In the realm of politics today,
few issues are more hotly contested than gun control. Ask gun owners, and
they’ll say that the government is infringing upon their private right to
property. Gun controllers, on the other side, will claim that they’re trying
to protect the peoples’ right to life – a right that the mere existence of guns
The Second Amendment states that, “(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.” In historical context, this was in order to keep the newly formed country from being invaded during a time when state militias were common. Now, however, very few of the 50 million households that own guns are part of a militia or use the roughly 290 million firearms in civilian ownership for the defense of the country, according to justthefacts.com. With the total population of the United States at approximately 317 million, this amounts to nearly one gun for each man, woman and child in the U.S.
So what makes guns such a compelling item to own? Many people will say that they own a gun for self-defense, and this is a completely legitimate argument. According to the FBI, an estimated 1,214,462 violent crimes (murder, forceable rape, robbery and aggravated assault) occurred nationwide in 2012, an increase of 0.7 percent from the bureau’s 2011 estimate.
But, while many criminals have been fended off by gun-wielding victims, it’s also important to look at how the criminal commits his/her crime. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculated that in 2010, there were a total of 16,259 homicides in the United States. Out of those, 11,078 (an estimated 68 percent) were committed with firearms, and those are just the murders – roughly 10 percent of the over 5 million violent crimes committed each year were committed using a gun.
Everyone can agree that less crime is better. In order to reduce these numbers, we have two options. The first option would be to control the people using the guns. To do this, the government already has a background check system in place that is horribly flawed. According to justthefacts.com, in a 10-year period from 1998 to 2008, 96 million background checks were made for the intention of purchasing a firearm. Only 681,000 cases were denied – a total of less than 1 percent. With such a low amount of denials, it becomes inevitable that some people who shouldn’t own guns are going to slip through the cracks. In a period from 2004-10, 1,225 firearm and three explosive background checks were processed for people on federal terror watch lists. In spite of this fact, 1,115 of the firearms sales and all three explosives sales were approved.
The second option for reducing tragedy would be to begin eliminating firearms from the general population, and this has proven effective. Historically, one of the worst cities for murder in the U.S. is Chicago. In 1982, the city passed a ban on the possession of handguns. Before 2010, the year the ban was struck down as unconstitutional, the murder rate for Chicago had dropped 19 percent below what it was in 1982, according to the American Bar Association
Of course, banning guns prohibits some people from legitimate recreational use such as hunting and sport shooting. However, this provides out excuse for obtaining a firearm; even in Norway where the background checks for firearm purchases are most thorough, mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik was still able to purchase a Ruger Mini-14 and a Glock-34, using hunting as an excuse. He used the weapons to kill 77 people in Norway on July 22, 2011.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that violent crimes only occur in large cities. However, the armed robbery and aggravated assault that occurred near campus recently show that violent crimes can occur anywhere, and that the possession of firearms only makes violent crimes easier to commit. The original purpose of government was to protect its constituents from harm, and allowing guns to continue to be created and available to the public with virtually no regulation is doing a disservice to the people who die or are victimized as a result of the existence of firearms.
Jesse Gilmore is a junior in agronomy. Please send comments to email@example.com.