Gun control is necessary because guns are responsible for a high percentage of the murders that occur in the United States. In countries such as England, where guns are less available, the murder rate is a fraction that of the United States. Guns bought for personal protection are often used to kill family and friends. Humans are a species with a violent nature that needs to be controlled. As the United States becomes an armed camp, people are actually less safe, as criminals find it that much easier to obtain guns for use in robberies and drive-by shootings. The anti-gun control groups like the National Rifle Association can be defeated by courageous state legislatures, like in Maryland, where a state commission will determine what can legally be manufactured and sold in the state. There is little need for the plastic and ceramic guns that pass through airport metal detectors. Even plastic guns that are too realistic replicas of the real thing need to be outlawed, as a nervous police force fearing for its life have killed children brandishing these toy weapons. Gun control needs to keep weapons out of the hands of drug dealers and gang members if the community is to be adequately protected.
Gun control is a major issue in U.S. society that will be addressed in this paper, which argues for gun control. Among the arguments in favor of gun control is the fact that countries with gun control, such as England, have fewer murders than countries without gun control.
Pistols account for 83% of the firearms used in suicide and guns were responsible for 63% of the murders committed in the U.S. during 1983. This suggests that guns make it easier for people to kill. Thus, if fewer guns were available, murders would be more difficult and fewer in number. This contention seems to hold if the United States is compared to other countries. The United States homicide-by-gun rate is several times that of Japan, Germany, Denmark, Canada, France and England. In England, where people do not enjoy the same freedom to carry handguns, there were only 8 handgun murders in 1980. In contrast, the U.S. had 11,522 handgun murders in 1980, including the murder of former-Beatle John Lennon. Newspapers in England termed Lennon’s murder peculiarly American because of use of the handgun. Many of these handguns which are bought for personal protection of self, family and assets end up being used for the murder of friends and family (Anderson, 1984, p. 76-79).
In England, which originated the Magna Carta, guns have been controlled. The result is a homicide rate one-fiftieth that of the United States. In England it is illegal to carry firearms at night, and a certificate must be obtained from the police chief prior to buying a hunting gun. Gun dealers in England are required to verify the gun certificate of buyers and register the details of every gun and ammunition transaction with the police. The difference in homicide rates is also seen between states with and without gun control regulations. In the states of New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, Texas and Nebraska, states with minimal or no gun control, from 64 to 70 percent of total murders are committed with guns. In the states of Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, states with gun control laws, only 32 to 43 percent of total murders are committed using guns. This indicates that lack of gun availability reduces the chance of murder by gun (Bloomgarden, 1975, p. 75-80).
The United States is like an armed camp, with an estimated 150 million guns. If all these guns are loaded with ammunition, then tragedy is more likely. Children finding and playing with the guns are likely to end up killing playmates. Parents are more likely to kill themselves while in a despondent mood (Dolan, 1978, p. 1-10).
The wide availability of guns in the United States is good for the criminal element, as guns for the commission of violent crimes are easily obtained. The ease of obtaining guns without gun control regulations may be linked to the high level of felonies committed with firearms in the United States (Wright, 1986).
Though firearms may be linked to the commission of violent crime, there is strong opinion in the United States which opposes any attempts at gun control legislation. The anti-gun control people argue that Americans have the constitutional right to possess firearms (Kates, 1984).
The evidence that proliferation of guns without gun control is good for the criminal element is provided by drug busts. Many drug agents become involved in fatal shootouts soon after their first assignments. On average, there are two shootings per week involving drug agents and drug dealers. U.S. drug agents seize, on average, an automatic weapon per day from drug dealers, including Uzi submachine guns, M-16s, MAC-10s, AK-47s, MAC-11 machine pistols (Seper, 1988).
The paucity of gun control in U.S. society is likely a reflection of the collapse of social controls in general. The church, parents and civil law are failing to provide controls. In this situation of lack of controls, there is also a situation in which young people have plenty of money in their pockets. Lack of creativity leads to the energy of younger people being expressed in violence, destruction and anger (Burgress, 1981). Gun controls would help reverse this trend of lack of controls.
Gun control may be necessary to control a natural tendency for violence that exists within the human species. Author John Irving (1981) calls the human species a species that has always been violent. Irving (1981) says that violence comes up everywhere because of resentment and helplessness in a frustrated society living in a frustrating age where the individual is made to feel worthless. Irving (1981) argues that Americans are not more violent than Europeans — pointing out the violence in the London slums chronicled by Charles Dickens in the 1800s (Irving, 1981). Thus, if the people are no less violent between England and the United States, then gun control laws could account for fewer murders with guns in England than in the United States.
