Gun control is an enormous political subject which has been debated on whether the policies governing gun control should cover individual citizens or restricted to specific entities. Some groups agree that guns are very dangerous and are the lead causes for crimes so they should be banned while the opposing groups argue that due to the increase rates of crime there is a need for every citizen to own a gun for protection against the criminals and as a means of self-defense. These arguments arose following a ruling by the US Supreme Court in June 2008, allowing ownership of firearms for the purposes of self-defense. The ruling was within the bill of rights to carry guns – second amendment in 1791. The second amendment clearly indicates that rights of the citizen to own firearms will not be infringed. The amendment clause “w...
ell-regulated militia”, is used by those in favor of gun laws arguing that the clauses suggested only regulated forces like the government military bodies are entities that have the right to own armament given the fact that they are well trained in their use. The last clause of the amendment suggests that every citizen has the right to own a firearm, this statement forms the basis for those in agreement with the policies. Crime rates have been directly linked to gun control policies, and therefore, there is a need for analysis of the relationship based on different studies to determine whether these policies contribute to the safety of the citizens. especially in the United States. Over time, firearms became very efficient but unfortunately deadly.
Crime increased and became common leading to laws restricting selling and
possession of firearmsfootnoteRef:3. Many people objected reasoning that there was a need for self-protection and that criminals too have access to the guns despite the restriction laws. In history, colonist coming to America brought along guns, and they became tools for everyday activities. Short guns were used in hunting as well as in war. The early America did not have police and in most cases people were expected to supply their weapons during wars. This led to the inclusion of the Right to own weapons to the Bill of Rights in the 2nd amendment. Some of the colonial governments provided firearms to people within the community who could not afford and ensured that any person capable of fighting owned a musket.
Researchers suggest that most states adapting right to gun ownership laws have recorded high crime rates as well as reduced rates. Hoskin carried out two ways analyses on whether ownership of guns by citizen increased or decreased crime rates in different nationsfootnoteRef:5. In the United States, gun laws have contributed significantly to the reduction of crime rates. To affect approximately 25 states have adopted the laws and allowed their citizens to carry concealed guns. Statistically, both homicide rates have reduced 40% in US and 25% in Canada since the adoption of the right to carry lawsfootnoteRef:6. Law and economics Professor John Lott maintains that there is substantial evidence that crime rates are bound to decrease in a nation where permitting ownership of guns laws by a citizen is adopted. Just as the police use arrests and conviction to reduce violence, and so is the danger of a person confronting someone with the ability to protect
themselves using a firearm. In his book, “more crimes fewer crimes”, Lott explains that there is an inverse proportionality between the number of citizens having permits to own guns and the rates of crime in that the more the government is allowing citizens to own guns the greater violence is reduced and in consecutive years since guns are allowed, murder, rape, and robbery reduced by 3%, 2%and 2% respectively. The key reason Lott gives to defend his stand on the positive effect of the gun permit is that criminals will be uncertain about whether their potential victim has the ability to defend themselves. Besides, potential victims are in the better position of self-defense in case of attack.
As much as guns make people harm others, they still ensure that people protect themselves and even prevent the criminal acts from occurring. In response to the gun control policies deterring citizens from owning guns, Latulip explained that the policies have disarmed the law abiding citizens more compared to the criminalsfootnoteRef:8. This means that criminal will have less fear in attacking their victims. Gun control policies have both the advantages and disadvantages which are significant tradeoffs that need intense consideration; while the policies governing gun ownership assist in crime reduction, the same policies have the ability to avoid the harm that is caused by the guns. The long waiting periods for background checking before permission of gun ownership also prevent the would-be victims for acquiring the firearms for self-defense. At the same time, the banning of relatively cheap guns maybe the reason to prevent criminal from owning the weapons but still it prevents or rather discourage the victims especially
those with modest incomes from obtaining guns for defense.
A study was done by Whitely and Forenz, confirm the argument by Lott, permitting more guns reduces crime ratesfootnoteRef:10. The study explains that the more guns are permitted for ownership by law abiding citizens; more of the guns are available to the criminals too. However for the case of burglaries, most criminals testify that it is risky robbing a home when owners are present for the fear of getting shot. Apart from homes, criminals attacking cab drivers poses major risks as they are as well among the majority of gun owners. Whitely and Plassmann, agree with Lott, that according to the state level statistics, robbery rates continued too increased until the permission laws were passed and the rates dropped drastically. A Study by Whitely and Plassmann, also criticized Ayres and Donohue results that critiqued Lott’s study by commenting that results which were meant to demonstrate that handing over guns to the citizens increased crime rates clearly indicated that there was reduction in crime rates upon implementation of concealed handguns, and so they misread their own resultsfootnoteRef:13. Lott describes that the public have only be fed with news revolving the detrimental results of guns without highlighting out the benefits of owning one. There is a huge bias against guns and this has led citizens fear more to own them. Now that the social media has flooded news with incidences of murder and killings exceptions where guns were used in defensive manner are rare.
