Handgun control has been a controversial topic of debate over the past few years. Our society is immersed in violence. Everyone uses guns to cause fear in others in efforts to obtain what they want. Many deaths and crimes occur every day due to gun violence. In America daily, 100 everyone is killed and more than 100 is injured, but those who witness gun violence will forever affect them personally (“Gun violence in America.” EverytownResearch.org, 11 Apr. 2019, everytownresearch.org/gun-gun-violence-America/). However, people who oppose gun control argue that guns are important because they can be used for protection. Furthermore, guns are not the only weapon used to kill people, and therefore controlling them might not decrease the murder rate. The Second Amendment allows each individual to own a gun, but over the years the amendment has been interpreted differently, causing it to become stricter. Handguns should be controlled in order to reduce the rates of homicides, mass shootings, and suicide.
The Second Amendment to the Constitution allows U.S. citizens the right to bear arms. The amendment 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” (“Policies on Guns’. Constitutional Rights Foundation, 2012). With this amendment, citizens are granted the right to use a gun for the purpose of self-defense. The amendment offers citizens more protection and restricts the power of the government. By making it legal to purchase and own a gun, the government becomes less powerful, which gives the citizens more rights and dominance with the aid of guns. Illegally possessing a handgun breaks a law that should not be infringed upon. The court suggests that if a juvenile or mentally ill individual possesses a handgun, they are also required to obtain a permit in order to own that gun. However, these weapons are dangerous, and the law needs to strictly control them to prevent violence.
The purpose of the laws and policies required to own a gun is to ensure the safety of the citizens. In order to purchase a handgun, an individual has to be at least 21 years old. The laws prohibit children or those who are under the age of 21 to possess a gun without a supervisor. However, some states minimum age laws range from 18-21, but with parental consent. According to Gifford Law center, “Dealers may not sell or deliver a handgun or ammunition for a handgun to any person … An unlicensed person may not sell, deliver otherwise transfer a handgun… cause to believe is under age 18, with certain exceptions”. This shows that a dealer and an unlicensed person is not allowed to sell to one that does not meet the requirement. At the age of 21, individuals are more responsible than those who are younger.
The federal regulation requires a background check to ensure the individual is certified to own a handgun. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was created in 1993, and it requires a background check for everyone attempting to purchase a firearm. The background check includes records of an individual such as crimes and mental health problems. In New York, FBI is allowed to access the mental health data and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to make sure the person is qualified to possess a firearm. If the gun were used to harm others, this must be reported to the New York Police Department, but the mental health professional is not to get involved. The process is a 5-day waiting period to thoroughly check if the individual is eligible to own a handgun. In 2015, there was a man who shot and killed 9 African Americans at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. The man failed his background check due to his history of substance use where the background did not process within the waiting period of 3 days. The dealer violated the law and insisted on selling him the gun, then 2 months later the shooter killed the churchgoers (“Background Check Procedures.” Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence). Letting any citizen own a firearm without a proper background check puts our society more in danger.
There are exceptions for handgun control. According to the Giffords Law Center, “Federal law provides exceptions for the temporary transfer and possession of handguns… for specified activities, including employment, ranching, farming, target practice, and hunting”. Most of the incidents occur because individuals fail to identify the target before shooting and maintaining a safe zone of fire which means that the shooter and the target must be 25- 40 yards apart (“Hunting- Related Shooting Incidents. “Pennsylvania Game Commission). The exception of firearms that are usually allowed by the government is for the benefits of the community. The government provides law enforcement, and the military with guns to protect the citizens from threats which include school shootings, robbery, and terrorism.
Nowadays, the development of technology makes guns easy to access which leads to more violent crimes. The production of firearms makes it difficult to rescue others. The misuse of firearms causes the suicide and crime rates to increase and in some states are even higher (Slevin, Jeremy, et al. “A Gun Violence Expert Explains the Link Between Inequality and Gun Deaths.” Talk Poverty, 29 Mar. 2018). The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of Social Sciences stated, “Greater gun availability is one expectation for why even though overall rates of violent crime… The high gun-violence rate afflicts many low- income neighborhoods… withdrawal of employment and investment- setting for more violence”. The struggles that the people go through increase violence in our society. Gun violence is more prevalent in a poor neighborhood. People prefer to live in a prosperous area because crime rates are lower (Cook, Philip J., and Harold A. Pollack. “Reducing Access to Guns by Violent Offenders”). Neighborhood who are living in poverty, segregation, and inequality usually have a higher crime rate. The individuals living in a poor area who are able to access to firearms are encouraged to do criminal acts to solve their problems that a person is facing (Neighborhoods and Violent Crime | HUD USER).
