Debate Magazine

Guns in the Public Sphere: The Balance Between Self-Defense and Public Safety

Posted on the 14 November 2013 by Mikeb302000
One of the most important factors to consider when debating the right to carry weapons outside the home is public safety. A recent study by the American Medical Association has concluded that there is a strong correlation between the strength of a state's gun legislation and the number of firearm-related fatalities. There are conflicting reports claiming that allowing concealed-carry of weapons actually leads to a decrease in crime and that more gun laws do not lead to a reduction in gun crimes. However, these studies [PDF] only focus on the rate of crime and fail to consider that while the prevalence of guns in public may not increase crime, it does intensify the crimes that occur. Furthermore, there are studies [PDF] indicating that carrying guns in public is not an effective form of self-defense. While there is a strong argument for restricting guns in public, any limitations must be balanced with the right of self-defense. The fundamental policy aim behind the Second Amendment is the inherent right of self-defense. This right cannot be fully realized if there is a categorical ban on the possession of guns in public. The court in Wollard stated that in order to effectively secure the rights of self-defense, the Second Amendment's protection must be extended beyond the home. This same notion was articulated by the court inMoore, which stated, "[T]o confine the right to be armed to the home is to divorce the Second Amendment from the right of self-defense." Given the need for a balanced approach, a complete ban on gun possession in public would infringe on the citizen's Second Amendment rights whereas an absolute right to carry guns in public would jeopardize public safety. Instead, states like New York and Maryland have appropriate statutory schemes that limit public possession of guns to individuals who demonstrate a "proper cause" for carrying a gun in public. These statutes require "a showing of the need for self-defense distinguishable from the greater community." An individual must demonstrate a special need for self-defense based on an objective threat to her safety. The reason such a statutory scheme provides the perfect balance is because it preserves the right of self-defense to those individuals who show a need while protecting the public by limiting the number of concealed carry permits that are issued.

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