One of the most important public policy issues in the United States at the present time has to do with the regulation of guns. President Obama himself, for example, has developed a deep personal investment in this issue, even publishing an opinion piece in the New York Times in which he pledged to support no candidate, even from his own party, who expressed opposition to gun regulation. The purpose of this sample argumentative essay is to support the implementation of more stringent gun regulations within the United States. The argument, as made by one of our comprehensive professional writers, will proceed through four main parts. Firstly, it will provide background context that supports this position. Secondly, it will consider empirical evidence that shows that gun regulations help prevent gun violence. Thirdly, it will demonstrate that the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States is not in fact antithetical to gun regulation efforts. Finally, the argument will also develop what could be called the common sense line of defense for the regulation of guns.
Over the past few years, the United States has been experiencing a significant rash of mass shootings. Several of these have occurred in schools, with the most grotesque of these probably being the shootings at Umpqua Community College in 2015 and Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012, which resulted in the massacre of 20 first graders (Ingraham, paragraph 1). These events have brought the issue of gun regulation into the public limelight in a way that it has not been for quite some time. There is the old saying, of course, that it is not guns that kill people but rather people who kill people. What is also obviously true, however, is that if there were no guns, then there would also be no gun violence. In this context, the recent shootings within the nation testify to the fact that violent and irresponsible people who have no business owning guns are consistently able to purchase guns. This provides prima facie reason to believe that it is in fact necessary for the people of the nation to begin thinking seriously about what kind of regulations would be needed in order to stop such gun sales, and by extension, prevent gun violence that leads to massacres like the one at Sandy Hook in the future.
Guns are the cause, not the answer
Moreover, aside from the mass shootings themselves, guns are clearly responsible for a very large number of deaths within the United States. As Ingraham has devastatingly put it:
“The United States is the wealthy world’s leader in the number of children killed with guns. In the world’s 23 most developed nations, American children account for 9 out of every 10 children under the age of 14 killed with a gun” (paragraph 7).
This is unacceptable, to say the least, it calls attention to the fact that when it comes to gun violence, the United States still has a problem that virtually every other developed nation has been able to address in an effective way. This begs the question of why the United States is lagging behind in this area, and what could potentially be done about it.
Turning to the empirical scientific evidence now, the findings clearly indicate that gun regulation is correlated with fewer deaths related to gun violence, while the lack of regulation is correlated with more deaths. This conclusion can be drawn, in particular, from two particularly revealing studies, both of which were natural experiments.
Connecticut tightens gun regulation
The first study focused on the state of Connecticut, which did not have stringent gun regulations but then implemented such regulations at one point in time. Atkins has summarized the findings of the study in the following way:
“the law [stricter gun regulations] reduced gun homicides by 40 percent between 1996 and 2005. That’s 296 lives saved in 10 years” (paragraph 7).
The nature of the study was such that direct causation could not be proved; however, the correlation is highly suggestive and clearly deserves to be taken seriously emphasizing the need for stricter gun laws in America.
Missouri relaxes gun regulation
This is especially the case when the findings of this first study are compared with the findings of the second study, which focused on the state of Missouri. Missouri essentially did the opposite of what Connecticut did: it had more stringent gun regulations, but then did away with them at one point in time. According to Tavernise’s summary of the findings of this study,
“before the repeal [of gun regulations], from 1999 to 2006, Missouri’s gun homicide rate was 13.8 percent higher than the national rate. from 2008 to 2014, it was 47 percent higher” (paragraph 8).
That is, the gun homicide rate in Missouri, relative to the national average, rose dramatically in the period of time after gun regulations were repealed largely due to pressures from the NRA. Again, this too is a statement of correlation and not causation; but considered in tandem with the findings of the first study, the inevitable conclusion is that gun regulation and sensible gun control is correlated with fewer gun deaths, whereas lack of regulation is correlated with more gun deaths.
Finally, it is worth considering this matter from an international perspective. Virtually every other developed nation in the world has stronger gun regulations than does the United States; and all those nations also have dramatically lower gun homicide rates than does the United States (Master, paragraph 5). It would take a kind of willful ignorance for anyone to actually suggest that these two facts are unrelated to each other. the simple fact of the matter is that gun regulations do in fact successfully diminish the rates of gun-related violence. Gun laws vary by state, but a mass shooting can occur almost anywhere. Insofar as one accepts the premise that gun-related violence is a bad thing, then, one is also logically compelled to accept that gun regulations are a good thing. The only way to reach a different conclusion would be to either affirm that one likes gun violence, or to completely reject all the empirical evidence in this regard as fabrication or hoax. Both of these moves would clearly be morally and/or logically irrational.
Constitutional basis for gun regulation
Most advocates against gun regulation rely strongly on the 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights, which seems to guarantee the right of American citizens to bear arms. However, a closer look at the actual text reveals that the actual meaning of the Second Amendment has been significantly perverted by gun advocates, particularly the NRA, within the United States.
