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Gun Control Essay, Research Paper
America?s Right to Be Armed
The debate over gun control has developed into a very complicated issue. Several different groups have suggested limiting the use of guns and others have proposed to supporting free gun use. On one side, people who use some form of gun control imply that guns are responsible for too many deaths and injuries in the United States. They propose that laws be passed to make guns more difficult or impossible for ordinary citizens to own. On the other side are those people who oppose all or nearly all forms of gun control. This paper will propose three different issues to argue against the element of gun control. First, we need to control the people who use the guns, not the guns themselves. Second, that gun ownership is a constitutional right granted by the United States Constitution. Finally, the fact in the decrease in crime.
One of the major arguments against the theory that gun control would save lives is that although two-thirds of all homicides are committed with firearms, firearm controls would have no effect on homicide, because ?human nature is what it is? (Nisbet 170). Even if guns disappeared from the crime scene, criminals would replace them with knives, clubs, axes, or even fists. Guns don?t kill people, people kill people. One statement favoring this position, made by James D. Wright, says:
Even if we were somehow able to remove all firearms from civilian possession, it is not at all clear that a substantial reduction in interpersonal violence would follow. Certainly the violence that results from hard-core and predatory criminality would not abate by very much. Even the most ardent proponents of stricter gun laws no longer expect such laws to solve the hard-core crime problem, or even to make much of a dent in it. There is also reason to doubt whether the ?soft-core? violence, the so-called crimes of passion, would decline by very much. Stated simply, these crimes occur because some people have come to hate others, and they will continue to occur in one form or another as long as hatred persists…If we could solve the problem of interpersonal hatred, it may not matter very much what we did about guns, and unless we solve the problem of interpersonal hatred, it may not matter very much what we do about guns. There are simply too many other objects in the world that can serve the purpose of inflicting harm on another human being. (Nesbit 171)
It is said that if murderers were deprived of guns, they would find a way to kill with other weapons. The basic argument for gun control is that crime would decrease, but the root causes of crime, in most cases, is that of ?interpersonal hatred,? the disliking of someone for one?s own personal reasons, which must be considered when choosing a side for or against gun control. Even the most effective gun control policy would not totally eliminate homicide; this argument could be criticized for not dealing with the concept of ?interpersonal hatred? (Nesbit 175).
Many gun-owners agree that those who are promoting gun control are misinformed. These people have probably heard myths, exploited through repetition and mistaken for the truth. One of those myths is ?the only purpose of a handgun is to kill people? (NRA 5). To contradict this statement, an estimated 75-80 million privately owned handguns are used mainly for hunting, target shooting, protection of families, and other legitimate and lawful purposes (Newton 24). Most gun owners can be found skeet shooting, deer hunting, or polishing a gun collection. However, these owners are also concerned about their family’s protection. All of those who own guns for these reasons have the support of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The NRA is composed largely of hunters, gun owners, and sports enthusiasts who stand firmly in their belief that Americans have a constitutional right to own firearms guaranteed by the Second Amendment. The NRA?s 3.5 million members, including women and non-gun owners, believe the NRA to be a bastion for ?freedom fighters? (?Gun? 37). NRA leaders plan to continue their fight to stop any and all gun control legislation in its tracks.
Anti-individual rights crowds accuse the NRA of claiming the Second Amendment guarantees guns for all persons?including criminals?and all weapons?including weapons of war. However, the NRA has supported laws to prohibit gun ownership by those convicted of violent crimes, and for decades, they have promoted and helped pass tough penalties to keep those who misuse guns in prison where they belong (LaPierre 17). With the exception of guns processed by criminals, Ex. NRA President, Joe Foss, describes his group?s convictions this way: ?I say all guns are good guns. There are no bad guns. I say the whole nation should be armed. Period? (Landau 39). When asked about the Second Amendment, the battle is ?to retake the most precious, most sacred ground on earth,? says NRA Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre, ?This is a battle for freedom? (?Fight? 29).
