With some high profile shootings in the United States in the last few months, the topic of gun control has come up in the news and various social circles I'm in. Like many topics in politics, it is classically reduced to an overly-simplified issue with those in favor of having guns on one side and those wishing to increasingly ban guns on the other side. What tends to be overlooked are the reasons why guns are protected in the first place. Why does the Second Amendment protect the right to bear arms? What purpose does it serve?
In truth, the only reason for the ratification of the 2nd amendment is one of self-defense (which in a sense is also just a form of offense, but we won't go there). Whether fighting off a home intruder, an invading power, or a tyrannical government, there is no other reason I can think of which makes sense. In particular, it is well-established that the the framers of the constitution were well aware of the possibility of the central government becoming too strong and ultimately oppressive, and indeed this concern likely forms the basis of 1st Amendment as well (protection of speech).
At the Virginia ratification convention on June 5, 1788, Patrick Henry eloquently echoed this concern:
Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.Patrick Henry
Unfortunately, we have largely failed with regard to the thrust of second amendment because even though we still have the right to bear arms, they are heavily restricted and if the United States government wanted to oppress its citizens with it's massive and well-equipped military, it would easily be able to do so. Fortunately, the military is made up of our own citizens, so that's unlikely as long as they continue make up the bulk of our fighting force. But as AI and automation takes an increasingly larger role in combat and fewer people are needed to manage vast armies, the risk of tyranny increases.
For this reason, it is increasingly important that we have the means to keep our government in check, which is why it concerns me when otherwise reasonable citizens call for the complete ban of guns in the US. How naive are they to think that our government is 100% under the control of people who have only the best interests of the people at heart? People are naturally (by default) very selfish, at least for their family if not only themselves, and many people never break free of that state. When such individuals rise to power, it's never great news for the rest of us. Some people argue that even if you banned guns that would only prevent responsible law-abiding citizens from owning weapons — it wouldn't necessarily prevent potential criminals from obtaining weapons. This is probably true, but in my mind still a far less critical reason as to why the citizenry needs access to weapons. What's more important to you: preventing a few dozen/hundred/thousand murders per year, or preventing the total oppression and subjugation of everyone in your country?
A More Rational Approach
My stance on gun/weapon policy is simple: Create a well-designed system of ranks that people could earn after certification which would allow them to purchase virtually any weapon. Scuba diving essentially works this way — dive shops will only let you dive certain places only after you've completed the requisite training. I don't see why guns couldn't work the same way. The problem is that today many states allow you to purchase guns even without a background check (see gun show loophole), and this is just bad all around and perhaps one of the main reasons why so many guns are in the hands of people who shouldn't have them.
In contrast, in my proposed system even the first level of certification would have an extensive background check, require a session with a criminal psychologist, and require that safety training be obtained through reputable training agencies. If all these things were passed successfully (and indeed most reasonable people should face no issues with this), you could earn the right to earn own a basic firearm such as a pistol and generic ammunition in your home. If you wanted to be able to carry a concealed weapon, you'd have to take a separate safety/training course on that. Additionally, if you wanted to get more advanced weapons, you'd have to get training for those types of weapons and undergo some additional psychological screening. But in my opinion, there should be no limit to what types of weapons or ammo a responsible citizen should be able to acquire as long as they are trained on their safe operation and vetted to be psychologically stable and not a threat to society. I see no reason why the most respected, responsible citizens shouldn't be allowed to own assault rifles, grenade launchers — even tanks and fighter jets! This is again assuming they are also trained to use them safely. The 2nd amendment is an important protection against a government that has lost its way (and frighteningly, it seems like we might be on our way there), so we should not be putting restrictions on weapons, but rather making sure that the weapons we do have are in the right hands.
To be sure, we wouldn't need the Second Amendment if our government was perfect and always under the control of the citizenry, but history (especially recent history) makes it clear that it is not. It worries me (and it should worry you, too) when people voluntarily want to give up their right to bear arms; in today's environment, it's akin to willingly voting in a tyrannical dictator to rule your country. It's a sad day indeed when the importance of the second amendment is lost on those it seeks to protect.