Handguns and other firearms have a long tradition in American civilization. The right to bear arms is an American right featured in the second Amendment of the Constitution. In the 18th century, when the constitution was written, times were different; there was a need for armed citizens to insure the safety of the society as a whole. Contemporarily the police department preserves the safety of society and the need for armed citizens is out of date. The founding fathers of the Constitution could presumably never imagine the horrendous outcome of their actions. Every year too many lives are claimed as the result of the American government’s inability to fully face up to effects of the issue. Compared to other western countries that have considerably stricter gun control laws America is still viewed as “The Wild-Wild West”.
The growing gun related death toll in the U.S. has to come to a turning point. Stripping away the constitutional right to bear arms might have the effect that only criminals will have access to guns. It is important to understand that in a society where both criminals and law abiding citizens have access to guns the likeliness of an innocent person getting shot, when both parties are waving guns, is probably greater than if only criminals have guns. A ban on firearms might not be appealing as a short-term solution but it is important that people don’t limit their thinking to their generation and not think about the safety of their children, grandchildren and the society people are creating today for them to live in.
The main obstacle in removing firearms from citizens in the U.S. is the second Amendment of the Constitution. It reads: “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 second Amendment can be interpreted as every citizen right to bear arms. However the key word is “Militia”, meaning soldiers or defenders of the State. In the late 18th century, when the Constitution was written, times were very different than those of contemporary America. People were scared of possible invasions from Native Americans, the English, and other nationalities. By “a well regulated Militia…” the founding fathers probably meant that citizens could have a muscot standing in the corner just in case anything would happen. Note that the writers of the Constitution added, “a well regulated…” in front of the word Militia. That would most likely reveal a controversy in writing this Amendment, some of the founding fathers might have foreseen the possibility of a misinterpretation of this Amendment.
In the U.S. there are approximately 200 million privately owned guns, which is statistically close to a gun per person and places more than one gun per home on average (O’Donnell 771). In other words, guns are all around. This effects, without a doubt, the whole society structure and the citizens that live within its boundaries.
The children that live within a gun infested society are going to suffer the consequences. In fact, kids between the ages 16 and 19 have the highest handgun victimization rate among all age groups (O’Donnel 771). It’s not hard to understand why, since there are on average more than one gun per household, kids are likely to find firearm and in some cases even use it.
In March 1998 two children, 11 and 13 years of age gunned down a total of 13 people in a school in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Of the 13, nine survived and five people, classmates and teacher, died as a result of the shooting (Liesen, Owens). One of the boys had taken two rifles from his grandfather. They positioned themselves about a 100 yards from the schoolyard and when the bell for recession sounded and people started to exit the school building the two boys opened fire. This is a horrendous event that proves that if guns are present within a household or within a family, odds are that kids will know about where they are kept and perhaps even be curious enough to actually use them.
In October, 1997 a 16 year old boy shot and killed his girlfriend and her best friend while they were exiting a Mississippi school leaving six others wounded (Liesen, Owens). The spontaneity of young children and guns are a lethal combination as illustrated in these two examples.
In a study made across high schools in Seattle, 47% of males and 22% of females reported that they had easy access to handguns and 11.4% were gun-owning males (O’Donnel 772). The access to guns might prove to be a deadly for both innocent bystanders and the holder of the gun. Children should not be able to own guns. One of the prerequisites for owning a gun should be that the person is responsible enough to own a firearm. Since there are no guarantees for that, guns should only be issued in extensively controlled forms otherwise the government jeopardizes the safety of the people they’ve sworn to protect.
In ages 10-14 72%, and in the ages 15-19, 85% of all homicides are committed with firearms. In addition to that 60 % of all suicides among youths is committed with a handgun. The total firearm death rate concerning white males in their teens now exceed natural causes (O’Donnell 771). These are alarming statistics show the brutal reality of firearms in the U.S.
A study made by the American Psychological Association, Commission on Violence and Youth showed, in a study made in Seattle in 1993, that 6% of males in the 11th grade had at least once brought a handgun to school (O’Donnel 772). More than 1 in 20 had brought a handgun to school, in other words it was quite a common practice among youths. How does that effect the rest of us? Parents might just get the news from police officers that their son or daughter had become victim to a stray bullet while attending history class.
The lawmakers in the United States are addressing the problem by putting up metal detectors in schools. In the case of metal detectors, officials have realized that preventing the possession of firearms inside the boundary of the school is necessary for the safety of the students and teachers. This is a temporary solution to ever-growing problem. The risk of a student or a teacher getting shot inside the school property has probably been reduced, which is positive. But the fact remains that outside of the school property the risk of being a victimized is growing every year.
In order for these types of events not to occur legislators and other professionals are emphasizing precautionary actions of the gun owners and most of the time a ban on guns isn’t mentioned. “Why I should be denied the same right my father and grandfather had?” (Skelton). Because times have changed, guns are not solely created and used for hunting anymore, and with today’s technology, in the form of automatic guns and high impact ammunition, guns have become deadlier, which leaves a greater responsibility on the owners. Are people ready for that responsibility?
A quite common phrase is: “Guns don’t kill people, it is the people that pull the trigger.” Yes, people do the killing, but does that justify the government providing the citizens with the instruments of death.
In theory, if all people were to act totally responsibly this dilemma wouldn’t exist. The fact of the matter is that a lot of killings occur when a person’s judgment is clouded by means of drugs or emotions. In these conditions not many people act responsibly, which is a condition for allowing people the right to arm themselves. One of the reasons why governments exist is to protect us from ourselves in times of rage, greed, anger and other emotions for the maintaining equality in society. The government is not protecting the rights of the individual when they are allowing people to own firearms in knowing the consequential price of death and injury that is paid by so many year after year.
