English Composition II
13 April 1995
Thesis Statement: Society benefits from firearms in the hands of responsible citizens. Attempts to keep firearms away from these citizens do more harm than good.
Gun control is not one issue, but many. To some people gun control is a crime issue, to others it is a rights issue. Gun control is a safety issue, an education issue, a racial issue, and a political issue, among others. Within each of these issues there are those who want more gun control legislation and those who want less. On both sides of this issue opinions range from moderate to extreme.
Guns are not for everyone. Certain individuals cannot handle a firearm safely, and some individuals choose to use firearms inappropriately. Our society has passed laws regulating the ownership and use of firearms, and more legislation is being considered. Most of this legislation restricts, to some degree, the rights of individuals to possess or use firearms. Some restrictions may be necessary, but some recent legislation has gone too far. Society benefits from firearms in the hands of responsible citizens. Attempts to keep firearms away from these citizens do more harm than good.
To begin with, a definition of a "responsible citizen" is in order. The definition used in this paper was provided by Steve Rusiecki, a local police officer. When asked what makes someone a responsible citizen in regard to firearms ownership, Mr. Rusiecki replied, "The citizen must be law-abiding, with no felony record, must not abuse alcohol or drugs, must not be mentally ill, must not have renounced U.S. citizenship, must not have been dishonorably discharged from the military, and must be in the U.S. legally" (10). This definition combines elements from the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968, and Arizona's concealed carry law.
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution states: "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." The Founding Fathers included this in our Bill of Rights because they feared the Federal Government might oppress the population if the people did not have the means to defend themselves as a nation and as individuals (Halbrook 65-84). This idea was not new. The Founding Fathers' thoughts on the right to keep and bear arms were influenced by Aristotle, Cicero, John Locke, and Algernon Sidney (7).
The militia referred to cannot be construed as meaning the Army or National Guard, in the words of Samuel Adams: "The Militia is composed of free citizens" (qtd. in Halbrook 62). Additionally, George Mason considered a "well regulated Militia" to be one "composed of . . . Gentlemen, Freeholders, and other Freemen" (qtd. in Halbrook 61). The Revolutionary War was won with the help of "An armed populace composed of partisans, militias, independent companies, and the continental army . . ." (63). It is obvious from this that the Founding Fathers thought that society benefited from firearms in the hands of the people.
Many years later we began placing restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. The first restrictions concerned the manner in which citizens could carry arms. In 1850 the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that the constitution did not grant the right to carry a concealed weapon; although earlier court cases had ruled that the constitution did protect the right to carry concealed weapons (93-96). Shortly before the Civil War, some southern States passed legislation denying slaves and freed blacks the right to possess firearms. The basis of this legislation was the Dred Scott Decision. They reasoned that since blacks were not considered citizens they did not have the rights of citizens, including the right to keep and bear arms (96-98). The gun control legislation of this era resulted from prejudice against an entire race of people. These laws were in effect until after the Civil War when the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution were ratified. The legislation referred to here must be considered harmful to society.
The rational given for most modern gun control legislation is "Crime Control." The Brady Bill is one example. The Brady Bill is named after James Brady, who was shot by John Hinckley during an assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981. Supporters of the Brady Bill used that incident to gain support for their gun control legislation, claiming it would reduce crime and save lives. The fact is that the background check and waiting period included in the Brady Bill would not have prevented John Hinckley from legally purchasing the handgun used in that incident. Records show that "a police background was run on Hinckley four days before he purchased the revolver he used to shoot President Reagan and Jim Brady. The check showed he had no felony convictions in any jurisdiction. Neither had Hinckley any public record of mental illness" ("Guns" 51).
An even greater shortcoming of the Brady Bill is that it only affects legal transactions. By definition, a criminal is someone who breaks the law. Criminals have many ways to obtain weapons without going through the process mandated by the Brady Bill. Two obvious examples are theft and black market purchases. According to studies "only one firearm of every six used in a crime is obtained legally" (Thomas 277). Since the passage of the Brady Bill, only four felons have been apprehended trying to purchase a firearm (NRA, "Grassfire"). When I asked Steve Rusiecki for a policeman's opinion of the Brady Bill, he replied: "I think it is an emotional attempt at crime reduction rather than one based on legitimate facts" (6). In view of the facts presented, it is obvious that the Brady Bill is not an effective crime prevention tool.
