Concerning Guns

The gun control debate is a personal and emotional one for many people. On both sides, there are supporters and opposers who feel very strongly about the issue and refuse to concede in a compromise. The issue is not a black and white one either; there are many different possibilities for the handling of firearms within American society. Though the Bill of Rights ensures the right to own a gun, there is question about whether or not we still need to be so heavily armed in this modern age. On average, over one-hundred-thousand people are shot every year in the US. Some would argue that this is a case to ban firearms altogether, and others might say we need to restrict the accessibility of weapons; closer control who has access to such dangerous objects. Those opposing gun control feel that guns serve safety measure and a good way to protect families, but does the real protection come from eliminating the weapons or encouraging them? There are strong feelings on both sides by those who may have lost a loved one and those who may have protected one from, or with, a gun. The fact is that there is no clear answer to make everyone happy, but I believe it is our job as members of a society to enact rules and regulations to ensure no innocent life is cut short by irresponsible behavior where firearms are involved.

The amendment guaranteeing a right to bear arms was written at a time when American defense was less of an organized army, but consisted of citizens who made up a militia. The right to bear arms was, at the time, necessary to provide America with even the smallest fighting force. This was also written at a time when muskets were prominent, and these weapons took time to load and fire and were nowhere near as effective as modern firearms. Now, with an organized army and defense system, this need is no longer present, but guns are still commonly used. Outside of combat, guns are used in sport and target practice; purely recreational purposes. These are not the guns that are a primary problem in the safety of citizens, though hunting accidents are not unheard of. When the gun owner is responsible and follows safety precautions, the gun poses little threat to innocent human lives. These are not the guns that are a primary concern for public safety. Guns serve another purpose for those who believe they are still needed in daily life, if not for national defense, for personal defense. Almost ironically, this defense is usually against someone else with a gun. It is a circular problem; we need guns to protect us from guns. While protection is obviously important, there are more solutions that firearms, especially large ones. If we have citizens living in an environment where they feel they need a gun to keep them safe in their day-to-day lives, it seems that there are other problems that need addressing. There are always more solutions other than violence, and the trick may be to take a step back and look at the bigger picture; work on eliminating the need for such weapons. To me, guns seem like a last resort for protection. One angle of approach to solving the problem would be erasing the need for such weapons in communities where gun use is most prominent, making gun control more logical for everyone who believes they are needed for safety. The right to bear arms might no longer be as necessary as it once was, and with a changes happening all the time, the needs of our country and the ways in which we defend ourselves must be reassessed constantly.

Where the situation teeters right now, on its sensitive and emotionally charged perch, it may be a matter of taking small steps to a larger goal. Stasis could be reached if people on both sides of the debate can concede to limiting legal firearms to smaller weapons. There is hardly a need for large, automatic weapons in a civil setting. Those weapons are designed to kill a large number of people in a small amount of time, and that hardly seems appropriate for self defense or any situation outside of an all-out war. Semi-automatic and automatic weapons are often the kinds used in mass shootings, killing innocent and unarmed people. The fact is that guns are not only in possession of those defending themselves, but those who are mentally or emotionally unstable wanting to harm others. I have heard the argument that no gun was ever found guilty of murder, it’s people that do the killing. That is the sad truth; the guns are not the only problem here, they are merely to the tool. When discussing gun control it is important to remember that not only trained officials and licensed individuals using them for sport have access to these guns. There are people who, for whatever reasons, want to do harm to others. Mass shootings at schools, malls, and even temples and churches are not unheard of, and not even uncommon. Since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting there have been twenty-three mass shootings around the country, resulting in more than one hundred deaths. This much violence, in such a short period of time, should indicate a need for change. The people using the guns are the ones intending to hurt or kill people, but it seems to make sense that if you take away the tool, it cannot do the job. This is one of the pieces of the puzzle that makes the topic so touchy. Not everyone is so irresponsible with their guns, but unfortunately we have to focus on those that are, because that’s where the biggest threat lies.

An important question to consider is the effectiveness of any restrictions regarding possession and use of firearms. Accessibility to guns and gun violence is widespread, and people question whether or not any legislation could make a difference. This is when it seems important to recall other similar and important legal issues where similar arguments can be made. On the issue of drug control, would one say that there is no point trying to limit drug use because we will never end it completely? Indeed, it may be a little unrealistic to imagine that a law passed could completely end such a widespread problem, but passing and enforcing such laws is not a useless act. These problems, while being dangerous and unfortunately common, should not be brushed aside simply because they are difficult to solve.  To me it seems that those are the problems worth fighting against the most. The difficulty of an issue is no reason to abandon it. This applies to gun control as well. If the government wanted to stop the availability of semi-automatic  and automatic weapons to the public, they may be able to end the legal sale, but illegal sales would of course be present. This is where law enforcement and public action would be important, along with the process I mentioned earlier of examining the larger picture that creates a need for guns. Of course, this entire scenario is hypothetical. In order for such laws to be enacted, there would have to be some level of agreement on what type of gun control is needed. Eliminating semi-automatic and automatic weapons, as they are the most serious threat to lives and have been used in mass public shootings repeatedly, is only one possible outcome of the gun control debate. These weapons seem to be the most serious threat to the largest number of lives, but they are not the only ones present in American communities.

The degree to which guns should be limited is a major question in the debate and one of the main reasons why there is not stasis on the issue. There are many possibilities for gun laws, ranging in degree of strictness, and not many people are comfortable with each solution. There is whole spectrum ranging from those who want absolute freedom on the subject, and those who want a complete ban of guns. One example of a situation like this is in Australia, where after one especially bad mass shooting, semiautomatic and automatic rifles, along with shotguns, were completely banned. This law was actually enacted by a conservative prime minister, which was noteworthy particularly because in general conservatives are opposed to gun control. In this situation, the safety of the citizens was priority, and guns of all kinds were removed from the equation of daily life. Since the change, the homicide rate involving guns fell by fifty-nine percent and the gun-related suicide rate by sixty-five percent. Though there is no guarantee that similar action in the United States would have the exact same outcome, Australia is an example of a possible, solution done right.

In order for there to be stasis on the issue of gun control, people on both ends of the spectrum will need to examine the evidence for and against it and consider their priorities and the priorities of the nation. Every year, thousands of people are killed by the use of guns, and this is not necessarily an argument against the use of guns at all. Guns are used in recreation, and after all the person holding the gun is responsible for its use. Though increased background checks would be helpful in ensuring no dangerous person acquires a firearm, to limit the risk of a powerful weapon falling into the wrong hands, there would need to be restriction of gun use in general. As a tool that can be used for pure destruction, guns are something that deserve attention in American society. Problems such as this may be difficult to control, but that is little reason to abandon them. There is scarce agreement on the subject, but a restriction on guns designed to kill large numbers would be a step in the right direction. The need for automatic and semi-automatic weapons is not present in American communities, and for the sake of personal safety, our government should take steps to limit their availability, as well as try to reduce the need for firearms in the first place. In pursuit of a safer environment for American citizens, our government and people need to closely examine possible changes to the laws within our nation, especially where weapons are involved.

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