Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Classical High School or the Purple Post.
Foreword by Katharine Tracy
Purple Post Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Last Valentine’s Day, in response to the one-year anniversary of the tragic Parkland shooting, the Purple Post’s Simon Carr tackled the ongoing gun control debate. Carr actively expressed a fervent belief that the Second Amendment should be abolished, sparking some controversy among the Classical student body.
Two Classicalites, sophomore Yousef Nagib and junior Alec Mustafayev, took to writing their own rebuttals to Carr’s editorial. The two students, both believing Carr’s position to be too extreme, discuss gun control laws in other regions, the potential consequences of Carr’s thesis, and how the Constitution can be interpreted almost 230 years later. Both articles are available below.
REBUTTAL: “Safety in Schools: The Abolishment of the Second Amendment”
By Yousef Nagib
Purple Post Contributing Writer
Last Valentine’s Day was both a day of celebration and one of solemnity. It was not only a celebration of love, but it was also the one year anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, when high school student Nikolas Cruz killed 17 students and faculty in Parkland, Florida with an AR-15, sparking a fervent national debate about gun control. In the past few days, an opinion piece was published to this newspaper suggesting that the United States government should abolish the Second Amendment. The purpose of this article is to point out some falsehoods and logical shortcomings of the aforementioned opinion piece, as well as some new arguments. I’ll begin by addressing some false/misleading information presented in the article.
To start, the author refers to the weapon used in the Parkland Massacre as “…the AR-15 (automatic assault rifle).” While it is indeed correct that Cruz’ weapon of choice was an AR-15, it is patently false to describe this weapon as an ‘automatic assault rifle’. Pointing this falsehood out may seem like much ado about nothing, but gun control is a very technical debate. If we are to discuss legislation to pursue in terms of gun control, it is absolutely imperative that we are careful with definitions. So, to clarify, the AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle. An automatic rifle is capable of firing multiple rounds of bullets by someone simply holding down the trigger, whereas a semi-automatic rifle fires only one round each time the trigger is pulled. Therefore, if a politician were to introduce and successfully pass legislation that, for example, banned fully automatic weapons, this would not at all affect the legality of owning an AR-15.
Another falsehood comes later in the article, where the author goes on to make the claim that in Japan, guns are illegal. However, this is simply untrue. The suggestion that Japan has made ownership of firearms illegal is a lie. Japanese citizens are allowed to own guns, the only distinction being that Japan has very strict regulations to obtain and keep a firearm. Should a Japanese citizen want to own a gun, they must:
- Attend an all-day class
- Pass a written test
- Achieve a score of at least 95% accuracy during a shooting range test
- Pass a mental health evaluation (which takes place in a hospital)
- Pass an extensive background check, in which their criminal record is examined, and friends and family are interviewed.
It is also worth adding that Japanese gun owners must retake the all-day class and initial exam every three years if they wish to continue owning their weapon. With all this in mind, it is simply untrue to state that guns are illegal in Japan.
It’s also important to understand the initial purpose of the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment was written by the Founding Fathers with the distinct intention of providing the civilian population with the means to defend themselves against a tyrannical government. This was considered mainstream common sense back in 1791, but today, many on the left would suggest that the fear of a tyrannical government is invalid, or just ignore this argument altogether. However, the government of the United States of America is capable of atrocities against its own people and has committed such atrocities before. An example of this is the Wounded Knee Massacre, which took place on December 29th, 1890. A detachment of the US 7th Cavalry Regiment had intercepted a large group of Lakota Sioux, forcefully escorting the group to Wounded Knee Creek. At the creek, the Regiment confiscated the Lakota’s guns. By the time they had confiscated most of the weapons, a fight broke out between a US soldier and one of the Sioux, whose gun went off. The Regiment proceeded to shoot at the tribesmen, killing an estimated 250-300 Lakota men, women, and children(the majority of them unarmed). For this brutal massacre, at least 20 of the Cavalrymen were awarded the esteemed Medal of Honor. This is a prime example of why it is not always wise to blindly trust the government. America is unique in many ways, but we should not make the mistake that our federal government is uniquely trustworthy at all times. It is our responsibility as Americans to tread cautiously when it comes to government powers, and the implicit power the government would gain should we remove the check that is our right to bear arms. Some more recent interpretations of the amendment should also be noted. The first one to be emphasized is District of Columbia v. Heller (2008). The Supreme Court ruling on this case held that “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.” An even more recent Supreme Court case, McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010), concluded that “…individual self-defense is ‘the central component’ of the Second Amendment right,” reiterating the Court’s decision in Heller.
