The recent mass shooting in Parkland, Florida has reignited the ongoing, yet sporadic debate on gun control. For a long time, I haven't had a concrete opinion on gun control and how to resolve the issue. And, I know I'm definitely not alone.
We live in a country which shies away from talking about gun control. And why wouldn't it? The current gun policy in the US has age requirements, restrictions on who can purchase and sell guns, and other background checks and regulations that are implemented by federal and state laws. Yet, our gun-related crime rates are off the charts.
Roughly 16,459 murders were committed in the United States during 2016. Of these, about 11,961 or 73% were committed with firearms.
This year itself, the US has experienced about 34 mass shootings. Thirty-four! In less than 2 months. There are so many floating arguments out there about gun control. Let's address each and every one of them.
"Guns don't kill people. People kill people."
Is this really an argument? People who make this argument are likely to say that if guns are regulated, people will find other ways to kill, i.e knives. If people do kill people, why would you want them to be surrounded by guns?
America has way too many guns. Pew Research reports that nearly a third of Americans own guns. Furthermore, America owns the most guns per person than any country in the world. Consequently, the US has an unusually high gun-related death rate than any other developed country in the world. And for the record, most mass shootings (almost 80%) have occurred from guns that were legally purchased.
"Our right to own guns is protected by the Second Amendment."
This is what it reads: "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."
Ah, the classic argument whenever anyone tries to bring up gun control. Citing an outdated document to shut down anyone who dares question gun control by saying it's "unconstitutional." Times were much different when the Constitution was written. It was the era of muskets and primitive guns capable of inflicting minimum damage. How would our Founding Fathers have imagined the atrocities possible via assault rifles?
Furthermore, most people tend to focus on the "bear arms" part, but the key word really is "militia." At the time, there was a great deal of distrust among the states and the government. Guns were necessary for protection because the possibility of an intrusion was high.
Today, most people understand that some level of gun control is necessary. After all, giving open access to children and mentally ill people is absolutely ridiculous-- yet it's something that the Second Amendment does not explicitly prohibit. Strict followers of the Constitution are sensible enough to recognize that giving out guns to everyone is dangerous but refuse to acknowledge that owning assault rifles is just as dangerous? Sounds pretty hypocritical to me.
"It's a mental health issue, not a gun issue."
In the Parkland incidence, yes. The shooter was a 19-year-old who had been reported several times previously due to his mental health issues.
Yet, research has shown time and time again that mass shootings are not due to mental health issues.
The best numbers and best statistics suggest that no more than 4 to 5 percent of mass shooters are mentally ill, as defined by criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (a professional psychologists' handbook, also known as the DSM-V).
"Making guns illegal will only make people want to buy them more."
This argument follows the principle of reverse psychology. If we are told not to do something, we only want to do it more. So, what is the solution? Make guns available for everyone right? Because that has been working so well? Southern states have extremely loose gun laws, allowing purchase without a permit and virtually selling them anywhere (even Walmart). And what do we find? These are the places where gun-related deaths are the highest.
Sure, regulating guns will not eradicate all shootings, but it will at least reduce them. It will make it more difficult for people to obtain guns. If you are concerned about criminals obtaining guns illegally through the black market, why do you want to provide them with complete access in the first place?
"We need guns for protection. Why should law abiding citizens give up guns?"
I largely agree with this sentiment. I understand people's need to want protection and ensure the safety of themselves and their families. But, why does anyone need to be stocking up on AR-15's in their homes? Surely we don't live in such a dangerous country that assault rifles are imperative to assure our safety.
67% cite protection as a major reason. About four-in-ten gun owners (38%) say hunting is a major reason, and 30% cite sport shooting.
Assault rifles only account for a small fraction of gun-related deaths, but these victims could still be alive if such a dangerous "military-style" gun hadn't been used.
"We need to ban guns. I mean, it worked for Australia and Britain."
It is true that the US gun policy has remained far more lenient in comparison to that of other countries. Every country is different. What has worked for other countries may not necessarily translate perfectly into ours.
In terms of Australia, the statistics used by the Left are misleading. In 1996, Australia issued a gun ban alongside a buyback program (in which the police purchases privately owned gun to reduce civilian guns). A 2007 and 2008 study concluded that the gun ban had no effect on homicide rates. Wait, but Australia has little to no homicides right? Right. But it's not because of the temporary gun ban.
"Prior to 1996, there was already a clear downward [trend] in firearm homicides, and this pattern continued after the buyback," wrote Lott. "It is hence difficult to link the decline to the buyback."
In fact, Australia had steady declines in both firearm and non-firearm related deaths, even revealing that there was a larger decline in non-firearm related deaths after the gun ban. Other factors were at play, and blatantly associating it with the gun ban is silly.
Britain, on the other hand, actually experienced a drastic increase in homicides immediately after the gun ban. The numbers decreased after stricter implementation of the police. Clearly, banning guns is not the answer.
Take our own country as an example. In 1976, Washington D.C. implemented a gun ban in which citizens were only allowed to keep existing firearms if they were disassembled. The gun ban came along with an increase in homicides rather than an expected decline.
Annual homicides rose from 188 in 1976 to 364 in 1988, and then increased even further to 454 in 1993. The gun ban was struck down by the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller, and homicides have steadily declined since then to 88 yearly murders in 2012.
Multiple factors other than lifting the gun ban were involved in the decline in murders, but the case goes to show that the gun ban itself did not drastically affect murder rates.
Here is what we do know based on our current research.
States with stricter gun laws have lower gun-related incidents.
Note that this is a correlation, not causation. Economist Richard Florida has found that states with stricter gun control regulation have significantly lower firearm-related deaths. Southern states have extremely high firearm-related death rates.
More guns mean more homicides and suicides.
There is substantial evidence that places with more guns have more murders. The research has been conducted by Harvard Injury Control Research Center. Once again, the data is only suggestive of a correlation.
In regards to suicide, increased gun availability has been linked to more suicides.
Every day in America, 93 people die from gun violence. Fifty-eight of those deaths, or nearly two-thirds, are suicides with guns. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows suicide with a gun is the most common and by far the most deadly suicide method.
If guns are already the primary means of suicide, greater access to guns only worsens the situation.
The "right to carry" guns laws itself have little correlation with murders.
Many people seem to ignore this fact, but using guns for protection and defense are not dangerous and something we need to eradicate.
Some studies have even concluded that higher gun ownership resulted in reduced police killings, fewer mass shootings, and reduced gun violence. Which studies are we to believe? Many of these studies were conducted years ago and do not imply causation. They are simply correlation trends. We really do not know what the effects of gun bans, stricter gun laws, and increased gun ownership.
We need more research.
Despite countless gun laws, mass shootings continue to occur frequently. A clear-cut solution is not possible until more research is conducted. American ignorance is a result of the Dickey Amendment, a 1996 ban by NRA (National Rifle Association) which pushed Congress to stop CDC from conducting gun violence and safety research by limiting federal funds.
The provision states that "None of the funds made available in this title may be used, in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control.”The ban continues to exist today; no money is provided to the CDC to study gun issues. Repeated attempts have been made to fund federal research in gun violence, but the GOP has denied it every single time.
The lack of research contributes to our lack of effective solutions to regulate gun use. Now more than ever, gun violence has become a public health problem. How can action be taken when the foundation is not yet substantiated? To ensure the protection of the rights of gun owners and the lives of our people, we need bipartisan support in advocating for research.