Gun Control: A Need for Small Changes with Big Impact
By Satenik Harutyunyan
The United States Constitution- the supreme law of the land- was meant to serve as the fiber of American society since its ratification in 1783. Its Bill of Rights was meant to shield democracy and to serve as its formidable defense against tyranny. Since the Founding Fathers first crafted this revolutionary document, the U.S. Constitution has evolved past slavery, it has embraced women’s suffrage, and it has redefined citizenship. But in the current day and age, one antiquated part of the U.S. Constitution remains unquestioned by the American people and actively upheld by legislators. Today, the Second Amendment simply fails to serve its original purpose. Surely now, in the midst of two national tragedies in the span of three weeks, the time has come to revisit how the right to bear arms should be integrated into American society.
In the hours following the Aurora calamity, the U.S. witnessed a moment of profound national solidarity, but it did not take long for the gun policy debate to blaze through the media. Increased gun ownership, many argue, is necessary to neutralize the threat posed by the James Holmes’s of society. Had the civilians in that theater been armed, they insist, this may have been prevented. However, a study published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control actually shows the opposite: states with higher gun ownership and weak gun laws led the country in gun death numbers in 2007. In a state like Louisiana, where 45.6% of households own guns, there were nearly 20 deaths per 100,000 people. In Hawaii, however, there were less than 3 deaths per 100,000 people and 9.7% household gun ownership (CDC).
Furthermore, there remains a fundamental problem at the root of this argument: where must we draw the line and at which point do the implications become impractical? Consider the Sikh temple tragedy. The hypothetical situation in which individuals arrive armed to a place of worship as a precautionary measure is simply not representative of what the American way of life is meant to be. Whereas the prospect of repealing the Second Amendment and thereby taking away a right so deeply rooted in American society is unrealistic and largely unwelcome, there are extremely simple and concrete benefits to a more restrictive gun policy. A thorough screening of potential gun owners would undoubtedly decrease the chance that corrupt or untrustworthy individuals- ones who are prone to acts of violence themselves or contribute to the illegal gun trade in this country – would possess weapons.
Lastly, to argue that legal gun sales have no link to illegal gun activity is naïve at best. After all, a legal sale is only as good as the law enforcing it. In his declaration to support twelve California counties and cities in a lawsuit to fight existing gun laws, Robert Ricker, former NRA lawyer and gun lobbyist, stated that the gun industry promotes the mass diversion of guns into the black market. In his declaration, he referred to “straw sales, large volume sales to gun traffickers and various other channels by corrupt dealers or distributors who go to great lengths to avoid detection by law enforcement authorities (Siebal).” Straw sales and related activity display that the lack of systematic regulation and the absence of adequate enforcement mechanisms promotes illegal activity by a corrupt dealers and distributors (Siebal). The Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence has also found that almost 60% of the nation’s crime guns come from only 1% of gun dealers. This correlation is not coincidental, and should serve as a call to action (Brady Campaign).
In 2011, following the attempt on Congresswoman Gifford’s life that also involved the shooting of 18 others and the death of six, President Obama solemnly declared the need for a “national conversation” regarding gun policy where “We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future (Time).” The president’s speech, although eloquently written, ultimately produced no change on gun policy. Now, during an extremely charged election year, politicians and legislators are reluctant to tackle such a sensitive policy area. But in actuality, a healthy approach to gun policy begins with reasonable precautionary measures that pose no threat to qualified potential buyers and avert the risk of dangerous weapons falling into the wrong hands. In fact, there is nothing extreme or nonsensical at the root of this issue and it is high time for the American people to realize this.
Gun Control: Ineffective and Counterproductive
By Chase Donnally
Before one can get to questions about whether any policy, including gun control, should be implemented, one must first ask the question, “Does it work?” If a policy is shown not to work, no further questions really need to be asked. There is no question of whether one “should” do something if it can’t be done.
