The Newtown massacre last month that resulted in 27 deaths, including those of 20 children, has once again renewed debate on gun control in the United States.
While the debate will continue, as legislators such as Democrat Dianne Feinstein promised to propose a bill to restrict the use and sale of certain assault weapons once a new Congress is convened, I believe the debate should instead focus on the right to gun ownership.
As pro-gun activists and powerful lobby groups such as the National Rifle Association continuously proclaim that the second amendment of the US Constitution guarantees the right of individuals to keep and bear arms, public opinion on gun ownership has shifted.
A Gallup poll that asked respondents whether there should be a law that bans the possession of handguns, except by police and other authorised persons, demonstrated that the public support for a complete ban had decreased from 60 per cent in 1959 to 26 per cent in 2011.
However, I believe the position of pro-gun advocates has misled the public on the right to gun ownership.
Even though the second amendment says, "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", most of the pro-gun advocates only emphasise the second clause.
The actual text clearly illustrates the right to gun ownership is to guarantee a well-regulated militia to protect a free state. It only gives the militia, not individuals, the right to keep and bear arms.
Since the US has one of the strongest democratic systems in the world, I have reason to doubt whether members of militias are still entitled to the right to gun ownership. Nonetheless, this should be the issue that the public focuses on, not just having restrictions on certain assault rifles.
Furthermore, even if some might proclaim that the United States is not a free state and is susceptible to tyranny, then for the security of a free state, should not individuals also have the right to possess rocket-launchers and missiles which are prohibited?
Therefore, the position of some pro-gun advocates is deeply flawed and hypocritical.
In conclusion, in order to prevent another shooting in the near future, the public has to first understand the rights guaranteed under the second amendment.
A more knowledgeable public will then generate a serious discussion on the role of firearms in today's society.
James Lee, Wan Chai