International incidents such as the school massacre in Dunblane, Great Britain or the mass shooting in Tasmania, Australia triggered immediate effects in strengthening further the very strict existing gun control laws in their respective countries (“America and Guns” 16). Governments in other western countries usually make adjustments to their gun laws in direct relationship to violent incidents. Massacres like these don’t seem to spark the same enthusiasm among politicians to change any gun control laws significantly.
The fact is that in 1996 two people in New Zealand, 15 in Japan, 30 in Britain, 106 in Canada, 211 in Germany and 9,390 in the U.S.A. were murdered with handguns. There are about 500,000 incidents, from assault to murder, that involve firearms every year and they results in 35,000 deaths, including suicides and accidents, in the U.S. every year (“America and Guns” 16). Compared with other countries the statistics are alarming. It seems as the Americans wants to keep their guns no matter what the price.
The National Rifle Association is the leading pro-gun organization in the United States. On their Internet site they describe many aspects of their organization. An excerpt from the page describing the members of their organization’s common interest reads:
What members share with every other member is an appreciation of the shooting sports, belief in our constitutional right to keep and bear arms and, most of all, a commitment to safety, responsibility and freedom. (NRA)
Whether or not the NRA are one of the contributing factors or not to the incredibly high firearm death statistics in the U.S., the NRA has very much political power and will do all they can to uphold the second Amendment. The part about the gun organization having a pledge to “safety, responsibility and freedom” doesn’t make sense. In a survey conducted by John Hopkins Center for Gun and Policy Research and the University of Chicago revealed that most American citizens would like to see guns more strictly regulated. That means that not only do other international governments see a direct relationship between guns and death but even the American people.
In 1991, one year’s misuse of guns claimed as many lives as the Korean War. One and a half year’s total death toll from guns equaled the number of dead in Vietnam. Nine years of deaths due to misuses of firearms equals the entire death toll for World War II (O’Donnel 771). Do people in the U.S. really understand how many lives that are being wasted every year because of the misuse of firearms?
By 1998 legislation in 31 states, 9 since 1995 has passed laws issuing concealed weapons licenses to citizens (“America and Guns” 18). Some experts claim that letting people obtain licenses for carrying a gun while walking around in the streets is the cheapest way in lowering the horrendous statistics. Other experts claim that arming people is never a good answer to this problem because it adds to the risk of people getting shot in anger. Actually it doesn’t really matter what the experts derive out of the situation; the scariest detail is that legislators in these states have come to the conclusion that the most effective way to make America safer is to carry guns in the streets.
A study of the murder rate in Washington D.C. showed that within three years of the passage of a law prohibiting the sale of handguns in the city the murder rate dropped by 25% (Kruschke 22). The state of South Carolina and the city of Boston experienced similar results when stricter gun control laws were recently enforced. In Boston the homicide rate dropped by 39% and in South Carolina the murder rate dropped by 28% (Kruschke 23). These are just some example of cities and states that have realized that strict gun control is one way of decreasing high murder rates.
According to a survey conducted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research revealed that the majority of Americans would like to see guns more tightly regulated (“Fire Control”). Let’s face it, a shooting is national news in most western countries but in the U.S. it is merely an every day occurrence that often doesn’t even get national coverage by the media. The American public is feeling the horrendous effects of violence that the second Amendment brings and many realize that something has to be done to decrease the annual death toll due to guns.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 was attempt by the government to restrict the sale of guns by making sellers of guns licensed and prohibited the sale of guns or ammunition to people that are convicted felons, minors, drug users, illegal aliens or people who have been discharged from the military. This Act was passed during the wake of the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy. It was huge reaction to a growing usage of handguns in the U.S. The legislators figured out that the liberty of bearing arms wasn’t for everyone. Gun Control Act of 1968 has very likely contributed to a lowering the number of deaths each year than the alternative of not having laws that regulate the possession and distribution of guns. Since then things haven’t become better and 30 years of people shooting each other legislators are bound to realize that the personal liberty of bearing arms doesn’t need to be modified but to be cancelled once and for all.
One common argument in the debate about gun control is that if guns are banned then cars will also have to be banned because cars are also responsible for many deaths each year. The truth is that the usage for cars and guns are totally. The purpose of cars is transportation and guns to launch a bullet into a target. Yes, many accidents occur with cars every year that claims the lives of many innocent people but it is very seldom that people are being hurt intentionally by drivers of cars or other vehicles. Guns nevertheless are very often used as an intentional device for killing or harming another individual. It is important to focus on the easiness of pointing a gun in a direction and pulling the trigger, it doesn’t take very long time and it might just claim the lives of one or more persons. There is not much time for second thoughts and not much time for people to react. If someone were to do intentionally murder one or more people with a car the event would take longer time, which leaves more time for the person behind the wheel to think over his or her decision. Not to mention the person or persons intended of being murdered have a lot more time to react to a speeding car than a bullet. There are a lot of things that can be used to murder someone such as: a kitchen knife, a baseball bat, a screwdriver, a sharp pencil etc. The main reason for not banning these items is that they are not easy instruments to inflict harm with and their purpose is not to hurt people. Guns should be banned because it doesn’t take much out of a person to point it and pull the trigger. The key word in this argument is easiness; the easiness to end peoples lives and that’s why guns are lethal instrument that ultimately should be banned.