Lott points out that murder news do not cover all the data to deem the cases as to the negative effects of gunsfootnoteRef:15. The data need
to categorize in terms of the type of crime, the weapon involved as well as the status of both the criminal and the victim. In this analysis it will determine fully what was the main cause of the death or violence. Guns reduce crimes by mentioning that availability of guns help in disrupting criminal intent in two different ways; first, a victim with a gun can prevent the occurrence of crime by equalizing the power with the armed criminal or threaten away an unarmed criminalfootnoteRef:16. Secondly, armed victims are bound to resist criminal and avoid injury. This not only prevents real-time attack but also future attacks. Criminals may hold back from attacking in future due to a previous experience with an armed victim. At the same time, the criminal will refrain with the perspective that a large number of people own guns, and so they are always armed. With this reasoning as much as people are able to defend themselves future attacks are prevented beforehand. Taken together the studies exhaustively explain why the laws need to be adopted in countries with high criminal rates.
On the other hand, permits for gun ownership escalates crime and death rates when taking into considerations factors like gun accidents due to incorrect storage measures especially in homes and still lack of enough training on the use of firearms and the use of guns in a situation that could be probably handled without the use of a firearm. Studies strongly disagree with the evidence brought by Kleck which the basis that ownership of firearms has increased the rates of crimes. As much as carrying of guns has been studied to be
reducing the rates of crimes; the same has equivalently led to the increase in criminal rates. The more law abiding citizens are permitted to carry weapons, the more criminals carry along their guns and increase the chances of the criminals to use them against their armed victims with more speed as armed victim’s risks attack to the criminal upon engagement. Arming of the citizens, therefore, encourages more violence leading murder of unintended victims. Besides, this results to criminals equipping themselves with sophisticated weapons leading to more killings and injuries.
Approximately, 1million guns are being stolen each year in the United States. More guns among citizens also mean more guns to criminals who steal them. This is the fact that guns are products that are easily carried and so stealing as well as selling them for a price becomes easier. This, therefore, contributes to the rates of burglary and theft. In the end, the gun owner having a permit will not be able to exercise self-defense in case of attack. According to Ayres and Donohue III, officers of the Illinois state police indicated their tasks become complicated because when every citizen is permitted to carry along guns, then the police will have to be constantly checking whether all the guns are carried legallyfootnoteRef:19. Currently, in Illinois a person caught carrying a firearm is taken into custody and charged without investigation, this is believed to be reducing crime rates as well as disarming criminals.
Hoskin conducted research to evaluate the relationship that existed between crime and availability of gunsfootnoteRef:20. Violent crimes analyzed included; homicide aggravated assaults as well as robbery. The study found that regions with high numbers of
gun owners had increased rates of homicides and aggravated assaults compared to robbery rates. 38% of the US Households owns a gun, and approximately 200million handguns are in circulation, yet the nation has recorded higher rates of homicide, while, in 2009, 67% of murders were executed using firearms. This shows how an increase in gun ownership has increased crime rates over the years. The usage of guns increases the capacity of mechanical killing and still makes long distance attacks easier. Therefore, criminals using wide range guns are capable of shooting target multiple victims. This forms the hypothesis of instrumentality where gun ownership has led to the increase of injury and deaths. Apart from that, a procession of guns empowers the criminals in the sense that someone attacking an armed victim tends to refrain, but once they have a gun then automatically they become empowered and capable of attack.
While legal ownership is being advocated for all citizens, guns movement is tracked from legal ownership to illegal ownership through the gun industry. The prohibited illegal gun industry is downstream the legal industry. Most of the illegal guns were once legal guns which were manufactured or may be imported by a legalized company and even sold by a federal government licensed dealer. The gun becomes illegal once a legal owner sells off privately or at gun shows or gives away the gun to a prohibited person or maybe the weapon is stolen and not reported. The key focus in gun control act to abolish illegal gun market is to stop the movement of these guns from legal owners so as to prevent ownership of weapons by criminals. As
much as the states are focusing on illegal gun markets, this has still not contributed much to the lowering of unintended shootings and suicides which collectively account for deaths caused by guns. Government officials have therefore found it more possible to punish the misconducts in gun handling instead of preventions. Prevention measures that have been put in place include; metal sensors in entries of buildings, awareness programs, lawsuits banning the gun industry and longer jail terms for criminals. All these measures contribute to the reduction of criminal rates associated with guns but still do not restrict the movement of the firearms within the community.
