America and Gun Control

The debate of gun control laws ignites a volatile controversy amongst the American people. Fewer topics raise more emotional debate than the subject of gun control. The Second Amendment grants the “right to bear arms” however, the question remains about who is given this right. Is the right to bear arms given exclusively to the militia or to all the people? This question brings the issue of who should be trusted with fire arms, the people or the government? There is no evidence from the writings of the Founding Fathers that one must belong to a well regulated militia in order to have the right to keep and bear arms. The Founders were simply expressing a preference for a militia over a standing army. The first clause regarding the militia is merely one, and not the only, rationale for preserving the right to own firearms. The second clause, granting “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” applies to our nation on the individual level. We have the right to own guns for recreational purposes, such as hunting, and for self defense against intruders, or corrupted governments. It is our duty as citizens of the United States to exercise this right.

If not for legal gun ownership, the conception as well as the success of the American Revolution may have been jeopardized. In 1775, when the British government knocked down American citizens’ doors demanding them to disarm, we refused. We came together, with the aid of guns, to overthrow the tyrannical British government which wrongfully attempted to deprive us of our freedom. As a result, our nation was created on the foundation of individuals’ freedom and God given human rights. These rights are expressed in the Bill of Rights. The unquestionable rights of freedom of speech, religion, etc. are expressed concurrently with the freedom to keep and bear arms in the Second Amendment. Without this right, our country would not exist as it is today. Furthermore, we must defend our right to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

The freedom expressed in the Second Amendment of the Constitution, grants us the right to self defense. Life is a basic human right that must be protected by laws, institutions and our right to own guns. We have a duty to defend our lives, the lives of our families and our property. The government is ineffective in providing for an individuals’ safety, and this is the reason we must take matters into our own hands to become self-reliant. A woman, if attacked by a male attacker, may find herself overpowered and unable to defend her self unarmed. Conversely, a gun can be an equalizer to the difference in physical strength. A woman raped and killed is far more devastating to society than a woman with a smoking gun and a rapist at her feet. Studies actually prove that more guns carried by civilians leads to a lower crime rate. Criminals are deterred by not knowing if their potential victim is armed, because a purse or wallet is not worth getting shot. These studies have been conducted by Dr. John R. Lott of the University of Chicago Law School and author of the book, “More Guns, Less Crime”.

In 1996, Dr. John R. Lott published the results of a crime study conducted using FBI data from 1977 to 1992 regarding crime rates and the affects of the right to carry concealed weapons. Between 1977 and 1992, ten states adopted right-to-carry weapons laws. Dr. Lott’s study found that the implementation of these laws created no change in suicide rates, a .5% rise in accidental firearm deaths, a 5% decline in rapes, a 7% decline in aggravated assaults, and an 8% decline in murder. (Lott 172). Florida adopted a right-to-carry law in 1987 and at the time the law was passed, critics predicted increases in violence. When the law went into effect, the Dade County Police began a program to record all arrest and non arrest incidents involving concealed carry licensees. Between September of 1987 and August of 1992, Dade County recorded 4 crimes committed by licensees with firearms. None of these crimes resulted in an injury. The record keeping program was abandoned in 1992 because there were insufficient incidents to justify tracking them. After Florida adopted a right-to-carry law in 1987, the homicide rate decreased by 36%, the firearm homicide rate fell by 37%, and the hand gun homicide rate fell by 41%. (Lott 204). Over 20,000 concealed weapons licenses were issued in Florida between October of 1987 and April of 1994. During that time, Florida recorded 18 crimes committed by licensees with firearms. As of 1998, there has been 1 recorded incident in which a permit holder shot someone following a traffic accident. The permit holder was not charged, as the grand jury ruled the shooting was in self defense. As of 1998, no permit holder has ever shot a police officer. (Lott 206). Additionally, there have been several cases in which a permit holder has protected an officer’s life. These statistics prove that carrying concealed weapons does not increase the amount of crime in fact, crime has decreased.

