Gun law Essay Example
Reasons For and Against Strict Gun-Control Laws
Gun law is a controversial topic. On one hand, there are people who argue that having strict laws regarding the possession and use of guns can help reduce the number of cases in which guns are used inappropriately, such as firearm homicides. On the other hand, there are those who reason that having strict gun laws such as barring people from possessing guns denies them the right to defend themselves from criminals who possess guns. This essay will critically assess the reasons for and against having strict gun-control laws by analysing some of the opinions that have been put forward by different people regarding the topic.
There are various reasons why some people support the existence of tough gun-control laws. To start with, supporters of strict gun-control laws argue that having such laws can help reduce the rate of gun-related incidents and hence the number of people who are killed by guns owned by civilians. A good example of such laws is the set of gun reforms that were implemented in Australia starting 1996 after a psychologically disturbed man had used two guns to kill 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania (Howard 2013). Prior to the 1996 gun massacre (defined as the murder of four or more individuals) in Port Arthur, there had been many other cases of gun-related tragedies (Peters 2011). The 1996 reforms involved government authorities buying back semi-automatic guns from individuals and ensuring that those individuals who did not surrender their guns would be prosecuted (Howard 2013; Herald Sun 2015). More than 640,000 guns were bought back from civilians and destroyed and stiffer rules applying to gun ownership were introduced, making it harder for people to qualify to own guns (Peters 2011). The reforms led to significant changes. For instance, it has been pointed out that the gun reforms led to an accelerated reduction in the total number of gun deaths, mass shootings, gun suicides and gun homicides (Peters 2011; Andrew 2015). Peters (2011) also asserts that while in the early 1990s 600 Australians were being killed by guns every year, the number of gun-related deaths reduced to fewer than 250 individuals after the gun reforms.
Supporters of strict gun-control laws also point out that countries that have strict gun-control laws generally have low homicide rates compared to those countries whose gun laws are not strict. For instance, according to a report in the Washington Post dated 31 July 2015, the rate of gun homicides in the United States is about 12 times higher or more compared to those of many other developed countries. This point was reiterated by the United States President Barack Obama when he noted that the US will have to contend with the fact that mass violence involving the use of guns is not commonplace in other advanced countries (RTTNews 2015). Specifically, the United States’ gun homicide rate is 50 times higher than the rate in Germany. What this implies is not that the United States has more psychologically disturbed people than Germany, but that the United States has more guns in the hands of civilians. The Washington Post reportalso cites Japan as one of the countries that have few cases of gun homicide (11 gun homicides in 2008) and attributes this to the fact that Japan has very strict gun-control laws.
It is also argued that lack of strict gun-control laws has been the cause of the very high number of gun-related deaths in the United States, and that tough laws would help change this. According to the Washington Post dated 31 July 2015, since the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the country has experienced fewer deaths attributed to terrorism compared to those resulting from gun homicides. This point highlights the magnitude of risk posed by having many guns in the United States under civilian control. To make it worse, the same newspaper report notes than nothing has been done to tame the situation. Generally, it can be said that while there are other factors related to cases of gun deaths, the ease of access to guns is what makes many people likely to go on killing sprees. This is what tough gun-control measures are supposed to tame.
There are various points to counter the arguments of those who support strict gun-control laws. To begin with, according to an article by the National Rifle Association of America (NRA) (2015), a 2003 Breitbart feature noted that there is no single source of gun violence. There is no doubt that there are many reasons that drive people to kill others other than the possession of a gun per se. Therefore, it can be argued that the focus on all civilians who own guns as the cause of gun violence is misadvised. Notably, not all people who possess guns go berserk and shoot people or kill themselves using their guns. Therefore, to brand all people who possess guns as possible sources of gun violence is misguided.
As well, it has been argued that the exercise of banning the possession of or use guns and buying the guns back as was done in Australia is in itself denying citizens some of their rights. In particular, the NRA (2015) terms the process of the Australian authorities buying guns back as mass confiscation. In other words, the citizens who sold their guns to the government authorities did so not because of consensus but because they were under an obligation to do so and there were adverse consequences if they did not surrender the guns. In the US, where the right to own a gun is enshrined in the Constitution, confiscating guns would be a major violation of people’s right to defend themselves.
Lastly, another counter-argument is that strict gun-control laws can increase gun-related crime as guns fall in the hands of organised crime. With fewer citizens owning guns and firearms falling in the hands of organised crime, it would be much easier for groups such as motorcycle gangs, petty thieves and mid-level crime groups to increase and terrorise citizens with no fear of reprisal from the unarmed individuals (NRA 2015).
In conclusion,it is evident that there is no clear answer as two whether there should be strict gun-control laws or not. While such laws can help reduce the number of people killed using guns, they fail to address other sources of gun violence; they create opportunities for organised crime to increase; and they deny people their right to self-defence.
Andrew, L 2015, ‘Why the NRA has Australia in its sights’, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 July, viewed 25 November 2015, <http://www.smh.com.au/comment/why-the-nra-has-australia-in-its-sights-20150714-gic1a6.html>.
Herald Sun 2015, ‘Gun ban the right decision’, 26 July, viewed 25 November 2015, <http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/gun-ban-the-right-decision/news-story/58a92e11db2d8b2309fef821804c43ee>.
Howard, J 2013, ‘I went after guns. Obamacan, too’, The New York Times, 16 January, viewed 25 November 2015, <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/opinion/australia-banned-assault-weapons-america-can-too.html?_r=0>.
NRA 2015,Australia: there will be blood, July 9, viewed 25 November 2015, <http://www.americas1stfreedom.org/articles/2015/7/9/australia-there-will-be-blood/>.
Peters, R 2011, ‘Slow erosion of gun laws presages another tragedy’, The Age, 28 April, viewed 25 November 2015, <http://www.theage.com.au/it-pro/slow-erosion-of-gun-laws-presages-another-tragedy-20110427-1dwmx.html>.
RTTNews 2015, ‘Obama laments lack of common sense gun control laws’, 24 July, viewed 25 November 2015, <http://www.rttnews.com/2528238/obama-laments-lack-of-common-sense-gun-control-laws.aspx>.
The Washington Post 2015,‘Change your gun laws, America: mass shootings aren’t just part of the national character. They’re the product of laws that can be changed’, 31 July, <http://search.proquest.com/docview/1700263040/fulltext/FCB93D9B76AD4482PQ/13?accountid=13552>.
More Important Things