More Dangerous than it’s Worth

by Sheri Sakamoto

There is a long standing stasis in the debate about gun laws. Gun advocates promote our rights under the Second Amendment, and declare that being allowed to freely have guns will make people feel safer. On the opposite side are those who proclaim that guns are not safe and is not a necessity to self-defense. Would having a gun in your possession really make you feel safer? Or can it be a deathly accident waiting to happen? Depending on the situation, it can be both. However, guns are riskier to have than not.

Imagine you live alone in downtown, in a shady neighborhood known for its break-ins and thefts. Would you feel safer having a gun locked in your bedside drawer, just in case one of those criminals is waiting to target your place? Gun advocates would say “yes.” They even take it a step further, and suggest that if the criminals knew that you had a gun in your house, the criminal would be less likely to even strike. In their eyes, it ensures your safety; whereas, the highly restrictive gun laws inhibit you.

This is why there are 31 states that have adopted the Castle Doctrine, and others that have also incorporated the Stand Your Ground legislation. These laws give gun owners the right to defend their home, or property, if they are under threat by people who unlawfully entered. Usually, the first line of defense that the government and police require is to retreat. Instead, the Stand Your Ground legislation gives you the right to stay and defend your home. This law also does not require you to announce your intent to use deadly force. This does not seem like a restrictive law to me. In fact, most gun laws do not restrict people from owning it. It just makes it harder for them to obtain it, but apparently not hard enough.

The problem with gun laws is that it does not prevent people from obtaining guns illegally. For the average, law-abiding citizen, these laws may make it harder to obtain a gun. However, these laws do not stop people from having one in their possession. Now, instead of the image of your life in danger, envision the risk to someone else’s life. You probably think it’s impossible, especially since you’ve ensured that your rightfully owned gun is locked away inside a safe box. You’ve even gone a step further, and made sure it’s locked in your bedside drawer, to ensure that your children don’t get a hold of it. The issue here is the temptation of the forbidden and the encouragement of curiosity.

This is a scenario similar to a case that actually happened about a week ago in Baltimore County. In an article from The Baltimore Sun, the death of Michael D. Brooks Jr. was reported as an accident that occurred at a sleepover in his relative’s home. Michael, and two other boys, accessed the room with their relative’s gun collection. The entire collection was locked up in a room, and the boys were restricted access, but they still were able to find a way in. When the boys found a handgun, it went off, shooting Michael in the head, and ending his life and future dreams. This heartbreaking news shows that it doesn’t matter how secured you may think your firearms are. It does not stop people from finding another way.

Statistics are an alarming indication of how dangerous guns can be. Looking at the quick facts provided by Stop Handgun Violence, it appears that self-defense is not the number one reason people use guns. Guns are 22 times more likely to be used in an unintentional shooting, as well as in a criminal assault, homicide, and even suicide. According to another source, it is roughly estimated that 67% of murders committed in the United States during 2008, were with firearms. The article in the Baltimore Sun noted that “Firearms are a leading cause of death or serious injury among children.” It is often teenagers who are hurt by firearms, whether as an accident or suicide. These indicators are a sign that the guns are not protecting people as they hope when they purchase it. Often they fall into the wrong hands and this is where it becomes dangerous.

Hawaii has some of the strictest gun laws, which has caused us to be ranked the 47th least free state. Just to obtain the right to own a gun, there is a long and detailed process in order to obtain a permit first. Part of the requirement to purchase a gun, is a 6-hour training course. Then in order to purchase, own, or even receive a gun as a gift, you also need to apply for a permit from the chief of police. Then there are additional steps in order to obtain the different types of firearms, with acquiring a handgun as the longest process with five steps. However, is this enough to stop crime and accidents involving firearms? Statistics indicate that Hawaii is ranked at the top when it comes to strict laws, but they rank lower when it comes to crimes involving guns.

Taking a look at a chart from Wikipedia on Gun Violence in the United States, Hawaii is ranked near the bottom (data is based on statistics posted in 2004). Hawaii only has .51 of gun homicides out of a population of 100,000. With an estimated population of around 1.2 million, Hawaii would still only have an amount of about 5.1 gun homicides. In data posted in 2009, Hawaii went up to about .70 firearms murders out of a population of 100,000. Still our ranking is at seventh place for the lowest gun homicides. It cannot be scientifically proven that strict gun laws are a cause for the lower statistics, but it can be taken as a sign that it may be helping.

It is every Americans right to “bear arms,” but it comes with risks. Despite the impasse that gun debates have reached, there are strong indications that guns aren’t protecting people, its hurting them. People may think they are safer having a gun in their possession, but more often than not that same gun causes serious or fatal accidents. It doesn’t matter how safe people think they’ve locked up their guns. They can still go off and it’s often a child that is finding it out the hard way.


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