Subject Material

Guns and Democracy – Text in Brief

Published: 06.01.2011, Updated: 23.07.2013

Many Europeans cannot understand why the Americans don't change their weapon laws when so many people are killed by hand guns every day. Why don't they see this connection and limit the easy access to guns?

The Constitution

Broken Gun - UN BuildingBroken Gun - UN Building

Guns and Democracy


"We, the people" are the first words of the American Constitution. These three words are what makes America the land of democracy. The strong belief in the individual rights of the people is how the country was built. It is the country  called "the land of the free and home of the brave". The role of the government is to make sure that the rights of the people are guaranteed.

  1. What is a Constitution?
  2. Why are individual rights so important to people?
  3. What is the role of the government?
Suggested solution
  1. A system of laws and rules which states people's rights and duties.
  2. People want to be free to live in their own way.
  3. The government protects the people's rights.



The 2nd Amendment

When the Americans fought against the English in the Revolution, they had no organized army. The people fought by resistance and sabotage and needed weapons to defend themselves. Therefore, the individual right to carry arms became an important principle. In 1791 it was added into the Constitution as the 2nd Amendment. It reads: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right for the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Throughout history, this constitutional right has been both criticized and defended.

  1. What do the words "resistance" and "sabotage" mean?
  2. What is an "amendment"?
  3. Why was the right to carry arms added to the Constitution?


Suggested solution
  1. "resistance" = the fight against something or someone (motstand), "sabotage" = planned destruction or damage (sabotasje)
  2. A new section of text that is added to a law.
  3. During the American Revolution, people needed arms (guns etc.) to defend themselves.



The Situation Today

Today, this issue is still being debated in the USA, but the focus is more on stricter control of the sale of hand guns rather than banning them completely. Americans believe in the right to protect oneself. One of the biggest supporters is the NRA (National Rifle Association). They claim that "Guns don't kill, people do", and they point out that more people are killed in car accidents than by firearms.

  1. What is the main issue being debated today?
  2. What does it mean "to ban" weapons?
  3. The NRA argues that people kill, not guns. What other arguements do you think the NRA uses to support the right to own a gun?


Suggested solution
  1. Stricter control of hand guns.
  2. "To ban" something means that it must not be done or used.
  3. More people are killed in for example car accidents. People need guns to protect themselves and their property. Etc.



Handguns and Gun Laws

More and more people are killed by handguns in the USA and many of the victims have no connection to their killer. Statistics show that every other hour an American child is killed by a handgun. Are guns falling into the wrong hands? Gun laws in the United States vary from state to state. Most set an age limit, require identification and running a check for a criminal record. The bigger problem is the illegal market. As long as this exists, nearly anyone can get hold of a gun.

  1. What are some of the facts about handgun killings mentioned in this paragraph?
  2. According to most state gun laws, what information must be obtained before someone can own a gun?
  3. What is an "illegal market" and who do you think runs this?


Suggested solution
  1. More and more people are killed; many of the victims do not know their killer; an American child is killed every other hour.
  2. Age; identification; a check for a criminal record
  3. "Illegal" means not allowed by law. It may be run by criminals.



Who is to Blame?

So, who is responsible for all these tragedies? Can we blame the politicians who the people have elected to secure the rights of the people? Can we blame the forefathers for writing the 2nd Amendment? Can we blame society, the individual, the parents, the NRA, or the media? The list goes on and the question remains unanswered. As long as the US remains a democracy and the words "freedom and rights" remain at the heart of most Americans, the right to bear arms will probably remain.

  1. Who are some of the people we could blame?
  2. Do you think Americans will change their weapon law and why or why not?


Suggested solution
  1. Politicians; the forefathers who wrote the 2nd Amendment; society; parents; the NRA; the media; individuals
  2. Americans strongly believe in freedom and individual rights so it will be difficult for them to change the weapon law.




This text is an easy version of Guns and Democracy 



Tasks and Activities


Guns and Democracy,Vocabulary - Drag and Drop 



What are, in your opinion, the main causes of crime? Is society to blame, the individual  or is it a mix of both? Perhaps there are others who are to blame? Have a class debate and finish off with a class poll.


Related content