The Brady Bill is not effective in fighting crime, but it does affect crime victims. The five-day waiting period during which the police conduct the background check is also supposed to serve as a "cooling off" period to prevent crimes of passion. Fortunately, this five-day wait is waived in states like Virginia which have an instant background check system in place. The following article is an example of how waiting periods affect crime victims:
Marine Cpl. Rayna Ross of Woodbridge, Virginia, might be dead if a waiting period had been in effect. Instead, the instant check system in place in that state allowed her to defend her life against a former boyfriend three days after she purchased a pistol. The man, a Marine under orders to stay away from Ross because of previous assaults and threats, broke through a door and rushed into her bedroom with a bayonet. Ross fired twice, mortally wounding him. The shooting was ruled to be a case of self-defense ("Armed Citizen").
If the five-day waiting period had been in effect, it is likely that an innocent woman would have been killed. During the debate in Congress over the passage of the Brady Bill, supporters claimed passing the bill would be worth it "if it saved just one life." Surely the bill is not worth it if it costs just one innocent life.
Another example of gun control legislation that affects the wrong people is the "Assault Weapon" ban included in the Crime Bill of 1994. While supporters of the ban claim the firearms banned by this bill are the "weapons of choice" of gangs and drug dealers, the FBI Uniform Crime Reports show this contention is unfounded (Rusiecki 7). However, at Congressional hearings held on March 31of this year, several people testified that they had used guns which are now banned to defend their lives and to prevent crimes ("Survival"). It is fortunate that these citizens had firearms to defend themselves. Society does not benefit from the death or serious injury of innocent citizens.
As mentioned earlier, crime is not the only issue related to firearms ownership. Hunting is a popular sport and, in some parts of the country, an important source of food. On the surface, it might appear that hunting is harmful to wildlife and the environment. The fact is that the opposite is true. Wildlife biologists have found that well managed and regulated hunting programs are beneficial to wildlife. If the wildlife population becomes too large, food becomes scarce and the population starves to death. Wildlife biologists take counts of game animals in a given area and study the habitat to determine the population level it can support. Then they make recommendations to State Game and Fish officials who set hunting seasons and bag limits. Hunting is a tool used by these officials to manage the wildlife under their care ("Arizona" 18).
Non-game wildlife is also protected by hunters, and even by firearms owners who do not hunt. Approximately 77% of the funds used to operate state Fish and Game and other wildlife agencies are derived from the sales of hunting licenses, excise taxes levied on sales of firearms and ammunition, and the sale of federal duck stamps. More than three billion dollars have been raised from these sources and used to protect both game and non-game animals (22). Firearms ownership is clearly beneficial to the environment and a good environment is beneficial to everyone.
Firearms are also used in competitive sports. The Olympic Games include competitions with pistols, rifles, and shotguns. Shooting is also part of the biathlon and has been part of the Olympic pentathlon since 1912 ("Pentathlon"). There are also many competitions throughout the country in bull's eye, bench rest, silhouette, practical pistol, trap and skeet, and other shooting sports. Men, women, older children, and even individuals with certain disabilities can enjoy these sports since shooting does not require much agility or physical strength.
Even without formal competition, shooting can be enjoyed as a hobby. Recreational shooting may involve paper targets, tin cans, or other suitable targets. This hobby can be enjoyed at indoor target ranges, but is usually practiced outdoors. In fact, shooting can often be combined with other enjoyable outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping, and sight seeing.
Shooting is a relatively inexpensive activity which the entire family can enjoy. With close supervision, children can be taught to shoot. Learning how to shoot safely means learning about responsibility, and the time spent teaching a child to shoot is quality time. When a child is ready, they may be allowed to shoot with less supervision. When this time comes, the child knows they have earned their parent's trust and they gain a sense of self-confidence. Sharing a hobby like shooting can bring a family closer together, teach children responsibility, and promote trust between parents and children. This is definitely good for society.
Throughout history violence has plagued the human race. Since ancient times the strong have preyed on the weak and the meek. We have passed laws to protect society, but the violence continues. Laws attempt to change human behavior, but laws are not able to change human nature. Laws are not enough to protect people from aggression. We must allow people the means to protect themselves. Protection is a major reason that about half of all Americans own a firearm (Lester 30).
It is a fact that not all people are the same size or possess the same amount of strength. Sometimes people must defend themselves from stronger aggressors, or sometimes from multiple aggressors. This is especially true for women since they are, on average, smaller than men. Also, older people are generally less able physically to defend themselves than young adults are. Everyone deserves to be safe, but not everyone has the physical ability to defend themselves. Firearms are the most effective tools used today for self-defense, but they are only useful if they are available.
