Gun Control is a controversial subject. The issues surrounding the debate usually provoke an emotional response. The debate generally centers on contradictory understandings of the Constitution. Some argue that U.S. citizens do not need firearms today in the way they did at the time of the country’s founding. No threat of animal or Indian attack and the British are no longer a threat.
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Americans live, work and go to school in a stable environment protected by a democratically elected government that has in its possession a multifaceted, powerful military and several types of police forces which combine very well to protect the citizens. Some also argue that the often misconstrued ‘right to bear arms’ has lead to a less-safe society, a circumstance opposed to the intent of the Founding Fathers.
More is Less Philosophy
Gun enthusiasts, as they are politely referred, mimic the concept that more guns will lead to less violence, that if everyone were carrying a gun, criminals would be too scared to commit crimes. The more is less philosophy. This doesn’t square with reasonable logic or the facts. “Whenever you have more guns in a society, you’re going to have more gun violence, period” (“More Guns” 2006). The State of Texas is known, quite deservedly, as having an open policy regarding guns. Texas citizens are allowed to carry concealed handguns once completing licensing requirements. Then Governor, George W. Bush signed a law that specifically permits Texans to carry guns in Church.
In 2002, the Violence Policy Center study conducted a study a concealed guns in Texas and found that, among other disturbing revelations, from 1996 to 2001, “concealed handgun license holders in Texas were arrested for weapon-related offenses at a rate 81 percent higher than that of the state’s general population aged 21 and older” (“More Guns” 2006). Lawmakers in Texas responded immediately to this situation by passing legislation that forbids the release of gun-related information.
The Constitutional Argument
The Second Amendment asserts “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” (“The Constitution”, 2006). This, as were all the first ten amendments to the Constitution, was inserted to impart a clearer explanation to present and future generations of the precise Constitutional rights guaranteed to all Americans. Clearly, the legal ability for citizens to own guns was very important to the Founding Fathers. It is listed second only behind the freedom speech, press and religion within the First Amendment.
The Founders of the country were well aware that by guaranteeing the citizens a right to arms, they could effectively protect themselves and family from whatever might jeopardize their life, liberty or their individual pursuit of happiness. “The Second Amendment reflects the founders’ belief that an armed citizenry, called the ‘general militia’ was a necessary precaution against tyranny by our own government and its army. Those who promote gun control think the Second Amendment is “obsolete; or is intended solely to guard against suppression of state militias by the central government and therefore restricted in scope by that intent; or does not guarantee a right that is absolute, but one that can be limited by reasonable requirements” (Krouse, 2002).
The Constitution in Proper Context
Gun control advocates generally want the weapon that kills the most people, handguns, to be illegal but is willing to compromise on rifles and shotguns. In this way, the right to bear arms is protected and so are the thousands that die from handguns every year. Of course, when reading the Second Amendment in context, only armed militias have the right to keep and bear arms. However, given the current strong emotions tied to the issue and the popularity of guns in this country, a compromise is the only solution.
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Ideologies are formed by a person’s innermost beliefs, cultivated by years of thought and shaped by life’s numerous experiences. An ideological debate causes a more emotive response in individuals than does any other. Political ideologies can never die and in politically turbulent times, such as these, are very much alive. The 9-11 attacks, abortion the war in Iraq, the loss of civil liberties, global warming, health care, gay marriage, stem cell research and many other politically motivating subjects have ignited emotional ideological battles. Gun ownership ranks high among these political ideologies and to attempt to ban all guns would make these feelings even stronger.
To make the case for upholding the widely perceived ‘right’ to bear arms by allowing rifles and shotguns of a certain length while banning handguns and assault rifles seems the sensible solution and a fight that could be won. This tact has proven effective in other countries such as Britain and many other European nations. Those countries that ban handgun use have a much lower homicide rate than does the U.S. (Reynolds, Caruth, 1992)
The Risk is Too High
More than 3000 children in the U.S. alone died from gunshot wounds, typically from handguns, in 2002. This means 50 kids are killed by guns every week, that’s eight every day on average. Kids wounded by guns each day week and year equal these numbers multiplied by a factor of at least four or five. These figures are alarming enough. Now insert the more than 5000 kids under 18 killed by guns in 2005 and the figures jump to nearly 100 per week, 15 per day and 1 every hour and a half.