Another myth is that of ?The majority of Americans favor strict new additional federal gun controls? (NRA 2). Scientific polls indicate that most people oppose the costly restrictions of firearms, the distribution of power to police to decide who should or should not own guns, and the decision that they, as citizens, must rely on self-defense from criminals. More than ever, politicians are clamoring to restrict America?s constitutional right to own guns and the right to self-defense. Yet, Americans, individually, as armed citizens are the best deterrent to violent criminal attacks. Collectively, Americans, as an armed law-abiding populace are the best protection against the taking-over of America by criminals (LaPierre 28). John Adams, a member of the NRA himself, was quoted as saying, ?Arms in the hands of citizens may be used at individual discretion…in private self-defense? (NRA 27).
Professors James Wright and Peter Rossi researched a study of criminal acquisition, and found that 81 percent of 1800 criminals agreed that the ?smart criminal? will attempt to find out if a potential victim is armed. The reaction to fight back or defend oneself is instinctive of human nature (Baimbridge, par. 7); therefore, we shouldn?t need studies to show us the truth about guns and the basic concept of self-defense.
Obviously, it is not in the best interest of criminals to attack victims who are armed and ready to defend themselves. Wright and Rossi found that 39 percent of felons admitted to aborting a crime because the victim was armed, 34 percent were scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured by an armed victim, and 74 percent of felons felt that burglars avoided occupied dwellings for fear of being shot (Baimbridge, par. 9). Criminals are clearly afraid of private gun owners who choose to defend themselves, and as criminals, they feel more free to commit crimes when a citizen?s right to own a gun has been infringed. The right to self-defense and the right to use firearms for defense of self and family are the cornerstone of individual rights in the U.S. Constitution (LaPierre 27).
Yet another myth, ?Gun control reduces crime,? (NRA 25) is either believed or not believed by almost every citizen in the United States. Each side claims to have objective evidence to support their side. Gun control politics have grown to an intense stage in the past few years due to the ever-growing fear of crime. The idea that gun control would reduce crime is simply preposterous. Although many studies have shown that exempting gun laws would reduce crime, there is no cure in today?s society. The National Institute of Justice concluded that over 20,000 gun control laws ?had no impact in reducing criminal violence? (Baimbridge, par. 8).
A nationwide study found that violent crimes fell after states made it legal to carry concealed handguns. Homicide decreased 8.5 percent, rape fell 5 percent, and aggravated assault dropped 7 percent (Cauchon A4). In the District of Columbia, no civilian can legally buy or carry a handgun, nor keep a loaded or assembled gun in the home. In the years before 1976, the District of Columbia had a fairly low crime rate, but since then, it has risen dramatically to become one of the highest in the nation (Baimbridge, par. 8). Also, following a series of brutal rapes in Orlando, Florida, over 3,000 women were trained and outfitted with handguns. The endeavor was highly publicized. Following the training period, the total number of rapes committed dropped 90 percent. There was also a 25 percent decline in assault and burglary in the same area (Landau 34).
One of the main problems interfering with the acceptation of gun control is that criminals do not acquire their guns legally anyway. Criminals obtain their guns through illegal gun dealers. A Florida prisoner states that it is a ?fantasy that just because guns are outlawed, we the crooks can?t get guns…the only people who can?t are the ones we victimize? (Baimbridge, par. 4). In 1992, the Washington Post discovered that 25 percent of the inmates at Washington D.C.?s Larton Prison openly admitted that they would acquire a gun as soon as they were released (Baimbridge, par. 5). Dale Thurston of the anti-gun control group, Citizens for a Better Stockton, stated: ?If guns were removed from us, we would discover why we need them, you need them in order to preserve freedom. When you lose them, you lose freedom? (Landau 32).
Perhaps the myth most people argue about is ?The right guaranteed under the Second Amendment is limited specifically to the arming of a ?well-regulated militia? that can be compared today to the National Guard? (NRA 18). The Second Amendment 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? (Strahinich 40).
Anti-gun groups refer to select groups as the ?people,? and claim that only the National Guard has the constitutional right to bear arms. Richard Henry Lee, a senator in the First Congress, supported the truth of the Second Amendment, and backed it up with the issue that, ?a militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves…and include…all men capable of bearing arms? (NRA 27).
A poll given by a popular magazine shows that 75 percent of all American voters believe that the Constitution guarantees them the right to own a gun (?Fight? 29). In the words of Thomas Jefferson, ?No man shall ever be disbarred the use of arms? (NRA 28). Yale Law Professor, Akhil Amar, again and again emphasizes the Second Amendment guarantees the right to firearms to ?the people? not ?the states:?
