Recent reports of illegal shootings and gun abuse in the United States have reignited the controversy about the need for gun safety. One side of the issue contends that gun reform is important to ensure public safety, while the other contends that it is futile because it would do nothing in terms of public safety. According to Boylan et al., the United States is one of the countries with the most weapons in the world; in particular, it is the leading nation with about 270 million guns, which translates to approximately 90 guns per 100 American citizens (3934). It is estimated that almost 22 percent of the people in the United States are in possession of one or more guns, with men being the majority at 35 percent and women at 12 percent. It should be noted that the pervasive culture of gun in the country has its roots to the eras of colonialism, revolutionary and frontier expansion and during the Second Amendment period. Susan (24) observes, The issue of gun control is wider than just the illegal use and misuse of guns by adults, as it also touches on the terrorism threat and inappropriate access by children. This paper will make arguments against gun control and provide a counter argument supporting gun control guided by the following thesis: Gun control is an ineffective policy to tackle crime and protect public safety.
Whereas there is intense debate about the issue of gun control, there is limited knowledge and understanding about the policies that relate to this matter. This is evidenced by the fact that the proponents of gun control tend to suggest that it is the panacea to gun violence in the society, while available statistics does not seem to support this supposition (Joseph 15). To them, gun control aided by strict gun regulations will be a big step towards reducing the gun misuse and violence incidences. This can be considered to be a populist opinion since empirical studies do not seem to show that there is a significant correlation between gun control and reduction in misuse of guns and gun violence incidences. Nisbet explains, gun control is not only against the American citizens rights, but also undermines their ability to protect themselves through self-defense against local criminals, as well as foreign invaders (9).
So, what are the main reasons against gun control? The first main reason is that there is no credible statistics showing a strong relationship between gun control and crime or gun violence for that matter. While the challenges of gun violence and rising crime rates are real, they cannot be directly attributed to absence of gun control policies. Susan notes that empirical research has shown the rising incidences of gun violence and crime are as a result of more fundamental underlying factors including unemployment, organized crime, and poverty, increasing urbanization and drug and substance abuse (59). Other factors include weakness in the criminal justice, educational, and social systems. It has been established that there are inherent incapacity and weaknesses in these systems thus leading to weak enforcement of laws thereby encouraging rising cases of crime and gun violence. These factors have significantly conspired to cause the rise in crime rates. According to Jacobs (20), Although there is data showing that some aspects of gun violence and crime rates relates to some extent to gun control policies, the extent of such a relationship is lesser compared to that of the aforementioned factors.
Statistics from other countries also support this position; there are still murder and other criminal activities in countries where guns have been banned or are controlled. Magoon (29) says, Just like alcohol prohibition did not stop the consumption, gun control or ban will not stop illegal possession and use of guns. Instead, it is feared that the control will lead to illegal importation, possession and use of guns thereby threatening security and public safety at more advanced extent. Absence of gun control ensures that guns supply is properly regulated and that there is fewer control by the cartels and underground groups (Bruce and Clyde 98).
The second major reason against gun control is the fact that it is a policy that violates the United States constitution that guarantees citizens the right of owning a gun. Gun ownership is as an old tradition as the independent United States is; it is a tradition that is older compared to the regulations that were and are being legislated to prevent it (Joseph 208). As such, the constitution provides a strong protection of each American citizen to own a gun. This right is as fundamental and essential as the rights to free speech, freedom of association, and freedom of religion, and violating it amounts to infringement of fundamental liberties and rights provided for in the chapter on Bill of Rights (Bruce and Clyde 111). If gun control policy is allowed to prevail then there is a high likelihood that it will open a door for enactment of other policies and laws that violate the United States constitution, and more worryingly the provisions on fundamental human rights (Magoon 54).
Gun control laws are likely to not just limit the ownership of rifles among citizens; they can also be used to limit the amounts of rounds and the types of rifles. This situation will not most likely lead to infringement of other rights like rights to freedom of religion and free speech (Magoon 79). It is noteworthy that the Second Amendment and the provisions relating to the right to gun ownership is not simply intended for ordinary individual and home defense, but was also intended to guarantee that the country could never be overcome by any foreign or domestic military power. In the wake of heightening terrorism threats and the risk of foreign attacks from hostile nations, allowing citizens to own guns is a sure way of guaranteeing the safety of individual citizens and boosting the defense capability of the nation as a whole (Bruce and Clyde 115).
Nisbet (84) argues, unlike other policies that may have constitutional exemptions as to the extent to which they may be enforced the in order to guarantee public safety, gun control is not supported by such exemptions. In fact, it poses a further risk of violating the right to life of the citizens. Gun ownership has proved over the years to be essential in deterring crime and in protecting the individual lives of the citizens. Available statistics illustrate that states with laws restricting gun ownership experience higher rates of gun-related murders compared to states without such restrictions (Bruce and Clyde 162). The fear that there has been a rapid rise in gun ownership in the recent decades and the trend should be stopped is unfounded. This is because despite gun ownership increasing two-folds in the recent decades, the murder rates have significantly reduced as well (Magoon 100). States that have the largest ownership of guns among citizens have witnessed the biggest drops in the violent crimes rates.
