The call for control of guns to curb the current crime problems, even though not new, is finding greater approval among Americans today. It has been like a culture throughout history for people to arm themselves in response to increased risk from bandits, criminals, invaders, and marauding Indians, a move that was considered normal as well as rational till recently. Currently, as stated by Brent (para, 9), there are numerous well financed lobby groups that are fighting for the disarming of Americans as a way of preventing as well as reducing crimes. These organizations center on various tragedies that have occurred in the United States to focus mass attention in addition to influencing the opinion of the general public in their favor. Despite the fact that there are thousands of gun laws at the federal, local and state level, as noted by Wilson (p, 129) proponents for gun control insist that availability of guns is still too high.
They advocate for very many things ranging from gun free zones, background checks, waiting period, limited capacity magazines, regulations for safe-storage, registration of guns, licensing, as well as owner only locks to restricting firearms only to the law enforcement agents and the military (Wilson, p 130). They argue that restrictive licensing will lead to critical evaluation to determine those who are eligible for firearm license. The mental condition of a person, the ability to store handguns safely and the ability to use them will be among the things evaluated if restrictive licensing laws are implemented. Restrictive licensing according to proponents will therefore ensure that no firearm is in the wrong hands and thus lead to a reduction in crime (Mundt p, 23). The main objective of restrictive licensing as Brent (para, 14) states is to keep the number of privately owned handguns all over the country to a necessary minimum.
Restrictive Licensing is the Way to Reduce Crime and Violence
There are four major arguments that proponents for restrictive licensing use to support their stand. These arguments are that increased number of handguns in circulation leads to increased crime rate; possessing a handgun increases an individual’s risk of being killed; keeping firearms out of the hands of offenders reduces violence; and taking away firearms from criminals decrease violent crime. Programs in addition to policies that reduce the use and the availability of firearms can greatly reduce violence among the youth especially among youth at risk (Almanac of Policy Issues para, 20). Policymakers can achieve this through legislative actions and tactics aimed at reducing supply which are by far the most effective ways. According to Brent (para, 14) some legislative measures that can greatly deter the utilization of fire arms include: restricting the importation as well as private ownership of handguns and other assault weapons that are easily concealed; instituting rules that require for secure storage of firearms with penalties for owners who do not meet the terms; restricting transaction of firearms for example through introduction of strict dealer license requirements; obligatory license requirement for all fire arms; extending sentences for crime committed with firearms and for selling or carrying a firearm illegally; and prohibition of carrying of firearms in general. Targeted enforcement interventions are other ways through which availability of fire arms can be reduced because they disrupt illegal sale of firearms.
Proponents argue that restrictive laws reduce the intensity of violent crimes by minimizing the prevalence of firearms. These laws restrict the type of guns that are purchased, lay down the qualification criteria for those who may want to purchase and own a handgun, and also restrict safe storage as well as utilization of firearms. Based on this perspective, fewer guns result to a reduction in the rate of violent crime (Mundt, p, 27). There exist a two way linkage between restrictive laws and crime rates: the effect of control of guns on the accessibility as well as availability of firearms, especially handguns, and the impact of the prevalence of firearms on the commission of crimes. The direction of the impact runs from restrictive laws to crime rates. On the other hand, due to the fact that high rates of crime are often regarded as justifying stricter gun control laws, they are likely to generate support for gun regulations politically. This proposes a major reason why crime rates should be counteracted using stringent gun control laws.
One of the most successful tactics that have been employed to curb the rise in violence as a result of availability of firearms are increasing enforcement patrols in high-crime zones as well as using undercover police who pose as potential gun purchasers. Though the effects of firearms legislation appear mixed, a combination of laws and supply side-tactics comes out to be very promising (Moorhouse, p. 35).
According to Almanac of Policy Issues (para, 21), reduction of the availability as well as the use of firearms can reduce the intensity of violence among the youth. Increase in youth violence and crime go hand in hand with increase in deadly crime and violence committed using firearms. As asserted by Wilson (p, 130), the quantity of firearms in circulation at any given time has a direct effect on the access of guns by those at risk through theft or illegal markets. According to LaRosa (para, 9), implementing restrictive firearms legislation in conjunction with intervening to minimize the supply of firearms is therefore, a major way through which deaths and injuries resulting from gun assaults can be reduced. Legislative actions hinder trafficking of firearms and general use of guns through sentencing enhancements. Targeted interventions also play a vital role of reducing the number of firearms in circulation through regulation of the design as well as transaction and imposition of gun bans.
Availability of firearms can be influenced through three ways: tactics to minimize supply, legislation, or a combination of the two. Research conducted in Canada, according to Mundt (p, 17) clearly indicates that implementation of legislative policy leads to reduction in violence as well as homicide and a decrease in the rate of firearms related crime. Moorhouse and Wanner (p, 21), states that the government of Australia also, in 1996, implemented the legislative policy thereby restricting the importation of firearms leading to a drastic reduction in the rate of firearm related crime. A restrictive law imposed in Washington DC in 1977 effectively prohibited private ownership of firearms. This policy led to a considerable decline in the number of deaths related to firearms.
