The Most Important of All Rights

The one argument that always amazes me from the people who love guns in the extreme is that the Second Amendment to the US Constitution is the most important of the amendments since it protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. They’ll tell me that it was that “basic right” that allowed the United States to come into being, and that the right to keep and bear arms is the only thing holding tyranny at bay. As if the absence of guns equals tyranny and repression.

Because the people making this argument are usually unreasonable, I don’t waste my time pointing out to them that there are enormous holes in their argument. For example, can you see a society as being free if its citizens are not allowed to express themselves freely and without fear of consequence. We could all be carrying guns but be thrown in jail the minute we say something bad about who’s in charge.

But we would defend ourselves with our guns, right? Yeah, you try going up against an army…

bad_army
Okay, maybe not this army.

Or what if we could carry guns, talk smack about the government, but we didn’t elect said government? Would we still be free? But we could force our government to be elected if we used our guns, right? That would just be a tyranny of the people with guns, and there would probably be bloodshed if the elections didn’t go the way they wanted.

The way I see it, the US Constitution has a delicately balanced collection of rights and protections. The ability of the people to amend it shows that it’s not perfect, and that there are times when the people get it wrong. But you can see where all the rights are needed in order to protect each other. Yes, even the right to bear arms. (Though, in my opinion, the 2nd is more in the context of a militia, a civilian-led military unit or units.)

fat_militia
Talk about an easy target, amirite?

Was it the guns that won the United States its independence back in the 1770s? It depends on who you ask. Certainly, the British had the guns and the well-trained army, so the Americans needed the guns — and the guerilla tactics — to counter that. But the British were far from home, so their supply lines could have been cut very quickly. The Americans could have — and did — use their economic power through embargoes and boycotts to beat the British.

But it was perhaps the very rights embedded in the Constitution that won the war for independence. The thirteen colonies all decided — with the exception of slaves and women — that they were going to treat the citizens of all states the same. They decided that “all men are created equal” and that they were going to form a federalized union with separate branches of government where freedom of religion, expression, and from governmental overreach were going to be their “thing.”

So, no, it wasn’t just the guns.

gun_fail
Brains may have had something to do with it, too.

When it comes to gun control, anyone worth their salt will tell you that it’s not about taking away guns. It’s not about building a registry of who has guns and who doesn’t. I mean, if the government wanted such registry, they probably already have it. All it would have to do is get the list of members to the NRA, drive a patrol car that automatically takes pictures of license plates through the parking lot of gun clubs, and get sales receipts from gun manufacturers as part of “audits” to their business practices.

At the end of the day, it’s about making guns safer and allowing those who want to play with handle guns the best shot at doing so safely and responsibly.

I'm a doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. All opinions posted here are my own, of course, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school, employers, friends, family, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen

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