Should you be able to own any weapons you want?

The right to bear arms is part of our Constitution. Delve deeper into the second amendment with youth by asking questions and engaging in conversation.

Should the government have the authority to regulate weapons? Extreme ends of this question might be “Anyone can use any kind of weapon they want” compared to “No one can own any weapon at all.” Are you at one end or the other of this spectrum, or are you somewhere in between? Why do you stand where you do?

The following questions are meant to have a good discussion with youth about government authority. This activity can be done within a family, as part of school activities, a 4-H club or with any group working with young people. Have a robust dialogue about these issues, and encourage young people to find data to back up their opinions. During the discussion, try to limit interjecting your own opinions and let the youth discuss it among themselves.

The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

What do you think this means? Some groups focus on one-half and neglect the other half of this statement, either the “well-regulated” or the “shall not be infringed.” Why might groups focus on only one part of this statement?

Why do you think this statement is part of our Constitution? Was it for hunting? Self-defense? To protect against a tyrannical government?

Should we have any regulations at all regarding weapons, or should we trust citizens to make good decisions with weapons without regulation? Why do you think the regulations we currently have were written into law?

Should there be any limits to what weapons an individual can own? Should a private citizen be able to own a bazooka? A tank? Should they be able to put landmines around their house? Why or why not? How do you decide what should be allowed and what should not?

Should any person be able to own a weapon? Should there be restrictions based on age? Criminal history? Mental health? Should a background check be required before owning a weapon? Should training be required? Why or why not?

Should weapons be registered? Could it potentially benefit emergency responders to know who owns weapons? Is that benefit worth the tradeoff in an individual’s privacy?

If the argument for weapon regulation is public safety, how do you decide what is safe and what is not? A fork can be used as a weapon at a dinner table, but rarely do individuals remove them for that reason. How much risk is acceptable? Do you look at the number of deaths?

Do restrictions on gun ownership make people safer? How do you determine that? Do countries or states with higher rates of gun ownership have higher rates of gun deaths? (Note: When you research this information, make sure to verify sources and be skeptical. There is a great deal of misinformation on this issue.) When you look at those numbers of gun deaths, do you look at just homicides or do you look at suicides as well?

Are certain types of weapons responsible for more deaths than others? Is that relevant when you discuss public safety? Some legislation focuses on “assault rifles”; what does that term mean?

Hopefully, these questions will get some good discussion going about personal rights. If you have some great ideas, share them with your local county, city or township, or your state or federal legislators.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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