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Firearms

FIREARMS: ARE THEY KILLERS OR PROTECTORS?

In America our society is faced with the never-ending problem or violence. Our society has become a universal battleground for rapes, robberies, drug trafficking and a variety of firearm-related shootings. We, as Americans and human beings, must take actions to stop these horrific acts. However, the effort by some misguided groups and individuals to eliminate the legal ownership of firearms does not address the real problem at hand and simply disarms the innocent law-abiding citizens who are most in need of a form of self-defense. Jeff Synder says, "In truth, a state that deprives its law-abiding citizens of the means to effectively defend themselves is not civilized but barbarous, becoming an accomplice of murderers, rapists, and thugs and revealing its totalitarian nature by its tacit admission that the disorganized, random havoc created by criminals is far less a threat than are men and women who believe themselves free and independent, and act accordingly." (9)

"Violence is out of control. Guns are a major cause. They all should be banned – the sooner the better." says David Kopel. (1) Anti-firearm activists feel that firearms are only a necessity to do harm upon another human being and firearms should be considered "killers". According to Department of Justice and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) statistics, a full 90 percent of violent crimes are committed without a handgun, and 93 percent of the guns obtained by violent criminals are not obtained through the lawful purchase and sale transactions that are the object of most gun control legislation." says Jeff Snyder. (5) Pro-firearm activists feel that firearms are primarily used for hunting or self-defense and consider firearms to be "protectors". Who is right?

Today’s anti-firearm activists claim that gun violence in this country has gotten to a point where something must be done to stop it. They would like to see criminals disarmed and they want the random violence to stop. I agree with this, however, they are going about doing so in the wrong way. While claiming that they want to take guns out of the hands of criminals, they work to pass legislation that would take the guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens instead. For this reason, the efforts at gun control do not address the real problem of crime. (Kopel 1)

In simple terms the definition of a law-abiding citizen is someone who obeys the law and the definition of a criminal is someone who does not obey the law. If we pass laws restricting ownership of firearms, which category of the people does it affect? The answer is that gun control laws affect law-abiding citizens only. By their very nature, the criminals will continue to violate these new laws and continue to carry firearms, regardless of the law. Criminals will continue to find crime much easier knowing that when they attack their victims that they will be most likely be unarmed. Innocent people are turned into victims when new laws make it impossible for them to fight back. An unarmed man stands a very little chance against an armed one.

The Crime Data Brief Fact Sheet published by the US Department of Justice says, "From 1982 to 1992 the number of Federal defendants sentenced to prison with a weapons offense as their most serious crime increased 175%, from 1,000 to 2,755. However, even larger number of Federal offenders were involved with firearms. Considering all Federal sentences, firearms were involved in the crimes of 6,987 offenders, a sixth of those sentenced under guidelines in the 12 months ending September 30, 1993." (Carlson 1) It is a fact that guns have contributed to some of the largest crimes in the United States history. For example, Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy are two of the more talked about cases and more recently, the shooting spree at Columbine High School.

In Jeffrey A. Roth’s "Firearms and Violence", he points out obvious dangers. He says, "Approximately 60 percent of all murder victims in the United States in 1989 (about 12,000 people) were killed with firearms. According to estimates, firearm attacks injured another 70,000 victims, some of whom were left permanently disabled." (Roth 2) In Dr. Roth’s article he indicates that in robberies and assaults, victims are more likely to die when the criminal is armed with a gun than when he or she has another weapon or is unarmed. Dr. Roth argues, "Self-defense is commonly cited as a reason to own a gun." (Roth 8) Research has shown that a gun kept in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a member of the household, or friend, than an intruder. (Kellermann 1557) The use of a firearm to resist a violent assault actually increases the victim’s risk of injury and death. A study of 743 gunshot deaths by Dr. Arthur Kellermann and Dr. Donald Reay found that 84% of these homicide!

s occurred during altercations in the home. Only 2 of the 743 gunshot deaths occurring in the home involved an intruder killed during an attempted entry and only 9 of the deaths were determined by the police and courts to be justified. (Zimring 48)

In the NRA-ILA’s Fact Sheet they claim that there are fewer fatal firearm accidents today then ever before and firearm accidents among children are down 75%, which is an all time low. The NRA believes that education regarding the use of firearms is the key to fewer accidents and fatalities. (NRA 1) Another argument for pro-firearm activists is that firearm control makes no effort to control the criminals and does not reduce crime, but that it takes firearms from responsible sportsmen and recreational shooters. Activists that support the cause of firearm control claims that controlling firearms will lessen criminal action. Gun control does nothing to control criminals. The flaw in the thinking of anti-firearm activists is that guns don’t kill people - people kill people. The same logic that leads one to control firearms could also lead one to endeavor to control automobiles simply because they contribute in millions of deaths per year. Why when Americans reject such an a!

bsurd theory regarding automobile control, which does not infringe the constitution, would these same individuals embrace an idea as firearm control? Ultimately, it is a person’s choice to use a firearm to commit a violent crime so the criminals should be controlled, not the guns which they share with millions of law-abiding citizens.

