Keeping a rifle or pistol safe is perhaps an obvious commonsense obligation of anyone who chooses to own a gun. And while the Second Amendment of the US Constitution provides a statutory basis for gun ownership in America, it does not outline how those guns are to be kept. The right to keep and bear arms is a controversial topic that sparks lively debates in homes and public forums around the country. Is the meaning of the Second Amendment properly interpreted to be that individuals are guaranteed the right to possess and carry a wide variety of firearms? Or, was the Amendment meant only to guarantee States the right to operate militias?
There is a long history of legal interpretation on these questions, which I won't go into here. Interpreting the Founder's intentions is not my purpose. Just let me say that I am content to abide by the US Supreme Court's 2008 decision, in District of Columbia vs. Heller, which struck down a Washington, D.C. ban on individuals having handguns in their homes. Justice Scalia found the right to bear arms to be an individual right consistent with the overriding purpose of the Second Amendment, to maintain strong state militias. It would have been nice if the Court had announced some sort of standard of review to apply in future challenges to gun regulations, but at least it did say that its decision should not be seen as casting doubt on laws restricting gun ownership of the mentally ill or of felons.
The concern of those who oppose gun ownership is not entirely unfounded. Guns in the hands of people who intend to do harm, or are irresponsible, is an obvious problem. However, in countries like Australia, where gun ownership by individuals has been restricted or even taken away, statistics show an increase in violent gun crimes. This may seem counterintuitive to some people, so it is something to think about. A system of authorized gun ownership, and whether one keeps their pistol safe or not, does not seem to deter those with evil intent, or are too stupid to properly secure their weapons.
While it appears now that it is highly unlikely that the right to own and bear arms will ever be taken away from the US citizenry, it seems like the next best thing those in opposition can hope for is educating people about more responsible gun ownership. If guns can be owned by individuals, then there should be no logical opposition to educational efforts that teach gun owners to keep their rifle, shotgun or pistol safe. As in many areas, education can be the path to a tolerable situation that everyone can live with.
Some closing thoughts: If you own a weapon, then learn to use it properly. Consider taking a class, and learn how to use your guns the way you should. If you have rifles or other long guns, put them under lock and key. If you own a handgun then get a pistol safe. There are lock boxes, biometric safes, and other technologies that make securing your guns safe and still easily accessible. It's great to exercise your right to own a gun, especially if you do so in a safe and responsible way.
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