In American culture today, guns are worshiped. Children play with toy guns, television and film glorify gun violence, teenagers show off guns to one another in order to get respect, and powerful lobbyist groups keep these weapons legal and accessible. There's something wrong with this picture. There's something wrong with a culture that believes guns are more important than feeding the hungry or sheltering the homeless. There's something wrong with a culture that worships a weapon.
Statistics show that gun ownership has done nothing more than hurt Americans. Goods for Guns, a non-profit organization, published the following facts about guns in America in their report, "National Gun Violence Statistics":
In 1999, approximately 10, 096 people were murdered by guns in the United States.
In 1998, over 30,000 people died from gunshots in the U.S.
A gun kept in the home is 22 times more likely to kill a family member or a friend than it is to be used on an intruder.
Ten children are killed by guns in the U.S. every day, on average.
In 1996, handguns were used to murder 2 people in New Zealand, 15 in Japan, 30 in Great Britian, 106 in Canada, 211 in Germany, and 9,390 in the United States. (National Gun Violence Statistics, Pg 1)
The following statistics create a clear thesis. Guns in the United States must be outlawed. The vast majority of the firearms in this country were created to kill people and that is just what they are doing. People will not truly be safe until, all guns are removed from the hands of the irresponsible and the criminal.
This paper is an in depth exploration of guns and the way that they have been employed throughout the United States. Within this paper, facts and figures will be presented which will show how guns have created a culture of fear throughout the U.S. Ultimately, the proceeding discussions will lead one to an understanding as to why guns should be outlawed. This will be done through discussions on criminals with guns, youth violence, the easy acquisition of firearms, the use of guns in suicide, and the health care costs associated with firearms.
The United States is cursed with a plague of guns. And like any disease, a cure must be found. The most obvious cure in this case is to simply eliminate the disease.
Guns in the Wrong Hands:
Clearly criminals have guns. Everybody knows that criminals have guns because everybody has seen criminals with guns on television. If the criminals on television have guns then the ones in the real world must have guns too. Though this is faulty logic, there is some truth to it. Criminals are just as influenced by media portrayals as others, as a result, most criminals would like to obtain a firearm of some sort whether they intend to use it or not.
One of the major strikes against criminal gun ownership came in the form of the 1993 Brady Bill. This particular bill was named after James Brady, the presidential press secretary who was shot and paralyzed in a 1981 assassination attempt on Ronald Regan's life. The bill essentially requires background checks and a five day waiting period for prospective gun buyers. Since it's enactment in 1993, the bill has purportedly stopped numerous dangerous criminals from obtaining guns. (Locking up Guns, Pg 1)
What the Brady bill doesn't account for is the amount of guns already in circulation. There are currently so many guns out there that it is not hard for criminals to obtain firearms. Whether at a gun shop or at a gun show, the legislation which has been enacted to keep criminals from owning guns has fallen short.
Faulty records enable terrorists, illegal aliens, and criminals to purchase guns. Over a two and a half year period, at least 9,976 convicted felons and other illegal buyers in 46 states obtained guns because of inadequate records.
Gun Violence Statistics, Pg 1)
Even if the legislation and background checks worked, criminals could always have family members or friends purchase guns for them. A study by Goods for Guns indicated that forty percent of former prison inmates who wish to obtain a gun are able to do so through an intermediary like a friend or relative.
Criminals may have other means of obtaining guns as well. Certainly most criminals who would like to use a gun in a violent crime are not opposed to stealing one. They may also be able to buy guns on the black market or obtain them through a number of other illegal loopholes in the system.
Within America's gun culture there is a subculture which is just as disturbing as the criminal culture. This is the militia/Arian nations movement that exists in the backwoods of places like Idaho and Michigan. The people within these organizations are often not stable, many stockpile weapons for wars which will never happen, some are preparing for Armageddon whereas others are preparing for a race war. The vast majority of these people do not have criminal records and as such cannot be kept from buying weapons. The result is that there is a contingent of people who have enough guns to cause a great deal of trouble should they ever decide to.
Though Timothy McVeigh did not use a gun in his attack on the Oklahoma City Federal Building, that doesn't mean that he hadn't stockpiled weapons. This particular product of the militia atmosphere in the United States is a perfect example of what can happen when unstable people are provoked to violence. McVeigh had access to many forms of weapons including guns. In this particular case he chose explosives. The next militia person or group to become involved in domestic terrorism will use whatever they can get their hands on. Certainly guns will always be a major part of the extreme right's world view.
One of the most disturbing trends in gun violence revolves around youth violence. This particular form of gun violence appears to be shifting and changing as time goes on, but it is by no means going away. Following are some statistics on youth violence in America:
Nearly 16 children died a day in 1997 as a result of a firearms homicide, suicide or unintentional shooting.
Between 1986 and 1992, the total number of children killed by firearms rose by 144%.
From 1985-1993, murders committed by people over age 25 dropped 20%; but they increased 65% among 18 to 24-year-olds and increased 165% among 14 to 17-year-olds.
Annual rates of firearm homicides for youths age 15-19 increased 155% between 1989 and 1994.
In Los Angles County between 1981 and 1992, a child between five and nine was slain, on average, every eight and a half days.
Youth Violence Statistics, Pg 1)
There are three situations where teenagers and children tend to be involved in gun violence. The first and that which has been the most long-term form of youth gun violence revolves around gangs. The second, a far more recent addition to youth gun violence, is school shootings. And the third and last, revolves around children using guns as toys. Each of these issues will be looked at closely in the following paragraphs:
1) Gang Violence:
Youth gang violence has always been a part of our nation's heritage. Throughout the years many of these gang conflicts involved scuffles and fist fights between young people. However this has changed dramatically. Since the late seventies through the present day, gang violence has become synonymous with gun violence.
In 1992, it was estimated that more than 85% of murder victims aged fifteen to nineteen were killed with firearms. Homicides of fifteen to nineteen-year-olds are more likely to involve a firearm than among any other age group. Another eye opening statistic is that between 1979 and 1991, almost 400,000 youth aged fifteen to nineteen died as the result of firearms. Homicide involving firearms have been the leading cause of death for Black males ages fifteen to nineteen since 1969. Something is wrong with having homicide by firearms the leading cause of death, of any race. Many would say that firearms are necessary to protect themselves. Has our society fallen so low that we must "protect" ourselves using deadly weapons? I would suspect that many would simply answer this question with a "yes." (Gangs and Guns, Pg 2)
There are many reasons for which youth join gangs. In some cases they join ethnic gangs because people within the gang speak their language, others join because they are looking for a surrogate family, some become involved because of a sadistic need to create fear in others, and even more join to reap benefits which accompany participation in organized crime. Regardless of why youth join gangs, one thing is for certain, those who participate in gangs are armed and dangerous.
Nowhere are gangs more prevalent than in Los Angeles County. Within this area the use of semiautomatic handguns in gang-related…