Gun control, or lack thereof, has become a hot topic that only boils over whenever an episode of gun violence occurs. American citizens, policymakers, gun lobbyists, and lawmakers have been debating the matter of gun control for more than one hundred years. The key argument is: does stricter gun control law solve the problem of gun violence in America? In investigating whether stricter gun control can be the solution to the country’s gun violence problem, I read two articles, with each article supporting an opposing side. The article opposing stricter gun control is “Harvard Study: Gun Control Is Counterproductive” by the American Civil Rights Union while the one supporting gun control is “What Missouri’s gun law change did”, by David Webster.
The American Civil Rights Union takes gun control head-on and does not argue based on biases of the right or left but rather on scientific inquiry on the question of whether or not gun control prevents gun violence. Looking into Harvard’s study on whether banning firearms would prevent crime, they found that this claim is false. The correlation is the opposite, the more people own guns, the fewer violent crimes there are. This is radically different from the information of pro-gun control advocates who claim that the more weapons there are, the more violent crime there will be. It also states that the countries with the strictest gun laws have the most violent crime. This shows that the steps that pro-gun control advocates are taking are toward a more violent and crime-ridden country if they try to restrict the rights of firearm owners. The articles final verdict is that gun control is ineffectual at preventing murder, and apparently counterproductive.
The state of Missouri was an experiment in the battle of gun control. The state repealed a law in which a purchaser of a handgun is required to have a background check. The effect of this repeal was that Illinois and Iowa had an increase of guns flowing from Missouri and Missouri guns were used more in gun crimes in Missouri. The loosening of restrictions caused criminals to acquire these weapons. In turn, the firearm homicide rates rose dramatically when the law was repealed. These findings show that when gun laws are relaxed, the availability of criminals to get them is increased which will, in turn, raises gun-related violence. The answer is not to ban firearms totally but to make sure we get them out of the hands of criminals. If criminal background checks were maintained in Missouri, these statistics would not have been the same, and especially firearm murders would not have risen so drastically.
These two articles have made compelling arguments to support their positions. The American Civil Rights Union has used an international example, backed by a scientific study to show why gun control is counterproductive. Using nationwide statistics, they have demonstrated that, contrary to popular belief, stricter gun control laws actually translate to increased violence. A country that appears to be a model for these activists in Norway. This country has the highest gun ownership rate in Western Europe, yet boasts the lowest rates of murder in the region. On the other hand, the Netherlands has nearly the worst murder rates in the region, yet it has the lowest gun possession rates. Denmark and Sweden are also two examples of countries with low gun ownership rates but high murder rates. From these examples, it can be deduced that if the United States introduces tougher gun laws, the problem of gun violence will only increase. For this reason, stricter gun control is not the solution to the violence problem.
Just like the American Civil Rights Union, David Webster has used a real American example to show why the country needs stricter gun ownership laws. When Missouri relaxed its gun laws, the number of guns owned by criminals shot up. In addition, its neighboring states Iowa and Illinois also experienced a surge in the number of guns. When background checks are relaxed, many people who would otherwise not have guns will buy them. For instance, individuals with mental illnesses or violent pasts may access them. Such people are prone to use them inappropriately. From these observations, it can be deduced that stricter gun laws are the solution to the problem of gun violence in the United States.
Both these articles have raised important discussion points to justify their divergent positions. In addition, they have used real demonstrations, thereby showing how gun control legislation, or lack thereof, can have a far-reaching impact on gun violence. Personally, I believe that David Webster’s article is more compelling, by virtue of the fact that it uses an American example to solve an American problem. Missouri shares many demographic features with many other states. Therefore, the effect of a Missouri state law can provide clues as to how a similar national law will impact American society. By showing that relaxed laws can lead to increased gun violence, the state demonstrated that tougher federal gun laws are needed.
In the same breath, the findings of Webster show how state gun laws can be ineffective in addressing the gun violence problem in the country. When Missouri relaxed its laws, other states suffered as a result. This implies that it makes little sense to have states making and implementing their own laws. What is needed is a law that would tighten gun ownership throughout the country.
I found the American Civil Rights Union argument less compelling, even though it was backed by an academic study, simply because it used statistics from far away countries. I believe that even the same laws have different impacts in different countries. The effect depends on numerous social, economic, political, and historical factors. Therefore, the fact that a gun law has been counterproductive in the Netherlands does not necessarily mean that it will have the same effect in the US. The demographic factors of Western Europe are extremely different from those of the US. For this reason, I believe that it would be more sensible to use results from Missouri, as opposed to results from European countries.
While I admit that tighter gun laws would not eliminate gun violence, they would significantly reduce them. However, this does not mean that civilian gun ownership should be prohibited. On the other hand, the laws should be strict enough so that only people who are truly in danger, have a history of peace, and are mentally upright can access guns. Through this way, the country would reduce gun violence significantly.
The American Civil Rights Union. “Harvard Study: Gun Control Is Counterproductive”. ACRU, n.d. Web. 2 Mar. 2014. <http://theacru.org/acru/harvard_study_gun_control_is_counterproductive/>
Webster, David. “What Missouri’s gun law change did.” CNN World, 21 February 2014. Web. 2 Mar. 2014. <http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2014/02/21/what-missouris-gun-law-change-did/>