“Right to bear arms” discussion needs to be reframed for the 21st century

Sedona Chinn, Crier Staff

The fundamental contradiction between life and liberty reaches the height of its discrepancy in the problem of gun control. Our constitution ensures citizens the right to bear arms, while the rampant spread of gun violence has snowballed into an issue requiring immediate address.

While the right to bear arms has tradition dating to the founding of our country, the situation of guns in America has evolved past the visions of the founding fathers and must be reevaluated in the context of the challenges present in the twenty-first century.

At the time of writing the Constitution, America had thrown off the yoke of British rule only years before. The right to bear arms was a form of insurance against foreign rule, and would also be used for defense against and conquest over indigenous Americans.

While having lived in New Hampshire for only half of my life, I have yet to see signs that the Canadians have any thought of invading New England. The problems requiring the use of guns in this area seem to be confined to instances of rabid moose.

The writers of the Constitution also inserted the Second Amendment so that the government could be overthrown if it went against the wishes of the people. While it remains a separate argument as to whether the government has begun to behave tyrannically, it remains apparent that gun violence is not being directed at the state to ensure proper conduct. Rather, the most appalling incidents of gun violence have been perpetrated against civilians.

Arms, as understood by the writers of the constitution, were flintlock pistols and rifles, which, as muzzleloaders, could fire one musket ball before being reloaded, which took about a minute to do.

Today, legal weapons go far beyond the abilities of their eighteenth century predecessors. Legal weapons for sale today have been developed and used by militaries around the world.

The fifty-caliber Barrett M82 is a semiautomatic gun with a range of over a mile designed to take out armored cars or parked aircrafts. Legal variants of the Uzi submachine gun include semiautomatic pistols.

The ten-year ban on large-capacity magazines, considered as over ten rounds, expired in 2004 and has not been renewed, making extended clips an issue in the legislative debate after large-capacity magazines were used in the shootings of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, and others.

For those who believe in gun rights for the purpose of self-defense, I would pose the question: what means are necessary to subdue an attacker? Is it enough to disarm or must one fire ten rounds? While a gun is designed for the purpose of inflicting bodily harm, a large-capacity semiautomatic weapon is surely designed only to inflict exponentially greater damage.

These kinds of weapons were not what the founding fathers pictured when they drafted the Constitution. Just as the weapons have evolved, society needs to evolve as well. Yet in order to do so, we must be able to have dialogue.

That life and liberty are tools in the grand pursuit of happiness renders their use subjective. Issues like gun control are meant to be discussed and debated, and the conversation not be polarizing or adversarial, so that through this process we might draw nearer to establishing that happiness in our country.