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Gun Control Essay, Research Paper

June 8, 2001

Gun control is a very controversial issue among society at this present time. Gun control is an issue that has been debated by Americans since the 1960 s (Dolan 1). The debate questions the right of Americans to bear arms, this including, handguns, shotguns, and rifles. There is a spectrum of gun control, ranging from licensing laws to the total banning of all guns. Why has gun control become such a controversial issue? For one, these arms, proven by statistics, provide the result of 30 million murders, suicides, and accidental deaths each year (Dolan 1). Then on the other hand, there is the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which 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 . This amendment is continuously brought up during this debate, especially since polls show that up to 80% of the public believe citizens have a constitutional right to own guns. Two sides have developed from this serious issue; there are the gun control supporters and the anti-gun control supporters. Both sides hold strong opinions often causing conflict in the matter and confusion among the citizens of the United States.

Gun control supporters vary in their opinions for control. Some just want the ability for a person to acquire a gun much more difficult, others believe ownership of handguns should be banned only in areas known to have exceptionally high crime rates, and some who hope for the banning of handguns everywhere in our nation (Dolan 37, 38). In the end what seems to be one of their main arguments is that the Second Amendment only provides for a military, and that the right to keep and bear arms is referring to military members only. Also, many of the gun control supporters feel that the Second Amendment is outdated. Due to it being written right after America had just broken away from Great Britain. They feel that it was written so that if a tyrannical government emerged in America, Americans would have a way of fighting back. These Americans still had Great Britain s past oppression on their minds, and did not want America to resemble the tyrannical aspects of Britain. In addition to this feeling, guns were primarily used as hunting devices, and not to murder.

Another argument is that the Second Amendment does not prohibit national and state governments from passing laws that regulate or even ban the selling of certain guns. Which helps point out that it is possible for there to be laws such as the Omnibus bill, which bans so-called assault weapons , and the Brady Bill that imposes a mandatory five-day waiting period on the sale of handguns. There has been banning of certain types of guns in many States lately. Even though pro-controlists feel that these regulations have been great progress, they still emphasize the prosecution of gun crimes. Sarah Brady, Chair of Handgun Control, states that there is still a gun show loophole that allows felons to buy guns without undergoing a background check. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) still does not have enough staff to adequately inspect and investigate potential violations of the Brady Law and other federal gun laws. And tracing crime guns is much longer and arduous process than it should be because the ATF is forbidden from computerizing some of its records. Brady along with many other people feel that there is a long way to go to reduce violent crime that is gun related.

Listed below are just a few news headlines that were posted on May 30, 2001. They are all gun related:

 Woman arrested after daughter found shot in head (FL)

 One officer dead, another critical in shootout (TX)

 Gunmen flees after killing 1, hurting 2 (OH)

 Husband arrested after mother of 3 shot dead outside of Ft. Lauderdale nursery (FL)

 Police arrest boy, 13, on gun threat (NY)

 Uninvited teens fatally shoot McKinney man (TX)

In addition, here are some negative aspects of firearm ownership. Every 20 minutes someone in the United States dies by a gun as a result of murders, accidents, or suicides (Hawkes 5). Also, the U.S. has one of the highest death rates in the world due to guns, and that an American teenager is more likely to die from a gunshot wound than from natural causes. Sarah Brady, Chair of Handgun Control, also stated the above statistics. The gun controlists feel that this should be all the information needed for people to side with their beliefs. In regards to that, the question that should be asked to the NRA is why not give gun control a chance?

As for the anti-gun controlists they seem to hold two basic beliefs. First, they defend themselves with the Second Amendment, saying that laws banning firearms will violate their rights (Dolan 39). They feel that there are various laws and regulations that have been passed over the years that already infringe upon this right. Adding to that the amendment also states that it is the right of the people to keep and bear arms. But is the people referring to only the military or to all citizens in general (this is what is asked by the anti-controlists)? The court decided that the people protected by the Fourth Amendment, and by the First and Second Amendments, and to whom rights and powers are reserved in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, refers to a class of persons who are part of a national community. The right to keep and bear arms is not exclusive to the military, but applies to all United States citizens. Another point that they try to express is that the amendment states that the right to keep guns shall not be infringed. Which would mean that these laws and regulations are somewhat unconstitutional especially since there are already many states (California, Maryland, New York, Connecticut ) that have banned certain types of guns, including assault weapons and handguns. These types of laws not only restrict firearm ownership to law-abiding citizens, but make it hard or even impossible for these citizens to access certain types of weapons. And as I state above, any restriction on the right for citizens to possess firearms would be unconstitutional.

Secondly, they believe the banning of guns will do nothing to reduce crime and violence. Supporting this with their opinion that criminals will not turn in their firearms if they are banned and that the innocent will be left defenseless (Dolan 39). Since criminals can get guns no matter what bans or restrictions are in effect, such regulations will only affect the number of self-defense cases. As an anti-gun control slogan states, if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns (Bernards 54). This is true, stating that if the circulation of firearms was limited to only officials, meaning that private citizens would not have guns, then only criminals would have firearms (illegally of course) and the public could not defend themselves. Most of the criminals who commit violent crimes with guns did not obtain their guns legally. Toughening up gun control laws is not going to reduce crime

The only policy that effectively reduces public shootings is right-to-carry laws. Which allows citizens to carry concealed handguns. In the 31 states that have passed right-to-carry laws since the mid-1980s, the number of multiple-victim public shootings and other violent crimes has dropped dramatically. Murders fell by 7.65%, rapes by 5.2%, aggravated assaults by 7% and robberies by 3%. On the average, murder rates in states without concealed-carry laws are 127% higher than in states having the broadcast carry laws. It appears that if criminals feel threatened, because their victims may have a gun, they are less likely to attack people. Thomas Jefferson predicted these same results when he said, Laws that forbid the carrying of arms disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed one. Putting guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens reduces crime. Guns are the safest and most effective means of resisting violent criminal attack. Even those who do not own a gun are safer because the criminal fears that his next victim might have the power to defend himself. As David E. Newton shows, between the years of 1937 and 1963, gun ownership in the United States increased by 250 percent. In that same period, the number of homicides decreased by 35. 7 percent (Newton 40).