American kids are more likely to suffer harm from guns than those of any other developed country. In 2005 19 Britain children were killed by guns. Zero Japan children. In the U.S.?, Yes more than 3000. Both Japan and Britain have stricter gun laws. America’s children are being killed, mass murdered, so those who believe they have a ‘God-given’ or Constitutional right to hoard an armory will be placated. (“Statistics” 2005).
90,000 Americans under the age of 18 have been killed by gunfire in just 22 years (1979-2001) and the numbers have been escalating since. Death by guns is by far the greatest danger facing America’s children. “In one year, more children and teens died from gunfire than from cancer, pneumonia, influenza, asthma, and HIV/AIDS combined” (“Statistics” 2005). In the U.S., 12 times more children 14 years old and younger are killed by guns than the combined total of 25 industrialized nations.
“American kids are 16 times more likely to be murdered with a gun, 11 times more likely to commit suicide with a gun, and nine times more likely to die from a firearm accident than children in 25 other industrialized countries combined” (“Statistics” 2005). These are very sobering statistics indeed but the problem is much worse. More adults die as a result of gunfire than do children. At least 80 people in America are killed as a result of gun violence.
More than half of all killings in the United States involved a gun. Yet, changes in handgun laws were seen to have little to no impact on crime rates through the 1990s. This is not surprising based on fact that most violent criminals do not obtain their firearms through licensed sources (Wright & Rossi, 1994). Other programs, gun buy-back programs for example have been proven to be similarly unsuccessful for a variety of reasons including intention for use, ease of replacement and probability of use for crime. Earlier gun control policies enacted in 1976 and 1982 had similarly disappointing results. Concealed weapons laws have actually been shown to have a positive effect on crime rates, that is, they contribute to an escalation in crime. (Loftin, McDowall, Weirsema and Cottey, 1991).
Laws that attempt to control handgun ownership for law-abiding citizens do not work and have been shown to actually escalate gun crimes. A total ban accompanied with stiff penalties for violators is the only hope for reducing the carnage caused by them, again, while keeping rifles legal to placate the strong political ideologies of those who interpret the Constitution out of context and likely always will. This compromise must be struck before this nation to ever be considered a civilized society. For those who believe that handguns are not a serious threat and should not be banned because of a misconstrued interpretation of the Constitution, consider the statistics.
Statistics have proven what simple logic tells us, more guns lead to more violence and fewer guns, as in Japan and Britain, lead to far fewer instances of gun violence. When read in total and in proper context, the Constitution does not allow anyone individual to own a gun. In fact the word ‘gun’ cannot be found in the Constitution. It refers to arms. Does that mean we have the right to bear nuclear or chemical armaments? Most would say no, the others should get back on their medications and strapped into bed. A line must be drawn somewhere and other countries have shown us where it should be.
“(The) Constitution: The Bill of Rights.” Cornell Law School. (2006). Web.
Krouse, William. “Gun Control.” Congressional Research Service. (2002). Web.
Loftin, Colin, David McDowall, Brian Wiersema and Talbert Cottey. “Effects of Restrictive Licensing of Handguns on Homicide and Suicide in the District of Columbia.” New England Journal of Medicine. 325:23, pp. 1615– 620. (1991).
“More Guns Equals More Gun Violence, Not Less” Gun Guys (2006). Web.
Reynolds, Morgan O. and Caruth, W. W. III. “Myths about Gun Control.” Policy Report. National Center for Policy Analysis. No. 176. (1992). Web.
“Statistics: Gun Violence in Our Communities” National Health Administration Health Information Network (2005). Web.
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Wright, James D., and Peter H. Rossi. “Armed and Considered Dangerous: A Survey of Felons and Their Firearms.” Aldine de Gruyter. (1994).