Essay, Research Paper: Gun Control

Legal Issues

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Americans are faced with an ever-growing problem of violence. Our streets have
become a battleground where the elderly are beaten for their social security
checks, where terrified women are attacked and raped, where teen-age gangsters
shoot it out for a patch of turf to sell their illegal drugs, and where innocent
children are caught daily in the crossfire of drive-by shootings. We cannot
ignore the damage that these criminals are doing to our society, and we must
take actions to stop these horrors. However, the effort by some misguided
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. To fully understand the reasons
behind the gun control efforts, we must look at the history of our country, and
the role firearms have played in it. The second amendment to the Constitution of
the United States makes firearm ownership legal in this country. There were good
reasons for this freedom which persist today. "Firearms in the New World
were used initially for hunting, and occasionally for self-defense. However,
when the colonists felt that the burden of British oppression was too much for
them to bear, they picked up their personal firearms and went to war" (Pessan
55). Standing against the British armies, these rebels found themselves opposed
by the greatest military force in the world at that time. The 18th century
witnessed the height of the British Empire, but the rough band of colonial
freedom fighters discovered the power of the Minuteman, the average American gun
owner. These Minutemen so named because they would pick up their personal guns
and jump to the defense of their country on a minute's notice, served a major
part in winning the American Revolution. The founding fathers of this country
understood that an armed mass was helpful in fighting off oppression, and they
made the right to keep and bear arms a constitutional right. Over the years,
some of the reasons for owning firearms have changed. As our country grew into a
strong nation, we expanded westward, exploring the wilderness, and building new
towns on the frontier. Typically, these new towns were far away from the centers
of civilization, and the only law they had was dispensed by townsfolk through
the barrel of a gun. Crime existed, but could be minimized when the townspeople
fought back against the criminals. Eventually, these organized townspeople
developed police forces as their towns grew in size. Fewer people carried their
firearms on the street, but the firearms were always there, ready to be used in
self-defense. It was after the Civil War that the first gun-control advocates
came into existence. These were southern leaders who were afraid that the newly
freed black slaves would assert their newfound political rights, and these
leaders wanted to make it easier to oppress the free blacks. This oppression was
accomplished by passing laws making it illegal in many places for black people
to own firearms. With that effort, they assured themselves that the black
population would be subject to their control, and would not have the ability to
fight back. At the same time, the people who were most intent on denying black
people their basic rights walked around with their firearms, making it
impossible to resist their efforts. "An unarmed man stands little chance
against an armed one, and these armed men saw their plans work completely"
(Scorsese 212). It was a full century before the civil rights activists of the
1960s were able to restore the constitutional freedoms that blacks in this
country were granted in the 1860s. Today's gun control activists are a slightly
different breed. They 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 their
judgement. However, they are going about it 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. The simple definition of a criminal is someone who does not
obey the law. The simple definition of a law-abiding citizen is someone who does
obey the law. Therefore, if we pass laws restricting ownership of firearms,
which category of people does it affect? The simple answer is that gun control
laws affect law-abiding citizens only. By their very nature, the criminals will
continue to violate these new laws, they will continue to carry their firearms,
and they will find their efforts at crime much easier when they know that their
victims will be unarmed. The situation is similar to that of the disarmed blacks
a century ago. Innocent people are turned into victims when new laws make it
impossible for them to fight back. "An unarmed man stands little chance
against an armed one" (Johnston 322). An interesting recent development has
been the backfire against the gun-control advocates. In many states, including
Florida and Texas, citizens have stated that they want to preserve their right
to carry firearms for self-defense. Since the late 1980s, Florida has been
issuing concealed weapons permits to law-abiding citizens, and these citizens
have been carrying their firearms to defend themselves from rampant crime. The
result is that the incidence of violent crime has actually dropped in contrast
to the national average. Previously, Florida had been leading the nation in this
category, and the citizens of that state have welcomed the change. Gun control
advocates tried to claim that there would be bloodshed in the streets when these
citizens were given the right to carry. They tried to claim that the cities of
Florida would become like Dodge City with shootouts on every street corner.
These gun control advocates were wrong. Over 200,000 concealed carry permits
have been issued so far, with only 36 of these permits revoked for improper use
of a firearm. This statistic is easy to understand. It is the law-abiding
citizens who are going through the process of getting concealed carry permits so
that they may legally carry a firearm. The people who go through this legal
process do not want to break the law, and they do not intend to break the law.
The people who do intend to break the law will carry their guns whether or not
the law allows them to do so. Criminals will always find ways to get guns. In
this country we have criminalized the use, possession, sale, and transportation
of many kinds of narcotics, but it's still easy for someone to take a ride and
purchase the drugs of their choice at street corner vendors. Firearms and
ammunition would be just as easy for these black-market entrepreneurs to deliver
to their customers. Today, criminals often carry illegal weapons, including
sawed-off shotguns, machine guns, and homemade zip guns, clearly showing their
disregard for the current laws which make these items illegal. And when they are
caught, the courts regularly dismiss these lesser weapons charges when
prosecuting for the more serious charges that are being committed with the
weapons. The gun control advocates have argued their case by not addressing the
gun itself, but rather addressing the people who commit violent crimes. This is
the main inconsistency in their argument. They attempt to claim that possession
of a gun turns average citizens into bloodthirsty lunatics. This theory falls
apart under close examination. If legal possession of a firearm caused this sort
of attitude, then why are crime rates highest in areas such as Washington, D.C.
and New York City which have strict gun control laws? And why are crime rates
dropping in states such as Florida where private ownership of firearms is
encouraged? Simply stated, legal ownership of a gun does not cause crime. The
most recent efforts of the gun control lobby has been to claim that certain
types of guns and ammunition are inherently evil. They assign emotional catch
phrases such as "assault weapons" and "cop killer bullets"
to broad categories of firearms and ammunition in the hopes that people will
believe that some guns have an evil nature. Most people who are unfamiliar with
firearms do not fully understand what these phrases mean, and they accept the
terms being used without question. What people do not often understand is that
the term "assault weapon" has been defined to include all semi-
automatic rifles, and "cop killer" has been defined to include any
bullet that can penetrate type two body armor. It comes as a surprise to most
people that a large number of simple hunting rifles can do both. "Does
ownership of one of these weapons cause people to become mass murderers? It does
not, and we must not fall into the trap of blaming the sword for the hand that
wields it" (Francis 143). So I've shown that the act of making it illegal
to own firearms does little to prevent criminals from getting guns. These laws
only restrict people who respect the law itself, the people who would only use
firearms for legal purposes anyway. And when we give people the right to defend
themselves, we find that criminals start looking for other victims out of fear
that they will become the victims themselves. We must work to reduce crime in
America, but we should look at the problem realistically, and develop plans that
would be effective. It is obvious that gun control laws are neither realistic,
nor effective in reducing crime. Therefore, we must direct our efforts toward
controlling crime, not controlling legal ownership of firearms.
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