Gun Control: A Retrospective Study

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The issue of gun control has been an important one for Americans, especially after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, when many people questioned the necessity of the second amendment in this day and age. Gun control is a popular, yet complicated issue, and one that must be examined from the perspectives of both sides, pro-gun and anti-gun control, in order to obtain a truly retrospective grasp on the issue.

Essentially, the gun control debate boils down to two primary issues that have been in conflict with each other since the founding of America: freedom vs. security. Pro-gun advocates insist that their guns are necessary for their own security, but also satisfy the freedom requirement by allowing them to freely practice their second amendment rights. Anti-gun advocates see things differently, however, since, to them, having most people in America brandishing a firearm, concealed or not, represents a profound security threat to them. Pro-gun advocates would counter this by stressing the need for guns in order to ensure security, and that the odd shooter is a problem with society at large, not the guns themselves. They may have a point with this statement, since, according to a study in 2000, an estimated 989,883 U.S. citizens used some form of gun to defend themselves (Agresti and Smith 2). In addition, in 1993, 3.5% of households had used a firearm to defend themselves “for self-protection or for the protection of property at home, work, or elsewhere” (Agresti and Smith 3). These numbers put gun control in a much more positive light, especially from the perspective that they should be used to increase security in an increasingly insecure country.

Nevertheless, those who support gun control see each person in possession of a firearm, especially those with a concealed license, as another potential Sandy Hook or Virginia State shooting just waiting to happen, and that is a valid claim, since the potential is certainly there. The argument that "people don't kill people, guns kill people" is another popular quote heard in the pro-gun control community, and while it has some merit, it requires some closer examination in order to determine the validity of the statement. While it is certainly true that a gun has the potential to kill someone, it is only a tool. The bigger issue when it comes to violent crimes, especially gun-crimes, is the individual behind the gun. To this end, one of the most effective solutions to the problem of gun violence in this country is to fix the underlying problem, not to simply take away the guns, because that would only invite more violence, especially from the more hardcore gun activists. And, of course, many deaths and injuries from violent crime come from firearms. For example, in 1996, 65 percent of all murders between spouses were performed with a firearm (Rand 3). This is where the concept of firearms as a tool comes into play. A criminal who was determined to commit a crime would likely commit the same crime, regardless of whether or not firearms were allowed. Even if they were outlawed, there is a good chance criminals could get them anyway.

However, there are also studies that show that those in ownership of guns become more violent themselves. For instance, a study taken in 1995 showed that "Where non criminal gun-ownership is higher, criminal gun ownership is also higher; and where criminal gun ownership is higher, the percent of crimes which are committed with guns is higher" (Squires 197). Essentially, this means that guns beget more guns, which, in turn, beget more violence, or at least that is what this study shows. However, the issue is a little more complicated than that. Namely, firearms are often used as a deterrent to crime. Or, more accurately, the threat of firearms. A study showed that, in a survey of male felons in 11 state prisons, 34% had been “scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured by an armed victim,” while 40% said they decided not to commit a crime because they “knew or believed that the victim was carrying a gun,” and 69% said they knew of another criminal who had not committed a crime because the victim had a firearm (Agresti and Smith 6). This helps to show what gun-advocates call the brighter side of the gun-control debate: that guns can, and oftentimes are, used as a self defense or deterrence measure, rather than a pure instrument of violence. This theory seems to hold some water, since a study shows that, in 1988, only about 30% of citizens owned guns. Yet, in 1996, that number had increased to 50% (Lott 38). In 2004, that number remained steady. The interesting thing about these figures is that violent crime in America has actually been decreasing at a slow rate. While it would be foolish to blame this entirely on guns, it is a good indicator that guns at least function, on some level, as a deterrent and personal defense tool.

The main point here is that gun control is a fairly black-and-white issue, yet seems to only have extremists on one side or the other. The best way to deal with this issue is to listen to both sides and find a compromise between the two of some sort. Perhaps allowing firearms if the gun user registers and carries a permit for the firearm would help to reduce the number of homicides with firearms, if not as many people have them. Each action has its own drawbacks, however, and it is important to understand that, especially for this issue, which has undergone something of a deadlock in the recent past. Freedom and security should be balanced in equal measure, and it is important to come up with solutions to this issue with that in mind.

Works Cited

Agresti, James D., and Reid K. Smith. "Gun Control Facts." Just Facts (2008). 2-3.

Lott, John R. More guns, less crime: Understanding crime and gun control laws. University of Chicago Press, 2013. 37-38.

Rand, Michael R., et al. "Violence by intimates: Analysis of data on crimes by current or former spouses, boyfriends, and girlfriends." Bureau of Justice Statistics Factbook. 1998: 1-46.

Squires, Peter. Gun Culture or Gun Control?: Firearms and Violence: Safety and Society. Routledge, 2002: 197.