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As humans, we are given one fundamental right — the right to life. It is a human right that can be violated and, in many cases, stolen. As one of the leading causes of premature death in the United States, gun violence is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people each year, and the number is steadily increasing. One of the main causes that propel gun violence is the fact that firearms are easily accessible. In areas where there is little to no regulation or enactment of gun control laws, the constant threat of misconduct by way of firearms causes people to not feel safe, resulting in the violation of yet another human right — the right to personal security. Over time, this fear spread from community to community until it became universal. Concealed carry is an example of one of the laws passed in the attempt to protect our right to life and personal security. The Second Amendment guarantees Americans the right to bear arms, and many of the adults who choose to do so are law-abiding citizens. It is also said that with concealed carry crime rates will decrease. The Second Amendment, in its entirety, is about more than the right to bear arms and is not as unlimited as people think. There are just as many “dangerous” people applying for concealed carry permits, and background checks do not always catch these people. Although carrying a concealed handgun could guarantee protection, it could increase the probability of potential threats posed to public safety. The risks of allowing concealed carry is far greater than what it is worth.
To begin, advocates of concealed carry have many reasons as to why they believe that it should be allowed. Every adult knows their Second Amendment right, which states that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” (U.S. Const. amend II). The Second Amendment is the foundation of the claims given by proponents of concealed carry. In 2012, Moore v. Madigan determined that the right guaranteed by the Second Amendment includes the right to carry a concealed firearm in public (ProCon). Another case, Peruta vs. San Diego, ruled that carrying a concealed weapon outside of the home for self-defense is also a part of the Second Amendment (ProCon). They also claim that background checks are the most reliable form of determining who gets to legally carry. The background checking system can identify citizens who abide by the law, as well as people with criminal records. Gun rights advocates also say that allowing concealed carry would deter crime rates. A study conducted by John R. Lott Jr. calculated that states that issue permits for concealed carry reduced the occurrence of murders, rapes, aggravated assaults, and robbery by at least 3% (ProCon). Another study in 2013 showed similar results (ProCon). All in all, there are many reasons that gun rights advocates use to support their claims.
Despite the previous argument, the Second Amendment is not unlimited. The right to keep and bear arms is much like the right to freedom of speech. The Constitution protects both rights; however, neither is absolute. According to Lund, the First Amendment “has never protected perjury, fraud, or countless other crimes that are committed through the use of speech” (“Not a Second Class Right”). Lund also states that “no reasonable person could believe that violent criminals should have unrestricted access to guns, or that any individual should possess a nuclear weapon” (“Not a Second Class Right”). Although it allows us the right to keep and bear arms, it is important to realize that gun control is a major part of the Second Amendment. Gun control has been around as long as the amendment itself. Laws were established to ensure an “effective militia”, which included “laws requiring armed citizens to appear at mandatory musters where their guns would be inspected” (“The Reasonable Right to Bear Arms”). Our Founding Fathers even had “broad bans on gun possession by people deemed untrustworthy, including slaves and loyalists” (“The Reasonable Right to Bear Arms”). The laws implemented during the Founding-era did not allow for anyone to have any kind of ordinary firearm, only firearms used for military service (“The Reasonable Right to Bear Arms”). An important phrase to note is “a well-regulated militia” (U.S. amend II). This means that, despite our right to bear arms, we must have laws to regulate the use of guns. Winkler states:
In the years since Heller, the federal courts have upheld the overwhelming majority of gun control laws challenged under the Second Amendment. Bans assault weapons have been consistently upheld, as have restrictions on gun magazines that hold more than a minimum number of rounds of ammunition. Bans on guns in national parks, post offices, bars, and college campuses also survived. . . Perhaps the biggest open question after Heller is whether the Second Amendment protects a right to carry guns in public. . . many constitutional rights are far more limited in public than in the home.
Winkler also goes on to mention that even events, such as parades, require a permit to participate. The right to bear arms is the foundation of the Second Amendment, but this right is limited to ensure the safety of the public.
