On the 20th of April, 1999, in a little town called Lilleton in the U.S, two students from the Columbine High School committed a massacre. During a period of three hours, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed twelve students and one teacher, and injured dozens of others. Finally, they shot themselves in the head. Later the police detected over 900 bullet holes in the school (Bowling for Columbine)1.
Apart from this horrible crime, the macabre fact is that all of the involved guns which had killed these innocent people were legally purchased, and the huge amount of bullets was bought at the K-Mart down the street (Bowling for Columbine). It is true, nobody will ever know if this disaster could have been prevented by a general gun control at that time, but one thing is for sure: it would have been a lot more difficult to purchase the used firearms and bullets if a general gun control would have been enacted before. Although, a comparison between the USA and the UK, where gunposession was prohibited in 1997, shows that after enacting the law, the crime rate surprisingly went up instead of down, still more than 10.000 humans die because of guns in the States every year. That number represents the highest death rate in developed countries and can only be reduced by a stricter enforcement of gun control. As a result, the crime rate would get lower and the public would be safer place.
In his article “What gun controllers don’t want you to know”2, Howard Nemerov, who not only graduated from Harvard and won the National Book Award, but also got the Pulitzer Price, is presenting a vivid example that the inaction of gun control can end in a failure by analyzing official crime rates of the United States from 1992 till 2004. Coeval, Nemerov lists the same period of crime rates of the United Kingdom, where 1997 had been a strict gun ban, prohibiting civilians of possessing any kind of handgun and compares them to the US.
The crime rate was expected to drop, but in fact it went in the completely opposite direction, as the following statistics show. In 1992, the UK had a “burglary with entrance” rate of 2.5%, and the U.S had a rate of 3.5%, one percent higher than the UK. If compared to the statistics of the year 2000, the burglary rate in the UK went up to 2.8%, and that was after the prohibition of guns in 1997. In contrast, the percentage in the U.S. went down to 1.8%. In addition to “burglary with entry” he also compared the statistics of “sexual assault of women”, “robbery” and “assault with force”. In all three of these indices the outcome is similar; the percentage in the U.K. rose, whereas in the U.S. it sank. Furthermore he presents the fact that in that period, where guns were prohibited in the U.K. over 70 million guns were sold in the States. He summarizes that “[…], a reasonable person is forced to conclude that availability of firearms to the general public is not a contributing factor to any increase in crime”. He continues with another fact stated by the Home Office of Britain: during 1997 and 2001 homicide rates rose 19% in the UK while falling 12% in the USA.
His comparison shows, that a general prohibition of gun possession does not already mean that crime rates will go down. However, the annually average death rate through guns in the UK is 163 times is lower than in the US. The exact number of shot people in the UK in 2001 was 63 and in the US – amazing – 11 127 (Bowling for Columbine). In addition to the fact that the US has the highest death rate through the use of guns, also accidents while using guns with no criminal intentions rise the death statistics. In 1996 140 children were killed after being accidentally shot and about 1500 children are hurt by guns every year.
Since it is a fact that the US has the highest shooting death rate of 11 127 humans annually compared to other developed countries, 91% of American citizens are for at least minor restrictions on gun ownership. In addition to that, 57%, more than half of the Americans, even vote for a gun ban or major restrictions.
It is a fact that some foreign countries have low rate of crimes despite they have less restrictions than the US. For example, Switzerland and Japan have gun policy which is completely different form those in the US; nevertheless, the crimes rates of these countries are quite low in comparison with the US ones.3
One more example: the Swiss are issued fully-automatic rifles to keep at home, yet “abuse of military weapons is rare.” The Swiss own two million firearms, including handguns and semi-automatic rifles, they shoot about 60 million rounds of ammunition per year, and “the rate of violent gun abuse is low.” 4 Let’s compare: rifles and handguns are prohibited in Japan, they have a very strict policy as for this issue, and it’s very difficult for a person to get a gun in Japan. Yet, the number of crimes doesn’t lowers, but is even going much higher. The same may be said about many countries which have strict restrictions as for the weapons.5
So, in the U.S. crime rates have shown to be lower than in courtiers with strict firearms laws. And they weren’t raised even with the fact that since 1991 in the USA the number of privately owned firearms has risen by perhaps 50 million. Only in 1993-1999 the number of guns privately owned in the States increased on 37 millions.
