The primary (and untrue) argument used by the anti gun crowd is that banning guns will make all safer. This has proven untrue in countless US cities and other countries, but the fact that such an argument is tried shows that the Second Amendment right to own a gun for self defense is mistreated in a manner that few would mistreat our other constitutional rights:
The 1st Amendment
The First Amendment to the United States constitution protects free speech (among other things). This amendment makes it difficult to shut down suicide cults, or prevent the racial hate speech that could lead to racially motivated violence. Clearly, lives could be saved if the government were free to prevent suicide cult leaders from getting their message out, and to stop racial hate groups from speaking their message. However we as a society understand that free speech is necessary for political freedom, self expression, and self determination. We recognize that the “truth” is a fluid thing (people once thought the earth to be flat, for example), and no person/organization/government should have the power to determine which ideas can be exchanged between people. We recognize that the interests advanced by having free exchange of thoughts and ideas greatly outweigh the fact that free speech can be used by criminals to inflict harm.
The 4th Amendment
The Fourth Amendment to the United States constitution protects citizens against unreasonable search and seizure. This amendment prevents the police from randomly walking up to people on the street and searching them for drugs, murder weapons, bombs, etc. It also prevents the police from going door-to-door in order to search for kidnapping victims. Indeed, the 4th Amendment makes it a lot harder for police to catch the bad guys. However, no reasonable person seeks to repeal the 4th Amendment, as its protection from governmental intrusion into one’s home or personal space is one of our most important cultural values, and greatest safeguards against abuse of governmental authority. We recognize that the 4th Amendment will cause some crimes to go unprevented, and cause some criminals to go unpunished, but accept that those are some of the costs of living in a free country.
The 5th Amendment
The Fifth Amendment protects a criminal defendant from being forced to incriminate themselves. Many people who have commuted a crime use the 5th Amendment in order to avoid having to take the witness stand and testify against themselves. If a person could be forced to either admit their crime in court, or have the jury draw a negative inference based upon their failure to testify, many criminals would be prevented from getting away with murder or other crimes. However, we recognize the historical abuses of power (and torture) that led the constitution’s framers to include protection against self incrimination. We know that those same abuses, as well as a host of other abuses, could occur today if not for the 5th Amendment. We as a society understand that it is better that some criminals go free than to have the innocent jailed or executed for a crime they did not commit.
Now, on to the Second Amendment
The Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms, for self defense and other lawful purposes. The founders recognized that gun ownership by the citizenry is a good thing, preventing governmental tyranny and providing for security of one’s home and person. Rather than respecting this constitutional right, anti gun groups and politicians try to whittle away at the right, make it exceedingly difficult to exercise, pass laws that clearly infringe the right, or scare people away from exercising the right. This disparity in treatment is wrong, and hopefully the Supreme Court’s decision in D.C. v. Heller will help put us on the road to restoring the Second Amendment.
The goal of preventing murder or other violent crime is a noble one; and one that is best accomplished through fighting the true causes of crime, while allowing law abiding citizens to defend themselves. At the same time, it is not reasonable to violate a constitutional right in the name of preventing crime, especially when the proposed law is ineffective at preventing crime anyway. We don’t seriously inquire as to whether the country would be better off without free speech or other sacred rights, and the Second Amendment should be treated with the same respect.