The right tobear handguns

Each year, handguns are involved in more than half of this country’s murders.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court struck down a law in the District of Columbia that banned handguns inside of homes. Immediately after the ruling, Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty criticized the decision, calling it a major setback to reducing violent crime in the district. The National Rifle Association, however, applauded the decision as a “significant victory for individual Second Amendment rights.”

This series of events represents a unique political battle our country faces. Even though handguns are involved in thousands of deaths each year, any effort to control these weapons is met with intense legal and social opposition. Most opponents to strict handgun control assert broad Second Amendment rights. Others support handguns because they think the weapons ensure one’s personal safety or the safety of one’s family.

These are fair arguments to make, but we must compare them to the social costs our country pays for handguns.The Second Amendment protects our right to bear arms, but it is unwise to approach an issue in terms of absolutes, without any regard to their context. According to FBI statistics, each year handguns are involved in more than 7,000 murders in this country. In 2005 alone, handguns were used in 75 percent of those murders. The number of people killed by rifles and shotguns? Less than 10 percent.

Certainly, thousands of handgun owners use their weapons responsibly. But what about those who don’t? Is personal liberty more important than the number of lives lost each year? We hear reports of handgun buybacks that take place in the poorest sections of our nation’s cities, where murder rates tower above the national average. How can we ignore what’s happening and hide behind abstractions?

Among industrialized nations, the United States is one of the only countries to place personal liberty above public safety. Our murder rate skyrockets because of it. Eventually we must decide: What is more important?