- Can Gun Control Laws Reduce Crime Rates?
- Guns and Violence
- Widespread Gun Ownership Sows Fear
Columbine High School, Westroads Mall in Omaha, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University, and Lane Bryant in Tinley Park are places that have more than one thing in common. These places are sites where numerous victims have fallen prey to vicious gunmen who shot them to their untimely demise. Surprisingly, all these places are gun free zones.
Although there are laws that prohibit carrying guns, the gunmen in these situations obviously did not abide by the rules. Yet, it is the unsuspecting citizens who were killed, injured, or mentally scarred by these law-breaking gunmen and they were left so defenseless.
While some people believe that gun control will lower the rate of violent crimes, taking away the constitutional right to bear arms infringes on our rights and poses a threat to self defense.
How many lives at Columbine, Westroads Mall, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University, and Lane Bryant could have been saved if the law abiding victims and bystanders had been allowed to carry a gun for self defense?
Thus, outlawing guns is not the key to the spate of violence because the root cause of all of these events is that only outlaws have guns, while law-abiding and responsible people are left at their mercy because it is difficult for ordinary citizens to own a gun to defend themselves and their loved ones.
Although the gun control debate has become convoluted because it the arguments revolved on statements like people can sometimes be irresponsible and they might abuse the use of these guns, putting all the blame to gun ownership as the cause of all crimes and violence is irrational.
States and countries that have strict laws on gun ownership have not yet proven that these can be effective in reducing crime rates. In fact, there are even convincing data that show states and countries that have stringent gun control laws have more crimes and violence occurring than those countries that freely allows their citizens to own guns.
In this paper, we will focus on facts that prove that gun laws are ineffective and we will try to counteract on the arguments raised by proponents of gun control. By trying to see how they all miss the point why gun ownership should be supported by all law-abiding citizens, we will be able to suggest the uselessness of these gun control laws and the need of these laws to be scrapped.
Can Gun Control Laws Reduce Crime Rates?
Gun control laws are established in order to deter crime and violence. In the United States alone, latest data show that there are almost 270 million firearms and 40 percent of this is in civilian ownership (See Figure 1). With a rough estimate of 20,000 gun control laws in effect at the federal, state, and local level, these statistics show that stricter gun laws cannot be effective in reducing gun ownership.
Also, although U.S. has the most guns in all countries, South Africa and Colombia has higher gun murder rates than the United States. This goes to mean that it does not follow that reducing gun ownership can easily reduce gun-induced crime rates.
Previous studies that have been done in the 1970s and 1980s have similarly found no evidence of gun control laws being able to deter violent crime rates. With the use of scientific analysis and comparative data, Murray (1975) suggested that “gun control laws have no significant effect on rates of violence beyond what can be attributed to background social conditions.”
Furthermore, he found out that “controlling for basic social factors, the data show that gun laws have no significant effect on access to firearms” and “differing rates of access to handguns had no significant effect on violent acts.” Wright and his colleagues (1983) also agreed that there is little empirical evidence linking gun ownership is directly linked with changes in criminality at the individual level.
Take for example, in the case of Russia, where gun ownership is 4,000 per 100,000 people in 2002 (Table 1), the murder rate is 20.54. While compared to Finland with 39,000 gun ownership, has a negligible murder rate of 1.98 percent. What is surprising is that Luxembourg, which is supporting almost a total gun ban among citizens, placed second in the highest murder rates in countries located in Europe.
Kates and Muser (2007) further report that the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, in their 2004 evaluation from a review of 253 journal articles, 99 books, 43 government publications, and some original empirical research, they failed to identify any gun control law that had reduced violent crime, suicide, or gun accidents.
This same conclusion was also reached in 2003 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control own research about gun control laws. Another study by Kleck and Patterson (1993) that conducted an extensive multivariate analysis of data gathered from 170 U.S. cities concluded that “gun ownership levels have no net effect on total violence rates.”
Up to the present, most studies that use state data and find that gun control legislations can alleviate crime rates appear still have not proven their position strongly.
While it is true that the United States has most gun ownership and the crime rate is one of the highest around the world, it does not follow that stricter rules on gun ownership can lower crime rates. As we can see in the European countries, high gun ownership is definitely not linked to the rise of murder rates.
Moorehouse and Wanner (2008) offered two reasons why gun control is ineffective. First is that “gun control simply does not influence the behavior of criminals in their efforts to obtain and use firearms”.