Statistics show that people who are attacked by a criminal are safer if they use a weapon to resist their attacker than if they do not resist. In addition, those who resist with a gun are less likely to be injured than those who use a less effective weapon, such as a knife (Quigley 14). Resisting crime with a gun does not always mean shooting the criminal. Statistics show that in true life instances of self-defense with firearms, firing the gun was necessary only one third to one half of the time (13), the rest of the time the mere presence of a gun was enough to scare away the attacker.
Guns are an effective deterrent to crime. A study involving convicted felons showed that nearly 40 percent of them had decided against committing a specific crime because they suspected their intended victim might be armed (14). In 1966 the Police Department in Orlando, Florida, offered a well-publicized self-defense shooting program to women. As a result, the rate of rape in that city decreased from thirty-six per year to only four. This was accomplished without any of the women shooting anyone or even pulling a gun on anyone. The publicity alone was enough to discourage potential rapists (15-17). Rape and other violent crimes should not be tolerated in any society. It has been shown that firearms are a deterrent to these crimes; therefore, firearms are beneficial to society.
The Brady Bill and the "Assault Weapon" ban in last year's Crime Bill are examples of bad legislation, but some good firearms-related legislation was also passed last year. The Arizona Legislature recognized the benefits of firearms to our society and passed a law which enables many Arizona residents to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon. There are restrictions in place to ensure that only responsible citizens are issued a permit. These restrictions cover age, criminal record, and mental competency. Applicants for this permit must pass a sixteen-hour training course. In addition, the applicant must send a copy of their fingerprints to the Department of Public Safety to be used to help them conduct a background check (Korwin 150-151).
It is too early to determine the effectiveness of Arizona's Concealed Carry Law, but statistics show that a similar law passed in Florida in 1987 has been effective in reducing crime. Between 1987 and 1992 murders involving handguns decreased 29 percent (Francis). According to the National Rifle Association, the homicide rate is 31% lower, and robbery rate is 36% lower in states with "favorable carry laws" compared to states with "restrictive concealed carry laws" (NRA, "Fact Card"). Some people may fear that citizens with concealed weapons are more likely to commit crimes, but statistics show that only .007% of the concealed weapon permits issued in the state of Florida have had to be revoked because of a crime committed by the permit holder (NRA, "Fact Card"). Laws that reduce violent crime are good for society, and concealed carry laws have been shown to reduce violent crime.
The Founding Fathers of our country won our freedom with firearms. After we won our independence the Founding Fathers included the right to keep and bear arms in the Constitution to ensure that the freedom they fought for would last. Throughout the history of this country firearms have been used to defend that freedom from both foreign aggressors and from violent criminal aggressors. Americans own and use firearms for many reasons, such as; hunting, organized sports competitions, informal recreational uses, and for protection. Some legislation has been passed recently which restricts our firearms rights, and the shortcomings of these laws have been exposed. Fortunately, there has also been good legislation passed, like Arizona's Concealed Carry Law, which give residents of this state a better chance to defend themselves against violent crime.
I recognize that criminals have misused firearms, often with tragic results, but I must point out that a few individuals committed those crimes. We should punish the individuals who commit these crimes, and we should imprison those who pose a threat to society so that they do not have the opportunity to cause harm. Punishing law-abiding citizens by passing restrictive gun laws is wrong. Guns are not the cause of this country's crime problem. Criminals are. Effective crime control legislation must control criminals, not guns. Effective crime control legislation should provide more prisons to lock up these criminals, and more police officers to deter crime and capture criminals. Effective crime control legislation should give the law-abiding citizens of our country the means to defend themselves. It should not restrict the rights of responsible citizens to own or carry firearms. The best way to ensure good legislation is to elect good legislators, I believe this is what happened last November 8.
Firearms can be dangerous in the wrong hands, that is why I believe firearms training is important. The best training consists of parents passing on our firearms heritage, respect for people and property, and some common sense safety rules to their children. For many people this training will be enough. Formal firearms training courses, like Hunter Safety Courses and the course required to obtain a concealed carry permit, are also very useful. These courses reinforce the basic safety rules that everyone who handles firearms should know. They also teach the legal requirements specific to hunting or self-defense, depending on the course.
Society does benefit from firearms in the hands of responsible citizens. It is our responsibility to use them properly and safely.
Arizona Hunter Education Manual. Seattle: Outdoor Empire Publishing, Inc., 1993.
"Armed Citizen." American Rifleman October 1993: 8.
