Gun control is a heated topic in our country. As of August 2020, the United States had 120.5 guns per 100 people. That comes out to 393,347,000 guns –– the highest total and per capita in the world. Yet every time there is a mass shooting, the debate screams louder to ban assault rifles, limit who can own a gun, make carrying a concealed weapon illegal, and more. So what exactly are the pros and cons of gun control?
Those who are against gun control have valid points. First, they say that the second amendment of the United States Constitution gives individuals the right to own guns. Yet those who are pro gun control have many valid points as well. They say the way the Second Amendment is worded does not extend to individuals but to protect the rights of militias to own guns.
Those against gun control believe that enacting stricter laws will in no way deter crime because criminals will just find something else to use as a weapon and that crime will actually rise because individuals will not be able to protect themselves. Yet, those for stricter gun control say that countries with strict laws have fewer gun-related homicides and suicides, proving that gun control reduces violent crime. They also show data that they say proves gun control does nothing to lower gun crime.
A Closer Look at the Pros of Stricter Gun Control
The Second Amendment does not mean that anybody can own a gun.
The Supreme Court and lower courts have repeatedly ruled that having a broad range of gun safety laws is constitutional and that gun lobbyists’ interpretation of the second amendment is dangerous.
In 2008, the first Supreme Court ruling in over 70 years clarified that an individual has a right to keep a handgun in the home to use for self-defense but that the Second Amendment is in no way granting Americans the right to bring weapons anywhere in the nation. Justice Scalia stated that the Second Amendment is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
More gun control laws would reduce gun deaths.
Every year, 39,000 Americans die from gun violence. This averages to 100 Americans per day. Sixty-one percent, or 22,926 die by suicide, 36% or 13,380 die by homicide, 1.4% or 510 die by police shootings, 1.3% or 478 die by unintentional shootings, and 0.8% or 310 die for undetermined intent.
America has the weakest gun laws and most guns of any similar nation. In addition, Americans are 25 times more likely to be killed in a gun homicide than citizens in another high-income country. Between the years 2009 and 2018, gun deaths have been steadily rising.
According to a Lancet study in 2016, if there were federal universal background checks, it could reduce gun deaths by a projected 56.9 percent. Implementing background checks for ammunition purchases could reduce gun deaths by a projected 80.7 percent.
And having gun identification requirements is projected to decrease gun deaths by 82.5 percent. In areas that had gun licensing laws, firearm homicides decreased by 14 percent, yet they increased in places with right-to-carry and stand your ground laws.
Armed civilians aren’t likely to stop crimes and are, in fact, more likely to make threatening situations, including mass shootings, more dangerous.
Between 1982 and 2012, there were 62 mass shootings. None of them was stopped by a civilian. In the 2002 mass shooting at the Appalachian School of Law, two armed students ended that shooting, but they were not just regular civilians. They were former law enforcement officers, and the killer ran out of bullets.
Jeffrey Voccola, an assistant professor at Kutztown University, states that the average gun owner is not trained in law enforcement and is not equipped to handle such life-threatening situations. Therefore, allowing many people to carry guns can only aggravate an already dangerous situation.
A Closer Look at the Cons of Stricter Gun Control
The Second Amendment of the US Constitution Enables Individuals to Carry Guns.
Specifically, the Second Amendment reads: A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Gun ownership is an American tradition. People have owned guns longer than the United States has been a country. Executing gun control laws would violate the peoples’ right to bear arms. Justice Antonin Scalia stated, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”
Lawrence Hunter, Chairman of Revolution PAC, stated, “The Founders understood that the right to own and bear laws is as fundamental and as essential to maintaining liberty as are the rights of free speech, a free press, freedom of religion and the other protections against government encroachments on liberty delineated in the Bill of Rights.”
Executing gun controls would do nothing to thwart crime.
A study published in Applied Economics Letters that covered the years from 1980 to 2009 discovered that states with restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons showed a higher rate of gun-related murders than other states. They also found that bans on assault weapons didn’t significantly affect the murder rates within the state. They concluded in their study that executing restrictive laws on concealed weapons may have caused an increase in gun-related murders at the state level.
John R. Lott, Jr., Ph.D, author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, wrote that states with the most significant increase in gun ownership also have the greatest drops in violent crimes. More than 66% of gun owners say they have a gun for protection. If gun laws are enacted, the criminals will not fear retaliation from their victims. There is a saying, “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”
In an article for ABC News, John Stossel stated that “the idea that gun control laws lower gun crime is a myth.” He then mentions a 1997 shooting of 16 kids in England. As a result of this shooting, the United Kingdom passed one of the strictest gun control laws in the world, banning the possession of almost all types of handguns. However, they discovered that this didn’t decrease the number of gun-related crimes but nearly doubled it.
It’s not gun control that is needed but the education about guns and gun safety in order to prevent accidental deaths.
It’s not guns that kill people. It’s people that kill people. There needs to be more education and mental illness screenings in order to prevent massacres. A former program manager of the NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program said, “Gun education is the best way to save lives.”
The Eddie Eagle program wants to promote the protection and safety of children just like we have programs to educate families with swimming pools or parents educate their kids about electrical outlets and household poisons.
Examples of Countries That Have Strict Gun Control Laws
Australia bought back guns from their citizens.
After a shooting in 1996 that left 35 people dead, Australian Prime Minister John Howard spent hundreds of millions of dollars buying back and destroying more than 600,000 automatic and semi-automatic weapons and pump-action shotguns.
Within the next few years, the total number of gun deaths decreased by half. Gun suicides dropped from 2.2 per 100,000 people in 1996 to 0.8 per 100,000 people in 2006 and gun homicides dropped from 0.37 per 100,000 people in 1996 to 0.15 per 100,000 people in 2006.
Japan puts citizens through a meticulous series of tests before being qualified to own a gun.
As of 2019, Japan rarely had more than 10 shooting deaths per year in their entire population of 127 million people. These are the steps Japanese citizens must undergo to obtain a gun.
- attend an all-day class
- pass a written test
- score at least 95% during a shooting-range test
- pass a mental health evaluation at a hospital
- pass an extensive background check where the government even interviews friends and family members
If citizens qualify to become gun owners, they can only buy shotguns and air rifles. No handguns are allowed. And they have to retake the class and exam every three years.
Britain enacts the Firearm (Amendment) Act 1988, making registration of owning shotguns mandatory and banning semi-automatic and pump-action weapons.
Then, within a year and a half of the Dunblane Massacre, where 16 children ages five and six and one teacher died in a massacre at a Scottish school, the UK passed a ban on the ownership of all private handguns in mainland Britain. They also enacted strict penalties for anyone found possessing an illegal firearm that ranged from heavy fines to 10-year prison terms.
According to statistics, initially, this ban didn’t seem to have much impact on gun-related crime because gun crimes in England and Wales rose significantly during the late 1990s. However, since then, the number has decreased each year. In 2010/11, gun-related offenses were 53% below the peak number.
In conclusion, America remains divisive on this issue. Both sides of the debate seem to be unmoving, with no attempts at cooperation to come to some sort of agreement. As long as it appears to be one side against the other instead of both sides against the problem, the debate will be ongoing.
Alexandra Christensen is a freelance writer and editor. When she is not working on an assignment, she can be found hanging around with other writers on Medium.com/@alexandra_creates where she writes mostly about raising foster and adopted kids and those with invisible disabilities.