Although law abiding citizens can be expected to conform to the law and obtain permits, register guns, and enroll in firearm safety courses, criminals regularly violate the law by purchasing guns on illegal black markets or by stealing them. So it will be useless to promote total gun ban when fugitives can still access these illegal guns and the government has no novel way to deter that.
Lastly, Moorehouse and Wanner (2008) deemed that “contemporary gun control measures typically attempt to influence the process of purchasing firearms at the point of sale between licensed dealers and their customers”. Federal background checks, and often state background checks, waiting periods, and registration, are part of the process. But guns are long-lived capital assets.
The stock of privately owned firearms in the United States is large relative to annual sales. Firearms are passed down through generations of family members. They are bought and sold, traded, parted out, and given away among friends, acquaintances, and strangers.
It would be difficult, if not impossible, to constrain and regulate the transfer of firearms between non-dealer private parties. In this case, no amount of legislation can affect the ownership of guns, but what is more rational to do is to reduce crime by creating a stronger law enforcement agencies and teach gun owners how to become responsible people who has the capability to protect their property and family against danger that might strike them anytime.
Guns and Violence
It is quite illogical to link guns are causing the violent tendencies of people as much as blaming ownership of it to the spate of violence by youths who fired guns in schools like Virginia Tech and Columbine because there’s no law that regulate guns on a national level. With regards to the violent behavior, it is still quite convincing to blame violent video games to the behavior of youths that are responsible for the horrible incidents.
A study by Dietz (1998) found that nearly 80 percent of 1995’s most popular Nintendo and Sega Genesis video games included some type of aggression, ranging from sports aggression (48% of violence) to criminal victimization (52% of violence). Dietz found that in most cases, the violence was directed at another human-like character and was often quite graphic.
Dietz also noted that many of the games included violence as the key used to accomplish goals. Furthermore, socially acceptable aggression was shown in 27% of the video games. In the recent years, the amount of time Americans over age twelve played video (and computer) games rose from fifty-nine hours in 2000 to sixty-nine hours in 2003, an increase of 17% (Weier, 2007).
A 2001 review of the 70 top-selling video games found that 89% contained some kind of violence. Almost half of all games (49%) contained serious violence, while 40% contained comic violence. In 41% of the games, violence was necessary for the protagonists to achieve their goals.
In 17% of the games, violence was the primary focus of the game itself (Children Now, 2001). According to the USDHHS (2001), violence in video games can teach children aggressive strategies as children learn to imitate and identify with characters.
With the previous 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, where teenage students killed fifteen people, their suicide note revealed that the teenage murderers drew inspiration from the video game Doom. These incidents have moved activist Jack Thompson to grill violent video games as the source of Seung Hui Cho’s violent behavior (the killer at the Virginia Tech shooting).
Thompson was quoted commenting in Fox News that: “To be able to pull this off, with this high body count… one has to have rehearsed it in able to do it.” Later, Thompson’s mentioned that in NBC News that “according to eyewitnesses, there was a flat affect on his face, as if he were playing a video game.”
On another interview, Thompson was trying to convince the television viewers that Cho “had been immersed in the video game Counter-Strike, playing it on his computer while in college” (Hartlaub, 24 April 2007).
Although much study is still needed to prove that video games can induce violent thoughts among youths, this goes to show that pointing an accusing finger on gun ownership alone in sowing violence is not a salient argument. Violent tendencies are developed through various outside factors.
Besides that, the youthful murderers are even not rightful owners of gun. They purchased these guns illegally. By arming responsible citizens, they will be able to fight back these assailants and prevent them from sowing doom.
A great example where armed citizens can greatly reduce crime is the Orlando rape self-defense program done in 1966. Following a dramatic increase in the rate of sexual assault in Orland during that time, the police department provided a training course in handgun self-defense, which was taken by approximately 6,000 women over a six-month period.
The media gave considerable attention to the program (suggesting that women were now armed and dangerous). The rate of sexual assault dropped by nearly 90 percent in the year following the program, while surrounding communities showed either no change or increases (Robin, 1991).
Although “regression to the mean” might help to explain this drop in the number of rapes (after a tripling of rates in the previous year), nevertheless, the possibility of a deterrent effect existed because possible assailants are now afraid to conduct their criminal activities because they know that more women are now armed with a gun.
