It’s an argument that has become commonplace in the United States: the controversy over gun rights and control. Over the last couple of years, citizens and lawmakers have been debating the issue of gun control, but neither side has been able to reach a conclusion or agreement. Recent shootings such as the massacre at Sandy Hook and the killings at Umpqua Community College spurred more energy into the discussion, and both sides can agree that immediate and stern action must take place to avoid and protect ourselves against these events.
In the discussion, there are two major sides to this disagreement. There are those who support gun control, and there are the advocates for gun rights. The proponents of gun control believe that firearms are a threat to society, and that there is a need for stricter gun laws. In conflicting opinion, gun rights supporters believe that firearms are used to protect against danger. The two sides have equally compelling arguments, making it difficult to reach a perfect gun control solution.
Mass Shootings and General Gun Violence
The United States is the world leader in the number of mass shootings with 133 between 2000-2014 and has the most gun-related killings amongst developed countries. As a country, where and when do we draw the line to stop these occurrences that have become the norm in society?
According to a Fox News article, politician Hillary Clinton, a Democratic presidential candidate, proposed expanded background checks and a close on loopholes in federal laws that allow for gun-sale transactions to be completed if the buyer’s background check is not finished within three days. President Barack Obama gun-control proposals include banning military assault weapons, limiting magazines to ten rounds and helping schools invest in safety by hiring more resource officers. (See the complete proposal here.)
In the last few decades, the United States has experienced an array of mass shootings: Columbine High School, Virginia Tech University, and Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, to name a few. The U.S. has also experienced an eye-opening and alarming number of firearm related homicides.
The supporters of gun control believe that stricter laws and regulations against firearms could have prevented past events, and can prevent future needless loss of life. Some have even gone as far as to say that guns should be completely banned from public use, following the examples of the United Kingdom and Japan, where handguns are illegal for private citizens. Japan has virtually eliminated gun-related homicides.
Following the shooting at Umpqua Community College in early October, President Obama asked why Americans can’t follow the example of Australia, which hasn’t had a mass shooting since 1996. “They crafted laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. We know there are ways to prevent it,” said Obama in a press conference.
Gun control activists also use evidence gathered by Adam Lankford, from the University of Alabama’s Department of Criminal Justice, who found that countries with higher rates of gun ownership record more mass shootings per capita, to support their opinions. The United States has approximately 270 million firearms owned by citizens, so it doesn’t exactly have the odds in its favor.
The gun rights supporters say that gun control laws do not deter crime, but gun ownership does. This is supported by evidence that states with increased gun ownership also have the largest drops in violent crimes. If the public is armed and prepared to fight back against crime, it is less likely for the criminals to attack.
Journalist John Stossel explained what would happen if the public were stripped of guns, “Criminals don’t obey the law…Without the fear of retaliation from victims who might be packing heat, criminals in possession of these [illegal] weapons now have a much easier job…As the saying goes, ‘If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.’”
The supporters of gun rights also say that gun control laws infringe upon the right to self-defense and deny people a sense of safety.
Nelson Lund, a professor at George Mason University stated, “The right to self-defense and to the means of defending oneself is a basic natural right that grows out of the right to life” …”many [gun control laws] interfere with the ability of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves against violent criminals.”
Although gun right and gun control supporters have differing views, they can both agree that there is a strong need to change the process in how a person obtains a firearm or gun license.
For example, many believe that the United States should use the same process as countries such as Germany, Finland, and France.
In Germany, anyone under 25 must pass a psychiatric evaluation to own a gun. Dylann Roof, the shooting suspect who gunned down 9 people in June, 2015 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, SC, probably would not have passed this examination. In France, firearm applicants must have no criminal record and pass a background check that considers the reason for the gun purchase and evaluates the criminal, mental and health records of the applicant. Once again Dylann Roof would probably have failed this as well, as he had a criminal record of invading privacy and drug possession.
“I think that guns should be a lot harder to come in contact with, especially since we’ve had a past record as a country of selling guns to…people with criminal records or to people who could be considered dangerous to society,” said Josh Kirk, sophomore.
The gun control and gun rights supporters alike do not necessarily think that the United States should completely adopt these methods used by other nations, but should look to other countries for influence.
The United States is facing a serious dilemma in gun violence the majority of the world does deal with. If the United States does not take action, there will continue to be an increase in gun violence.
Whether it be being more lenient or strict on gun control, we won’t know what works unless we try.