OPINION: Thomas Jefferson was a smart guy. And right on guns.
By Zachary Sierra, Staff Writer
Gun Control. Is there a subject that is more polarizing? Our world is filled with clashing opinions and propaganda about gun control, gun rights and gun ownership.
But what is the truth?
At the core of the disagreement is the Second Amendment, which reads, “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.”
Some contend that language suggests arms should only be kept by a well-regulated militia. Others argue it protects the rights to both forming militias and bearing arms. Excellent arguments have been made for both sides, leaving the nation in a political stalemate.
But there was no stalemate among the founding fathers. They were strongly against the idea of a standing military in general, referring to it as “an engine of oppression.” Instead, a militia was conceived to be the ideal way to defend one’s country. Essentially, every capable man was responsible for the security of his nation, and should be trained in its defense.
The more pressing question is not the intention of their words, but: Should we change the laws, is the loss of personal liberty worth the lives saved?
That is, if gun control saves lives.
Thomas Jefferson said, “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms” and “The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a [tyrannical] nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes … Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”
It is estimated there are around 280 million civilian firearms in the the United States – nearly one for every person, though only around 42 percent of households own a weapon. With those millions of guns, there are only around 30,000 deaths associated with a gun per year. In 2010, nearly 20,000 people killed themselves with a gun. Meaning only around 10,000 of those deaths were accidental or murderous. If you do the math, that means only .000036 percent of the guns in the U.S. are involved in murder or accidental death.
Will banning that tiny percentage really change anything? Will it save lives, or lead to disaster?
Honduras made it illegal to own guns and they have the highest murder rate in the world, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. In Switzerland every able male is military-trained and given a rifle and sidearm. They have the lowest homicide rate in the world. Similar correlations can be found in America. Chicago features some of the most draconian gun laws in the United States, and yet it consistently ranks at the top of the charts for murder rates. If the control of firearms, legal or illegal, prevented violence, Chicago should be the most peaceful city in the United States. Instead it is exactly the opposite, leading the country in gun-related deaths.
This shouldn’t really come as a shock. Violence has existed since before humans walked the earth and will continue to exist after we are gone. The cycle of predator and prey is an immutable law, and the only way to avoid being hunted is to become the hunter. Lions don’t hunt lions, wolves don’t eat other wolves. Both, however, will prey on sheep – sheep who rely on the shepherd to keep them safe. In our world, the shepherd would be the police, who simply cannot be everywhere at once.
So, then, we must secure ourselves. And herein lies the issue for most people, it seems. People are okay with other people using guns, but rarely want to take the responsibility onto themselves. They are okay with others fighting and dying, but they want to hide in the back. They would put our fate into the hands of the government or police so that they can go about their lives unhindered by issues of mortality or responsibility.
We cannot allow ourselves to trade independence for safety. As Thomas Jefferson said, “Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state.”