With the spate of violence, Kessler (2008) believed that “the root of America’s gun crime problem is not the number of guns in the hands of Americans, but an extensive web of gun trafficking operations that funnel firearms to criminals”.
He informed that “nearly 40 percent of all crime guns recovered in New Jersey and New York came from Virginia, Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas” and “nine out of 10 crime guns changed hands between the first purchase (which was likely legal) to the last purchase (which was certainly illegal)”.
In this case, Kessler suggested that “what we need… is a new national strategy to reduce gun violence: Don’t restrict gun rights, but instead deepen the sense of gun ownership”. In this case, what authorities should do to deter crime is to stop gun trafficking, rather than limit gun ownership.
Widespread Gun Ownership Sows Fear
Almost all promoters of gun control resort to arguments that a society where most people have guns is like hell incarnate. They picture this scenario that kids will steal the gun of their parents and have a killing spree at school or a neighbor with a gun can immediately gun down another neighbor who parked his or her car in their front yard.
Fact is that even with gun control laws, these grim scenarios can happen. What is worse in the scenario with strict gun control laws intact is that victims cannot even defend themselves and they will still have to wait for the police to be able to survive. When the police take long to arrive, they might as well consider themselves dead when armed assailants attack their homes or their properties.
Gun ownership is more likely to benefit the vulnerable sectors of society like women. O’Neill (2000) suggested that “the best way for women to protect themselves from violent crime is to own—and be properly trained in the use of—a gun”. Most people believe that women should not resist an attacker, but research shows this to be bad advice.
A research examined 1979-1987 data from the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Study “found that the probability of serious injury from an attack is 2.5 times greater for women offering no resistance than for women resisting with a gun.”
Those who resisted without a gun, however, were four times more likely to be injured. The analysis showed that men, too, fared better with a gun, but the difference was not as great. In this case, having a gun would boost the confidence of a victim because they know they will be able to fight back.
When risky environments cannot be avoided, individuals can do much to protect themselves and their property. When victims of rape, robbery, or assault engage in self-protective measures, often they can significantly lower the probability that the criminal act will be completed. Under some conditions, victims might be increasing their chances of injury by the offender, but usually this is not the case.
Although more research is needed to determine the degree of risk associated with various forms of self-defense, gun ownership can provide people with appropriate self-defense. This is why self-defense training has never been more important.
Not only does it show promise for enhancing feelings of efficacy and control among women, but it also should assist participants in distinguishing between types of self-protection that are generally functional and those that are not. Being trained with guns can surely teach all people how to deal with risky scenarios and they can also be taught how to handle this weapon effectively, in order to thwart any untoward incident from happening.
With all these, responsible citizens with guns that have been educated fully about how to use it would feel safer, rather than without it. In fact, more fear can be felt if a person is in a risky situation unarmed. Enhanced skills and self-confidence can lead to reductions in unnecessary behavioral restrictions and a higher quality of life for many citizens.
Although many questions remain to be answered, it is clear that gun control laws cannot assure the safety of most people. It is being able to defend and protect your loved ones that people will feel safe and be able to sleep soundly at night. Thus, rather than sowing fear, responsible gun ownership can more likely boost the confidence of people that they can resist anything that is bound to harm them.
With all the facts available, we can confidently debunk statements that gun control can indeed reduce crime rates because there is no evidence to prove that claim. Also, with guns causing violence, we have laid down facts that various factors can induce violence, not guns alone.
We have resolved that what’s needed than being stringent with gun control laws is to educate people about responsible ownership, so that they will become independent and confident people who can protect their property and loved ones against nefarious elements in society.
In conclusion, the devastating events are not caused by lenient gun control measures and these will not be prevented by doing a total gun ban. Gun control laws need to be scrapped because these do not reduce crime, but it appears that it promotes it. These criminals do not and will not care about a record tarnished by a gun possession charge.
Also, these criminals will always ignore the laws of gun control and they will always find illegal means to possess a gun. On the other hand, for the remainder of the population that are law abiding citizens that were and would be unable to defend themselves did and do care about their futures.
Those same citizens would not want to tarnish their record with a gun possession charge. Gun-free zones only put law abiding citizens more at risk by taking away the right to bear arms by making them vulnerable. By having them equipped with weapons to protect them, they will be compelled to live peacefully without the fear of being gunned down senselessly because they will be able to defend themselves.
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