Advocates for concealed carry say that universal background checks are the most effective policy for keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous citizens; however, this is not true. Many background checks are unreliable, in that they do not check for every possible indicator of ineligibility nor do they consider the possibility of who poses the significant threat of misusing a firearm. According to Jacobs and Fuhr, “background checking will not prevent dangerous persons from acquiring firearms”, especially if their names are not in databases for ineligible firearm owners (128). The National Instant Background Check System, commonly referred to as “NICS”, consists of records from local, state, tribal, and federal agencies
(Jacob and Fuhr . With these records, the system can determine who is eligible for concealed carry based on a number of reasons. The NIC system has many flaws. In the article by Jacobs and Fuhr, it states:
By far, the most important and more reliable database that a NICS background check searches is the Triple I, which is the nationally integrated “rap sheet” system that stores information about every local, state, or federal arrest and arrestee. . . In any event, it is not realistic to consider all persons ever convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor at any point in their life as forever posing a significant risk of misusing a firearm (129) . . . The large majority of people with a prior felony conviction were not convicted of a gun crime. This is not to say that preventing all persons ever convicted of any felony offense from ever acquiring a gun would not reduce the number of gun crimes. Undoubtedly, it would — but so would disqualifying from firearms all males age twenty-one to twenty-five. (130)
The database also “does not search the databases of some people whom the FBI has designated as potentially dangerous, for example, those in the Terrorist Screening Database” (134). If the FBI has deemed someone to be a potential threat, then why does the NIC system not block them from purchasing a firearm or applying for a concealed carry permit? The background checking system also indicates that illegal aliens “pose a heightened risk of firearms violence” (133). As far I know, there has been no study that has proven this claim. Background checks are a long ways away from being reliable and should not be used to determine whether someone is eligible to own or carry a firearm.
Contrary to the argument proposed by gun-rights enthusiasts, carrying a concealed firearm increases the possibility of potential threats to public safety. John Lott conducted a study to prove that concealed carry would deter crime, but many studies have been conducted to prove otherwise. For one, he increased “the number of studies that support his thesis” and did not mention many of the studies conducted that belonged to the other side. He also used studies that did not show any connection to low crime rates and concealed carry policies (“More Guns, More Crime — or Less?”). The truth is that he past few years have yielded a surge in violent crime rates. In an attempt to regulate the carrying of concealed firearms, several states have adopted laws that require a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The state laws that govern concealed carry fit into one of three categories: “shall issue”, “may issue”, or “permitless” (Webster et al. 6). Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, as well as many other states, have “shall issue” laws. “Shall issue”, or right-to-carry (RTC) states, order that “anyone who may legally own a handgun under that state’s laws and properly applies for a permit, “shall” be issued the permit” (Webster et al. 6). “May issue” states depend on “public safety officials to retain some discretion to issue or deny a concealed carry permit” based on several factors, including, but not limited to, “the applicant’s ‘good character’” (Webster et al. 6). “Permitless” states, like Mississippi and Arizona, do not require a permit to carry a concealed weapon (Webster et al. 6). According to Webster et al., “violent crime rates increased with each additional year a RTC law was in place” (6). Seven to ten years after adopting right-to-carry laws, “violent crime rates were 11% to 14% higher than predicted had such laws not been in place” (Webster et al. 6). In addition, the study on the effects of right-to-carry laws found that there was “a 10.6% increase in homicides with handguns” (Webster et al. 6). In the time between May 2007 and March 11, 2014, at least 622 people, not including 14 law enforcement officers, were killed by people who were legally allowed carry a concealed handgun (ProCon). It appears that concealed carry has not deterred crime as gun rights advocates claim.
All things considered, the topic of concealed carry is one that cannot and will not be resolved. As one of the most important recent trends in firearm policy in the United States, concealed carry has gotten a ton of support and backlash from both gun rights activists and opposers, alike. It all depends on interpretation, and it is obvious that not everyone sees gun control the same way. Proponents of gun control claim that the allowance of concealed carry is an extension of our Second Amendment right. They also claim that background checking of everyone who applies for a concealed carry permit are effective enough to determine who should be allowed to possess a handgun in public places and that crime rates will decrease if more people have guns. However, I believe that the Second Amendment is limited, much like the First Amendment. Background checks are not reliable because the NIC system is flawed and not very effective. With more guns allowed in public places, the possibility of simple disagreements turning into mass shootings is much more prominent. Though I can understand the claims brought forward by supporters of concealed carry, I believe that the risks of allowing it is much greater than what it is worth.
- Jacobs, James B., and Zoe Fuhr. “The Potential and Limitations of Universal Background Checking for Gun Purchasers.” Wake Forest Journal of Law & Policy, 2017.
- Lund, Nelson. “Not a Second Class Right: The Second Amendment Today.” https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendments/amendment-ii/not-a-second-class-right-the-second-amendment-today-nelson-lund/interp/2”
- “More Guns Mean More Violent Crime — or Less? A Researcher Aims at Scientific American.” https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/more-guns-mean-more-violent-crime-or-less-a-researcher-aims-at-scientific-american1/
- ProCon.org. “Concealed Guns ProCon.org,” ProCon.org. 7 June 2018. http://concealedguns.procon.org/
- U.S. Constitution. Amend II
- Webster, Daniel W., et al. “Concealed Carry of Firearms: Facts vs. Fiction.” 2017.
- Winkler, Adam. “The Reasonable Right to Bear Arms.” https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendments/amendment-ii/the-reasonable-right-to-bear-arms-adam-winkler/interp/2
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