A closer look at Article 2
In particular, given the wording of the Second Amendment itself and the cultural-historical context in which it was written, it is quite clear that the Framers of the Constitution were specifically referring to the right of militias, and not ordinary citizens, to bear arms. In contemporary times, this would be a little like affirming that the armed forces of the United States have the right to bear arms—a point so self-evident, of course, that one would think it need not even be made. At the time that the Bill of Rights was written, however, the United States was a young and relatively weak nation whose very existence was still an open question.
Given that this is the case, it is quite readily apparent that Adam Gopnik has a good point in writing the following:
“the only amendment necessary for gun legislation, on the local or national level, is the Second Amendment itself, properly understood, as it was for two hundred years in its plain original sense. This sense can be summed up in a sentence: if the Founders hadn’t wanted guns regulated, and thoroughly, they would not have put the phrase ‘well regulated’ in the amendment” (paragraph 4).
Misinterpretation of the law
Nothing could have been further from the Framers’ minds than the present-day affirmation of stakeholders such as the National Rifle Association that any and all regulations of the right to gun ownership would be an infringement on the natural liberties of the American citizen. The Framers, rather, meant for the Second Amendment to refer specifically to purposes of organized self-defense within a military context. The unregulated sale and ownership of guns in point of fact violates the provision in the Second Amendment regarding a well-regulated militia; and the ironic result is that the advocates against gun regulation are themselves in violation of the Second Amendment in whose name they claim to speak.
Ignoring the clear intentions
In short, there is nothing unconstitutional about the advocacy of gun regulation; much the opposite, such regulation would be necessary for meaningfully fulfilling the actual intent of the Constitution itself. The advocates against gun legislation have manifestly perverted the plain meaning of the Constitution in order to suit their own narrow political ends. The Framers, unlike such advocates, knew full well that there could be no liberty in gun ownership if such ownership were not regulated in accordance with the best interests of the nation. While this would not forbid individual ownership of guns, it is clearly antithetical to the notion that any and all regulation is an affront to personal liberty. The Framers were always careful to balance such liberty against other crucial values, such as the common good. It would seem that many Americans have lost this sense of prudence in contemporary times.
Restrictions on guns are necessary
Finally, an argument can also be made in favor of gun control in America from the angle of simple common sense. For example, it is common sense that a person who has been diagnosed with mental illness—especially one who has a history of violent proclivities—should not be authorized to buy a gun. It is also common sense that a suspected terrorist who is not allowed to fly on airplanes should also not be allowed to buy a gun. Essentially, this kind of sense is all that is meant by the implementation of background checks. This explains why a solid 90 percent of all Americans report themselves as supporting background checks for all gun purchases—a level of agreement that one would probably be hard-pressed to find regarding any other subject (Selby). However, even this kind of basic sense has been opposed within the halls of Congress, under pressure from lobbying groups such as the National Rifle Association.
Gun regulation is a moral responsibility
The simple point can be made here that in a functioning democracy, if 90 percent of the citizenry believes that it would be good to see something done, then the legislators of that nation have a positive obligation to see that it gets done. The idea that a mentally ill person or a suspected terrorist can be allowed to buy a gun without even having to pass a background check is both insane and undemocratic. It is thus clear why this matter has managed to spark President Obama’s outrage and leading him to propose new legislature and put out a call—as a citizen—for Americans to work toward electing representatives who will have the basic decency and courage to stand up to the lies of the gun lobby and do what is dictated by simple common sense. Of course, one can also advocate for stronger gun regulations than just background checks, but the fact that even mandatory background checks are opposed within the United States reveals how backwards this nation really is on this issue and how much work there is to be done.
In summary, this essay has argued:
- That recent historical events clearly raise the question of what is going on within this nation.
- That the empirical evidence shows a clear correlation between the implementation of gun regulations and a reduction in gun violence rates.
- That the Second Amendment of the Constitution, far from prohibiting gun regulation, actually mandates gun regulation.
- That simple common sense would require the implementation of several gun regulation measures that are still opposed within the government of the United States.
Clearly, then, the gun regulation is not only an important national imperative, but the responsibility of every American.
Atkins, David. “Whaddaya Know? Gun Control Actually Works—Even in America!” Washington Monthly. 14 Jun. 2015. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.
Gopnik, Adam. “The Second Amendment Is a Gun-Control Amendment.” New Yorker. 2 Oct. 2015.
Ingraham, Christopher. “Since Sandy Hook, At Least 374 Children Have Been Killed in Homicides Committed with Guns.” Washington Post. 14 Dec. 2015. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.
Masters, Jonathan. “Gun Control Around the World: A Primer.” The Atlantic. 12 Jan. 2015. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.
Obama, Barack. “Guns Are Our Shared Responsibility.” New York Times. 7 Jan. 2016. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.
Selby, W. Gardner. “Jeremy Bird Says 90 Percent of Americans Want Mandatory Background Checks for All Gun Purchases.” PolitFact. 5 Oct. 2015. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.
Tavernise, Sabrina. “In Missouri, Fewer Gun Restrictions and More Gun Killings.” New York Times. 21 Dec. 2015. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.
United States. Constitution of the United States: Bill of Rights. Avalon Project, 2016. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.