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An Overview of the Gun Debate, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1145

Essay

The Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights 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.”  The interpretation of this amendment has been the cause of an on-going political and moral debate in the United States regarding whether or not this guarantees the average citizen to own and carry a firearm for personal protection or sport.  Much of the controversy centers on the interpretation of the term militia.  Gun control advocates define militia as “the right of states to maintain their own militia to protect themselves against foreign and federal encroachment (Greenslade, 2004).”  This militia is, essentially, the state National Guard and military reserves.  However, gun advocates interpret the term militia to extend to the general population- “We have found no evidence that the Second Amendment was intended to convey militia power to the states, limit the federal government’s power to maintain a standing army, or applies to only members of a select militia while on active duty.  All the evidence indicates that the Second Amendment, like other parts of the Bill of Rights, applies to and protects individual Americans (Gunfacts, 2009).”  Interpretation is essentially the crux of the political gun debate.  Each side interprets statement and numbers in a way that supports their belief and thus can often present misleading information, examples of which will be examined.  However, ultimately, the gun debate does not address the real issue at hand- why are Americans, more than any other nation, so prone to violence?  Why is there a fear that seems to pervade the American experience, which drives one side of the political argument to need guns for protection and drives the other side to fear anyone who owns a gun will use it on innocent bystanders and civilians?  The gun debate seems to ignore this basic issue, choosing instead to superficially battle back and forth with statistics and accusations.

Statistics, and the interpretation thereof, form the basis of a majority of the arguments.  Perhaps the most popular statistic employed by gun control advocates is that of child deaths attributed to firearms.  Gun control proponents assert that 13 children a day die from firearm related deaths.  However the parameters of the statistics and the interpretation thereof skews the hard truth of the numbers.  The statisticians often include “children” as being anyone up to the age of 24, include suicides and violence perpetrated by gang members who largely fall in the age range of 16-20 (Gunfacts, 2009).”  Statistics are often used to make a point but the numbers do not tell the whole story.  The nature of gun crime does not lend itself to easy interpretation of statistics for the very reason that the use of a gun is a choice made by an individual.  While the statistic itself is meant to tug at the public heart-strings as it immediately brings to mind the horrifying image of a nine-year old getting into his father’s closet and finding a handgun.  It does not bring to mind an 18-year old gang member using illegal weapons to wage war on gang rivals.  The two images are very different pictures, which evoke very different emotional responses in the public.

Another flawed statistic designed to illicit an emotional public response is that of “assault weapons.”  The assault weapons ban was introduced to the public during the Clinton Administration and its purpose was to keep weapons such as UZI’s, AK-47’s and other military style weapons off the streets.  The idea of gang members running around with militarized weapons was obviously designed to inspire fear in the public, unfortunately it was far from reality.  “Assault weapons account for a small fraction of gun crimes: about 2 percent, according to most studies, and no more than 8 percent. But they have been used in many high-profile shooting sprees (Sontag, 2005).”  Much anti-gun fanfare was made at the expiration of the Clinton assault weapons ban, politicians, recognizing that the bill was largely ineffective, let the ban lapse.  Despite the bill expiring, crime rates continued to drop as they had in the mid-nineties.  While assault weapons were used in some high-profile crimes the majority of street crime employ, small, cheap, illegally obtained handguns; “Though most teenage gangbangers wouldn’t be caught dead with a Smith and Wesson .38 revolver, an old fashioned six shooter, it nonetheless claims the lead on the top ten list (Shannon, 2002).”  None of the top-10 most used weapons were “assault weapons,” but the idea is designed to illicit fear in the public.

However it is the politics of fear, which drive the arguments on both side.  Gun control proponents try to create fear in the public that owning gun will cause the death of their child or that gangs are running around with weapons that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger cringe, while the pro-gun group is constantly reciting old-colonial fears of a government that will control its population and dictate how people live their individual lives and also that the dangerous world can only be safely navigated by an armed individual. Gun bans have been tried in the past.  Chicago and Washington D.C. both had long-standing gun bans in effect for many years.  They also had the highest national crime rates.  A study by the Law School of University of Chicago indicated, “we find that allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crimes and it appears to produce no increase in accidental deaths (Lott & Mustard, 1996).”The gun debate, however, largely ignores the deeper issue; why is America plagued with such high crime?  And why are we so fearful of violence around every corner?  One side of the argument reacts with arming themselves, the other reacts by trying to disarm everyone else.  Neither addresses the larger, deeper issue- our pervasive fear of each other.  The statistics and arguments between both sides of the gun debate ignore this basic, fundamental problem- whether or not everyone is armed with guns or no one is, we are still the most violent, industrialized country in the world.  Until this basic problem is addressed gun bans will continue to be ineffective and the publics need for guns “for protection” will continue.  While the political sides cannot agree on interpretation of the Second Amendment, they can do, at least, agree that America is wrought with violence and fear and each side is attempting to solve the issue.  Unfortunately, their solutions are like band-aids over gunshot wounds.

Works Cited

Greenslade, Robert.  “The Flawed Second Amendment Debate.”  Nitwit Press, October 6, 2004.

Gunfacts, Version 5.1.  Copyright 2009, Guy Smith.  www.gunfacts.info

Lott, John R. & Mustard, David B.  Crime, Deterrence, and Right to Carry Concealed Handguns.  The Law School, University of Chicago, 1996.

Shannon, Elaine.  “Ten Most Wanted Guns.”  Time Magazine, July 12, 2002.

Sontag, Deborah.  “Assault Weapons Ban Comes to an End: A Dud?”  New York Times, April 25, 2005.

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