Extensive police patrols in crime prone zones have also reduced the level of violence among the youth by ensuring a reduction on the availability of the firearms. Identification of illegal traffickers is the first step in eradicating free supply of firearms to the youth (Almanac of Policy Issues para, 22). Legislation and supply-side tactics can be used together to effectively tackle firearms related violence. A very good example according to Moorhouse and Wanner (p, 30), is Brazil which imposed a legislation that increased sentence for those found possessing firearms illegally, strengthened regulations for firearms transactions, and imposed a ban on possession of firearms. Another example as indicated by Moorhouse and Wanner (p, 30), is the Kansas City Gun Experiment in the United States. After a ban on firearms was imposed, police intensified their patrol in the zone where the rate of homicide was by far higher than the national average. This led to a drastic decrease in the rate of gun related crimes.
There exists a strict check on the ownership of all weapons especially guns as well as the amount of firearms manufactured. The allegation of constitutional hurdles, important and relevant social costs as well as an all inclusive policy has the ability of allowing the law enforcement agencies to maintain a check on the ownership and legality of firearms transfers. This will help extend the check on persons as well as institutions that operate against the interest of a nonviolent existence. Rather than opposing federal gun control, it is important that people help to empower the federal policies that are aimed at keeping firearms out of wrong hands. Allowing people to own firearms illegally would only put the security of the society in danger (Wilson p, 137).
Measures aimed at restricting gun ownership as stated by (Borade, para, 4) are advantageous to the law abiding citizens. These measures also strengthen the constitutional rights. Opponents of restrictive licensing, as illustrated by LaRosa (para, 12), argue that allowing widespread ownership of guns is the only way crime can be kept at bay. It is however, important to note that it is the hand that pulls the trigger that is being questioned and not the gun as noted by Borade (para, 4). It is therefore important to understand that dealing with the threat of potential cruelty, violence, and crime does not yield any fruits with firearms being easily available to children, anxious and deranged people. Allowing as many people to own firearms is therefore not a solution to the high rate of firearms related crime. Mundt (p, 25) states that effective maintenance of the law as well as helping the policymakers to deal with illegal transactions and ownership of firearms is the only solution to dealing with crime.
Although opponents of restrictive firearms licensing argue that majority of firearms in the country are used responsibly, as LaRosa (para, 17) states. According to Borade (para, 5), handguns remain the chief weapons of gun-misuse accounting for a majority of criminal gun violence. Deaths resulting from criminal or accidental use of guns are very high in the country. There also exist numerous unreported cases where individuals are threatened by people holding a gun. As noted by Brent (para, 5), high rates of crime are associated with the high number of gun ownership. It is therefore important to note that an increase in the number of handguns leads to an increase in the level of crime; while on the other hand, a reduction in the number of handguns leads to a reduction in the number of gun-related violent cases.
LaRosa (para, 15), states that opponents of restrictive gun licensing argue that if guns ownership was restricted, criminals would make use of other weapons such as knives. Though this has some truth in it, injuries and deaths would be reduced because gun attacks are more deadly than attacks with other weapons. The accumulation of guns all over the country as illustrated by Almanac of Policy Issues (para, 15) is a traditional attitude of Americans towards firearms as well as decades of sloppy control of firearms. Nevertheless, the presence of guns in homes creates more danger than safety. The belief of Americans arming themselves against other armed Americans must come to a stop. It is high time people realized that development of effective and suitable measures of minimizing gun violence is a national benefit. The only way gun violence can be reduced in the country, according to Kates (para, 7), is by reducing the number of firearms in the hands of civilians and not increasing it. Restrictive licensing, as a federal standard, to confine firearms only to those who need them, would significantly reduce the amount of handguns on the hands of civilians in this country, thereby resulting in a reduction in crime. Proponents of restrictive licensing argue that it will significantly reduce the approximately 24 million handguns that are currently on the hands of civilians (Moorhouse p, 31). They claim that this would drastically reduce the level of gun related violence. Licensing of handguns should be a national scope due to the fact that the problem is national, and because the presence of an ineffective control system in any one of the states makes it hard for bordering states to curb gun related violence.
Though some argue that implementation of restrictive firearms licensing laws will not ensure security of the citizens, it is high time policymakers designed a way of reducing access to firearms because restrictive licensing of handguns is associated with a drastic decline in homicide as well as suicides by firearms in areas where it is applied. Restrictive licensing of firearms is an important strategy in the fight against crime and violence, because people who would like to own a handgun would be comprehensively evaluated for eligibility. Their need for a handgun, ability to use and safely store a hand gun would be among the things evaluated. Restrictive handgun licensing would lead to a drastic reduction in crime because handguns are the chief weapons of gun misuse accounting for a majority of criminal gun violence. It is high time Americans erased the notion that they are arming themselves against other armed Americans. Restrictive licensing, if implemented, would lead to a significant reduction in the number of handguns in the hands of civilians.
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ISBN 0742553485: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007