The third major reason against gun control is the fact that it not only infringes on the self-defense rights of citizens, but also denies them their sense of safety. Jacobs (93) notes that while the police play a fundamental role in providing security to the public and maintaining law and order, they are not in a position to protect each citizen at all times. It is thus necessary that individual citizens should be empowered and equipped through policies such as those allowing for gun ownership to make it easy for them to protect their property and families in the event of an attack (Bruce and Clyde 171). Such a policy is crucial in filling the gap that is created by inevitable inadequate law enforcers presence. More crucially, is the role that such a policy will play in ensuring that citizens are at the forefront of maintaining law and order thereby creating a collaborative atmosphere with the police to enhance their safety and security. Undoubtedly, it is on this basis that the crafters of the United States constitution deemed it fit to make the right to self-defense a basic right that should not be denied to any citizen (Susan 140).
While laws have been found to help deter criminals, they are not sufficient; guns in the hands of civilians serve to augment the role of the laws in deterring crime. Rampage shooters and other criminals often like soft targets because they know they do not have adequate or effective self-defense mechanisms (Bruce and Clyde 65). This explains why they are more likely to target theaters, churches and elementary schools; these are places where one would think guns are less likely to be. However, they will be less likely to attack homes and places where they are sure the occupants or residents have guns. In fact, armed civilians can play an important role in getting rid of bad guys. This has been evidenced on several occasions, a case in point being in 1966 in Austin, Texas when students went to their trucks and took their guns which they used to pin down and shoot a sniper who had attacked the University (Magoon 123).
The fear for legally owned guns being obtained and used for criminal activities is not sufficient reason to violate the basic rights that every individual is guaranteed by the constitution. Mauser and Kates deduce from numerous studies that laws on gun control are not capable of preventing criminals from obtaining guns and using them for criminal activities (202). Taking away guns from individuals who are law-abiding does not prevent criminals from finding means of getting guns and being involved in criminal activities. It should be noted that apart from using guns for self-defense, law-abiding citizens also use them for other purposes like hunting. Therefore, gun control will only serve to infringe their rights to enjoy sports and participate in leisure activities like hunting. It is estimated that there are nearly 13.7 million people involved in hunting in the United States (Boylan et al 3936). This relatively high proportion of the population spends almost 8 billion dollars on hunting equipments including guns and ammunitions. Gun control laws will only serve to deny this considerable proportion of the population an opportunity to engage in their favorite sports, and at the same time deny the government the revenues collected from the purchase of guns and ammunitions for hunting purposes (Bruce and Clyde 118).
The major arguments against gun control notwithstanding, are there valid reasons for gun control? According to Mauser and Kates (150) note that the position for gun controls are largely informed by the belief that it will be a crucial step in reducing the gun-related injuries and deaths. According to the proponents of gun control law, there have been rising incidences of gun violence leading to serious injuries and even deaths of the victims. They back their position by the statistics which show that firearms is one of the leading causes of deaths in the United States, being ranked at number twelve. The supporters of gun control laws argue that these laws do not necessarily mean that people should be denied ownership of guns; instead, it simply implies that there should be stringent laws regulating the manufacturing, transferring, modification, use, and sale of guns to civilians. The laws will serve to make sure that before a civilian is allowed to own a gun they have gone through thorough background checks aimed at ensuring that they are mentally, emotionally and physically fit to handle firearm without posing threats to public safety. Also, the laws will facilitate enhanced requirements for gun identification crucial during investigations on gun-related injuries and deaths.
The overall reason for the support to gun control laws is the need to enhance public safety. Jacobs (46) says, The focus to enhance public safety through gun control is not solely in regard to reducing violent crime, but also in protecting women from domestic abusers and also from stalkers. A number of investigations have established that the risk of a women being killed during a domestic dispute goes up by nearly 500 percent in an event there is a gun. This problem seems to be bigger in the United States than in other developed countries in the world. Susan (118) takes note of the study which found out that among women in 23 high-income countries that are murdered by firearms; 86 percent of them are American. The study further established that American women are 11.4 more times likely to be victims of gun homicides compared to women from other countries. Besides, gun possession has been found to increase public safety risk through acts like stalking where those having guns are more likely to harm their targets than those without guns.
In conclusion, it is evident that gun control is an ineffective policy to tackle crime and protect public safety. As has been noted, there is no credible statistics showing a strong relationship between gun control and crime or gun violence. Also, such a policy violates the United States constitution that guarantees citizens the right of owning a gun. Besides, it not only infringes on the self-defense rights of citizens, but also denies them their sense of safety. While the argument by the proponents of gun control laws that such a policy is necessary to enhance public safety is valid, the reasons against such a policy far outweigh this argument.
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