Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled that Second Amendment protections on gun ownership apply to state and local governments. The 5-4 decision effectively rendered local handgun bans - like Chicago's - unenforceable and sparked America's quadrillionth national debate on handguns.
Bad Handgun Arguments
There are two main arguments for handgun ownership and I do not agree with either one.
1) It's in the Constitution...
The second amendment does not say we can own any type of weapon we want. It's illegal to sell RPGs and AK47s at gun shows - though it's amazing to see what winds up the streets. All amendments are subject to reasonable restrictions. Just because free speech is protected by the first amendment does not mean I can yell "fire" in a crowded theater or use the n-word on TV. I cannot sacrifice my first born son and claim constitutional protection of religious freedom. These restrictions were put into place because society (and the courts) have deemed them to be in the public's interest. I don't understand how legalized handgun ownership benefits society.
The other glaring problem with the constitutionality argument is that it is impossible to know what the Founding Fathers would think of handgun ownership if they were alive today. The reason for the second amendment was to allow citizens to keep muskets in their homes to guard their cities against an invading army - like the British - or protect themselves in the event that the U.S. army turned against the country.
I don't believe David Cameron made a campaign promise to invade America and am equally certain that our army is not plotting a coup. (Insert Stanley McCrystal joke here.) The Founding Fathers lived in a completely different time than we do with a different set of challenges. It's difficult for me to believe that Thomas Jefferson would advocate for every American to own a handgun if he were alive today.
2) Guns make us safe...
Although I disagree with the constitutionality argument, I have more sympathy for that line of thought than the "guns make us safe" argument. This one seems to be more of NRA talking point and is not supported by any statistics I have found.
The "guns make us safe" argument contends that if everyone had a gun, we'd be safer because everyone would be empowered to shoot the "bad guys". The magic NRA scenario - someone saving someone else's life with a gun occurs a handful of times a year. Think of a homeowner shooting a robber during a break-in for example.
On the other hand tens of thousands of Americans die from handgun deaths each year. Unless each life saved by a gun counts for 1,000 and each life ended unnecessarily by a gun counts for -1 the math is never going to add up.
On another note, the last thing we need is a bunch of college-aged kids running around with handguns. It's bad enough we have to share the highways with them.
By the way, I'm not against gun ownership - only handgun ownership. I think it should be perfectly legal to own a hunting rifle. Feel free to keep it in your house for self-defense while you're at it.
That being said, there is no doubt that criminalizing handguns would save tens of thousands of lives in the United States - that is to say nothing of Mexico, whose cartels obtain their firepower from their friendly neighbors to the north.
Until we come to the conclusion as a society that handguns cause more trouble than they are worth, we'll continue to see tens of thousands of Americans die needlessly each year. It's ultimately up to us as citizens to demand better - but the Supreme Court's symbolic ruling this week doesn't help.