Notwithstanding, the accidents or murders rates didn’t go higher. This point may lead to the conclusion that the gun policy restriction wouldn’t influence it too, but I think that’s not right.
People buy guns. And each gut ever bought is a certain threat to eny one of us.
Another question is why people buy weapons? What for? Why?
What influences people? Why do people bear guns, why do they use them?
– People are afraid of becoming a victim, they try to defense themselves. And media is the thing which has a great influence at people’s mind.
The public depends on the media for its pictures of crime. Many people’s opinion about the situation in the country, about crimes taking place periodically forms on the basis of what they see on the screen, what they hear on the radio. And those horrible events the journalists describe in their coverages make people be afraid of becoming a victim. In addition – a great number of such headlines in the newspapers, a great number of such reports on the news.
As a result, people what to make sure nothing like that ever happens with them and get guns mislead by the idea that it will help.
Again, returning to the gun policy in the US, it should be said, that despite US laws much differ from the Canadian ones, the Canadian burglary rate increased 25% from 1978 to 1988.6
Of course, there are many crimes being committed in the United States, and the government should strive against it. They question is: HOW?
Having considered everything stated above, it’s easy to assume that laws like those whish were passed in Great Britain, Canada or other foreign courtiers will never fit for America. That is what American people will not accept due to the rights they have according to the Constitution and the Bill of Right.7
But anyway there is a need for some gun control in the US for the more guns are owned by the people, the more dangerous our life becomes.
Since at least the mid-1980s, Dr. Arthur Kellermann of Emory University published a series of studies purporting to show that persons who keep guns in the home are more likely to be victims of homicide than those who don’t. In a 1986 NEJM paper, Drs. Kellermann and Donald T. Reay claimed that defending oneself or one’s family with a firearm in the home is dangerous and counter productive, noting that, “a gun owner is 43 times more likely to kill a family member than an intruder”8.
On the other hand we have the following example: in 1977 the gun control policy was restricted in Washington, D.C. According to the statistics, the homicide rate was three times higher in 1990 than in 1997. Exactly what happens in the countries which restrict the gun control policy.9
Nevertheless, even though all such examples show that gun control restriction only increases the murders rate, there should be some way to lower the one we have nowadays. Yes, it may be said that the US rate is lower than that of some foreign countries, but wouldn’t it be good if they were even lesser or disappeared at all? Surely, the authorities should take some measures to eliminate the everyday crimes taking place in the country.
In my opinion, the following measures may be taken to restrict the gun control:
* First of all, the government should consider what people may be allowed to own guns and restrict the rules of license issuing
* The license should not be given to any person who was ever suspected on committing a crime
* The authorities should accurately consider whether the motivation of getting a gun is convincing enough: a person may bare weapon only if she/he have really good motivation and clear record
Also every one should consider that having a gun is not too safe:
– the weapon may be stolen or taken away from you even before you are going to take it out
– it is a danger for you and the people around you for you never know what may happen accidentally, and you never know what a result of an innocent accident may be
– having a weapon in your house puts in danger the whole family. What if a child finds and starts to play with it? What if you accidentally drop it down and it shots? What is the guarantee that the accident won’t be fatal?
* Under no circumstance a gun may be given to a teenager. No guns should be allowed to care at schools.
The people and, of course, the authorities, should pay more attention to their safety and to the safety of their children and people near them. Surely, people must know more about how to protect themselves and, at the same time, what a dangerous thing the gun is even if it is carried only for self-defense.
