It’s been nearly three months since President Obama teared up at a press conference held after the massacre at Newtown. It’s been nearly three months since the brutal killing of 20 schoolchildren that was supposed to revive the debate surrounding gun regulation. It’s been nearly three months, and absolutely nothing has been done to prevent this from happening again — and trust me, it will.
Instead, what we have gotten are the typical red herring arguments that this is not about guns, but rather about “Halo” and Quentin Tarantino movies. Instead of talking about data and reality, we have been drowning in a series of disturbing inaccuracies that only put in place a barrier in the way of sensible reforms. Here are the top three misconceptions regarding guns:
1. The Second Amendment was written to protect against the tyranny of the government.
As Alex Jones pointed out during his fiery debate with Piers Morgan, Hitler and Stalin took away people’s guns — and look what they were able to do. If only the Germans were able to rise up against the Nazis with their guns, the argument goes, perhaps the Holocaust could have been prevented.
There is, of course, a noticeable distinction: Hitler and Stalin were dictators. In a civilized democracy, the whole objective is that your leaders exist because you chose them. You wouldn’t elect people who want to kill you or need to be tamed with your guns. And anyway, good luck banding together your buddies in Texas to take down the U.S. military.
That said, it is true that the Second Amendment did have a purpose. As Jill Lepore pointed out in her widely quoted New Yorker piece, “One Nation Under the Gun,” the Second Amendment was written principally because, at the time of our founding, we had no standing army. As a matter of practicality, we needed people to call on should there arise a need to fight, say, the Native Americans. Now, with the most bloated military in the world, it’s just unnecessary.
2. Guns are a reasonable means of self-defense.
This one is perhaps the worst, because even the most vocal advocates of gun regulation seem to believe it. As Joe Biden said in a recent interview, if you want self-defense, you don’t need an assault rifle. Instead, “just buy a shotgun.”
In reality, study after study shows that a gun in the home puts the owner at more of a risk. One such study reveals that gun owners are nearly three times as likely to be the victim of murder than non-gun owners. Other evidence shows that the likelihood of a homeowner shooting down an intruder is extremely low. The facts are in, and guns by no means protect anyone.
3. The right to individual ownership of a gun is an established Constitutional principle.
At the National Rifle Association’s D.C. headquarters, there is a banner reading, “The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms Shall Not Be Infringed.” It’s amazing the NRA can get away with unilaterally amending the Constitution, which precedes those words with, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.”
But, the NRA is not alone. Even President Obama consistently states that he is a “supporter of the Second Amendment” and supports the individual right to firearms. Almost everyone in Washington believes that in order to remain consistent with the Constitution, one needs to support this inaccurate reading of the Second Amendment.
Actually, the individual right to a firearm is a completely brand new idea. It was first pushed forward by organizations such as the NRA starting around 30 years ago and was only legitimized less than five years ago in the 5-4 Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller. Never before had anyone even asked the question of whether or not the Second Amendment deals with the individual right to bear arms because, after all, there used to be a time when facts mattered.