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and the need for armed citizens is out of date.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
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
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
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
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.