Bilinovich: The enduring myths of the Second Amendment and their dangers

Beau Bilinovich, Development Editor

One month after the shooting at Oxford High School, which left four students dead and seven injured, the superintendent released a message to the community detailing solutions to make the district safer. One stood out in particular: clear backpacks.

Four students were killed in a shooting, which not only physically impacted the community but also caused grave emotional trauma. And apparently, clear backpacks are supposed to make kids feel safer. Who could have known after the shooting at Columbine High School that more than 20 years later, tragedies like this would become another feature of American society? That it would become just another item on the list of reasons why America stands out from the rest of the world?

Of course, the school district is only using the options available to prevent another shooting from happening. The government won’t do anything—it’s much better for the school district to take matters into their own hands.

But clear backpacks are not a true solution, nor is entrusting police officers to protect students. The Parkland shooting showed that all it takes for a shooter to roam free is one police officer who cowers from his duties.

Thus, we must admit that the only effective solution to reduce gun violence drastically is gun control. All other solutions that do not target the source of the problem are trivial.

A cacophony of counterarguments and myths immediately follows whenever one makes such a bold statement. Many can easily be countered with a bit of research.

The most persistent myth is that any and all gun control is unconstitutional—that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Looking at constitutional and Supreme Court precedent, it becomes obvious that this is not even close to true. For one, even the other freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights are not unlimited: obscenity and speech that incites lawless action are not protected by the First Amendment, despite its stated commitment to “freedom of speech.” Two, the Supreme Court decreed in District of Columbia v. Heller, a case which expanded gun rights, that the Second Amendment right “is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

Sure, some regulations are unconstitutional, but that does not mean that there isn’t anything that we can do to curtail rates of gun violence in the United States. With the help of gun control bills enacted at a state and federal level, we can ensure that Americans remain safe and secure without the threat of another mass shooting.

Even though that fact is made clear by looking at what the Supreme Court has actually said over the years, it still isn’t enough to convince Congress to do what it ought to be doing. 

Let’s next look at the myth surrounding guns and safety. First, we need to clarify that a good guy with a gun does not always stop a bad guy with a gun. In fact, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows that more guns in circulation lead to more gun deaths, including both homicides and suicides. In Alaska, where nearly 65% of residents own a firearm—higher than any other state—there are 20 gun deaths per 100,000 residents, which is the highest rate in the country.

In addition, there isn’t always a good guy with a gun. Sometimes, guns are in the wrong hands, and that is where we see deadly consequences. For example, a study from 2019 found that the presence of firearms in a household can increase the risk of domestic homicide.

Increased gun ownership does not mean that people will feel safe. In fact, research suggests the opposite.

However, what would gun control do to prevent this from happening? Is it actually effective?

Answering that question is not easy, especially since the CDC was blocked for more than two decades from studying gun violence. However, research from other organizations and from other countries suggests some positive benefits to gun control.

For example, a study from the RAND Corporation analyzing the effects of the 1996 ban on guns in Australia found that the ban was linked to a reduction in gun deaths. Only 12 mass shootings had occurred in the 23 years since it first took effect, marking a drastic decrease.

Gun control is also linked with a decrease in suicides. A National Institutes of Health study discovered that states with tighter gun control laws are less likely to have high suicide rates. Considering that the majority of gun deaths are suicides, this research is striking. Implementing gun control will go a long way in making America safer.

But Congress has not yet passed any meaningful legislation to reduce gun violence. Long-running representatives and senators would rather listen to the demands of corporate gun lobbyists instead of the constituents they are supposed to serve.

We cannot let this continue any longer. We cannot keep inventing absurd solutions such as clear backpacks or arming teachers. We need real solutions. If we truly want to make America safer, then the time is now to pass gun control legislation. That is how we achieve real change.