Francis, Samuel. "The Truth and Tripe About Concealed Weapon Carry Laws." The Mohave Valley Daily News. 16 March 1995: A4.
"Guns, Bias and the Evening News." American Rifleman January/February 1995: 50-51.
Halbrook, Stephen. That Every Man be Armed. Albuquerque: University Of New Mexico Press, 1984.
Korwin, Alan. The Arizona Gun Owner's Guide. Phoenix: Bloomfield Press, 1994.
Lester, David. Gun Control Issues and Answers. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas, 1984.
NRA Institute for Legislative Action. "NRA Firearms Fact Card - 1995." Computer file downloaded from GUN-TALK BBS.
---. "NRA Grassfire!." Vol. 1, No. 4. April 1995: Computer file downloaded from GUN-TALK BBS .
"Pentathlon." Microsoft Bookshelf '94. Computer Software. CD-ROM. Microsoft Corporation, 1994. IBM PC.
Quigley, Paxton. Armed & Female. New York: St. Martins, 1989.
Rusiecki, Steve. Personal interview conducted 4 March 1995. 26 questions.
"Survival of the Armed: Hearing Reviews Gun Laws." The Arizona Republic April 1, 1995: A4.
Thomas, Andrew Peyton. Crime and the Sacking of America: The Roots of Chaos. Washington: Brassey's, 1994.
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The problem of gun control is hotly debated nowadays. 50% of the population are for it explaining that having a gun provides them some protection. Because of various reasons our justice system cannot always protect us which is why the majority of people is looking for some other ways of staying safe. However, a gun is still a weapon. Despite the fact that most people want to possess it in order to be on the safe side, we are aware of a lot of accidents when innocent people were hurt unintentionally. For this reason, more and more people nowadays are supporting the complication of the procedure of getting a gun. Too many factors indicate its negative aspects. Of course, some of you might say that it is not the gun that kills people; it is people itself. You are absolutely right but the fact that those people have the gun is what leads them to such dreadful actions. We should take measures in order to reduce the amount of guns people possess, otherwise it may lead to a great number of tragedies. Rage, jealousy and anger are strong motifs and before you know it, somebody has already hurt the other person.
The government should be very careful deciding whether this person should or should not be allowed to carry a gun. Our reality is harsh and what seemed to be a measure of protection may turn into brutality.
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There have been arguments regarding the gun control in the United States where some people have been on the idea that laws on gun control should be enhanced while others supported the idea that they should be scrapped and there should no be rules governing gun control in the country. The importance on gun control rules was emphasized due to the increase in insecurity whose main attribute is gun violence raised by the people who are in possession of the guns. The second amendment allows citizens to have the right to bear arms and can use them for self defense. Therefore, when there are fights against people possessing firearms, it is an indication that people are trying to defeat the point that gave birth to the second amendment. There has also been an argument that violence will also be experienced in the absence of the guns. There are other weapons that can be used to perpetrate violence, and other factors should be considered in controlling violence apart from confiscating guns and bringing other laws that control gun possession. For instance, there was reported a case where a young man stabbed his fellow student with a screwdriver in a high school. He did not need a gun to commit the murder, yet there was crime in the school. People are also denied freedom of some activities such as hunting. For many people, hunting is a hobby, and a gun is used in hunting the wild animals. When there are gun control laws, it is very obvious that they are deprived of their interest in their hobby. For these reasons, there should no be gun control laws, as people should be allowed to use the guns at their discretion (Dixon, 2013).
Most Americans cling to the second amendment that allows citizens to hold firearms wherever they go for their own safety. Most people also believe that the second amendment was placed so that the citizens would be protected from the tyrannical government that seemed to keep people in fear. People would have the power to rebel in case the government introduced dictatorial policies for their people. However, though this was not the main aim why people were issued with guns, it served as a purpose as the power of the government would be regulated in a way that the people would be given a chance to make their own ideas and also be given a voice in the government. This is because of the power they were believed to have after they were given the go- ahead to possess the firearms.
The second amendment states that the right of people to keep their arms should not be infringed by any means. The amendment mentions a well- regulated militia which is a phrase that means a group of citizens that act in position of an army. It continues to describe that it is necessary to the security of a free state. In this phrase, it means that the group will be in the frontline in making sure that it meets the goals and the interests of the citizen army. The main objective of the citizen army is to protect the best interests of the country, as well as, protecting the government also from foreign intervention. In the last bit of the amendment, the citizen army is required to bear and keep their arms for America’s security. This means that when the gun control laws are being introduced, the main intention of introducing the second amendment is being assumed. This means that the country would be left at the stake of only the military and the citizens would not have the power of protecting their government, as well as, the best interests of their nation (Lott 18-25).
