A gun is a mechanical device that expels a projectile. In most cases the projectile is a gyroscopically stabilized bullet which can accurately travel a large distance. Most guns burn solid propellants to produce high-pressure gas, which drives the projectile through the barrel. Guns have been used for hundreds of years in the history of our world and nation. Although, gun control has been a major debating issue during the past few decades. On one side there are those who completely agree with the control laws and on the other there are those who oppose gun control laws.
Gun control opponents provide many uses for a gun, such as the second amendment, self-defense, hunting, or target practice. The second amendment preserves the right to own a gun, which 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. One does not have to belong to a well-regulated militia in order to have the right to keep and bear arms. The militia clause is merely one, and not the only, rationale for preserving the right. The founders were expressing a preference for a militia over a standing army. Even if today’s well-regulated militia is the National Guard, the Second Amendment still protects an individual right to keep and bear arms.
There are approximately two million defensive gun uses per year by law-abiding citizens. That was one of the findings in a national survey conducted by Gary Kleck, a Florida State University criminologist in 1998. Kleck also analyzed data from the Department of Justice where he found victims that defended themselves with a gun against a robbery or an assault had the least chance of being injured, or of having the crime completed. Doing nothing, trying to escape, reasoning with the offender, or physical resistance, other than with a gun, all had higher probabilities of injury and crime completion. Using more recent data, Lawrence Southwick Jr. found that “victims using guns were consistently less likely to lose cash or other property than other victims, and also establishing that this was true regardless of what weaponry was possessed or used by the offenders.” Another study also “found that burglaries in which victims resisted with guns were far less likely to be completed.”
Other uses for a gun may include hobbies like target practicing and hunting. There are many shooting ranges in our nation where hundreds of people go to everyday to learn how to use gun or simply for the experience. Also, hunting has been part of our history for years. Hunting was used to as a food source and now it has become a tradition for many people.
On the other side of the debate are gun control advocates who provide many reasons for their stand. On July 19, 1999 California Governor Gray Davis signed two of the toughest gun laws in the country: the nations strongest ban on assault weapons and ammunition magazines and a measure to stop gun traffickers by limiting gun buyers to no more than one handgun per month. Davis, like other successful state candidates, campaigned extensively in support of responsible gun control laws during his 1998 bid for the governorship, after former Governor Pete Wilson vetoed several gun control bills. California voters elected solid gun control majorities in both houses of the legislature.
Every day in America, 13 young people aged 19 and under are killed in gun homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings and many more are wounded. The scourge of gun violence frequently attacks the most helpless members of our society — our children. Children can be their own worst enemy-especially when a gun is involved. Only 16 states have any sort of Child Access Prevention law. In most states there are no laws requiring proper storage of firearms. Loaded, unlocked guns present an irresistible temptation to curious children.
Guns kept in the home for self-protection are 43 times more likely to kill a family member or friend than to kill in self-defense. The presence of a gun in the home triples the risk of homicide in the home. Three fifths of all U.S. suicides involve firearms. In 1997 alone, 35,957 Americans were killed with firearms, in homicides, suicides, and accidents. In comparison, 33,651 Americans were killed in the Korean War and 58,148 Americans were killed in the Vietnam War. According to Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1998, two in 25 high school students, that is 7.9 percent, reported having carried a gun in the last 30 days. A survey of 11th graders in the Seattle public schools during the winter of 1997-98 found six percent of males had carried a handgun to school; one-third of students reported easy access to handguns; and 6.4 percent reported owning handguns. One-third of handgun owners had fired at someone. In 1998, handguns were used to murder 2 people in New Zealand, 15 in Japan, 30 in Great Britain, 106 in Canada, 213 in Germany and 9,390 in the United States.
Although, since there is a seemingly equal side to both sides of the gun control issue, gun control advocates and opponents are currently fighting for their belief.
Gun control advocates find themselves at a crossroads. We can continue to push legislation of dubious effectiveness or we can acknowledge that gun violence is a public-health crisis fueled by an inherently dangerous consumer product. To end the crisis, we have to regulate–or, in the case of handguns and assault weapons, completely ban–the product.
The myths attached to gun ownership stop many people from thinking of them as a consumer product. As a result, the standard risk analysis applied to other dangerous products–pesticides, prescription drugs, or toasters–has never been applied to firearms. Yet guns are manufactured by corporations– with boards of directors, marketing plans, employees, and a bottom line–just like companies that manufacture toasters. What separates the gun industry from other manufacturers is lack of regulation.
In addition to the human toll, the economic costs of not regulating guns are staggering. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that the lifetime economic cost–hospitalization, rehabilitation, and lost wages–of firearm violence was $17.4 billion in 1995, making it the third most expensive injury category. The average lifetime cost per person for each firearm fatality– $383,520–was the highest of any injury.
Such human and economic costs are not tolerated for any other product. Many consumer products from lawn darts to the Dalkon Shield have been banned in the United States, even though they claimed only a fraction of the lives guns do in a day. The firearms industry is long overdue for the simple, regulatory oversight applied to other consumer products.
THE CURRE IS YOU! We all hold the cure to the gun violence epidemic in our own hands. And the cure is COMMON SENSE – common sense in the responsible behavior that we demand of each other and common sense in the laws that we pass. It’s not about taking everyone’s guns away, it is about steps we can all take together to end gun violence. If you are like most Americans, you probably already realize this. Eighty percent of Americans, including seventy percent of gun owners, support sensible
gun control laws. Gun control then is simply about transforming this overwhelming support into meaningful action. It’s about empowering each of us to make our voices heard and to make a difference. It’s about creating a national outcry for common sense change. OK. You care about the gun violence issue, you support common sense solutions, but what can you do? The truth is, making a difference is far easier than most people think. Gun violence can be cured if each of us commit to some simple ideas:
Educate yourself and your family about the facts of gun violence. Understand the risks associated with firearms. If you are a parent, talk to your children about the danger of guns and make sure they are never in a situation where they could come into contact with one. Before you let your children play at a friend’s house, make sure their parents don’t have an unlocked gun in the home. If you are a gun owner, make sure it is always kept locked and inaccessible to anyone but yourself.
The fact is that common sense legislation could help end the gun violence epidemic. There is legislation, for example, that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children. Although, believe it or not, some legislators oppose such laws because they receive financial support from the gun lobby. Your voice can help put a stop to this. Learn who your political representatives are and how they stand on common sense gun control. Call them! Write them! Tell them you will be voting based on this issue. For every letter or call a Congressperson receives, they assume 500 people feel the same way.
Get involved with a gun control network organization in your area. You can participate in anything from organizing events, petitions and letter-writing campaigns to peer counseling and education programs. Another option is to bring your own group into the gun control network. For example through your PTA, youth club, religious organization or professional association, you can have a significant impact in your community and make a meaningful contribution to this cause.
Always remember that “Guns do not kill people. People kill people.”