Informative Speech For Gun Ownership Essay

This essay has a total of 2120 words and 8 pages.

Informative Speech For Gun Ownership


Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how
popular and respected, is the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms. This is not to
say that firearms should not be very carefully used and that definite rules of precaution
should not be taught and enforced. But the right of the citizen to bear arms is just one
more safeguard against a tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which
historically has proved to be always possible. -Hubert Humphrey, 1960 My background is
probably atypical for a somewhat high-profile supporter of the right to keep and bear
arms. I am black and grew up in Manhattan's East Harlem, far removed from the great
American gun culture of rural, white America. Although my voting patterns have become
somewhat more conservative in recent years, I remain in my heart of hearts a 1960s
Humphrey Democrat concerned with the plight of those most vulnerable in American
society-minorities, the poor, the elderly, and single women-groups whose day-to-day
realities are often overlooked in our public policy debates, people whose lives too often
go unnoticed by our intellectually timid chattering classes. This is happening in the
public debate over the right to bear arms. For the nation's elites, the Second Amendment
has become the Rodney Dangerfield of the Bill of Rights, constantly attacked by editorial
writers, police chiefs seeking scapegoats, demagoging politicians, and most recently even
by Rosie O'Donnell, no less. It is threatened by opportunistic legislative efforts, even
when sponsors acknowledge their proposed legislation would have little impact on crime and
violence. Professional champions of civil rights and civil liberties have been unwilling
to defend the underlying principle of the right to arms. Even the conservative defense has
been timid and often inept, tied less, one suspects, to abiding principle and more to the
dynamics of contemporary Republican politics. Thus a right older than the Republic, one
that the drafters of two constitutional amendments the Second and the Fourteenth intended
to protect, and a right whose critical importance has been painfully revealed by
twentieth-century history, is left undefended by the lawyers, writers, and scholars we
routinely expect to defend other constitutional rights. Instead, the Second Amendment's
intellectual as well as political defense has been left in the unlikely hands of the
National Rifle Association (NRA). And although the NRA deserves considerably better than
the demonized reputation it has acquired, it should not be the sole or even principal
voice in defense of a major constitutional provision. This anemic defense is all the more
embarrassing because it occurs as mounting evidence severely undermines the three
propositions that have been central to the anti-gun movement since its appearance on the
national radar screen in the 1960s. The first proposition is that the Constitution,
particularly the Second Amendment, poses no barrier to radical gun control, even total
prohibition of private firearms. The second is that ordinary citizens with firearms are
unlikely to defend themselves and are more likely to harm innocent parties with their
guns. The final proposition is that the case for radical gun control is buttressed by
comparing the United States to nations with more restrictive firearms policies. These
propositions, now conventional wisdom, simply do not stand up to scrutiny. The proposition
that the Second Amendment poses no barrier to gun prohibition-a claim largely unknown
before the 1960s-has run up against stubborn, contrary historical facts. Increasingly,
historians and legal scholars, including many who support stricter gun control, have
examined the history of the Second Amendment, the development of the right to arms in
English political thought, judicial commentaries on the right in antebellum America, and
the debates over the Fourteenth Amendment. The consensus among scholars who have actually
looked at the evidence is that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments were meant to protect
the citizen's right to arms. (See, for example, historian Joyce Lee Malcolm's Harvard
University Press book, To Keep and Bear Arms, or the historical documents assembled in the
three Gun Control and the Constitution volumes I've edited.) Similarly, the criminological
premises of the anti-gun movement have collapsed in the face of serious social science.
For better than three decades the American public has been solemnly assured that peaceable
citizens who possess guns for self-defense are disasters in waiting. "A gun in the home is
more likely to kill a member of the family than to defend against an intruder," we hear.
"Allowing citizens to carry firearms outside the home for self-protection will turn our
streets into Dodge City and our parking lots into the O.K. Corral," the refrain goes. Yet
the criminological literature provides little support for this caricature of gun owners.
Instead, careful research has discovered an incredibly high amount of firearms' being
responsibly used in self-defense. Research by Florida State University criminologist Gary
Kleck and others indicate between two and three million cases of self-defense per year.
Overwhelmingly these incidents involve not firing the weapon at the attacker, but simply
brandishing it and thereby causing the attacker's withdrawal. In recent years a majority
of states have passed laws permitting honest citizens to carry concealed weapons, and the
results tell us much about self-defense and the responsibility of the average citizen.
Once it was passionately argued that such laws would turn minor altercations into bloody
shoot-outs; now we know better. Over 1 million Americans have licenses to carry firearms,
but firearms misuse by this group has been utterly negligible. Criminologists now debate
not how much harm has been caused by concealed-carry laws, but how much good. The most
thorough research, by John Lott of the University of Chicago, reveals that concealed-carry
laws have had a substantial deterrent effect on crimes of violence. His work shows that
women, especially, have benefitted, as substantial drops in rapes and attacks on women
have occurred where the laws have been enacted. Lott also discovered dramatic benefits for
the urban poor and minorities: "Not only do urban areas tend to gain in their fight
against crime, but reductions in crime rates are greatest precisely in those urban areas
that have the highest crime rates, largest and most dense populations, and greatest
concentrations of minorities." The final proposition-that international comparisons prove
the case for radical gun control-may be the most problematic of all. Certainly the
simplistic conclusion that American homicide rates are higher than those in Western Europe
and Japan because of the greater prevalence of firearms glosses over significant cultural
and demographic differences between us and other advanced industrial nations. The American
population is younger and more diverse. Unlike Western Europe and Japan, the United States
has always had a large number of immigrants and internal migrants. We also have a history
of racial exclusion and a struggle against that exclusion as old as the Republic and
without real parallel in comparable nations. All of these have contributed to crime rates
higher than those in other western nations. Indeed, when a number of the cultural and
demographic variables are controlled for, much of the apparent difference between American
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