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Gun Control Essay, Research Paper

In “Just Take Away Their Guns,” author James Q. Wilson argues that “Legal restraints on the lawful purchase of guns will have little effect on the illegal use of guns” (Wilson 63). Wilson points out that it would be tough to remove all legally purchased guns from the streets and nearly impossible to confiscate illegally purchased guns. Gun advocate J. Warren Cassidy argues that “The American people have a right ‘to keep and bear arms’. This right is protected by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. . .” in an article titled “The Case for Firearms” (Cassidy 275). James B. Jacobs and Kimberly A. Potter wrote in an article called “Keeping guns out of the “wrong” hands: the Brady law and limits of regulations” that “US law enforcement should concentrate on stiff sentences for crimes committed with guns and recognize that gun control laws do not keep guns from the wrong people” (Jacobs and Potter 1 of 27). Daniel B. Polsby, author of “The false promise: gun control and crime,” simply states, “Gun control laws don’t work” (Polsby 1 of 11). Polsby feels that “gun control laws are ineffective because [they] have not been proven to be a deterrent to crime” (1 of 11). James D. Wright states, in his article “Second Thoughts about Gun Control,” that “If there were fewer guns around, there would also be less crime and less violence” (Wright 93). More gun control laws will only make it a hassle for law abiding citizens to purchase guns. They will not keep guns out of the criminal’s hands because they have other methods of obtaining guns, such as the secondary market which is the illegal sale of firearms. Another reason why more gun control legislation will backfire is that those who want to purchase guns to protect themselves and their family may not due to the timely and costly process they must undergo because of stricter gun regulation. However, if they had purchased a gun, they may intimidate a prospective predator and avoid confrontation. Finally, criminals have the most “inelastic demand” for guns and are willing to pay more for them (Polsby 3 of 11). On the other hand, the people who are being deprived of guns are those who “comply with gun control laws and don’t value guns in the first place” (Polsby 3 of 11).

Gun control consists of the government restricting the ability of individual citizens to purchase weapons. There are many gun control laws and they fall under one of two general types. Those that are older aim to regulate “how, where, and by whom firearms could be carried” (Polsby 1 of 11). Recently, gun control laws have made it more expensive “to buy, sell, or use firearms. . .by imposing fees, special taxes, and surtaxes on them” (Polsby 1-2 of 11). However, no one is satisfied with the laws. There are countless ways for criminals to avoid these government regulations. J. Warren Cassidy author of “The Case for Firearms” states that “Antigun laws- the waiting periods, background checks, handgun bans, et al.–only harass those who obey them” (276). Criminals, who have or are planning to break the law by robbing, raping, or murdering, are not the ones purchasing their guns in the local gun shop. Wilson writes, “Our goal should be not disarming law abiding citizens. It should be to reduce the number of people who carry guns unlawfully, especially in places- on streets and in taverns- where the mere presence of a gun can increase the hazards we all face” (64). By allowing police to perform reasonable-suspicion tests, they can confiscate guns being carried illegally. If an officer has “reasonable-suspicion” that a suspect is carrying an illegal gun, he/she can pat down the person’s outer clothing. If, during the frisking, a gun is revealed and being carried illegally, the officer can enter the suspect’s pocket to remove it. As officers use reasonable-suspicion more often, they tend to become more familiar with the kinds of actions the Court will accept as a stop and frisk.

Polsby argues, “While legitimate users of firearms encounter intense regulation, scrutiny, and bureaucratic control, illicit markets easily adapt to whatever difficulties a free society throws their way” (1of 11). Gun control laws infringe on the American’s freedom to the right “to keep and bear arms”. The law abiding citizens of America should have their right without it being a hassle to exercise it. If criminals know that someone may be carrying a gun, they will not bother trying to mug them, on the other hand, tougher gun legislation would make it more difficult for innocent people to protect themselves. Those looking to protect themselves by purchasing a gun usually become frustrated with how expensive it is to purchase them or with how long the background check takes and they wind up deciding against purchasing a gun. “It is easy to count the bodies of those who have been killed or wounded with guns, but not easy to count the people who have avoided harm because they had access to weapons,” states Polsby (2 of 11). If the dead victims had bought a gun to protect themselves, they may still be alive today. Gun control stops the ordinary citizen from purchasing a gun, but protects the common criminal. Underage buyers and other delinquents can purchase mass quantities of weapons through “dummy buyers” that have clean backgrounds. So if a burglar enters a house with full intention to maim or kill, the innocent victim, who can’t buy a gun to protect his family because he was arrested for drunk driving seven years ago, is simply a victim of a law that supports black market trade. Registered guns are not the ones that will be killing our children. The unregistered ones are owned by murderers, rapists, and thieves. Nan Desuka, a gun control advocate, states that “Those who want strict control of handguns- for me that means the outlawing of handguns, except to the police and related service units-have not come up with a slogan equal in power to ‘Guns don’t kill people- criminals do” (Desuka 278). It would be impossible to outlaw and confiscate all handguns. Look at the fight to keep illegal drugs off of the streets. For example, even though they are illegal, they are still easily obtainable. Like drugs, if handguns were banned, those who wanted them would still be able to purchase them. The only way gun control laws would work is if they were somehow applied to the secondary market. If the government attempted to do this, it would be extremely expensive and criminals would find ways to get around them. Desuka argues, “Criminals kill; when there are no criminals, there will be no death from guns” (278). Therefore, since we cannot exterminate all of the criminals in America, we may as well let us, the innocent, purchase guns, without all of the hassle caused by gun control laws, to protect ourselves. Polsby points out that “people who are armed make comparatively unattractive victims” (2 of 11).

