gun control, including counter arguments. Owning a gun is much more than just a statement about this country's Constitution and Second Amendment rights. Owning a gun is a measure of protection and freedom that illustrates the principles this country's founders created, and it is a right that Americans should not take for granted. Gun control is not a suitable method for controlling crime, and it has not been proven to help control violent crime.
First, it is imperative to define what "gun control" means, because it can mean different things to different people. Two experts note, "Gun control is an umbrella term covering everything from laws prohibiting the ownership of defined classes of firearms to mandating the inclusion of gun locks with every firearm sold" (Moorhouse & Wanner, 2006). Clearly, with such a broad definition, and differing meanings, gun control cannot be easily measured or understood, which is one of the reasons it is controversial. Most advocates of gun control believe that the prevalence of readily available guns adds to violent crime statistics, but studies indicate that gun control does not seem to have a measurable effect on reducing violent crime, which negates their argument for stricter gun laws. Gun control is also a highly emotional issue, and many people believe the Second Amendment guarantees an American's right to own a gun. An author quotes Newt Gingrich, who says, "The Second Amendment is a political right written into our Constitution for the purpose of protecting individual citizens from their own government'" (Beachler, 2003). Thus, gun control is always controversial, because there are two such distinct sides to the issue. It is not just a liberal/conservative or Democratic/Republican issue, it is deeper than that, and there are also many different levels of support and interest.
Effectiveness of Gun Control
Every state has some kind of laws controlling or regulating guns, which is one reason the Federal Government does not want to get involved in gun control, even though there are often attempts to regulate certain aspects of gun control at the national level (such as trigger locks, youth safety, and waiting time regulations). They feel the states should regulate their own affairs, rather than creating overall federal legislation for many gun control issues. Each state regulates and enforces their regulations differently, and that can skew gun control's effectiveness. Authors Moorhouse and Wanner continue, "The effectiveness of a particular gun control statute depends not only on its being on the books but the degree to which the law is enforced. Two jurisdictions may have the same gun control statute but experience very different effects, because in one of the jurisdictions little effort is devoted to enforcing the regulation" (Moorhouse & Wanner, 2006). Thus, studies that indicate gun control helps reduce crime may be based on different statutes and different enforcement techniques, which may alter the results. In most studies, gun control is not shown to be effective in combating crime. The authors note, "In addition, he observes that 'controlling for basic social factors, the data show that gun laws have no significant effect on access to firearms' and 'differing rates of access to handguns had no significant effect on violent acts'" (Moorhouse & Wanner, 2006). Many other studies back up these findings, and help prove that gun control laws do not deter crime. In fact, studies show that many guns used in criminal activities have been stolen or gained illegally, which will be discussed below.
Like gun control laws, the right-to-carry a gun is regulated by the states. Some states require registration when purchasing a gun, other states do not, and some states do not follow up on these registration regulations. Many states offer permits for the right-to-carry a concealed gun, as well. Studies indicate that these laws may do much more in preventing crime than gun control measures. Authors Moorhouse and Wanner note, "Right-to-carry laws increase the risk to criminals of being injured or killed during a crime and thus generate a deterrent effect. Indeed, casual evidence suggests that merely brandishing a gun deters criminals" (Moorhouse & Wanner, 2006). Millions of Americans carry guns legally, and they do not use them to commit crimes, they use them to deter crimes and to protect themselves in their own homes. Instead of enacting gun control laws, more communities might consider right-to-carry laws to help make their communities safer and deter criminal activity. If a criminal knows they are likely to face a homeowner with a gun when they attempt a crime, they might think twice about robbery or other criminal activities.
Many proponents of gun control cite rising crime statistics as a reason to control firearm sales and ownership, especially handguns, which are often used in violent crimes. However, statistics show that guns are not used in a large majority of crimes, and that the number of gun-related crimes is actually dropping. Another researcher notes, "In 2002, incidents involving a firearm constituted 7% of the 4.9 million violent crimes of rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated and simple assault. Over the period 1993-2002, the non-fatal, firearm-related violent victimization rate fell to the lowest level ever recorded" (Stell, 2004). Thus, the argument that guns are being used in more crimes is also disproved, and in actuality, guns are used in a very small percentage of criminal activities.
Guns make the news when there are spectacularly violent incidents, such as mass shootings like the one at Virginia Tech University. Gun control proponents point to these incidents as evidence that guns should be regulated and the general population should not have access to guns. However, most data indicates that those people most likely to commit a homicide are not like "you and me." In fact, they are much more likely to be criminally experienced, young, and felons. Author Stell notes, "Data gathered from 1960 to date indicate that most homicide perpetrators are male, younger than 30, 70-80% have criminal records and average four arrests for major felonies. By contrast, 85% of the general population has never once been arrested" (Stell, 2004). It is also important to note that 71% of victims in gun homicides also had a criminal record (Stell, 2004). Thus, a small minority of the population is responsible for the most serious gun crimes, and the general population, including most gun owners, have no experience with criminal activities, and have never even been arrested, let alone tempted to use their guns for a crime. Gun control in this area of the population would serve no real purpose, and would have no effect on the most violent of gun crimes.
Many proponents of gun control cite statistics about waiting periods and gun registration as part of their control measures, but studies indicate that these measures do not work. Not because they keep guns out of the hands of criminals, but because of the large percentage of stolen weapons that flood the market every year. A Johns Hopkins University study concluded that 500,000 guns are stolen from private citizens every year, and that does not include the thousands of guns stolen from dealers and transporters each year (Editors, 2003). In addition, 18% of incarcerated criminals reported using a stolen gun in their crimes, or in buying the gun from a "fence" (Editors, 2003). Thus, stolen guns are a huge problem in the United States, and there is evidence they are being used in criminal activities in other countries, such as Mexico, as well. There is no way to regulate stolen guns, and so, gun control is useless in this area, and there is no way even the strongest advocate of gun control can dispute that.
Criminal Justice Students
It is interesting to note that most criminal justice students do not support gun control, even though it might seem that they would support something that might seem to make their jobs safer and easier. Another study indicates, "Analysis indicated that criminal justice majors, with an average score of 44.74 on the gun control survey, were more opposed to gun control than non-criminal justice majors whose average score was 40.57" (Payne & Riedel, 2002). The study also showed that blacks, females, and urban dwellers also supported gun control issues more, while whites and men did not support gun control by large margins. The authors continue, "In this research, we found that those who were more likely to oppose gun control were blacks, females, urban residents, non-criminal justice majors, and non-gun owners. These findings are supported by a growing body of gun control research" (Payne & Riedel, 2002). Another study indicates, "People with higher levels of educational attainment also are more likely to support general gun control measures. Support does not vary by marital status, age, or income" (Smith, 2002). Not surprisingly, people who are more used to guns or experienced with them tend to disapprove of gun control, too (Payne & Riedel, 2002).
Pro-Gun Control Arguments
While the majority of studies indicate that gun control really does not result in…