When the Constitution means ?states? it says so…The ultimate right to keep and bear arms belongs to ?the people,? not the ?states?…Thus the ?people? at the core of the Second Amendment are the citizens?the same ?We the people? who ?ordain and establish? the constitution and whose right to assemble is at the core of the first amendment…Presently, it is quite common to speak loosely of the National Guard as the ?state militia,? but when the Second Amendment was written, ?the militia? referred to all citizens capable of bearing arms. Thus ?the militia? is identical to ?the people…? (LaPierre 13)
Nevertheless, no matter what any group or person has to declare about the Second Amendment, the framers of the Constitution left no doubt about the power that guns represent, both to the government and to private citizens (Baimbridge, par. 18).
The Supreme Court has practically refused to discuss the issue of the Second Amendment. Some criticize the Supreme Court?s position in not choosing a side about the Second Amendment. It has been said that the Second Amendment is part of the Supreme Court?s family; We have to occasionally acknowledge that he?s there, but no one wants to spend time with him (?Fight? 37). Two particular Supreme Court cases have been acknowledged because they seem to favor the Second Amendment. In US vs Verdugo-Urquidez, 1990, the Supreme Court ruled that ?people? had the same meaning in the Second Amendment as in the first, fourth, ninth, and tenth. Also, in Perpich vs Department of Defense, the Supreme Court ruled that since the National Guard is subject to federal control, it is not the militia referred to in the Second Amendment (Baimbridge, par. 17).
Expressing his disappointment and disgust with the Supreme Court, Wayne LaPierre says, ?Let?s get it over with. Let?s take this to the Supreme Court and have it out? (?Fight? 37). We can hope that the recent weapons ban will eventually provide the Supreme Court with the opportunity to make a definite statement concerning the Second Amendment.
As for the future of gun control, it is suggested that in the next thirty years, a national handgun strategy will be brought forward. According to the FBI, ?Something is going to have to be done to lower the decibel level of this debate. There is more hyperbole, more exaggeration, more misquoted statistics, and more misplaced passion than we need for a subject this serious? (Newton 98). Many factors can influence the direction of future handgun policy. A sharp decline in public fear would decrease the demand for handguns; at the same time, if this resulted in reduced violent crime, it would reduce the need for handgun control (Zimring 183). If owning a loaded handgun is viewed by the typical man as more a part of the gun problem than as a respectable practice, prospects for restrictive control will improve over time. However, an increase in concerns for family security will influence the demand for handguns long before it affects the national policy for handguns (Zimring 184).
Gun control is a fundamental human rights issue. Law-abiding people carrying firearms have never been a threat to society. But have created overwhelming evidence to support the positive results of carrying concealed firearms. When we ban guns, we make sure that only criminals have guns. The police can?t always be there to protect us, so we must take some responsibility for our own protection. Law-abiding citizens should have the right to own whatever gun they choose to defend themselves and their country from those who would take away their liberty. In the words of Richard Henry Lee, ?To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possesses arms? (NRA 28).
Baimbridge, Timothy. ?Gun Control.? A Closer Look at Gun Control.
Online. Internet. 15 October 1997. Available:
Cauchon, Dennis. ?Study: Weapon Laws Deter Crime.? USA Today 2 August
?The Fight to Bear Arms.? U.S. News and World Report 22 May 1995: 29.
?The Gun Lobby.? U.S. News and World Report 22 May 1995: 37-38.
Landau, Elaine. Armed America: The Status of Gun Control. New Jersey:
Silver Burdett, Inc., 1991.
LaPierre, Wayne. Guns, Crime, and Freedom. Washington D.C.: Regenry
Publishing, Inc., 1994.
Newton, David E. Gun Control: An Issue for the Nineties. New Jersey:
Enslow Publishers, Inc., 1992.
Nisbet, Lee, ed. The Gun Control Debate. New York: Prometheus Books,
NRA Institute for Legislative Action. Ten Myths About Gun Control.
Virginia: GPO, 1997.
Strahinich, Helen. Guns in America. New York: Walker Publishing Com
Zimring, Franklin E. and Gordon Hawkins. The Citizen?s Guide to Gun
Control. New York: MacMilliam Publishing Company, 1987.
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