Firearm control takes firearms from hunters, recreational shooters and hobbyists. This limits the right of a law-abiding citizen to own certain guns and puts him at a disadvantage when dealing with a criminal to protect his family. If a criminal needs a firearm, he or she buys it on the streets and can obtain a gun of their choice. Yet, when law-abiding citizens wish to buy a firearm, he or she must choose from those that are legal by the government. If a criminal would break into your home with the weapon of his or her choice and you must defend yourself and your family, chances are, you will have an inferior weapon against your attacker. In this case, gun control serves to give a criminal a big advantage over a law-abiding citizen. "To own firearms is to affirm that freedom and liberty are not fights from the state. It is to reserve final judgment about whether that state is encroaching on freedom and liberty, to stand ready to defend that freedom with more than mere !

words, and to stand outside the state’s totalitarian reach. (Snyder 6)

There are pros and cons to each side of the firearm control battle. Why can’t both sides come to a happy medium? There are things that can be done to prevent fatalities without infringing on gun ownership. One suggestion would be to conduct a more extensive background check on a person who wishes to purchase a firearm. This extensive background check would make it more difficult if impossible for minors, drug addicts or people with a past history of violence to obtain a firearm. Granted the extra time it would take to dig a bit deeper into a person’s history may be more time consuming and costly, but the benefit from the certainty to grant that person the privilege of owning a firearm would be much greater than not knowing of that person’s past history, therefore ensuring public safety to a higher degree than at present.

Many people obtain firearms from theft or through an illegal purchase from someone who is insensible of the law. In dealing with this type of criminal activity, there should be stricter laws on illegal purchases or theft of firearms. When a firearm is stolen, the owner’s responsibility should be to report this theft in a certain amount of time. If a crime has occurred with the stolen firearm and the owner has not reported it, they should be held part liable for that crime which was committed with their firearm. After notifying police officials, it should then be up to the police to treat this type of theft with a high priority and punish the offender, if caught. If and when the offender is apprehended, there should be a stronger sentence for this type of crime. When sentenced, the criminal should have to serve 100% of his or her sentence to deter them from wanting to repeat this type of crime again. Dr. Roth says, "Although available data on how guns are obtained are f!

ragmented, outdated, and subject to sampling bias, they suggest that illegal or unregulated transactions are the primary sources of guns used in violence. For example, only 29 percent of 113 guns used in felonies committed in Boston during 1975 and 1976 were bought directly from federally licensed dealers (27 of the 29 percent were obtained by legally eligible purchasers). Between the manufacturer and the criminal user, 20 percent of the guns passed through a chain of unregulated private transfers, while 40 percent were stolen. Most of the illegal suppliers found in this sample were small a scale independent operators who sold only a few guns per month, rather than large organizations or licensed dealers working largely off the books." (Roth 5) There should be a stronger penalty to those who sell and or manufacture weapons illegally and they should also be held part liable for any violent crime that transacted due to the illegal firearm sale.

So the question still has not been answered – Are firearms killers or protectors? I feel that anyone who believes that strengthening the gun control laws would reduce gun violence is correct. However, if someone wanted to kill someone, not having a gun is unfortunately not going to stop him or her. If a gun is not accessible and a person wishes to kill someone, they will find another weapon that is accessible to do so. Banning firearms may lessen gun violence, but may bring a rise in violence using other weapons, not to mention that hunting and other sportsmen-related hobbies would come to an end. I believe that there should be stronger penalties for people who are caught with a firearm illegally and for people who threaten violence with a firearm. This would make people think twice before carrying or using a firearm when their intention to use a firearm is to harm another human being or commit other firearm related crimes. This might also influence Congress to pass a law for a stronger background check on people purchasing a gun, which would satisfy both sides of this argument. A stronger penalty for gun offenders might cause the amount of violence without a gun to rise a small amount, people would still attempt to obtain a gun, because most people who commit a crime assume that they can get away with it, otherwise criminals would obtain a firearm in the same legal manner as a law-abiding citizen. "Stronger safety standards can help make firearms less dangerous. At a restaurant during a recent American Public Health Association convention in Indianapolis, a patron bent over and a derringer fell from his pocket. The gun hit the ground, discharged, and wounded two convention delegates. This person had a permit to carry the gun, and the firearm met all relevant safety standards -- of which there are none." (Hemenway 1)

Strengthening gun control laws will not prevent murders from murdering people; it will only make it more difficult. Although the system could be stronger, people may find a way beat it. The only way I see it possible to lessen firearm violence is to make stronger penalties for the offenders. If Congress makes stronger penalties for firearm violence offenders, crime rates would reduce significantly. This would be a positive aspect for both the anti-firearms activists and the pro-firearms activists because stricter penalties for offenders will deter gun related crimes, yet keep the law-abiding citizens with the option of legally owning a firearm for their protection. With stronger penalties and more education on firearms, there could be potentially less crime.

I doubt there will ever be a correct answer as to whether firearms are protectors or killers because both sides have valid issues and concerns. I feel that both sides should concentrate more on how to control firearm violence and less on the control of the purchase of a firearm itself. If both sides focused on the real issue at hand -educating firearm safety and propose heavier sentences for the offenders - progress might get accomplished faster, making violent crime rates decrease.

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