That said, let’s look at some facts and figures regarding the actual results of gun control policies. Overall, there is little to no evidence to show gun control is effective in curbing gun-related violence. In studies done by the National Academy of Sciences and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers evaluated dozens of gun control laws, including ammunition bans, waiting periods, and licensing. In both studies, no conclusive evidence was found to show that any of the regulations were effective at reducing gun-related violence, accidents, or suicides.
Furthermore, according to an article published in 2000 by the Cato Institute, states that allow concealed carry are subject to significantly less violent crime, murder, and robbery. On average, states with these laws have murder rates 19% lower and violent crime rates 24% lower than those that do not allow concealed carry. On top of that, the nine states with the lowest crime rates are all “shall issue” right-to-carry states.
Even when looking across different countries, studies show no correlation between stricter gun control policies and lower crime rates. While there are some examples of countries with strict gun control having low murder rates, Switzerland and Israel are both clear examples to the contrary. Switzerland has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the world, but one of the lowest murder rates in the world. Despite nearly half of all citizens owning guns (and often military grade rifles) they had only 40 firearm homicides in 2010 (and only 18 in 2008). Israel allows people to carry guns in public, concealed or visible, without a permit, and yet it too has an incredibly low gun-related murder rate, with only 61 gun-related murders in 2008, and only seven in 2007.
On top of all that, a 1997 policy analysis showed that guns are used in self defense upwards of 80,000 times annually in the United States, with some estimates ranging as high as 2,000,000 times per year. Even using the lowest estimate, if only 20% of those people were in lethal danger when they defended themselves, that’s 16,000 lives saved, which is higher than the total number of murders in the US in 2009.
Following the recent massacre in Colorado one of the more popular regulatory ideas is to reinstate the federal ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004. This would be a completely pointless gesture for two primary reasons: first, although murder rates went up from 2004 to 2006, they have been on the decline since then, so once again there is no evidence to show that such a ban would decrease violent crime. Second, automatic rifles are already illegal, so the difference between any assault weapon and semi-automatic rifle is purely cosmetic. As it happens, assault weapons actually tend to be smaller caliber and lower velocity than comparable hunting rifles. The only purpose of such a ban would be to advance the career of the politician who proposes it.
Another suggestion has been to ban high-capacity magazines, such as the 100 round magazine used by the shooter in Colorado. However, magazines with a capacity higher than 21 rounds are already illegal in Colorado. This brings up a very important point: prohibition does not work. As the prevalence of marijuana-use suggests, prohibiting a product is far from a guarantee that people will not purchase and use it. The magazine used was illegal, but he had it anyway. Adding on additional laws or making it “more” illegal will not make it a more effective policy. All it will do is create the illusion that the problem is being addressed.
That is perhaps the largest problem with gun control: in reality it does nothing to address the problem of high murder and crime rates in the United States, but when it passes, people are led to believe that the problem has been solved until the next crime spree happens. And again, the proposed solution is more gun control, and the real roots of the problem are never addressed. Instead of tracing high crime and murder rates to our broken educational system or the prohibition of drugs, gun-control proponents seek to treat the symptom, and attempt to do so with a medicine that does not work.
The litmus test for every policy should be, “Does it accomplish its goal?” In the case of gun control, not only does it not work, it may actually be counterproductive. That is all the information a person needs in order to know that gun control is not the answer.
“Facts-Gun Trafficking.” The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The Brady Campaign, n.d. Web. 11 Aug 2012. .
Klein, Joe. “How the Gun Won.” Time Magazine. 06 08 2012: n. page. Print (“Time”)
Siebal, Brian. “GUN INDUSTRY IMMUNITY: WHY THE GUN INDUSTRY’S “DIRTY LITTLE SECRET” DOES NOT DESERVE CONGRESSIONAL PROTECTION.” UMKC LAW REVIEW. 73.4 n. page. Print. .
“States with Higher Gun Ownership and Weak Gun Laws Lead Nation in Gun Death.” Violence Policy Center. N.p., 02 June 2010. Web. 10 Aug 2012. . (“CDC”)
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