When was the last time you saw a news story about someone successfully using a gun in self-defense? Television redundantly reports on guns used to kill, but censors out the many incidents of successful defensive use of guns to disarm criminals and protect law-abiding citizens from becoming victims. The media should try to look at the stories from both sides, instead of using trickery and antics to try and fool the public. For instance, in one case a boy from Mississippi was going from classroom to classroom shooting students. When the assistant principal remembered that he had a gun in his car he ran out and put a chamber in it, only to see the shooter run to his own car. The boy started to spin out in his car trying to leave the scene so the assistant principal pointed his gun at the boy and told him to get out of the car. He was then restrained until the police arrived on the scene. Out of the ABC, CBS, and CNN news programs none of them even mentioned the assistant principal s heroics. Only the local paper and one of the local news programs recognized this. Everyone was led to believe that a gun was used in a school shooting, but failed to mention that a gun was also used to stop the boy from fleeing. Guns are used to save lives almost five times as often as to commit crimes. Guns are used 1,000,000 times a year to commit crimes, but 2,500,000 to 3,500,000 times a year in self-defense to prevent deaths, rapes, assaults and other serious injuries.

Gun control activists say that waiting periods will reduce the number of criminals who obtain firearms, but the NRA says that waiting periods are ineffective. Even if a background check were to take place during the waiting period, and the criminal was denied the sale of a gun, a weapon could easily be obtained elsewhere: stolen, bought illegally, or another weapon could be used. The point is that a criminal with the premeditation to act out a crime is going to do so, whether a waiting period is present or not. Gun control isn t the answer; instead we should concentrate on training and controlling the people who are using these firearms. A quote from Charlton Heston, president of the NRA, We teach our children not to play with a hot stove, to look both ways before crossing the street and to avoid the dangers of drugs and other harmful substances. And we should certainly teach our young children how to avoid tragic accidents with firearms.

In the beginning, before all my research, I probably would have said that I was in favor of gun control. But after combining both sides of information, I feel that not having gun control could be more beneficial to our society. I feel that there needs to be a great deal of research and thought put into these laws so that they can affect our society in a positive way.

These laws assume that all people are law abiding, responsible, and well intended; we know this is not the case or there would not be a gun debate. Since the above does not hold true we have markets that will work against gun control, called Black Markets . Gun control works for the normal market, where there is a series of checks and balances to keep guns out of the hands of known criminals and people with mental disorders through background checks and waiting periods. What do the people do that are not allowed to buy a gun because of their background? Do they say, Okay, I guess I don t need one ? This is usually not the case; there are some, not all, that turn to the Black Market . The stronger the laws are restricting gun ownership in our Normal Market the more demand for Black Market guns will grow. This market shift was seen during the probation of alcohol and the resulting Black Markets for production and distribution of the contraband.

The reasons for these laws are to get the guns that cause crime and injuries off the streets. But most of these laws have only prevented the common citizen from carrying a firearm. There should be some regulation with regard to who can own a gun, but we need to ensure that this regulation is done in a fair and practical manner. Many people feel that if limitations are placed on guns, they will only stop the average American from obtaining a gun. The real criminals out there will still be able to obtain guns through the black market. Every American should have the right to protect them self. Especially because gun control laws allow the criminal to KNOW that their victims are not armed and allows them to dominate a hostile transaction .

These laws could definitely hurt everyone in the long run; gun owner or not gun owner. To help back this up, I found some information, which really had an impact on me. Two hundred and eighty-seven scholars from major universities (Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, etc.) released an open letter to Congress on June 16, 1999 stating that proposed new gun laws are ill-advised: Good intentions don t necessarily make good laws. What counts is whether the laws will ultimately save lives, prevent injury, and reduce crime. Passing laws based upon their supposed benefits while ignoring their costs poses a real threat to people s lives and safety.

Bibliography

Bernards, Neal. Gun Control. San Diego: Lucent Books, Inc, 1991.

Dolan, Edward, F., Jr. Gun Control: A Decision for Americans. New York/ London/

Toronto/Sydney: Franklin Watts, 1982.

Hawkes, Nigel. Gun Control. New York: Gloucester Press, 1988.

Kim, Henny H. Guns and Violence. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1999.

Kruschke, Earl R. Gun Control. Santa Barbara, CA: ABS-CLIO, Inc., 1995.

Lott, John Jr. More Guns, Less Crime (2nd edition, 2000).

Newton, David E. Gun Control: An Issue for the Nineties. Hillside: Enslow Publishers, 1992.

Squyres, Suzanne. Gun Control Restricting Rights or Protecting People?. Wylie, Texas:

Information Plus, 1997.


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