The Foundational Basis of the Gun Control Debate
As long as security remains a core subject in America’s public, it is next to impossible not to weigh in on the controversial gun control debate that is reignited every time there is a shooting. The recent San Bernardino shootings and other previous shootings in institutions of learning have personified the extent and depth of the gun debate in America. At the very least, the gun control discourse in America encapsulates legal, social, and moral issues that threaten to not only redefine America’s way of life, but also fundamental civil rights outlined in the US constitution. To this effect, the debate about gun control is centered on how legislation aimed at restricting access to guns affects the ordinary American citizen legally, socially, and morally (Ghatak, 2002). This paper will argue that gun control will not work and that American citizens should be allowed to own guns for their protection and the protection of others.
According to Krouse (2012), a survey conducted in 1994 by the National Institute of Justice reported that close to 44 million people, approximately 35% of all American families, were in possession of 192 million firearms, 65 million being handguns. Research provides that many of these guns enter America’s homeland through the $70 billion a year illegal arms black market. Therefore, according to Kopel (1988), the gun control dialogue provides a platform for pertinent questions that encompass the understanding of gun ownership in relation to crime to be properly addressed. In essence, it provides a platform to address the following questions: whether or not there is a correlation between gun ownership and crime; whether or not gun ownership prevents crime; and whether or not there are other countries with as many guns as those in the US but with fewer crimes.
According to Lafollette (2000) the gun control debate does not merely involve left or right supporters; rather, it involves defining who can own guns and what type of guns they can possess. In essence, the debate on gun control is structured to include the following categories; abolition, restriction, and non-abolition. Abolition basically encompasses the degree to which guns should be abolished. Some proponents argue for absolute abolition, while others argue for moderate abolition, whereby access to guns is restricted to certain firearm classes. On the other hand, restrictions comprise the access to guns by private civilians; in essence, the scale to which private citizens have access to firearms. Just like abolition, some supporters argue for absolute restrictions while the others argue for moderate restrictions. However, there are those who are utterly opposed to either abolition or restriction of gun ownership in America. The main point articulated by such groups is that gun control is legally impossible to effect because it violates the Second Amendment of the US constitution.
Arguments by Proponents of Gun Control
The first argument by proponents of gun control, as expected, is based on a moral claim – that it is not right for Americans to arm themselves against their neighbors or fellow countrymen and women (Kate, 1992). This claim, according to proponents, argues that the simple fact that so many American citizens possess firearms, or continue to arm themselves even when there is no sign of immediate danger, provides the leeway to utilize them, not only by design, but also during moments of sheer madness or even by accident (Kate, 1992). This particular argument is squarely based on what statistics display on how gun ownership impacts the rates at which homicides occur, the prevalence of crimes, and gun fatalities in the process of self-defense. In essence, it seeks to relegate the ownership of guns strictly to individuals employed in law enforcement, rather than the entire American citizenry.
The second argument by proponents of gun control argues that the fewer the guns, the fewer the crimes. In this case, according to Kates & Mauser (2007), more guns can only mean two things; increased crime and death. This argument is reinforced by Kopel (1988), who states that during the first quarter of the 20th century, homicide rates in America increased tenfold. This is also asserted by Krouse (2012) who provides an updated state of affairs showing that as of 2009, 11, 493 homicide cases were directly tied to the use of guns of different types. In this regard, supporters of gun control, as Chemerensky (2004) asserts, are of the opinion that the human cost of guns in comparison to the legal ownership of guns is intolerable, because too many deaths and crime result from the unequivocal ownership of guns. This argument is especially directed at particular firearms such as automatic and semi-automatic guns, which supporters of gun control argue are designed to not only kill quickly, but also efficiently due to their large ammunition magazines that allow for spraying of multiple bullets.
Why Gun Control Will not Work: Counterarguments
The first counterargument establishing the premise for why gun control will not work is a response to the moral claim by proponents of gun control. The right for Americans to arm themselves is legally provided in the constitution, which also establishes the moral reasons for such armament. The Second Amendment of the US Constitution states that “…the right of the citizens to have and to carry arms shall not be challenged.” While this is a rephrased account of what is contained in the original constitutional document, it nonetheless captures the spirit of the constitution regarding the issue of guns and their possession thereof by Americans. Therefore, the application of gun control measures by any entity is not only unfounded, but also infringes upon the constitutional rights of American citizens with reference to the Second Amendment (Chemerensky, 2004).