The restriction of gun control under the laws reduces homicide rates in the country. The states that required background checks for gun sales reduce homicide rates by 15 percent compared to states without this law (Colarossi, Jessica 2019). The states enforce gun law in order to prevent homicide. There was a study that has shown the effect of gun prevalence and homicide rates. They found out that higher gun prevalence is associated with more firearms homicides (“The Relationship Between Firearm Prevalence and Violent Crime.” RAND Corporation). The risk of homicide is associated with drug use, alcoholism, and domestic violence. “Gun homicides are concentrated in cities…Within these cities, gun homicides are most prevalent in racially segregated neighborhoods with high rates of poverty” (“Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home | NEJM. “New England Journal of Medicine, 7 Oct. 1993). There are other factors that affect an individual to act in a certain way.
Many firearms are used in mass shootings. People tend to purchase a gun for power or to aid them in doing a criminal act. In the 1980s and 2000s, school shootings have increased due to bullying and side effects from psychiatric drugs (Drs. Garry R. Walz and Jeanne C.Bleuer. “School Shootings and Student Mental Health: Role of the School Counselor in Mitigating Violence”). According to ABC News, “Mass shootings are increasing in the U.S. They’ve been increasing over the past four years… these shootings represent the most serious threat facing the United States today”. Mass shootings have become a huge problem in the U.S. where children are able to access guns. The laws are not strict enough because mass shootings are more frequent in schools and public places.
People who own a gun have a higher rate of suicide. Dr. David Hemenway stated, “the U.S. has the highest rate of firearm suicide in 27 developed nations in which we have the 16th highest rate of suicide. Over 50 percent of all suicides are by firearms in the United States… a high number of handguns and less regulation of firearms than on other developed nations”. This demonstrates that the United States has one of the highest rates of suicide caused by firearms. Having a gun at home elevates the risk of suicide. (“FIREARM AVAILABILITY AND SUICIDE.” Suicide Prevention and Intervention: Summary of a Workshop., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 1970). U.S. citizens owning guns are about four times more likely to commit suicide than countries with fewer guns, but there are other factors that are included with suicide such as unemployment, serious mental illness, and substance abuse (“Firearm Suicide in the United States.” EverytownResearch.org, 3 Apr.2019).
A firearm is the most effective way to hunt for animals. The importance of hunting provides food to maintain the human population. According to Endangered Species Coalition, “worldwide, plants and animals are disappearing at an alarming rate and natural systems that all species… In the United States alone, scientists estimate that more than 500 species have disappeared in the past 200 years”. We have used animals for materials and food source. Hunting is an exception for owning a gun because it is used for the greater good to improve our society. However, once the animal becomes extinct, people have to find ways to produce a new product.
Guns are mainly used for protection. “Firearms are used to defend against criminals. For example, the presence of a gun may frighten a criminal way, thereby reducing the likelihood of property, injury, or death” (Read ‘Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review’ at NAP.edu. “National Academics Press: OpenBook, 2005). Guns inflict fear to the criminal, which saves lives. On the other hand, the gun has to be out of reach from children. Some people do not know how to use a gun which can lead to death in the household. The Gallup polls say, “63 percent of adults having a gun in the house is safer and 56 percent think the country would be safer to carry concealed weapons… increase a person’s risk of bodily harm and death”. This shows there are other weapons that are a better option than a gun, these are not the only weapon to use for protection.
Others may argue that guns help protect individuals from danger and that gun law should be less strict. Violence is not caused by a firearm, but the person who decides to commit a crime. A handgun is more dangerous than knives because a person is five times more likely to die. The availability of firearms increases the murder rates of the states. Therefore, background checks are necessary to validate if the person is eligible to possess a handgun and will reduce the crime rates in America (“Policies on Guns.” Constitutional Rights Foundation 2012).
