C. (which has the strictest gun laws in the nation along with Illinois, who also ranks in the top ten) -- which has the highest per capita gun homicide rate in the country at a frightening 16 per 100,000 of the population.  Conversely, out of the bottom ten states when sorted by gun homicide rates, all of them with the exception of Hawaii have lax gun laws. With the exception of Hawaii, the states with the strictest laws are concentrated more toward the top of the list of gun homicide rates in descending order.
In addition, it should be noted that the United States and many of the countries with the fairly high gun homicide rates have more up-to-date statistics, whereas others rely on data over a decade old.  A prominent example of this is England, who is perhaps the most vocal in telling the United States what is best for it in terms of gun control by comparing their rates to America. The problem with that is that England's statistics are from 1998, which is right around the time they actually banned handguns. As such, their rates only serve to contradict the very argument they try to posit in the first place. The ironic part about it is that since 1998, England's gun violence has been steadily climbing -- since the 1997 Firearms Act, which banned handguns in Great Britain.  
And probably the most important piece of data to be noted when taking international homicide rates into account is explained at Reason.com, "The murder rates of the U.S. and U.K. are also affected by differences in the way each counts homicides. The FBI asks police to list every homicide as murder, even if the case isn't subsequently prosecuted or proceeds on a lesser charge, making the U.S. numbers as high as possible. By contrast, the English police "massage down" the homicide statistics, tracking each case through the courts and removing it if it is reduced to a lesser charge or determined to be an accident or self-defense, making the English numbers as low as possible." 
Note: Watch this video for more information.
The culture of firearm hysteria has gotten so bad in England that the irrational fear has deferred unto various other mediums of self-defense including a knife, a knitting needle, a sandbag, a pickaxe handle, a stone, and a drum of pepper. This hysteria has gotten to the point where you can be victimized twice; by the criminal and then by the legal system.
"In 1999 Tony Martin, a 55-year-old Norfolk farmer living alone in a shabby farmhouse, awakened to the sound of breaking glass as two burglars, both with long criminal records, burst into his home. He had been robbed six times before, and his village, like 70 percent of rural English communities, had no police presence. He sneaked downstairs with a shotgun and shot at the intruders. Martin received life in prison for killing one burglar, 10 years for wounding the second, and a year for having an unregistered shotgun. The wounded burglar, having served 18 months of a three-year sentence, is now free and has been granted 5,000 of legal assistance to sue Martin." 
This is not an isolated incident and while American politicians haven't gotten as severe as in England, that's hardly saying much. New York House Representative, Carolyn McCarthy, appeared on Tucker Carlson's MSNBC program to discuss her support for the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which would regulate weapons with a barrel shroud. Upon probing by the MSNBC host, it was clear that Carolyn McCarthy was clueless as to what a barrel shroud even was. Of course, she tries to dodge the question twice like a typical politician before conceding that she does not know what it is. 
While these politicians play games, not only individual freedom -- but people's lives hang in the balance. The Armed Citizen  and Keep And Bear Arms  offer perspective on the gun control claim that gun owners don't actually stop crime-in-progress by promptly chronicling them as they occur. Just recently, an 18 year old single mother, having been harassed by a man for a week after her husband died, successfully defend herself and her infant with a 12-gauge shotgun when two men kicked in her door with hunting knives. 
Note: Something I forgot to mention in the original essay, but remembered afterwards in regards to firearm death rate. The United States' gun death rate includes successful repulsion of a crime-in-progress with a firearm. So, everything you'd find on The Armed Citizen and Keep And Bear Arms would be counted to that rate.
Of course, owning a gun does not make someone a killer. In fact, every gun owner I've ever met has been among the most well-disciplined and stable. In general, violent crimes with the use of a firearm are carried out by individuals carrying unlicensed guns. Logically speaking, no criminal in their right mind would commit a crime with a registered weapon because it could too easily be tracked back to them. And, of course, if you recognize that someone willing to break the law in the first place is not opposed to breaking gun control laws as well, this entire argument becomes very hollow. This, of course, is why it is often said by proponents of the Second Amendment, "If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns."
Of course, even if you whittle down these broader topics, there's more to this topic than just national defense and self-defense. Some gun control advocates are concerned with the possibility of accidental misfires leading to higher mortality rates. This is a fair point; with less guns, you'd naturally find less instances of accidental misfiring. But the question that must be raised is: How common is this of a problem? According to the CDC, accidental discharge of firearms is at a rate of 0.3 per 100,000 of the population. Even being generous and giving the 0.1 incidents of undetermined intent to level it out to a whopping 0.4 -- it comes out to less than your risk of dying of a hernia, influenza, and most illnesses. Not to mention that it's a fraction of your risk of dying from drowning, falls, motor vehicle accidents, smoke exposure, and accidental poisoning. 
Of course, looking at this, you may notice that the rate of suicide by firearm is much higher than the sparse 0.3 for accidental discharge. The natural presumption would be, "Well, clearly the firearm's availability entices them more to commit suicide." The problem is that if this was the case, the United States would have a much higher rate of suicide than the rest of the world. However, the United States' rate of suicide is not that substantial in comparison to other nations with the U.S. ranking 41st in the world. Japan, however, which has very strict gun laws, has more instances of suicide than the combined rate of homicide and suicide in the United States.
The nature of this issue can understandably make some very uneasy, but when presented with the hard data, it's difficult to conceive why anyone would favor more government bureaucracy dictating what we can and cannot do. When a man is arrested for subduing intruders of his home with a toy gun, it's evident that there's a problem of priorities. But rather than condemn those who defend themselves from tyranny and victimization, we should commend them. Instead, we are left with a notion that a device is responsible for death, rather than the person behind it, pulling the trigger. Ultimately, proponents of less stringent gun laws have been making the right point for years; "guns don't kill people; people kill people."
For more reading, I would advise "Control" by Glenn Beck. In the first part of his book, he goes through a series of myths and facts about gun control.
Post-script: A survey of cops showed that the overwhelming consensus of those tasked with our safety is that gun control will not help crime rates. A good portion actually believe it will do the opposite.
Post-script: Another thing I forgot to add is the results of Gary Kleck's peer-reviewed research on gun legislation. Among his findings:
- For every use of a gun to commit a crime, there are three-to-four cases of guns being used in self-defense of a crime.
- Assault and robbery rates are lower when victims are armed with a gun.
- A gun is used in self-defense to protect its owner from crime 2.5 million times per year, an average of once every 13 seconds.
- Fifteen percent of the gun defenders interviewed believed someone would have died if they had not been armed. If true, that’s an average of one life saved due to firearm self-defense every 1.3 minutes.
- In nearly 75% of the cases, the victim did not know his attackers. In nearly 50% of the cases, he faced at least two attackers and in nearly 25% of the cases, there were three or more attackers. A quarter of the incidents of self-defense occurred away from the home.