Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Topic: Gun Control

Literature Review Question: Should there be stricter gun control laws?

Literature Review:

In today’s world, there are issues that need to be dealt with. A very controversial one being guns. Guns have been around for a very long time. Some people feel that they cause nothing but harm. On the other hand, some people feel that they are essential to the well-being of the population. There are arguments that support both sides of this issue. People on both sides of the argument think that they are right. Should we have stricter gun laws? Does anyone have an answer?
The two sides of this argument are very different. For the most part, people either want a massive amount of restriction on firearms or people are completely for having guns. There are always exceptions, but for the most part both sides of the argument are usually strongly opinionated. The overall view on guns by the general public is not a positive one. The media has painted a very dark and evil picture about firearms. People are always in the news committing crimes such as armed robbery, aggravated assault, and many more other crimes all involving guns. This media coverage has placed a very negative connotation with the word “gun”. Usually when people hear that word they get scared and tend to move away. All because of the way that they are perceived by the general public. The same thing happens with certain types of dogs, such as Pit Bulls. They are looked at as aggressive and dangerous animals. But it has been proved that Pit Bulls are not aggressive for no reason, but rather some of them have been trained to be aggressive. Is the same thing happing with guns? Are guns the new Pit Bulls?

Of course there has to be some laws and restrictions on guns. One of the first and most notable was “The Gun Control Act of 1968”. One of the main points of this act is interstate commerce in firearms, making interstate firearms transfers illegal (18 USCA). Some of the events that prompted the signing in of this act were: the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Nation of Islam leader Malcom X, civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The rifle used to kill President John F. Kennedy was purchased through a mail-order advertisement from a NRA (National Rifle Association). Congressional hearings took place to abolish the mail-order of guns, but even with the support of the NRA, no law to ban mail-order guns was put into place. This act (18 USCA) made it illegal for any felons to purchase guns or ammunition (18 USCA). This act set the stage for many gun laws to come in later years.

One thing that both sides of the argument tend to ignore is statistics. Both sides tend to believe in their moral opinion rather than fact. Some people say that gun control laws do more harm than good. Gun-control laws don’t work. What is worse, they act perversely. While legitimate users of firearms encounter intense regulation, scrutiny, and bureaucratic control, illicit markets easily adapt to whatever difficulties a free society throws in their way.( Polsby, Daniel D. "The false promise of gun control." Atlantic Monthly 273.3 (1994): 57-70.) Another argument against gun restraints is that, a gun is not just there to kill someone. Most times the simple presence of a firearm can deter someone from committing a crime. For example, if someone who plans to rob a bank walks into the bank and multiple people are openly carrying a gun do you think that the bank will still be robbed? Think about uniformed police officers, who carry handguns in plain view not in order to kill people but simply to daunt potential attackers. And it works. (Polsby, Daniel D)  A criminal might not know if any one civilian is armed, but if it becomes known that a large number of civilians do carry weapons, criminals will become warier. (Polsby, Daniel D) One of the most crime ridden cities in the country is Chicago, Illinois. Handguns are not available for purchase in this city. (Polsby, Daniel D) It is not difficult for someone who wants to possess a handgun in this city to get one. There are hundreds of thousands of unregistered guns in this city, and new ones arriving each day. (Polsby, Daniel D) A lot of people feel that if they are unarmed, they will not be able to defend themselves properly from armed criminals, thus making the crime rate in particular areas skyrocket.

One of the main problems that people see with anti-gun laws is that it doesn’t take guns out of the hands of criminals, it just makes it harder for law abiding citizens to obtain one. Buying a gun illegally is much different from buying something like drugs, because they can buy the gun once and be armed potentially for life. (Polsby, Daniel D) This situation can be compared to the war on drugs. Drugs may be outlawed, but people still find a way to get their hands on them. The same thing happens with criminals and guns.

It is believed that the United States has 20,000 gun laws. (Vernick, Jon S., and Lisa M.) Many people believe that we already have far too many gun laws and that there is no need for any more. (Vernick, John S., and Lisa M.) People that support gun rights feel that every law passed is just one more step closer to tyranny. They feel that it is not so much about protecting the public, but controlling the public.

Some people say that states with looser gun laws are safer to live in compared to states with very strict gun laws. For example, the state of Vermont has no open carry law. This means that in Vermont you do not need a permit or license of any kind to carry a firearm without concealing it. In 2010, there were only seven murders in the state of Vermont, and only five of them involved a gun. (20: Murder by State, Types of Weapons, 2010". Uniform Crime Reports. Crime in the U.S. 2010. FBI.) Almost half of the residents of Vermont own a firearm. North Dakota is another example. As of 2010 50% of North Dakota residents owned a gun. There were only nine murders in 2010 and only four of those killings were carried out with a gun. (20: Murder by State, Types of Weapons, 2010". Uniform Crime Reports. Crime in the U.S. 2010. FBI.)  Now on the other hand, there are states that have very high crime rates with many restrictions on guns. For example, California has many restrictions on firearms, and they had over twelve hundred gun murders in 2010. (20: Murder by State, Types of Weapons, 2010". Uniform Crime Reports. Crime in the U.S. 2010. FBI.) This is very hard evidence that supports the idea that when there are more law abiding citizens that carry firearms, crime rates decline.

