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Nicholas Galatis:
2013 Winner
CCC Queensview Inc.

Nicholas Galatis

Winning Essay

Most Americans, when asked what the second amendment is, will say, “The right to bear arms.” This, however, is not completely true. The actual wording of the amendment is, “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.” The meaning of this amendment is much different than the simple right to “bear arms.” In fact, the second amendment serves no purpose in our modern society.

I believe that the intention of the Founders was to allow people to protect themselves from possible dangers. To truly understand the need for this protection, we must travel back in time to when our great nation first became a nation. When the United States of America was created, the governing document was the Articles of Confederation, but it soon failed and the government needed to be reformed. Thus in 1789 the Constitution was passed along with a Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments) was ratified because Anti-Federalists thought that the Constitution took too much power away from the states and gave the federal government too much. The states feared tyranny more than anything and worried that if the federal government was given too much power it would be a repetition of the oppressive rule of King George III. So, as a means to appease the Anti-Federalists and to make them ratify the Constitution, the Bill of Rights was added. There were also foreign dangers that threatened the citizens of the United States; some of these included invasions from European powers to the West, Native Americans, and rebellions. At the time the United States was not a giant 50 state large world super-power, it was a new, small, vulnerable country that was about as old as a teenager. Because there were no highways, no cars, no planes, no phones, no computers, no internet, and the roads were not properly paved; it would have taken several days to simply get the message to the capital, and then a week more to send in troops from the newly established army. There was no police force to call if a crime occurred; instead the citizens had to create their own army (the militia) and fight until reinforcements from the federal government arrived, and that’s why they needed to arm themselves.

These circumstances no longer exist in our world. Today, we can call the police if something goes wrong. If we are invaded, the federal government will know instantly. There is no longer a need for a state organized militia and therefore there is no longer a need for the Second Amendment. Instead, new national legislation should be made that addresses the issue of gun control.

The most difficult part of the gun control debate is the fact that there is no simple solution; there are complications with every idea proposed. My personal belief on gun control is that the federal government should give every qualified citizen the choice of arming him or herself. Qualification for owning a gun would be based on mental health, background checks and a clean criminal record, anyone that does not meet the necessary requirements will not be allowed to receive a gun. These guns would all be registered with the federal government. Of course it’s easy to say that no one should have guns except the police and guards, and in theory that would be the perfect answer to gun control issues. However, we don’t live in a perfect world where the word of the law is absolute; there is an insane amount of corruption in our society and there is not much we can do about it. We can try to put an illegal gun solicitor in jail but there will always be someone waiting to take his customers, it’s a never ending cycle. This law would just take guns away from the good, lawful people of the United States, leaving them powerless to the evil people who buy guns illegally and use them for disgusting acts of destruction. Some may say that giving everyone a gun is a death sentence for the nation, but I would like to bring Switzerland’s gun control laws to the attention of these accusers. In Switzerland almost every man is required by law to own a gun because there is no standing army, instead there is a people’s militia. There are an estimated 3,400,000 guns owned by citizens in Switzerland. This being said, in 2010 there were only a total of 40 gun related homicides in Switzerland as opposed to the 11,078 in the United States*. The social structure of Switzerland must also be taken into account, there is no poverty and therefore very little crime. The people there are also raised with a completely different culture than that of the United States’. It would be very difficult to try to recreate their gun system in the United States.

There is also a psychological aspect of arming everyone; someone would be less willing to pull out a gun on someone who has a gun. Criminals pick on the weak, but if we could eliminate that weakness, then these criminals would have no victims. Now, there is a very big difference between a gun that is used for self-defense and a gun that was made to kill.

Should there be a limit to the killing potential of these weapons given to the public? Of course. A rocket launcher is not a weapon of self-defense, it’s a weapon of destruction, the same goes for machine guns and assault rifles. There should be a standard handgun that would be available to people and nothing more. Although I believe that this is the path that we, as a nation, should take, I agree that it’s not very practical and has very high chance for abuse. Instead we must look to reform our mental health policy, because when it comes down to it, guns don’t aim themselves; humans are the ones that pull the trigger. This being said, I believe that we should drastically change our methods of detection for mental disorders. Background checks should be a lot more intrusive and specific when considering someone for the ability to have a gun. Most of the recent shooters have had mental disorders, which goes to show that mental disorders are no joke. Screenings for mental disorders should start becoming a part of the routine physical check-up when people go to the doctor. These screenings should also be covered by insurance companies, and this rule should be enforced by the federal government. Mental disorders are just as, if not more serious than physical diseases.

There is no one solution to the subject and as long as guns exist, so will debates on the right to bear them. However, we can start moving in the right direction one step at a time. To do so we must address the cultural, legal and mental health related aspects of the issue. I hope that my children will grow up in a safe America, one where there is no gun violence.

Biography

We would like to wish Nicholas Galatis the best of luck moving on to American University. Congratulations!

Nicholas Galatis is 17 years old and was born and raised in Astoria, Queens. He has lived all his life in Queensview Coop. He enjoys the park and has loved its swings ever since he can remember. He loves poetry, music and theater and he has performed in at least three shows a year for the past five years. Some of the plays and musicals he performed in are The Music Man, Hairspray, Seven Keys to Baldpate, You Can’t Take It With You, Inherit the Wind, Thoroughly Modern Millie and West Side Story. He is a member of Creative Arts Team Youth Theater and has been for 6 years. They create and perform an original show of devised theater based on different themes, some shows include: Seeking Justice, Inside Out, The Power Game and From Time to Time.

Nicholas will graduate from The Bronx High School of Science next month. He loves American history and Social Studies in general just like Christopher. In August he will move to Washington DC as a freshman in American University where he will pursue a major in International Studies and a minor in theater. He is very proud to be a part of the Queensview community.

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