The national debate about gun control comes to the US Senate in today’s scheduled hearing What Should America Do About Gun Violence. Gun control advocates argue that Second Amendment is a collective or societal right while gun rights advocates argue that the right to bear arms is an individual right. The Brooklyn Law School Library has in it collection Living with Guns: A Liberal’s Case for the Second Amendment (Call # KF3941 .W4425 2012) by former New York Times correspondent and editor Craig Whitney.
This carefully written 285 page book offers a history of firearms in American society and proposes a way for the country to make peace with the Second Amendment and the presence of hundreds of millions of guns. It argues that gun ownership is a basic individual right, not dependent on militia service, coming with a social responsibility for how weapons are bought, sold, and handled. The author looks at the origins of the text of the Second Amendment and discusses the US Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the landmark case holding that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes. He questions how the Court came to the conclusion that “the right to bear arms” is an individual right.
Whitney suggest tighter background checks, nationwide standards to teach responsible gun handling, better data bases to trace missing or stolen guns, harsher penalties for illegal gun use, and easier methods to trace bullets and handguns discharged in a criminal way. He offers interesting statistics showing that more Americans die on the road than in shootouts, with both tallies adding up to 70,000 deaths annually and that there is little correlation between murder rates and gun control. He also offers arguments from gun advocates that more guns might deter criminals from using them.
See also the Chronicle of Higher Education article All Guns Are Not Created Equal by Kevin M. Sweeney and Saul Cornell. The article returns to early America to shed light on the meaning of the Second Amendment. The comments section includes some interesting observations about the connection between the Second Amendment and the institution of slavery, particularly its role in allowing state militias to suppress slave insurrections protecting a slave system on which the economics of the South depended.