OPINION: Reconsidering America’s Gun Control Debate



By Fariha Fawziah
The implementation of gun control in the United States is a tremendous problem! Tension-filled debates have been going on between gun control advocates and pro-gun activists for at least a decade. For a long period of time, people have given their evidence and statistics to prove that more guns mean more deaths and fewer guns mean fewer deaths. This statement, however, is false. Firstly, guns aren’t the only reason murders are happening. Knives, for example, kill more people each year than rifles. Secondly, guns help people defend themselves which can be very efficient. Thirdly, crime rates are reportedly already down without gun control. Clearly, one could argue that gun control is not needed.

​First, guns aren’t the only cause of violent deaths in the United States. In fact, according to Sean Davis: “The FBI statistics show that knives have been used as a murder weapon far more often than rifles. In 2013, knives or other cutting instruments were used to kill 1,490 victims. In contrast, rifles were the cause of death of 285 murder victims..Shotguns were used in 308 murders. In 2009, the ratio was very similar: knives were used in five times as many murders as rifles.”

Certainly, rifles and guns have contrasting risk factors. Legal and illegal guns are responsible for most of the accidental homicides in the US, while assault rifles have usually been used in school shootings and other psychotic spree shootings with multiple casualties. Moreover, new laws that do not prevent a mentally compromised person from buying guns might increase the likelihood of more psychotic spree killing with those weapons.

For four years, the ratio of gun to knife murders has remained the same.  This  shows that murders by knife are a serious problem too, and that guns do not even pose the biggest threat to people. So, even if gun control were in effect, chances are that annual murder rates would not be that much different from the past few years.  On the other hand, guns also cripple people–including law officers–putting  additional burdens on each gunshot victim, their families, hospitals, and insurance companies.  Without guns, this category of gun-related tragedy would not occur.

Gun control is objected to by many gun owners because guns are believed to be efficient for self-defense.  According to a statement from The Gun Owners of America, nationwide there are: “one-half million self-defense uses. Every year, as many as one-half million citizens defend themselves with a firearm away from home.”  This suggests that the majority of guns aren’t used for criminal  activities but mostly for a significant factor called “self-defense,” thereby saving lives.  Yet defenders of gun control legislation insist that restricting ownership of  firearms is needed to guarantee responsible gun ownership, not to prevent all people from having guns.

It is asserted by the website americangunfacts.com, that:  “Every year, guns are used over 80 times more often to protect a life than to take one.”  This indicates that guns are really important self-defense tools for millions of people.  These people argue that having stricter gun control to reduce the number of legal gun owners might result in more lives being lost than saved.

Gun advocates like to point out that  crime rates are down even without gun control. They also say that guns are actually preventing crimes. For example, according to conservative united.com, “Crime is a reflection of culture, not gun ownership. Violent crimes in the United States have fallen 22% in the last 10 years. The murder rate has actually fallen since 2004, when the federal assault rifle ban expired.” This shows an improvement even before gun control was happening, so crimes and murder rates might be improved without a gun control movement.

Still,  America is the only nation that has the high number of school shootings we have. Nations that restrict public access to guns don’t have this same problem; a fact that the pro-gun lobby strives to ignore by focusing only on issues  of self-defense.   To quote Targeting Guns by Dr. Gary Kleck, “Guns prevent an estimated 2.5 million crimes a year or 6,849 every day,” and from www.gunfact.info, “Most often, the gun is never fired and no blood (including the criminal’s) is shed.”  One wonders about the source and accuracy of  these numbers, but if true they can be very persuasive.  This idea that guns are actually stopping homicides, and that crime rates are going down without gun control appeals to many gun owners.

However, many  people still believe that gun control should be happening because gun use is only associated with negative consequences in this country. For example, people who believe guns are killing people would say, “According to FBL statistics, 46,313 Americans were murdered with firearms during the time period of 2007 to 2011. To put this into perspective, this translates to an average of 9,263 murders per year or 25 murders per day.” (Josh Sager)

Yet this is contradicted by the following data from  James Q. Wilson :   “…[A]s criminologists Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins have shown, the non-gun homicide rate in this country is three times higher. . . .For historical and cultural reasons, Americans are more violent than the English, even when they can’t use a gun. The murder rate won’t be reduced, even if by some constitutional or political miracle we became gun-free.”

So although people think guns play a major part in the national death rate, in reality the number of non-gun murders in the U.S. is three times higher. This gives you an idea of how many more Americans commit violent homicides compared to residents of other countries.  Some believe American citizens have grown even more prone to unhappiness and what some term “uncontrollable rage” because they’ve been experiencing increasing levels of unemployment and immigration.  So, considering these psychological factors,  even with gun control, the murder rates wouldn’t necessarily be as different as we might like to believe.

In other countries, all weapons are getting more and more restricted to stop homicides. Ultimately, America should do more to prevent all homicidal violence.  This would include supporting free mental health counseling, gun reformation groups, and more public education on state gun laws and  gun issues in America.

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