With the growing gun-related crime rate in the United States today, many bills have been proposed to control guns. The most popular of these bans is The Brady Bill. The bill focuses on semi-automatic handguns. People wishing to buy a handgun will have to answer a federal questionnaire. The person’s background will be checked thoroughly for criminal records or records of past mental illness. The process should only take five days. This five day waiting period, or the “cooling off” period, is supposed to allow a person’s temper to cool down. The Brady Bill claims that people act on impulse. A person’s temper can interfere with his/her ability to think clearly; he/she is angry, so a gun is bought to get revenge. I have no problem with the Brady Bill, because it has stopped crime, but not enough.
A bill was passed by former U.S. President George Bush which banned the production of nine types of assault weapons and the importation of forty-three types of assault weapons. Bush felt that assault weapons were responsible for majority of the violent crimes committed in the United States. Field & Stream writer, David E. Petzal agreed with Bush stating that, “Assault weapons are designed to put out a high volume of fire with a high degree of controllability. The only purpose these firearms have is to kill people” (27). Gun related crime is still very common.
In the past, over 20,000 gun control bills have been passed through Congress, and crime is still running rampant through America’s streets. The National Firearms Act of 1934 was the first federal gun law to be passed. This act imposed a two hundred-dollar excise tax on the sale of fully automatic weapons. The Gun Control Act of 1968 made it a requirement for all gun dealers to have a federal license. This same act also banned the sale of guns through the mail and the sale of guns to all people who have formerly been convicted of violent felonies. It also prohibited dealers from selling handguns out of state, and out-of-state residents from buying handguns (Bender 51). These have not eliminated gun-related crime either.
A majority of the American people feel that gun control laws will help reduce crime rates because the waiting period would allow time for a person’s temper to cool down. They also feel that gun control will prevent repeat offenders because when a person tries to purchase a handgun, he will have to fill out a lengthy questionnaire. The questionnaire will include questions about the buyer’s past, for example, if they have a criminal record or a record of any mental illness. If there is a criminal record in that person’s history, he will not be able to make the purchase. Restricting handgun ownership would also reduce crime, because guns are used most often in robberies and murders (Mayer 28). They are very easily concealed under a coat, or even in the waistband of pants.
The problem with statements like the above is that people are forgetting about the black market. If a person is planning on buying a handgun for criminal purposes, he is not likely to buy it through a dealer. If he buys a gun through a dealer, the gun has to be registered in that person’s name. If the gun is used in any crime or murder where a shot is fired and the gun is left behind, the police could very easily trace the gun to that person. This situation causes many criminals to turn to the black market. Any person can buy any type of gun off the streets with no hassle. He doesn’t have to fill out a questionnaire, or go through the registration process. Even if an ex-convict tries to buy a handgun from a dealer and is turned down, he could easily get access to a firearm. Therefore, gun control is not enough to eliminate crime and violence.
Another problem with the gun control laws is that they focus specifically on semi automatic handguns. Handguns are not the only types of guns used in murders and robberies. There have also been cases where shot guns and rifles have been used in crimes and murder. Shotguns are becoming more popular in crime. When a person fires a shotgun, the B.B.’s inside the shell spread out, and since a shotgun is so powerful, the B.B.’s will travel a great distance. There is no need for accuracy with a shotgun, but with a pistol the person either has to be at very close range or he has to have good marksmanship. Rifles are even more dangerous, because they combine accuracy and distance. A person could hit small targets at long distances if the gun is sighted properly; therefore, he would not have to be close to the victim.
Voters who support gun control feel that people often turn to handguns for personal protection. With a gun they feel as though they are safe. Self-defense leads to inexperienced people owning guns, which leads to accidental shootings. This is believed because the owners do not know how to handle a gun. In 1990, over 1200 people died from handgun related accidents (Cooper 161). However, the hazards of gun ownership and use by citizens are greatly exaggerated because of society’s fears, not by actual evidence.
I think self defense is an important reason why we should not have gun control laws in the United States. A 1985 survey of convicted criminals by the U.S. Department of Justice showed that 34% reported that they had been scared off, shot at, or captured by an armed victim; 40% said they had decided to not commit a crime because they thought the victim was armed (Bender 153). This survey shows that handguns used for self-defense can actually reduce crime. If there were restrictions on handgun ownership, victims of crimes would be helpless. When a criminal carrying a gun breaks into a person’s house, the only chance the victim would have of defending himself is if he owned some sort of firearm.
Instead of gun control laws, the United States should reevaluate the justice system. According to David L. Bender’s book Gun Control, a study showed that only four criminals go to jail for every one hundred crimes reported. The FBI estimates that 60% of all crimes are not reported. The study also showed that for every one hundred prisoners with life sentences, twenty-five are freed before their third year; forty-two are out of prison by their seventh year; and people acquitted of murder by reason of insanity only spend an average of five hundred days in a mental institution before they are released (163). These people that only serve a portion of their sentence are often involved in crimes after they are back on the streets. The reason for the early release of many prisoners is the fact that jails and prisons are over-crowded.
With the amount of crime there is in America today, the government should think about building more prisons, and larger prisons, or it should consider enforcing the death penalty. If death sentences were actually carried out, this would help regulate the prison population. This would also create more room so prisoners would not have to be released before they serve their full sentence. If these people are not on the streets when they are supposed to be in prison, there would be fewer repeat offenders.
Another possibility of reducing crime with out banning semi automatic handguns is to ban the production and sale of clips or magazines that hold more than ten rounds of ammunition. Some clips and magazines that are produced today can hold up to forty or fifty rounds. Criminals can put out a large amount of gunfire without having to reload their gun.
When people look at the crime rate and death statistics compared to the number of times firearms are used, they are quick to point the finger at guns. They feel that if there were no guns in society there would be very little or no crime. American people need to stop and think, “How would gun control laws prevent or reduce crime?” People could easily purchase firearms from the black market if a dealer turns them down. They might go straight to the black market, and not even try to legally obtain a gun. The people that blame guns for our crime problem also need to look closely at the people who commit these crimes. Many times, the criminal has a past record of mental illness, or has formerly been convicted of a crime. If these criminals were locked up like they were supposed to be, they would not be able to commit more crimes. There are gun laws that prevent these people from buying guns, but they are still getting them.
As you can see, there is no way this controversy will be easily solved. There in no solution that will make both sides happy. Congress could pass gun control laws banning semi automatic handguns, and restricting other guns, but gun owners, including collectors would be unhappy. If Congress doesn’t pass gun control laws, the paranoid citizens of America would be unhappy. Taking the black market, self-defense, and collectors into consideration, the United States should not use gun control laws to try to reduce crime.
Bender, David L. Gun Control. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1992.
Brister, Bob. “SHOT Therapy.” Field & Stream, May 1994, 82-84.
Dolan, Edward F., Jr. Gun Control. New York: Franklin Watts, 1982.
Hinds, Micheal deCourcy. “A Gun Dealer’s Story.” New York Times 6 June
Petzal, David E. “Reveille.” Field & Stream June 1994: 26-27
Simon, Jonathan. “The NRA Under Fire.” Public Citizen, July/August 1989: