Right to guns vs lives: America’s predicament

Chantal Elias

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The right to bear arms versus the right to safety and security. The debate over gun laws in the United States has reached the pinnacle in the past few months, as rallies have exploded across 50 states and around the world. Although gun policy has been amplified recently, it has long been a dividing factor in the United States and is represented politically with the Republicans fighting for gun privileges, and Democrats fiercely opposing it. At the heart of the debate is the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. It states that “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.”

Many Americans who support the Second Amendment believe it is unjust to break the Constitution and restrict the right to bear arms. The current US President, Donald Trump, has reignited the flames of the gun debate, as he has stood strongly in favour of upholding the Second Amendment — a stark contrast to the stance of former US President Barack Obama. The consistent appearance of gun policy on the front page is also tied to the students of Stoneman Douglas School. In tandem with Donald Trump’s outspoken nature on guns are the students of Stoneman Douglas School, the latest target in an exponential rise in US school shootings. So far this year, there have been already 10 school shootings resulting in injury or death in the US. March 24, 2018 brought the culmination of the fight for tighter gun control, led by members of the Never Again committee and the nonprofit organization Everytown for Gun Safety.

In Washington D.C., thousands congregated for the March for our Lives rally, backed by politicians and celebrities alike. The students of Stoneman Douglas and their allies have sought to bring attention to the politics behind the National Rifle Association, which funnels money into political leaders and parties that support the right to bear arms. Anti-gun protesters fundamentally believe that lives are more important than politics, and thus, the right to bear arms should not be supported at the political level simply due to an influx of money.

Although this issue is most pronounced south of our border, two perspectives on the issue are reflected in student voices within the BSS community. Siena Odione, a Grade 12 student, is opposed to the right to bear arms, stating that “the US gun policy needs to be much more restricted, and hopefully, guns will eventually be illegal to buy.” In contrast, Sydney Ofiara shared that “while I personally am not in favour of the Second Amendment, I can understand the rationale behind it. The basic idea is that you need guns to protect yourself from governmental tyranny. If the government becomes tyrannical, then you use your guns to protect your natural rights. How effective such an act would be today is not exactly known but some argue that the threat of a gun uprising is enough to keep a government in check.” Sydney’s argument is a popular one in the US, especially in the Southern states, where many worry about their ability to defend against the majority that hold guns on a regular basis. Moreover, many US citizens believe that animal hunting is unfairly targeted by talks of decreasing gun rights.

While a compromise is yet to be found, it is evident that the US gun policy is a concern for the majority of their citizens and will continue to be a hotly debated topic. With the rise in school shootings, the upholding of the Second Amendment has now become a question of the loss of innocent lives, and the safety of Americans. It is within this issue that America sees the contradiction between the right to life, liberty, and justice, and the right to bear arms. The United States of America now asks: whose justice is more important, the gun-bearers, or the gun opposers?