Gun safety education programs, I believe, should be encouraged by the government and provide for penalties for adults’ failure to properly safeguard firearms.
Multi-disciplinary education and awareness effort are to be encouraged to prevent and reduce gun violence.
Comprehensive approach should be supported to address gun violence by young persons at schools that includes preventative school-based peer mediation programs, firearms education programs, support for increased efforts to enforce laws to prevent unauthorized or illegal access to firearms by minors, and enactment of firearm laws that emphasize prevention, adult responsibility and safety.
The results of all these measures would be lower crime rate, safer streets and reduced number of accidents.
There is no way that crime will disappear as a result of all has been stated above, but there is reason to believe it will help to reduce violence.
First of all, strict control of licenses being issued will prevent the society from being oversaturated with weapons: the less number of guns, the less numbers of fatal incidents, I think. Besides that, people won’t be so afraid of at some moment being shot in the street by an accidental stranger, who no one knows where got that gun and whom the police should look for further.
Secondly, fire-arms education programs will give the people an opportunity to be aware of what is the essence of the problem and, consequently, to be not scared all the crimes happening around. It’s well known: we are afraid of what we don’t understand. So, if the people learn what the thing is about, they won’t be scared or uncertain, proper education gives them an opportunity to be ready to defense their rights and freedoms.
In my opinion, there is one more point worth attention: why don’t we study and eliminate the reasons of crimes instead of withdrawing the tools of their commitment?!
But anyway, if will take time for the society to even consider this issue, and for now certainly some measures are to be taken to low the crime rates in the country.
1. Brady S., Our Country’s Claim to Shame, 5/5/97
2. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) http://www.atf.treas.gov/ 08.11.2005
3. Crime Reduction Government http://www.crimereduction.gov.uk/ http://www.crimereduction.gov.uk/cpbtb.htm 08.11.2005
4. Faria MA Jr., More Gun Control, More Crime. Human Events, July9, 1999
5. Halbrook S.P., Target Switzerland; Library of Congress, pp. 183-184
6. Kellermann AL, Reay DT. Protection or peril? An analysis of firearm-related deaths in the home. N Engl J Med 1986
7. Kopel D.B., Children and Guns in Guns Who Should Have Them, New York, NY, Prometheus Books, 1995, pp. 309-443
8. Kristof N.D., One Nation Bars, The Other Requires, New York Times, 3/10/96
9. Moore Miachel, Bowling for Columbine, 2002
10. Nemerov H., What Gun Controllers Don`t Want You To Know, Friday, June 11, 2004. http://www.chronwatch.com/content/contentDisplay.asp?aid=7862 08.11.2005
11. NRA, National Rifle Association. http://www.nra.org/ 04.11.2005
12. Faria MA Jr., The Samurai, The Mountie, and The Cowboy: Should America adopt the gun controls of other democracies?, Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1992, pp. 431
13. Strom S., “In Japan, Mired in Recession, Suicides Soar,” New York Times
1 Moore Miachel, Bowling for Columbine, 2002
2 Nemerov H., What Gun Controllers Don`t Want You To Know, Friday, June 11, 2004. http://www.chronwatch.com/content/contentDisplay.asp?aid=7862 08.11.2005
3 Kristof N.D., One Nation Bars, The Other Requires, New York Times, 3/10/96
4 Stephen P. Halbrook, Target Switzerland; Library of Congress, pp. 183-184.
5 Stephanie Strom, “In Japan, Mired in Recession, Suicides Soar,” New York Times, p. 1, 7/15/99
6 Faria MA Jr., More Gun Control, More Crime. Human Events, July 9, 1999
7 Faria MA Jr., The Samurai, The Mountie, and The Cowboy: Should America adopt the gun controls of other democracies?, Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1992
8 Kellermann AL, Reay DT. Protection or peril? An analysis of firearm-related deaths in the home. N Engl J Med 1986;314:1557-1560.
9 Brady S., Our Country’s Claim to Shame, 5/5/97