The Supreme Court expanded gun rights for citizens to grant equal protection, but who’s responsible for our protection?
On June 23, 2022, the Supreme Court expanded upon the rights for citizens to be capable of owning guns in public, changing the way we as a country, legalistically, view gun rights and gun control. Specifically, restrictions in New York requiring a special permit for concealed carried handguns were overturned. The primary reasoning for the 6-3 ruling was that the existing permits were too restrictive and didn’t grant equal protection for the average citizen trying to purchase a weapon.
With the recent rise in devastating shootings, ranging in locations from schools to concerts, and the growing cases of violent crime, there is no doubt that there is a need for substantial reform to be made, not only in how the US government views guns but in how we as a culture view guns. Unfortunately it seems that we are stuck on a knife’s edge with a very important question: whose responsibility is it to protect citizens from guns?
There are a few possible ways to answer this question. One answer is to delegate that responsibility primarily to the government. More restrictions toward guns and a harder stance on gun control has sound reasoning. If a person has the intention to cause destruction, then simply take away the tools that can destroy. However, skeptics of this answer point out this proposition would go against the spirit of the Constitution. The purpose of the 2nd Amendment was to provide citizens with equal means to defend themselves from the government if necessary, so giving up those means is not entirely attractive. Furthermore, gun violence doesn’t come from the citizenry alone; there is also a threat of violence from governmental bodies like the police. Distrust in the police leads to vigilantism and violence, among other things: if we can’t trust law enforcement to protect us, then we should take matters into our own hands. This line of thinking perpetuates the need, however real or imagined, for guns.
For those opposed to the presence of guns, there is another attractive solution. Instead of delegating the responsibility of protection onto the government, we should take the responsibilities for ourselves. Law enforcement doesn’t always have the five minutes to arrive at a scene when a shooting occurs and can’t protect everyone at once. Therefore, perhaps it’s better to have people who can respond to threats like this almost instantaneously. There has been video footage of shop owners successfully defending their establishments from would-be robbers. However, this is not an ideal solution as much as the previous answer, either. Justifications for using guns aren’t always as cut and dry when it comes to self-protection as it is when defending businesses, and by entrusting a larger population with the ability to handle weaponry, the liability becomes that much larger. With allowing more people to access weaponry, there is an even larger chance that somebody will practice poor gun safety and harm others. That’s not even counting the instances where intentional incidents happen involving a gun.
In response to these changing gun laws, on August 30, New York City has designated specific spots like Central Park, churches and theaters as sensitive locations; these locations are spots in the city where guns are prohibited indiscriminately. It is unknown whether this is going to be a national development or not, but the option is left open to individual states if they deem it appropriate. Regardless, this still sparks debate about whether there should even be gun-free zones because it restricts access to guns for citizens. With more restrictions, it will take longer for both a prospective gun owner to get authorization to handle a gun and the police to issue gun permits. Ironically, the extra time could arguably be restrictive anyway, begging the question: Why are there going to be more restrictive measures that ultimately achieve the same result? There is certainly more rigor in the vetting process, sure, but to what extent does it change the process for issuing permits? The Supreme Court decision was intended to make it more accessible for citizens to carry weapons in public, but they may have found another means to prevent owners from getting a gun. The current decisions seem to only perpetuate this argument rather than come against some satisfying solution.
Both a restrictive view and relaxed view towards gun law seem inadequate. Trusting the government alone will not bring change fast enough to save lives in the near future but trusting in ourselves alone opens the door for liability and violence. Instead of viewing government and citizenry as two separate beasts, they need to collectively take responsibility and stop pointing fingers. This means to also spread the issue among multiple solutions, not just a three part approach. Like how a wise investor will diversify their income sources among both short-term and long-term investments, reform activists should dedicate time to looking at long-term and short-term changes.
For those looking into trying to alleviate violence from guns, investigate supporting local communities’ health centers, childcares and other local facilities. By tackling smaller issues within the community in tandem with larger scale advocacy, change can be achieved on both a short-term and long-term basis.