Moreover, making firearm less accessible to youth and individuals who are at risk of harming themselves or others will reduce death rates. The gun dealers or companies must have a code of conduct to make sure that they follow the rules. If the handgun dealer breaks the contract, they must be responsible for their actions. There are also laws that the gun dealers must obey such as obtaining a license and recording sales. In order to own a handgun, the citizens must train before earning a license to prevent accidents. The advancement in technology made it possible to increase gun safety. For example, fingerprint scanners, PIN codes, and RFID chips make it so only the owner of the firearm can unlock the weapon (“Gun Violence Must Stop. Here’s What We Can Do to Prevent More Deaths.” Prevention Institute). Enforcing these laws and solutions to fix handgun violence will result in less homicide.
There are restrictions for someone who is selling or possesses a gun. The amendment gave citizens the right to protect themselves from danger. The background check determines if the person is eligible to own a handgun. The main problem of gun control is that people are able to easily access guns; this increases the homicide as well as suicide rates. The exception of possessing a firearm is only used for the benefits of the community. A poor neighborhood is more prone to homicide and suicide rates due to the emotional effect on the individual’s behaviors. There are other weapons that are used to cause violence, but the firearm is the most efficient that can kill a person in one shot compared to a knife. The development of technology creates new ideas that make firearms less accessible. If a person is unable to obtain a firearm there is no further harm to the society.
- “Background Check Procedures.” Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, lawcenter.giffords.org/gun-laws/policy-areas/background-checks/background-check-procedures/.
- “Firearm Suicide in the United States.” EverytownResearch.org, 3 Apr. 2019, everytownresearch.org/firearm-suicide/.
- “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home | NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine, 7 Oct. 1993, www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199310073291506.
- “Gun Violence in America.” EverytownResearch.org, 11 Apr. 2019, everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-america/.
- “Gun Violence Must Stop. Here’s What We Can Do to Prevent More Deaths.” Prevention Institute, http://www.preventioninstitute.org/focus-areas/preventing-violence-and-reducing-injury/preventing-violence-advocacy.
- “Https://Www.bu.edu/Research/Articles/State-Gun-Laws-That-Reduce-Gun-Deaths/.” Neighborhoods and Violent Crime | HUD USER, www.huduser.gov/portal/periodicals/em/summer16/highlight2.html.
- “Https://Www.counseling.org/Docs/Default-Source/Vistas/School-Shootings-and-Student-Mental-Health.p.” RAND Corporation, www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/supplementary/firearm-prevalence-violent-crime.html.
- “Hunting-Related Shooting Incidents.” Pennsylvania Game Commission, www.pgc.pa.gov/HuntTrap/Hunter-TrapperEducation/Pages/Hunting-RelatedShootingIncidents.aspx.
- “Mass Shootings ‘Increasing’ and Pose ‘Most Serious Threat’ in US, Expert Says.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 8 Nov. 2018
- “Policies on Guns.” Constitutional Rights Foundation, http://www.crf-usa.org/images/pdf/gun_policies.
- “Read ‘Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review’ at NAP.edu.” National Academies Press: OpenBook, 2005, www.nap.edu/read/10881/chapter/7.
- “The Relationship Between Firearm Prevalence and Violent Crime.” RAND Corporation, www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/supplementary/firearm-prevalence-violent-crime.ht
- Cook, Philip J., and Harold A. Pollack. “Reducing Access to Guns by Violent Offenders.” RSF, RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 1 Oct. 2017, www.rsfjournal.org/content/3/5/2.
- Cornershop. “Protecting the Endangered Species Act.” Endangered Species Coalition, www.endangered.org/campaigns/protecting-the-endangered-species-act/.
- Deadliest Mass Shootings in Modern US History Fast Facts.” CNN, Cable News Network, 22 Apr. 2019
- Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Pathophysiology and Prevention of Adolescent and Adult Suicide. “FIREARM AVAILABILITY AND SUICIDE.” Suicide Prevention and Intervention: Summary of a Workshop., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 1970, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK223849/.
- Neighborhoods and Violent Crime | HUD USER, www.huduser.gov/portal/periodicals/em/summer16/highlight2.html.
- Slevin, Jeremy, et al. “A Gun Violence Expert Explains the Link Between Inequality and Gun Deaths.” Talk Poverty, 29 Mar. 2018, talkpoverty.org/2018/03/29/gun-violence-america-isnt-one-epidemic-several/.