All this aside, it is also worth noting that the Second Amendment is in the Bill of Rights. Other things guaranteed on the Bill of Rights include our freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of peaceful assembly/protest, and right to a fair and speedy trial. The argument that the Constitution is a document that can and should be altered is only valid in certain cases. For example, saying that the repealing of the Eighteenth Amendment (prohibition of the sale/consumption of alcohol) via the Twenty-First amendment is proof that we can alter something such as the Second Amendment is simply not valid. There is special protection that ought to be ascribed to the Bill of Rights, as it guarantees the most basic rights we have in this country. Because so many of our fundamental freedoms are already under attack by forces within the government, repealing or abolishing the 2nd amendment sets a dangerous precedent. As I pointed out earlier, it is not always wise to trust the government. If we set the standard that it is permissible to abolish amendments in the Bill of Rights, we open the door for the politicians of tomorrow to grow power hungry and start setting oppressive limits on things such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
It is also worth noting that there are other reasons besides a distrust of the government that are reason to protect the 2nd amendment. One such reason is this: criminals will always be able to access guns. Even if we abolish the 2nd amendment, it will always be possible for criminals to obtain firearms illegally, due to the obvious fact that criminals do not obey the law. With this in consideration, it’s important to think about how the abolition of the 2nd amendment would affect Americans who live in lower-income areas that have high rates of violent crimes where guns are utilized. If we remove the right of those living in those neighborhoods to be able to own a firearm legally, how can they defend themselves in the event that they are victims of a violent crime by a criminal who obtained their gun illegally? Removing the rights of US citizens to bear arms puts the lives of those law-abiding citizens who live in these more dangerous neighborhoods at risk. This is essentially the argument which has been made by the Supreme Court in the decisions of District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago.
Many anti-2nd amendment activists will lead you to believe that the majority of violent crimes involving the use of a firearm are perpetrated using a firearm which has been purchased by entirely legal means. However, this isn’t at all the case. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (part of the U.S. Department of Justice), 56% of guns used in violent crimes in 2016 were obtained through illegal means. This report also states that only 1.3% of prisoners obtained their firearm from a retail source and used it during their offense. Another argument often made is that things such as the “Gun Show Loophole,” (where there are no mandatory background checks before the purchase of a firearm) are responsible for the high amount of violent crimes in this country where the offender used a firearm. However, this is also untrue. Referring back to the Bureau’s report, it was found that only 0.8% of prisoners who possessed a firearm during their offense obtained it at a gun show. Miniscule minorities like this should not be used to generalize for broad, sweeping legislation regarding gun control. The Gun Show Loophole is not an argument, it is an excuse.
Proposing the abolishment of the Second Amendment is detrimental to the gun control movement as well. A major argument of the NRA is that the left wing of American politics wants to abolish the 2nd amendment. In order to address the real issues, we need to make it impossible for criminals, not responsible gun owners, to own guns.
Coming away from all this, I’d like to make something absolutely clear. We do have a
problem with gun violence in this country. We ought to have tougher regulations regarding an individual’s ability to obtain a gun. Carr was absolutely correct in pointing out that Nikolas Cruz obtained his AR-15 by entirely legal means. However, it is gun control legislation which is the solution to this issue, not a sweeping, total ban on guns for civilians. We can look to countries like Japan for advice on how to create common-sense gun control legislation that still allows mentally stable, law-abiding Americans to have the right to defend themselves with a firearm. Gun control is a good idea. But the abolition of the 2nd amendment is simply too extreme a proposition and would set a dangerous precedent.
The Oversimplification of the Gun Crisis
By Alec Mustafayev
Purple Post Contributing Writer
“Time and changes in the condition and constitution of society may require occasional and corresponding modifications.”
-Thomas Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1825.
If we lived in a perfect world, guns would not exist. Unfortunately, to believe that we could live in such a world is absurd. Our largely emotional outlook can impede our ability to examine crises as critically as we should. Among the most important of these present crises is the drastic increase in gun violence in America in recent years. Rampant gun violence and the uncertainty of how to handle it appears to be the great dilemma of our generation. With over 300 mass shootings last year, it is apparent that this issue can easily affect the life of almost any individual American, and requires an immediate solution. At first glance, the best solution to the rampant gun violence in America seems to be a simple one: If we ban guns, criminals won’t be able to get a hold of them to carry out horrible acts. This solution fails to factor in many important variables, which will produce dangerous results left unconsidered by the anti-Second Amendment argument. The Second Amendment is no doubt antiquated, and changes to our present gun laws are necessary. The amendment was written at a time when bearing arms meant being allowed to own something of the nature of a musket that could hold one bullet at a time and took several minutes to reload. In a world that now has desert eagles and AR-15s, stricter gun control is something that must be done. However, outright abolishing the right to bear arms will lead to an even more unsafe country than the one we live in today.