Each year, more than 29,000 people kill themselves, making it the eighth leading cause of death in the nation.  (Kellermann, Arthur L., et al. "Suicide in the home in relation to gun ownership."New England Journal of Medicine 327.7 (1992): 467-472.) In the United States, more people kill themselves with guns than all of the other methods combined. (Kellermann, Arthur L.) This argument is used by people who want more restrictions on guns. They feel that firearms in people’s homes will increase the rate of suicide. When someone has the idea of taking their own life, it is usually a very rash and quick decision. Even if they have planned it, they are depressed and not in the right state of mind, and may even have mental health issues. If a person who has a mental health issue or is thinking about taking their own life is in possession of a gun, they may be compelled to commit suicide very easily. The easy way out is right in front of them, all they have to do is seize the opportunity. This is a legitimate issue that should be addressed by the public. A study done in King County Washington analyses suicides in that area over a thirty-two month period. Over half of those suicides were carried out using a gun. (Kellermann, Arthur L) People should have to be screened for mental health issues such as depression to avoid making a rash decision such as killing themselves. They should also be screened for many other mental health issues to avoid not only hurting themselves, but other people as well.

In recent history, America has seen a spike in public shootings. This is an obvious indicator that we need better mental health screenings when purchasing firearms. For example, on April 20, 1999 one of the worst public shootings in the nation’s history occurred. Two teenagers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris entered their school with guns and killed thirteen people. ("Columbine High School Shootings Fast Facts." CNN. Cable News Network, 18 Apr. 2014. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.) The two teenagers had been planning this for months and even posted on the internet about killing people. ("Columbine High School Shootings Fast Facts.") The two were severely bullied in school. Despite the bullying, there had to have been other factors involved in making their decision to kill thirteen people. Mentally stable people don’t act like this. These two teenagers should have never had access to the weapons that they used to carry out their massacre.

The issue of firearms in our country is a very serious one. There are people who want much less restrictions on firearms, and people who want much more restrictions on firearms. There are very legitimate arguments for both sides. It is very apparent that there needs to be more screening for mental health issues when getting a license for a gun, or buying an actual gun. This is crucial to avoiding more public shootings because of the fact that only people with mental health issues carry out these types of senseless murders. But there is the issue of restricting law abiding citizens from buying firearms. Why should they be punished because of the actions of a small group of people? It is because of the small percentage of people who commit these horrendous acts that firearms have such a negative connotation. People who are supporters of guns or organizations such as the NRA are looked at as “gun nuts.” This situation is comparable to what happened to Arab Americans. After the September 11th attacks, anyone who looked like they were from the Middle East, or Muslim were stereotyped, and discriminated against. Why should they be judged based on their looks or religion just because a small amount of their population are so radical that they will take innocent people’s lives? The bottom line is that people with mental health issues should not be carrying firearms, but this does not mean that guns themselves are dangerous. It is not the guns themselves that kill people, the same way that pencils don’t make grammar mistakes, and forks don’t make people fat.
Gap: Do people feel that stricter gun control laws will make them safer?
Methodology: For my survey I used qualitative methodology. Qualitative data is information about qualities that can’t be measured with numbers. (Shmoop Editorial Team. "Qualitative v. Quantitative Data." Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 21 Jan. 2015.) I think qualitative data is best for this because people’s opinions can’t be measured with numbers. I used a survey with seven questions about firearms.

Findings: My findings from my research all generally had the same opinion. Most of the people I surveyed were against laws that restrict ownership of firearms. Almost all of the people I surveyed felt comfortable around guns, and some of them even owned guns. Most of the people who didn’t own a gun know someone who does. Most of the people surveyed agreed that more restrictions on guns would only increase crime rate. A majority of the people also agreed that if more people were allowed to carry firearms in public places such as schools, then mass shootings would decrease.

Conclusion: The issue of gun control in America is a serious one. It is an issue that people have very different opinions on. People on both sides feel very strongly about the issue. It is an important issue because the bottom line s that without firearms we wouldn’t be the country we are today. Some people believe that guns make us less safe, while others completely disagree. It is an important issue because whichever way the issue is decided can completely change our society. I think that future research should focus more on proving how guns can make us safer.