Another main reason why the second amendment was made was that the South would be able to control the slaves. Guns would be essential in helping carry out slavery in the South at ease. Therefore, state militias served as slave patrols where they had to be given the mandate and responsibility to hold guns so that they would be able to control the slaves. The second amendment was also made because of the rebellions that used to take place in the country. For example, the whiskey rebellion caused the government to revoke the amendment as a way of controlling the militias in helping stop the rebellion. The farmers were rebelling against the government for imposing a new tax, yet it had not been there previously. When the amendment was made, room for rebel had not been created against the government. However, such rebellions were experienced when the government was not in a position to meet certain needs of the people or it acted in such a way that people viewed as selfish or had corrupt intentions. For this reason, the state has been enjoying its democratic right because rebellions and demonstrations are respected because the government realizes the power within the people. If such power had not been vested in the people, it would be difficult in the United States to stage rebellions and demonstrations in fight for human rights and freedom. Imposing gun control laws in the country is, therefore, a way of curtailing freedom in the United States, as the people may lack the voice and the authority they had previously (Bijlefeld 78-92).
There has also been an argument that it is not the guns that kill people, but it is the people themselves who kill other people. In this context, those against the gun controls argue that it is a personal initiative for a criminal to engage in crime, whether he holds a gun or not. In this regard, he does not have to possess gun for him to hold a gun. More comparisons are made between other weapons that are used to kill people and the guns that are always blamed for being used in killing people. People use crude weapons including screwdrivers, knives, swords or any metallic objects if they have the intention to kill other people. The gun just necessitates and quickens the process, and they argue that the killing would still have taken place, in the absence of the gun. Therefore, before placing the gun control laws as a measure to reduce violence and crime, more research should be indulged and there should be other actions that ought to be taken as a way of reducing the violence. For example, most people who commit these crimes are usually in the influence of high drug intoxication. It is these drugs that will make them use the guns or other weapons around them in committing violence.
The best way to help reduce violence in such a person would not be confiscating the gun he is carrying, but rehabilitating him as a way to reduce the drug use in him. This is because even after taking the gun, the drug effects may show him to use other weapons to commit the crime. However, when he has been led out of using the drugs, he will not use the gun wrongly, and will continue keeping and bearing it for the right purpose, which is self- defense and protecting the interests of the nation, as outlined in the constitution (Dixon, 2013).
Ideally, the legislations that have been created for gun control are meant for the criminals. It goes without saying that criminals do not follow the law, and making such legislation does not stop them from committing their crimes. Criminals are very conversant with the laws and they intentionally break them so that they get what they want. The new laws that have been created for gun control are, therefore, going to affect the citizens who are not criminals and are held illegible to carry the guns. This would be unfair to them because the criminals will always have their own ways to hide and use the guns even when the new laws are being put into practice. With this in mind, the rate of crime and violence is likely to shoot up since it is in the knowledge of the criminals that people are not holding guns, and they can, therefore, use their guns more freely than they would have used them when people are holding guns (Spitzer 102-116).
It has also been concluded that gun laws do not work in any way. This is in reference of earlier legislations that had been placed in hopes that they would be able to regulate gun violence. For instance, there was a law that existed between 1994 and 2004. The law required that no one was allowed to carry guns, but it did not work as gun violence did not reduce, as expected. This shows that there is little or no correlation between gun violence and the enactment of the ban on firearm holding in the U.S. there are other more factors that should be considered if the country is committed in stopping gun violence. The legislation itself had loopholes, which the criminals used in keeping and using the guns wrongly. Other factors that may have a higher degree of correlation with gun violence are factors such as having mental illness and using drugs wrongly. When the government concentrates on confiscating guns on a measure to reduce gun violence, it will lose the track and violence will still be on the rise. It should focus on other solutions, and gun control should come last when other measures are working.
Therefore, it has been clearly indicated why it is important in letting people hold guns and why gun legislation should not be enacted. More safety and security of the state will be ensured when the government embarks on other measure to help stop gun violence in the U.S. Researchers have already found out that there is negative correlation between gun legislation and gun violence. However, when the government embarks on research of how to stop gun violence through other measures such as rehabilitating people with mental illnesses and drug addicts, a permanent solution is being found for people in the nation, and gun violence will reduce since there is a substantial positive correlation between gun violence and drug abuse and mental illnesses.
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