It is certain that accessibility of firearms has contributed significantly to gun violence this is assured on analysis of specific regulatory measures within different states. In the case of licensing and registration; 35 states do not have protocols governing licensing and registration except Massachusetts where police administration have records monitoring the circumstances under which licensing is granted, and so breaching of the conduct governing licensing could lead to disbarmen. Before permission to own a gun, there need for background checks to determine the status of the buyer for instance mentally or his/her criminal record this is to ensure that no person is given a firearm which will be used to cause injury or death. About 32 states do not require any of the checks to evaluate the buyer whether the purchase is done through a private seller or even at gun shows. And whenever the checks are required mechanisms for ensuring the exercise is done effectively are not in place. Other states have properly laid rules governing checks some which require the
police to retrieve all police records about the buyer to determine his/her real intent for gun purchasing. During the background checks, some states require waiting periods up to one week while other do not have waiting periods.
Some of the instances of unintended shootings occur in homes owning firearms where children accidentally handle firearms and ends up injuring or killing someone. In relation to this guns should be put away and laws enforced restricting on the logistics of acquiring firearms by children. Unfortunately, a number of states do not have regulations for a minimum age where someone can purchase a gun either from private sellers or gunshots while other do not have at all regulations restricting general ownership of firearms . The federal law requires ownership of firearm from the age of 18 years. Most states has banned the cheap shotguns to aid in the endeavor of the government for the purpose of eliminating extensive purchase of guns. Only short guns are available for purchase and so registration and licensing of assault weapons is strongly restricted. For instance states like California and Connecticut have put in place strict laws against purchase of assault weapons. In relations to this, by the year 1994 the federal prohibited the production and even selling of the weapons. Based on the analyses indicating logistical issues involving gun ownership, it is clear that gun availability has led to increase rates of crime as anybody could acquire guns either legally or illegally. In addition, other factors do contribute to the increase in crime rates. These include; demographics, poverty, unemployment, alcohol and substance abuse as well as levels of urbanization.
Given the evidence showing the
relationship between the availability of guns and increase in crime rates, state laws as well as federal laws ensure that there is strict laws restricting the purchase and selling of guns. A drawback arises where reliance on state laws compared to federal laws due to lack of uniformity. This means efforts of a state maintain strict gun laws are likely to be undermined by an adjacent state with shall-issue laws. For example, in 1993 Virginia adopted a one-gun-a-month law where a citizen could only purchase a single gun in a month. Initially before the law adoption it was possible to purchase more than one gun from the gun dealer. This became a conflicting issue with Washington D.C which had banned shall-issue laws because Virginia became a source of crime guns and this escalated the states crime rates. After enacting the law, crime rates started to decline. This case explains drawback that arises once each state is given the opportunity to determine their rights as it results to sabotage of other states laws in case of variations. To ensure that guns are not accessible to criminals, federal laws cover gun control policies exhaustively. Manufacturers, distributors as well as dealers involved with firearms require Federal Firearm Licensing in order to conduct their business legally. The firearm license restricts these dealers from selling firearms to unlicensed businesses. Furthermore, the licensed dealer is still restricted from selling handguns and shotguns to person under the age of 21 and 18 years respectively. Importation of poor quality of guns and assault guns is banned under the federal law. Apart from that, automatic guns and other high powered guns manufacture is banned
too. In relation to the gun owners, certain classes of individual are still prohibited under the law to get permit for gun ownership. This is effective under the background checks. During purchase of the firearm, it is mandatory for the gun dealer or the police to confirm with the FBI national instant check system on the customer details. Evaluation is done to determine whether the client is among the list of once-criminals, fugitive from legal justice or subject to different instances of restricting orders. There is a possible weakness in the system involving the national instant check system where only at the purchase of the firearms background checks is conducted. It is therefore worth pointing out that in case where the legal gun owner commits felony or any domestic violence act using the weapon the NICS will not be updated so as to withdraw the weapon, and so the now-criminal continue owning a gun legally.
Licensing and registration terms and conditions have been reported to help in ensuring that gun movement does not follow the legal to illegal market route. Registration terms establish sense of accountability to gun owners to ensure that they contribute to law enforcement. A firearm purchase from a licensed dealer requires full registration details of the customer. When registration is not conducted there will be not restricting rules for the owner to sell out the guns without question. However terms and conditions governing registration of guns requires the owner to be informed that crime committed using the weapon will be pinned to the owner whose name appears on the registration portals. In this case, the gun owner will ensure that he/she sells
off the gun to an accountable person and still transfer registration details to the new owner. During the transfer of details background checks will be done on the new customer before close of the deal.
