Gun control is one of the most hotly debated topics in American political discourse. The question ultimately boils down to whether gun control laws are effective or not, and whether that effectiveness impacts the constitutional right to bear arms. This research paper from one of the talented writers at Ultius elements of both sides of the issue.
The argument over gun control
The issue of gun control has been an important one for Americans, especially due to the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, after which many people questioned the continued necessity of the second amendment. Gun control is a popular, yet complicated issue, and one that must be examined from the perspectives of both sides in order to obtain a truly retrospective grasp on the issue.
Two primary issues of gun control
Essentially, the issue of gun control boils down to two primary issues that have been in conflict with each other since the Constitution incorporated the 2nd amendment into the Bill of Rights: freedom vs. security. Pro-gun advocates insist that their guns are necessary for their own security, but also satisfy the freedom requirement by allowing them to freely practice their second amendment rights. Anti-gun advocates see things differently, however, since, to them, having most people in America brandishing a firearm, concealed or not, represents a profound security threat all.
Pro-gun advocates would counter the argument for gun control by stressing the need for guns in order to ensure security, and that the odd shooter is a problem with society at large, not the guns themselves. They may have a point with this statement, since, according to a study in 2000, an estimated 989,883 U.S. citizens used some form of gun to defend themselves (Agresti and Smith 2). In addition, in 1993, 3.5% of households had used a firearm to defend themselves
“for self-protection or for the protection of property at home, work, or elsewhere” (Agresti and Smith 3).
These numbers put gun control in a much more positive light, especially from the perspective that they should be used to increase security in an increasingly insecure country.
The person or the gun?
Nevertheless, those who support gun control see each person in possession of a firearm, especially those with a concealed license, as another potential Sandy Hook or Virginia State shooting just waiting to happen. This is a valid claim, since the potential is certainly there. The argument that “people don’t kill people, guns kill people” is another popular quote heard in the pro-gun control community, and while it has some merit, it requires some closer examination in order to determine the validity of the statement. While it is certainly true that a gun has the potential to kill someone, it is only a tool. Some states have even implemented their own extensions to gun laws in response to tragedies like the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007.
Gun control failings
The bigger issue when it comes to violent crimes, especially those that are gun related, is the individual behind the gun. This is where the concept of firearms as a tool comes into play. A criminal who is determined to commit a crime will likely commit the same crime, regardless of the legality firearm possession. Outlawing firearms is not a deterrent, as criminals manage to get them just the same and many deaths and injuries from violent crime are the result. For example, in 1996, 65% of all murders between spouses were performed with a firearm (Rand 3). Taking away the guns will only invite more violence, especially from the more hardcore gun activists.
Guns multiply exponentially
However, there are also studies that show that those in ownership of guns become more violent themselves. For instance, a study taken in 1995 showed that:
“Where non-criminal gun-ownership is higher, criminal gun ownership is also higher; and where criminal gun ownership is higher, the percent of crimes which are committed with guns is higher” (Squires 197).
This study suggests that guns beget more guns, which, in turn, beget more violence. However, the issue is a little more complicated than that. Namely, firearms are often used as a deterrent to crime. Or, more accurately, the threat of firearms. A study showed that, in a survey of male felons in 11 state prisons:
- 34% had been “scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured by an armed victim”
- 40% said they decided not to commit a crime because they “knew or believed that the victim was carrying a gun”
- 69% said they knew of another criminal who had not committed a crime because the victim had a firearm (Agresti and Smith 6)
This helps to show what gun-advocates call the brighter side of the gun-control debate: that guns can, and oftentimes are, used as a self-defense or deterrence measure, rather than a pure instrument of violence.
Growing number of gun owners
This theory seemed to have validity, since a study shows that, in 1988, only about 30% of citizens owned guns. However, in 1996, that number had increased to 50% (Lott 38). In 2004, that number remained steady. The interesting thing about these figures is that violent crime in America has actually been decreasing at a slow rate. While it would be foolish to blame this entirely on guns, it is a good indicator that guns at least function, on some level, as a deterrent and personal defense tool.
Gun control is a fairly black-and-white issue, yet seems to have extremists on one side or the other. The best way to deal with this issue is to listen to both sides and find a compromise between the two of some sort. Requiring gun user registration and carry permits for firearms clearly does not work. It does nothing to reduce the number of homicides with firearms, as the ease of obtaining these weapons is still far too easy without following the law. Regulating the sale of firearms, much in the same way that alcohol was once monitored, seems like the best option in this case. This method would not impede upon the right to purchase firearms, but would place the regulation of sales into the hands of federal or state government to ensure that registration and licensing policies are being properly followed. In this way, freedom and security can be balanced in equal measure, making it no more difficult to obtain a gun through legal means, but much more difficult for those who choose to disregard the law.
Agresti, James D., and Reid K. Smith. “Gun Control Facts.” Just Facts (2008). 2-3. Web. 11 November 2013.
Lott, John R. More guns, less crime: Understanding crime and gun control laws. University of Chicago Press, 2013. 37-38. Web. 11 November 2013.
Rand, Michael R., et al. “Violence by intimates: Analysis of data on crimes by current or former spouses, boyfriends, and girlfriends.” Bureau of Justice Statistics Factbook. 1998: 1-46.
Squires, Peter. Gun Culture Or Gun Control?: Firearms and Violence: Safety and Society. Routledge, 2002: 197. Print.