The issue over gun control is the bases for many heated debates in the American society today. As stated by G Kleck (2001), “Gun prohibition can be defined for present purposes as any gun control measure that would preclude legal ownership or possession of guns, or of handguns, by almost all of the civilian population” (p. 130). Therefore, gun control laws are any kind of laws made by the government that try to restrict the legal ownership of guns. Many people believe that gun control laws are necessary to reduce violence, yet others believe that gun control only steals the guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. However, some believe that gun control laws are necessary to an extent, but the problem is finding out exactly what that extent is.
People who support gun control laws tend to argue that guns need to be taken off the streets for several reasons. One obvious reason is that guns are frequently used as murder weapons. Another reason as shown by Mark Duggan (2003) is that guns are the most commonly used method in suicides (p. 47). The last major reason is that guns have been known to cause accidental deaths among people who are inexperienced in using firearms. The last idea is particularly aimed toward children. It is obvious that people supporting gun control fear guns and believe they are harmful, but the question still remains as to whether these accusations made toward guns are valid or not.
Throughout the past few decades, many incidents have occurred that back the idea that guns are especially used as murder weapons. For example, an incident occurred in Louisville, Kentucky involving an employee from a printing plant. “On September 14 [Joseph T. Wesbecker] entered company offices with an AK-47 and fired for thirty minutes, murdering seven coworkers and wounding thirteen before killing himself. He had purchased his guns legally” (DeConde, 2001, p. 240). Incidents such as this help to persuade more citizens to side with the gun control activists.
The myth that firearms are a major influence on suicides may not be too far from the truth. According to Mark Duggan (2003), in 1998, “61.6 % of males who committed suicide used a firearm and 38.4 % of females abused a gun” (p. 47). Perhaps people who desire more gun control believe that these rates along with the suicide rate as a whole may drop if more gun control laws are instituted. It is possible that some people who wish to commit suicide using a gun might search for other means of carrying out their suicide. Either way, it is obvious that the ownership of guns has a large impact on suicides in America.
Another argument made by people desiring gun control is that guns lead to accidental deaths often associated with self-defense. A typical example that may be used by someone desiring gun control is the story involving a man from Louisiana who “mistakenly killed a Japanese student who menaced him in a Halloween prank” (Kleck, 2001, p.15). It is common for an incident such as this one to be highly publicized. As a result, these sorts of incidents appear to occur more often than not. Gun control activists often use such examples in an attempt to persuade others that guns are harmful and need to be taken out of the hands of citizens.
Just as people support gun control, people oppose gun control. Most of the people who oppose gun control laws own at least one firearm, but few do not. Many non-supporters of gun control laws argue that the Second Amendment of the Constitution protects their right to bear arms. They also claim that gun control can only affect the legal purchase of firearms, but most criminals can still purchase guns illegally on the street. This argument is also tied into the idea that guns are needed for self-defense, and that taking guns out of the hands of average citizens benefits criminals. However, the question still remains as to how valid these arguments are.
The first argument, protection under the Second Amendment, is more complex than it may seem. Those who are against gun control constantly point out that it is a constitutional right to own firearms. Alexander DeConde (2001), when speaking on the matter, states, “advocates of arms keeping” may argue that when the Constitution was set forth, “the militia and the arms bearing mentioned in the Second Amendment applied to the entire citizenry” (p. 35). It is possible that when the Constitution was written, the framers needed to portray a sense of security to the states and their citizens. One possible way of doing this was to add an amendment that allowed citizens to carry guns. In addition, a national army had not been formed yet and the citizens of the states were responsible for defense. The reason as to why the Second Amendment is included in the Constitution and the exact meaning of it is unknown, and is therefore the bases for many debates. However, it is true that the Second Amendment states that citizens have the right to bear arms, but the best part about the Constitution is that it is always open to interpretation.
The second major argument made by citizens opposing gun control laws is the idea that criminals are still able to obtain guns whether it is done legally or illegally. In response to many accusations that ordinary people are murderers, Don B. Kates (2001) states, “The embarrassing fact that criminals are not going to obey gun bans can be evaded by misrepresenting murder as something committed by ‘law-abiding citizens.'” Kleck goes on to provide statistics that show that most murderers and victims of murder have a criminal past including such crimes as drug use and robbery (p. 20). These facts can only validate the idea that gun control laws may not necessarily reduce the number of violent crimes because criminals are always able to obtain guns when they need them. In addition, by creating stricter gun laws, the government is only taking guns from law-abiding citizens who have no intention of using them illegally and putting them into the hands of criminals.
It is possible, however, that neither people who oppose gun control nor gun control activists are fully correct in their views. It is also possible that one or both are partly correct in their ideas on gun control. One reason for this middle is that without any control over who can legally purchase guns, it may be much easier for criminals to obtain any sort of firearm desired. Restricting the purchase of firearms, however, is unfair to law-abiding citizens who purchase them for purposes such as hunting or self-defense. Therefore, a compromise on gun control laws is needed between the two groups. One possible idea is background checks. A background check on someone trying to purchase a gun can help prevent a potential murderer from obtaining a gun. However, some may consider background checks an invasion of privacy. This example is one reason as to why a problem with gun control policies still exists today although the Constitution was set forth over two-hundred years ago.
Although many citizens of America have taken one side or the other on the issue of gun control, it is very possible that neither side is completely accurate. In our changing society, it is clear that some control is needed in order to protect society, but it is more of an issue as to what extent of control is necessary without infringing on citizen’s rights. This is an issue for which no true end is in sight and for which people’s beliefs may affect the changes that have yet to come.