In addition, registration of guns helps in tracing of guns. In a crime scene where a gun is found, it is possible to determine the owner of the gun and hence the criminal involved in the crime. Without registration, the police will have to determine the owner by starting from the manufacturer of the weapon then its distributor, dealer and the customer. This chain of dealer may not keep reliable details to determine the rightful owner. Registration therefore ensures that this process is made easier. In response to the report it clearly indicates that there is a close association which exists between gun ownership by citizen and the rates of crimes. Now that most states have adopted the right to carry laws, the only remaining task to regulate the rates of crime is regulation of the movement and registration of the guns. In a different view, availability of guns does not directly influence increase or decrease of crime rates1. The use of a firearm only reflects the criminals’ motivation to harm the victim seriously but at the same in absence of the gun, the intention of the criminal does not change but the choice of a weapon changes in order to accomplish the same goal. In this case crime has been conducted without the use of a gun. In addition, relationship between crime and gun availability becomes insignificant when crimes caused by guns are settled by the defensive use of the
same guns. Cancelling out of the two mechanisms zeros down to no effect of guns to increase or reduce violent crimes.
Gun control opinions clearly show that they are determined by several factors such as cultural, religion as well as demographic factors (Kahan and Braman, 2003, 577). In view of demographic factors, comparison between people living in the northern region and southern region of the world shows that southerners are much more reserved concerning the issue of permission of guns to citizens compared to those in the west. This is due to the culture or rather tradition that guide against violence and in this case with their opinion that guns results in increased crimes rates, guns should not be available to all citizens. Statistics show that 82% of people living in the south oppose the opinion of handgun issue as compared to 76% of non southerners (Kahan and Braman, 2003,579). In addition, comparison between people living in rural and those in urban areas, urban area population highly supports the issue of handgun to citizen with a small number of people in the rural area supporting the idea. This is due to the distribution of crime rates between the urban and rural centers. More crime are recorded in urban centers which influence the opinion of residents to support the gun control for the purposes of self defense while in the rural areas crime rates are less making the people refrain from the issue of handguns to all law abiding citizens.
Religious perspectives on gun control subside to the enforcement of strict gun laws founded on the basis that ownership of weapons is not right. Study by Kahan and
Braman, (2003, 584) shows that among religious denominations Jews support permits for gun ownership more compared to the rest of denominations like Christians. Statistically, more than 10% of Christians support strict laws against firearm ownership as well as bans on carrying firearms in public places. The study argues that as much as gun ownership is a constitutional right it is however enacted in a democratic government and therefore it does not automatically endorse religious entities to own them. In view of self defense as the reason for gun ownership, despite the fact that there is need for self defense, it does not give the right to own a gun (Kahan and Braman, 2003,585). If indeed ownership of handguns scares away criminals with the perception that the victims are probably armed, it is worth mentioning that increase in gun owners increases gun accidents. While some of the pro guns within Christian umbrella supports their stand using the biblical context of the use of weapon to fight against the enemy, it is important to note that consequences followed people according to their be it in the context of attacking or self defense.
Analysis of opinions and evidence on the subject gun control and crime rates show that there is mixed data those which do not definitively lead to a consensus. Contradicting resources continue to arise but what remains ultimate is the preservation of individual’s rights in a democratic government. My opinion tends to concede with Lott’s, where the rights for bearing arms should be maintained within the Bill of rights and it will be the choice of any citizen to possess a gun or not. It is indeed
true that when one owns a firearm there is minimal chances that a criminal will attack and cause injuries. In a home setting where residents own firearms then criminal refrains from attacking with the fear of being killed by armed victims as it is certain that a victim will not spare the criminal for prosecution but is likely to kill. I, therefore, disagree with Hoskin, that guns increase violence with the fact that as much as guns cause crime when handled by criminals, registration laws are still in place which ensures that gun owners are held responsible for any crime conducted using their firearmsfootnoteRef:32. And still registration ensures that guns are not traded illegally. It is therefore the role of citizens to cautious in handling firearms. In the case of gun owners in a residential, it is essential that the firearms are safely stored and only used under extreme cases and used by those that have the knowledge of its uses. Otherwise guns remain safe when properly used and indeed reduce crime rates.
- Open Society Institute Centre on Crime; Gun control in the united states: A comparative Survey of State Firearms Law; New York. 2000
- Whitley,John and Plassmann Florenz: Confirming “More Guns Less Crime”, Stanford Law Review, Vol.55,pp 1313-1369. 2003.
- Lott John R. More Guns Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws. Chicago. University of Chicago Press. 2010.
- Ayres Ian and Donohue III John, J. Shooting Down the “ More Guns Less Crime” Hypothesis, Stanford Law Review, Vol 55 Pg 1193-1312. 2003.
- Braman,Donald and Daniel M. Kahan; Overcoming the Fears of Guns, The fear of Gun Control and the Fear of Cultural Politics;
Constructing a better Gun Debate. Emory Law Journal Vol.55. 2006