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ownership of guns by the public has been a topic of much needed debates for quite some time now. Various organizations and support groups have been in action for the pro-or anti-views on whether a citizen should be allowed to own and keep a gun at his person or his property. Many of the people who own guns do so for hunting, self-defense or for their collecting pleasure. But there have been innumerous cases in which the use the gun has resulted in death of another person. The issue of gun control pertains to those laws and regulations that would result in a limited number of people buying the guns and thus control the distribution of guns so that they do not fall into the wrong hands.
Violence no matter where it occurs is usually a traumatic, tragic event, but when it happens in our schools to our children, it is an extraordinarily shocking occurrence. An emotional reaction of a normal minded human being would be to directly demand a ban on all. Some may feel enlivened to push for legislation that makes us feel like we are "doing something," but this may not accomplish anything, or worse, it could do more harm.
Pro-gunners disagree on the limitations that gun control would put on their lifestyle. Some people believe it should be absolute, and any and all arms should be legal. Some pro-gunners and declare that heavy military equipment such as tanks, bazookas, etc., should be illegal, while reasonable controls on items such as automatic machine guns are all right. At the same time many people believe that even owning a simple handgun should be illegal and strict regulatory control should be enacted when anyone wants to purchase a firearm. Many people advocate that guns should be legal for buying and people should not have to go through a great deal of hassle in order to acquire a simple gun.
People should hitch up our emotions and understanding to scrutinize what the problems are, their extent, and then weigh the advantages and disadvantages of various policy options. Unfortunately the problems are legion. Moreover, sadly, no matter how optimal the economic and political policies we adopt, or how enlightened a society we become, evil will always exists.
Guns should be more regularly and carefully monitored. The act of buying a gun should be made into a legal process whereby a person had to go through various checks and careful scrutiny before he or she is allowed to buy and own a gun. There should be strict restrictions on the types and kinds of weapons that a person should be allowed to buy and own. The problem with guns is fairly straightforward: they make it easy to kill or injure a person. In Jeffrey A. Roth's Firearms and Violence (February 1994), he points out the obvious dangers: Approximately 60% of all murder victims in the United States in 1989 (about 12,000 people) were killed with firearms. According to estimates, firearm attacks injured another 70,000 victims, some of whom were left permanently disabled. In 1985 (the latest year for which data are available), the cost of shootings -- either by others, through self-inflicted wounds, or in accidents -- was estimated to be more than $14 billion nationwide for medical care, long-term disability, and premature death. In robberies and assaults, victims are far more likely to die when the perpetrator is armed with a gun than when he or she has another weapon or is unarmed. An accidental gunshot is also a lethal disposition.
Obviously, there are different types of gun murder. There is 1st degree, premeditated murder, in which case the gun just made it easier, but the killer probably would have killed anyway, given that he had time to premeditate. But after that, there is murder in course of other crime, acquaintance murders in the heat of passion, and criminal negligence. And naturally, there are the non-lethal injuries from firearms as well. These non-lethal injuries have actually been going down recently, but this is not because the number of shootings is going down; but rather that emergency room doctors and technology are getting better equipped to deal with gunshot victims. (N.Y. Times News Service, 1996)
In addition, although we hear a great deal about the tens of thousands who die from gunshot wounds, we don't hear enough about the countless tens of thousands of others who are injured by gunshot wounds. Increasingly, hospital emergency rooms are getting better at treating gunshot wounds, which leads to less gunshot deaths. For this reason, looking at gunshot deaths alone is misleading, and only a small part of the picture. (Kleck) Residents of homes where a gun is present are 5 times more likely to experience a suicide rather than residents of homes without guns. (Kellermann et al., pp. 467-472) Although the reader may or may not disagree with the morality behind suicide being illegal, the fact remains that a gun makes it easier to commit suicide in a fit of rage, depression, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Furthermore, there is conflicting evidence as to whether any kind of substitution occurs. (Anonymous) study of 743 gunshot deaths by Dr. Arthur Kellermann and Dr. Donald Reay published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that 84% of these homicides occurred during altercations in the home. Only 2 of the 743 gunshot deaths occurring in the home involved an intruder killed during an attempted entry, and only 9 of the deaths were determined by police/courts to be justified. (Zimring, F.E, 1991) The evidence revealed in the Kellermann study is consistent with data reported by the FBI. In 1993, there were 24,526 people murdered, 13,980 with handguns, yet only 251 justifiable homicides by civilians using handguns
Contrary to myth and misrepresentation, most murders are not committed by previously law-abiding citizens either going berserk, or because a gun was handy during a moment of uncontrollable rage: suddenly "blow away" their spouse, friend, neighbor, acquaintance, or all four. Studies conducted at both the local and national level indicate people with previous criminal records commit the overwhelming majority of murders. Domestic homicides as well are preceded by a long history of violence. The "crime of passion" homicide is much more the exception rather than the rule. In 1998, firearms were used in 65% of homicides, and 52% of homicides were committed with a handgun. (FBI)
Gun suicides outnumber gun homicides. In 1995, there were 18,503 gun suicides compared to 13,790 firearm homicides. In the United States, guns are the most common method of suicide (61%). If we could magically make all guns disappear, would the number of suicides decrease? Probably yes. "The full body of relevant studies indicates that firearm availability measures are significantly and positively associated with rates of firearm suicide, and have significant association with rates of total suicide. Of thirteen studies, nine found a significant association between gun levels and rates of gun suicide, and one found a significant association between gun levels and rates of total suicides. The only study to find a measure of "gun availability" significantly associated with total suicide...used a measure of gun availability known to be invalid. This pattern of results supports the view that where guns are less common, there is complete substitution of other methods of suicide, and that, while gun levels influence the choice of suicide method, they have no effect on the number of people who die in suicides." (Kleck, pp. 285)
From 1972 to 1995 the per capita gun-stock in the U.S. increased by more than 50%. "This change might be viewed as a sort of inadvertent natural experiment, in which Americans launched a massive and unprecedented civilian armaments program, probably the largest in world history. During this same period, the U.S. suicide…[continue]
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