An additional argument in favor of increased regulations of gun control is to reduce accidental gun injuries. A fatal gun accident, particularly when a child is involved, often makes state or national news. This gives the impression that fatal gun accidents are more prevalent than other fatal accidents, gun accidents are increasing, and civilian gun ownership must be further restricted or regulated. The reality does not correspond to the perception created by media coverage. Fatal gun accidents declined by almost sixty percent from 1975 to 1995, even though the number of guns per capita increased by almost forty percent. Fatal gun accidents involving children (aged 0-14) also fell significantly, from 495 in 1975, to under 250 in 1995. More children die from accidental drownings or burns than from gun accidents. (Gun supply statistics are from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, gun accident rates from the National Safety Council). Through use of misleading definitions, advocates of pro-gun control distorted some data. The organizers of the Million Mom March, for example, made much of the figure of “12 children die every single day from gunfire.” This figure holds true only if persons aged 15-19 are counted as children. Deaths in this group usually occur because older teenagers’ involvement in distinctly unchildlike activities, such as drug-related crime. Using a more usual definition of children, aged 14 or below, 1.7 children die daily from gun violence and the number drops to 1.3 when suicides are excluded. Dr. Gary Kleck, a professor for Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University, mentions, “The risk of being a victim of a fatal gun accident can be better appreciated if it is compared to a more familiar risk… Each year about five hundred children under the age of five accidentally drown in residential swimming pools, compared to about forty killed in gun accidents, despite the fact that there are only about five million households with swimming pools, compared to at least 43 million with guns. Thus, based on owning households, the risk of a fatal accident among small children is over one hundred times higher for swimming pools than for guns” (Kleck 296). Gun control groups and pro-control researchers continue to misconstrue the real data provided to the media by including older “children” up to the age of nineteen to sway the American public into thinking that guns control legislation should be escalated.

Furthermore, the media continues their attack on the right to bear arms by their sensational coverage of school shootings. Since the shootings started in the fall of 1997, 32 students and 3 teachers have been killed in shootings at elementary or secondary schools, an annual rate of 1 death per 4 million students. This includes deaths from gang fights, robberies, accidents, as well as attacks such as the one at Columbine. By contrast, during that same period, 53 students died playing high-school football. (www.nationalreview.com, John Lott Jr., “Guest Comment on NRO”) Of 20,000 secondary schools nationwide, only about 10 have reported a murder on campus. During the massive news coverage “After a sixteen year old in Pearl, Mississippi… went on a shooting spree in late 1997,” (Glassner xiv), one decisive fact was overlooked by Glassner. An assistant principal retrieved a gun from his car and physically immobilized the gunman for a full forty minutes while waiting for the police to arrive. The gunman already shot two students to death subsequent to stabbing his mother to death. Who knows how many lives the assistant principal saved by his prompt response? Allowing teachers and other law-abiding adults to carry concealed handguns in schools would not only make it easier to stop shootings in progress, it could also help deter shootings from ever occurring. Attempts to outlaw guns from schools, no matter how well meaning, have backfired. Instead of making school safe for children, we have made them safe for those individuals intent on harming our children. Moreover, current school policies fire teachers who accidentally bring otherwise legal concealed handguns to school. We might consider reversing this policy and begin rewarding teachers who take on the responsibility to help protect children.

Many people wonder why America is such a violent country. Many people feel that it is the high number of guns in our country that makes us so violent. But if it is the guns that make Americans violent, then why is Canada just as or more violent than America. Guns per capita are much higher in Canada than America. Thus guns are not responsible for the amazing violence in our country, but it is the people themselves. In the film, “Bowling for Columbine”, writer Michael Moore travels to Ontario, Canada to find out what makes Canada so much less violent then America. Moore discovers that fear makes Canada different. Canadians evidently aren’t afraid of each other, whereas Americans are living in fear. Americans are afraid of each other and need guns to protect themselves from other people with guns. Canada’s annual violent death toll was announced as just below 170 on average. Compared to the U.K.’s 60 or so violent deaths a year, but it’s still a sharp contrast to the United States’ disgusting 11,500 murders annually.

An overall ban on guns would not do this country any good. Guns would be on the black market and it would cause more violence for criminals to obtain these illegal guns increasing the risk of many innocent bystanders. In stead of creating a safe environment for Americans, it created a situation where law abiding citizens do not have guns to protect themselves from the criminals that do not care about these anti-gun laws. Washington D.C. enacted a virtual ban on handguns in 1976. Between 1976 and 1991, Washington D.C.’s homicide rate rose 200%, while the U.S. rate rose 12%. (Kleck 203). When gun control laws are passed, it is law-abiding citizens, not would-be criminals, who adhere to them. Obviously the police cannot be everywhere, so these laws risk creating situations in which the good citizens cannot defend themselves from the bad ones. The government should focus on enforcing current gun laws before they try to create new ones. It is already required that gun dealers must perform background checks on all individuals that buy and register guns.

Work Cited

Glassner, Barry. The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things. Basic Books, New York, NY: 1999.

“Gun Control”. www.justfacts.com, updated 30 March 2002, retrieved 10 February 2003.

“Gun Control and Second Amendment Issues”. www.guncite.com, updated 20 January 2003, retrieved 10 February 2003.

Kleck, Gary. Targeting Guns: Firearms and Their Control. Walter de Gruyter, Inc., New York, 1997.

Lott, John R, Jr. “Guest Comment on NRO”. www.nationalreview.com,

Lott, John R, Jr. More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws. Second Edition. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2000.

Lott, John R, Jr. “How to Stop School Shootings”. www.keepandbeararms.com

Moore, Michael. “Bowling for Columbine”. 2002 Iconolatry Productions Inc., an Alliance

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