…Shall not be infringed. While to most, that line seems pretty straightforward, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham lacks this basic understanding. On September 8, 2023, Governor Grisham announced a firearms order that essentially banned guns for 30 days in sections of New Mexico. While the order has since been scaled back after significant bipartisan backlash, anti-gun measures like this spark an important conversation about the necessity of the Second Amendment.
To understand the significance of the Second Amendment, one must understand why it was written in the first place. In the American Revolution, a group of colonists rebelled against the British Empire over a series of unjust laws and an unrepresentative government. The colonists were able to defeat the greatest army the world had ever seen because of their access to firearms. In fact, confiscating the colonists’ firearms and gunpowder was one of the first steps the British took to squash the rebellion, understanding the danger of a well-armed populace. Knowing this, the founders included the Second Amendment in the Constitution to protect America from ever falling into tyranny. In the words of James Madison in 1789: “A well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country.” In the Declaration of Independence, the founders assert that people have the right to overthrow tyrannical rule and form a new government. The Second Amendment enables Americans to carry out that right.
When a society cannot fight a tyrannical government, tyranny will always prevail. The rise of 20th-century authoritarian governments demonstrates this danger. After their rise to power, the Nazis promptly confiscated guns and soon thereafter committed mass genocide against its own citizens. The 1911 Armenian Genocide in Turkey and the 1929 Soviet Union before Stalin’s famine reflect this same tyrannical pattern. In all genocides and mass atrocities, the common denominator is a government that selectively disarms its citizens. The reason is simple: the only way for a government to genocide its own people is if the people have no means of fighting back. That is why anti-gun policies such as the one in New Mexico are so problematic. While the government of New Mexico is obviously not comparable to Nazi Germany, the principle remains: when the government has the ability to disarm its citizens, it can exert tyrannical rule over its citizens. Thus, to eliminate the possibility that America or any state government could ever reach that level of tyranny, the Second Amendment must not be infringed. Once the government is empowered to prevent people from buying or having firearms, the Second Amendment is merely words on paper. The verbiage “shall not be infringed” is intentionally unambiguous to signal that the government cannot impede people’s rights to own firearms.
While protecting against tyranny is the principal purpose of the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms also keeps Americans safe. Overall, guns save more lives than they take. In 2020, 18,576 people were murdered by those using firearms whereas at least 108,000 people (according to the lowest estimates) use firearms every year to ward off violent crime. While those against the Second Amendment argue getting rid of guns would eliminate the need to have a gun to defend oneself, this argument falls flat for one primary reason: criminals are going to get guns whether they are legal or not. This is exemplified by the city of Chicago. Despite having some of the strictest gun laws in the country, Chicago has the most homicides in the United States. Roughly 60% of the guns used in crimes in Chicago are considered illegal under the city’s gun laws, illustrating that people who commit violent crimes will obtain a gun, even if obtaining that gun is also a crime. Even if neighboring states like Indiana had equally strict gun laws, guns would still be able to be obtained illegally as Mexican cartels smuggle up to 1 million guns into the U.S. every year.
While some argue that regulating which guns can be owned would effectively counter crime, this argument fails to consider arguments that in the hands of a criminal, any gun is equally dangerous. Any gun no matter the size or caliber has the capacity to kill. Contrary to the common belief that banning “assault weapons” would limit mass shootings, 78% of mass shootings in the U.S. are done with handguns. Even if banning some types of guns would completely remove them from society, mass shootings would remain an issue. The solution to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Those who are intent on committing crimes will get guns illegally. This leaves law-abiding citizens outgunned and at a grave disadvantage to violent criminals. The only thing standing between an innocent unarmed family and a dangerous armed criminal would be the police. The same police that in the best case scenario, take over 3 minutes to respond to a 911 call, leaving innocent unarmed Americans defenseless.
Concurrently, the U.S. has the largest concentration of criminal organizations in the world on its southern border in the form of the cartels. Banning firearms in the United States would merely create another market for the cartels to tap into and exploit, similar to the failed war on drugs. History has shown cartels exploit any illegal market in the U.S. If guns were to be banned or heavily restricted in the U.S., the cartels would instantly capitalize on this opportunity as they did during the war on drugs. Criminals would still obtain firearms illegally, leaving only law-abiding American citizens without guns and a police force over 3 minutes away as the only line of defense. When faced with either having a world in which only criminals own guns or a world in which both criminals and law-abiding Americans own guns, the latter is the obvious choice.
The Second Amendment is integral to the culture and security of the United States. The U.S. has enjoyed one of the best forms of government in the world with a constitution that protects the rights of every citizen. Without the Second Amendment to protect those rights and provide Americans with a means to defend themselves, the U.S. would risk its constitutional republic, the safety of its populace, and would no longer be able to call itself the greatest country in the world.
Featured Image Source: John Hopkins University