November 24, 2014
Gun control has become a very sensitive topic in today’s media, particularly because of the heinous actions taken by certain disturbed individuals in cities like Newtown, Sandy Hook, and Columbine. However many people do not fully understand the complexity of the issues behind the topic. In this article, I will address some of the big questions many Americans have regarding gun control.
1. What does the Constitution say about guns? The exact language of the Constitution states: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Anti-gun control advocates use this language when arguing that the Constitution explicitly prevents Congress from making laws prohibiting the use and ownership of guns. The opposition argues that the language can mean a whole host of different things. For example, it could mean that only the militia is able to bear arms and not the people, as a whole. gun ownership, but that may not be the final say in the matter.
As Law students, we have learned that every sentence in legislation can be debatable with regards to its interpretation, and this is especially true in the Constitution. The Constitution sets up a tradition of private gun ownership, but that may not be the final say in the matter.
2. How many guns are there in America? Based on recent Gun Control legislation, there are enough guns in America to put a firearm in the hand of each citizen, which is about 314 million. Because of recent gun related incidents in our communities, the number of gun sales has skyrocketed since this study was completed. Guns are a part of American history and exist in almost every aspect of our diverse culture. From city dwellers to country farmers, the odds are that somebody you know is packing heat.
3. How many people are killed in America by guns? The most recent study claims that 11,101 homicides have been committed with firearms. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that for every 100,000 persons, 3.6 people will be killed by a gun. No doubt, this is a startling number. But when compared to other statistics, the number may seem far less shocking. For example, 3,287 deaths occur in one day by car accidents. Also consider the amount of people who die in a year from heart disease, which reports state is about 350 /per 100,000 persons. The more immediate question begs to ask, why haven’t these two killers received as much media attention as that of the deaths caused by guns? My best guess would be that gun deaths require a seemingly violent actor, unlike car accidents, and bad diets and genes. However, this opens up another very difficult discussion: should we focus more on the mental well being of the shooters or just place all the ignition on gun control itself?
4. Do states with gun control laws have less gun violence? A contentious argument in the gun control debate is whether the restriction of guns actually prevents criminals from obtaining them. For example, Detroit, Illinois, has one of the highest rates of homicides in the country, coming in at about 5 deaths per 100,000 persons, which is higher than the national average. But it was illegal to carry a concealed gun in Illinois until 2013. Once concealed gun ownership became legal the state experienced its lowest homicide rate since 1958. Still, many wonder how allowing persons to carry concealed guns, which ultimately incentivizes many more Americans to buy them, ends up reducing overall gun related homicides and violence? One major argument suggests if more law-abiding citizens own guns, the less likely criminals will perform acts of violence against strangers. Proponents of this argument support their claims by using Great Britain as an example: a place where there are virtually no guns, yet it suffers from a much higher rate than America in assault and battery related cases. Thus, indicating, the more guns that are legally owned the less likely it will be for our community to suffer from violence.
Only time will tell which side of the debate you fall on. In the words of Madonna, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”
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