“Handguns are easily available, both to criminals and to decent people who believe they need a gun in order to protect themselves from criminals” (Desuka 278). If gun control laws become stricter, they will only regulate the legal use of guns because criminals can purchase them from the underground market. Wright, author of “Second Thoughts about Gun Control,” states that “No matter what laws we enact, they will be obeyed only by the law-abiding- this follows by definition” (Wright 99). Since criminals become criminals by breaking the law in the first place, why would they start abiding by gun control laws? Especially, since if they did, they would be easily caught.

Polsby offers that “Handguns, so often the subject of gun control laws, are desirable for one purpose- to allow a person tactically to dominate a hostile transaction with another person” (2 of 11). Criminals use weapons to get what they want without being hurt. Therefore, if criminals get what they want without being hurt by using guns, why shouldn’t the victims protect themselves with guns also? If criminals are aware that more people are protecting themselves with firearms, maybe that alone will deter criminals from attacking. This leads to the futility theorem that Polsby introduced. The futility theorem assumes that “the higher the number of victims a criminal assumes to be armed, the higher [the risk will be]- the price of assaulting them” (Polsby 3 of 11). Since criminals do not purchase guns legally, the laws are only being applied to those trying to protect themselves. “The class of people we wish to deprive of guns, then, is the very class with the most inelastic demand for them- criminals- whereas the people most likely to comply with gun control laws don’t value guns in the first place” (Polsby 3 of 11).

Instead of focusing on more gun control laws, the government should employ some alternate methods that will reduce the number of guns being carried illegally. Wilson suggests that police be allowed to perform reasonable suspicion tests (64). Reasonable suspicion tests can make it easier to confiscate illegally carried guns. Also, more severe punishments may deter criminals. Criminals, who commit crimes by using guns, should be punished more severely by the court’s adding on to their original sentence. However, Wilson thinks that the “tougher the prospective sentence the less likely it is to be imposed, or at least imposed swiftly” (65). Modern science is another method that society can employ to reduce the number of illegal guns on the streets. Metal detectors at airports have reduced the number of airplane bombings to “nearly zero,” but these detectors only work at a very close range (Wilson 66). If a gun detector was made that could detect at 10 to 15 feet, it would enable police to detect the presence of a “large lump of metal” in a suspect’s pocket (Wilson 66). This would enable the officer to perform a reasonable-suspicion frisk at ease (66). Along with these alternate methods, “properly qualified private citizens” should be encouraged “to posses and carry firearms legally” (Polsby 10 of 11).

“Legal restraints on the lawful purchase of guns will have little effect on the use of guns,” says Wilson author of “Just Take Away Their Guns” (63). More signatures and personal information are not going to stop the criminals from purchasing their guns out of the back of a truck in a dark alley. Criminals do not buy their weapons in the stores that these laws will be imposed on, so the government will be regulating the legal use of guns with more laws. Meanwhile, the criminals are robbing banks and engaging in gang wars with unregulated, illegal guns. Therefore, tougher gun legislation will not work as effectively as reasonable-suspicion frisks, add-ons, and gun detectors would. Stricter gun control laws will only make it more difficult for law abiding citizens to purchase guns and therefore, will deter them from buying a gun to protect themselves from the illegal guns being carried by criminals. Even if guns were banned, criminals would not just disappear. For example, murderers would just use the next most convenient weapon, knives, axes, or bats. Are we going to ban all of those potentially dangerous objects also?

Cassidy, Warren J. “The Case for Firearms.” Current Issues and Enduring Questions.

Eds. Sylvan Barnet and Hugo Bedau. Boston, MA: Bedford Books, 1996. 275-276.

Desuka. Nan. “Why Handguns Must Be Outlawed.” Current Issues and Enduring

Questions. Eds. Sylvan Barnet and Hugo Bedau. Boston, MA: Bedford Books,

1996. 277-281.

Jacobs, James B. and Kimberly Potter. “Keeping guns out of the “wrong” hands: the

Brady law and the limits of regulation.” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology

86 (Fall 1995): 93-120.

Polsby, Daniel D. “The false promise” gun control and crime.” Current June 1994:


Wilson, James Q. “Just Take Away Their Guns.” Current Issues and Enduring

Questions. Eds. Sylvan Barnet and Hugo Bedau. Boston, MA: Bedford Books,

1996. 63-66.

Wright, James D. :Second Thoughts about Gun Control.” The Gun Control Debate.

Ed. Lee Nisbet. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1990. 93-107.

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