Carr claims that “states with stricter gun control measures are unable to deal with increasing levels of gun violence in the country.” As an example, he uses California, a state with many strict gun control laws, citing that despite the restrictions, which serve as a model of the gun laws called for by the victims of the Parkland shooting, the state “still had 3,184 gun-related deaths in 2018.” Firstly, that is the number of California’s gun-related deaths for 2016, not 2018. More importantly, however, California is hardly an ideal state when it comes to gun control laws. Massachusetts has been shown to be the state with the most effective gun laws. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Massachusetts had the least gun related deaths in 2016: 242 deaths. This makes perfect sense when you consider that the gun control laws in Massachusetts are very different from the gun control laws in California. In Massachusetts, you must be 21 years of age to legally buy a firearm, while in California you only need to be 18. Both Massachusetts and California prohibit people involved in violent crime, drug crime, felonies, some misdemeanors, and severe mental illnesses from purchasing guns. This is a list of people restricted from buying guns in Massachusetts who can legally buy guns in California:
- Someone with an outstanding arrest warrant
- Someone subject to a restraining order
- Someone who quit a drug or alcohol addiction but is at risk of relapsing
Is it any wonder that there were 2,942 more gun deaths in California than in Massachusetts in 2016? Even accounting for the difference in population size, Massachusetts is still much safer than California. In 2016, there were only 3.4 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people in Massachusetts, while California was far ahead with 7.9 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people. Carr’s claim that “states with stricter gun control measures are unable to deal with increasing levels of gun violence in this country” is unsupported by his example of California, since the state has been shown to have inadequate gun control, and is completely disproven by the clearly demonstrated success of gun control laws in Massachusetts. It has been demonstrated that if done correctly, gun control laws work. No abolishment of the Second Amendment is necessary.
After this, Carr describes the murder of William Parsons, which happened just outside Classical High School on September 6th, 2018. Parsons’s death was a tragedy, and I agree with Carr that steps must be taken to prevent such a thing from happening again. Where we disagree, however, is the method by which this should be done. Carr states that despite all of the gun restrictions in Rhode Island, the shooting was still able to be carried out. What Carr failed to take into account was the killer’s age. The suspect charged with the murder of Parsons was only 16 years old. None of Rhode Island’s gun control laws he mentioned when he questioned how Parsons’s murderer managed to carry out the shooting apply to the murderer. You must be 21 years of age to purchase a gun in Rhode Island. What we need to do is figure out how an adult with ties to the Hanover Boyz (the street gang that Parsons’s murder suspect is a member of) was able to purchase a firearm to give to a minor. Carr is right, students in America have much to be afraid of when it comes to mass shootings. To prevent someone else having their life stolen from them like Parsons’s was stolen from him, we must ensure that anyone who purchases a firearm has no criminal ties.
Next, Carr argues that banning guns in the United States would be effective, as a similar gun ban in Japan has led to a significant drop in gun violence. This doesn’t acknowledge the differences in culture between Japan and the United States. Unlike the United States, whose welfare system, unfortunately, results in poverty, which often produces crime, Japan has a much stricter set of requirements for maintaining welfare. Japan requires that its citizens do busy work to continue getting paid, which results in less gun violence. This lack of crime is why the results of a gun ban in Japan cannot be compared to what may result from a gun ban in the United States. By examining the results of a gun ban in a country with a similar welfare system to America, we can get a better idea of what would result from the abolition of the Second Amendment. The gun ban in Britain, for example, resulted in a huge spike in gun crime in the coming years after the ban was put in place. Fortunately, law enforcement eventually found how to curb the unlawful distribution of firearms. If a gun ban were put in place in America, then the result would likely be similar to what happened in Britain. Everything eventually worked out for Britain, but a spike in gun crime would be much more detrimental to the United States. With gun crime already spiked at over 300 mass shootings a year, imagine what an additional spike would entail.
Outlawing of firearms would in no way prevent shootings. It would only increase the demand for guns. There has not been a single thing in history with demand for it which, when outlawed, didn’t result in a spike of illegal sales of that thing. Outlawing drugs didn’t stop people from using drugs, it just turned drug users into criminals. Outlawing alcoholic beverages during the prohibition era didn’t stop people from drinking, it just turned people who drank into criminals. Outlawing prostitution didn’t wipe prostitutes from the streets, it just turned prostitutes and those who use their services into criminals. Outlawing something that people want won’t stop them from using it, it often will just raise the demand for that thing and open up a black market. Unlike legal gun stores that exist in our country today, which employ background checks in an attempt to prevent people with malicious intentions from buying guns, the black market for guns which would inevitably result from the abolishment of the Second Amendment would take no issue with selling weapons to criminals. There already exists a black market for guns that operate in places like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. These guns are obtained from military assistance, then sold off members of terrorist organizations. There isn’t much of a gun selling black market operating in the United States, but if demand for weapons were to increase (which would be a result of an outright gun ban), a black market is not only feasible but inevitable. Drugs are already smuggled into the country several pounds at a time, brought in by boats, underground tunnels, and other hard to detect means. Guns could be smuggled in just as easily.
It is clear that we cannot carry on maintaining the gun laws in place in most of the United States and just hope that people will eventually stop shooting each other, but the abolishment of the Second Amendment is not the right solution. All this will accomplish is spiking an already soaring gun crime rate. The solution is to apply a gun control policy like the highly efficient one used in Massachusetts to the entire country. If done correctly, the gun-related crime rate will plummet. Both preserving and abolishing the Second Amendment will only lead to more gun crime. The only solution is to alter the Second Amendment to better correspond with the “time and changes in the condition and constitution of society.”