The second counterargument against gun control responds to the argument by proponents that the prevalence of guns is the key contributor to increased crime in America. At this juncture, it is important to answer two of the questions posed earlier; whether gun ownership prevents crimes; and whether or not there are other countries with as many guns as those in America, but with fewer crime rates. According to Kopel (1988), civilian gun owners actually deter crime both passively and actively. Passive deterrence takes into account the psychological character of criminals; those criminals, who know a particular individual to be armed or in possession of a firearm, are unlikely to attack them. On the other hand, active deterrence involves the actual usage of firearms by civilians by way of self-defense. According to Krouse (2012), about 60, 000 or 1% victims of violent gun-related crimes in America actually used their firearms in self-defense, thereby preventing the occurrence of the crime. These two examples clearly show that guns do help to protect not only the bearer, but also other civilians who would otherwise be at the mercy of their assailants.
A great example of a situation whereby the use of guns by civilians could not only prevent or deter crime, but also save lives, is the all too recent proliferation of school shootings. The classic school shooting scenario informs that a student who law enforcement comes to describe as mentally disturbed, walks into a school carrying a weapon and suddenly opens fire on his or her fellow schoolmates for no apparent reason. This scenario describes exactly what happened during the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting by Adam Lanza that left 26 people dead. The argument by gun control opponents is that had any adult within the school population, say a teacher, for example, been armed with a gun, Adam Lanza would have not killed that many people, because he would either have been passively discouraged, or actively tackled by the armed teacher thereby significantly reducing the risk and extent of the crime.
The prevalence of crimes in America
The third counterargument argues that the prevalence of crimes in America that result in deaths cannot be attributed singularly to the prevalence of firearms among Americans. According Bachmann (2012), Switzerland has a gun possession percentage of 3, 400, 000 or 45. 7 people in groups of a hundred. In contrast, the US gun possession rate stands at 270, 000, 000 or about 88.8 people in groups of a hundred, a far cry from that of Switzerland. As a matter of fact, Bachmann (2012) asserts that the Swiss are indeed a gun-loving people. However, the Swiss use guns more responsibly than Americans, limiting their use for recreational purposes such as hunting. Therefore, the occurrence of crimes in Switzerland is very minimal as compared to the US, where most murders occur in a moment of rage and very often from the irresponsible use of guns owned by members of the family.
Contrary to arguments by gun control proponents, the right to carry firearms is constitutionally granted and does not require any social or moral approval. Additionally, carrying guns serves to deter, and in some cases, prevent crime, rather than increase it as argued by proponents of gun control. It is imperative also to question whether or not by banning guns America is providing a political solution to a social problem. This is because guns do not kill people, rather it is the opposite; people with guns kill other people. Hence, this paper establishes that rather than focusing on the outcome associated with guns, the gun control debate should be directed towards the person behind the gun to determine whether or not they are mentally competent to carry such arms.
Bachmann, H. (2012). The Swiss Difference: A Gun Culture that Works. Time Magazine. Accessed on 4th June, 2016 from http://world.time.com/2012/12/20/the-swiss-difference-a-gun-culture-that-works/
Chemerinsky, E. (2004). Putting the Gun Control Debate in Social Perspective. Fordham Law Review, Vol. 73(2). Accessed on 4th June, 2016 from http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4020&context=flr
Ghatak, M. (2002). Gun Control and the Self-Defense Argument. London School of Economics. Accessed on 4th June, 2016 from http://econ.lse.ac.uk/staff/mghatak/gun.pdf
Kates, B. D. (1992). Bigotry, Symbolism and Ideology in the Battle Over Gun Control. National Legal Center for Public Interest. Accessed on 4th June, 2016 from http://www.constitution.org/2ll/2ndschol/54bigsym.pdf
Kates, B. D., & Mauser, G. (2007). Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide? Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 30(2). Accessed on 4th June, 2016 from http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf
Krouse, J. W. (2012). Gun Control Legislation. Congressional Research Service. Accessed on 4th June, 2016 from http://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL32842.pdf
Kopel, B. D. (1988). Trust the People: The Case Against Gun Control. CATO Institute Policy Analysis, No. 109. Accessed on 4th June, 2016 from http://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa109.pdf
LaFollette, H. (2000). Gun Control. The Journal of Ethics, Vol. 110. Accessed on 4th September, 2016 from http://constitutioncenter.org/media/files/guncontrol.pdf
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