Adding drugs to guns may be increasing the murder rate in the United States. When it is easy for drug-crazed individuals to get hold of a gun, then the chances of murder are increased. The situation would be far better if drugs were eliminated and guns not available. Armed gangs fighting drug wars are contributing to the high homicide rates in U.S. cities. In Washington D.C., 48 of the 68 murders committed through April, 1988, have been drug related (Mackenzie, 1988).
It is guns, easily obtained by criminals when there is no gun control, which can turn ordinary robberies into murders. For example, the death of a Los Angeles officer during a December, 19, 1984, jewelry store robbery in Chinatown was the result of criminals having obtained guns. The shootout in the Jin Hing jewelry shop on Bamboo Lane happened because the robbers had guns. Two police officers entered the jewelry store in response to a silent alarm set off by the store owners. The foot patrol police officers, from the police substation half a block away, were let in by a well-dressed burglar who was mistaken for a store employee. After looking around and finding everything seemingly okay, the officers were leaving the store when one of the burglars (for unknown reasons) suddenly began shooting and killed one of the police officers (Wood, 1988). If gun controls were in place to prevent the burglars from obtaining the guns, then there would be less likelihood of similar tragedies reoccurring.
Less dramatic evidence of the role of guns in shooting sprees are part of the daily newspaper reports. Gang warfare in Los Angeles, California, is leading to numerous shooting sprees in which innocent people are gunned down for no apparent reason by people driving by and shooting. For example, on Good Friday, a 16-year old boy who had obtained a gun was among those arrested for a drive-by shooting that wounded 10 people and killed 1 person. Events like this have led Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates to mobilize a special force of 1,000 men to sweep the streets in search of gang members. Motive for these killings is often retaliation for similar shootings that had occurred in another gang territory. In another case, Akila Smith, a 19-year old was kidnapped by a rival gang while at a hamburger stand and then shot to death a year ago. Then, in April, 1988, his mother was shot to death when a car stopped in front of the family home and fired shots Muir, 1988). With good gun control laws that kept guns out of the hands of gang members, these drive-by killings would be harder to carry out.
Violent deaths is not a coincidence in the gang territories of South-Central Los Angeles, noted a local reverend, Leo Batie, at a eulogy for one of Peggy Graham’s sons. In three separate incidents over the last six months, Peggy Graham has seen her youngest brother and two of her children killed. Graham’s brother was shot to death outside a local liquor store while he waited for a friend in February, 1988. Graham’s younger son (16 years old) was shot in the head and chest and killed in November, 1987, while standing on the sidewalk near the Los Angeles Coliseum. Graham’s other son (19 years old) was killed in a drive-by shooting in April, 1988, as he stood on the sidewalk with other youths. Police say that gangs had made good on threats to kill the Graham boys, who were gang members. According to Reverend Batie, “We’ve got a lot of angry young men on our streets with no values, who will drive up and shoot people . . . They have nothing to look forward to, they’re not afraid of jail and they’re not afraid of death” (Feldman and Muir, 1988, p. II-1). Allowing kids to obtain guns and go on these murder sprees could be prevented by better gun control. The framers of the Constitution did not have shooting sprees in mind when they gave citizens the right to bear arms.
A step in the right direction is a bill that recently passed the California Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill would outlaw even realistic looking toy plastic guns. Police have recently shot to death children carrying realistic plastic toy guns — this is undoubtedly a response to the proliferation of real guns which has police fearing for their lives. A plastic toy gun was used to hold TV personality David Horowitz hostage on television (Ingram, 1988).
Maryland has shown that states can stand up to the National Rifle Association (NRA), which opposes most gun control legislation. In Maryland a commission will determine which guns can legally be manufactured and sold in the state. This is a first step in controlling the cheap “Saturday Night Specials” used in so many murders. The law should also ban plastic and ceramic guns that escape airport metal detectors (editorial, 1988).
Handgun Control Inc., a gun control lobby group which does not oppose handgun ownership, advocates a seven day waiting period on gun deliveries to allow police to check the background of gun buyers. While debate goes on, gun ownership in the United States is growing daily. $600 million worth of revolvers and automatics were sold in the U.S. last year, and about 2 million handguns are manufactured each year. The public is buying many of the 9mm handguns adopted by the U.S. Army as a replacement for the Colt .45 side arm. 58% of gun purchases are for personal protection. So far the American population has not formed a strong opinion on gun control (Elias, 1987).