GUN CONTROL Essay
I do not believe any one of us would want just anyone to be able to buy any kind of weapon they want. What I do believe is the issue at hand is not gun control but crime. That is what our main focus as a nation should be. Let’s stop treating the symptoms and start treating the decease.
In a recent article of Gun Control: An Issue for the Nineties. David Newton, of New Jersey reviles. “In 1994, 18,954 Americans were murdered. Of that number, 11,832 or 62 percent were killed by guns. On the average, one man, woman, or child is killed or wounded by a gun every 2.5 minutes in the United States” (Newton 7).
Many Americans are disgusted by these statistics. “They look for ways to reduce deaths and injuries from guns” (7). But people differ about the best methods for solving this problem. Some people, like James Brady, want to make it difficult or impossible for ordinary citizens to own guns (7). But is disarming law abiding citizens the answer to a safer America? Others, including myself, want to punish criminals more severely. The issue of gun control has been debated in this country for many years. However, in recent years this issue has become a topic of significant interest. One event that sparked this increase in interest was the assassination attempt on former President Ronald Reagan. Thirteen years ago a man named John Hinckley Jr. pulled a handgun outside the Washington Hilton Hotel and shot President Reagan and his press secretary, James S. Brady, as well as two officers (Brady 18). Was Hinckley a mad man? Would it have been possible for him to commit this crime if the Brady law had been in place at the time?In May, 1994 the House of Representatives’ passed a law by a thin margin to ban assault weapons. (Witkin 31) “But as a crime control measure, the legislation doesn’t amount to much. Many of the guns banned are used by criminals; assault weapons represent no more than 1 percent of the firearms in circulation nationwide but account for about 8 percent of the guns traced to crime by the Treasure Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms”.(31)I see the passage of this law as a significant first step in an attempt by the government to disarm Americans. “The NRA asserted the measure was ridiculously arbitrary-that the banned guns were really no different from other semiautomatic weapons not covered by the ban. ‘The guns won’t fire faster, aren’t any more powerful, won’t make bigger holes and are not the choice of criminals.” (31). But laws controlling ownership of firearms will not control crime. The answer to this problem is tougher laws to punish crime. I am in favor of tougher laws to put away criminals who commit crimes with guns. I use to think there was some truth to the old adage “crime doesn’t pay” Today, I’m not sure. A criminal can commit most any crime and be guaranteed he will not serve a full jail sentence.
“For supporters of the Brady law, John Hinckley’s attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981 is the paradigmatic case” (49). Sarah Brady, chairwoman of Handgun Control Inc., has repeatedly insinuated that a waiting period would have stopped Hinckley from shooting Reagan and her husband, Jim, “Had a waiting period been in effect seven years ago,” she told USA Today in 1988, “John Hinckley would not have had the opportunity to buy the gun he used” (49).
But gun-control scholar David B. Kopel, director of research at the Independence Instituted, has shown there is very little support for this claim. “Hinckley had never been convicted of a felony, and he had no public record of mental illness” (49). “When he bought the .22-caliber revolver from a Dallas gun dealer, he presented a Texas driver’s license, and it appears that he was indeed a resident of the state, as required by federal law. Since he committed his crime months after he purchased the gun, a “cooling-off” period would not have helped” (49). Finally, had Hinckley been unable to purchase the .22, he could have easily used one of the handguns he already owned. “These included a legally purchased .38 special, which probably would have killed Reagan and Brady rather than injuring them” (49).
I’m not trying to suggest the Brady law will never prevent a crime, but because the benefits are likely to be very small we should be especially sensitive to the coast (49). So the real question is who will really be disarmed? For example, law-abiding citizens sometimes need a gun in a hurry. During the 1992 L.A. riots, it quickly became evident that residents could not rely on the police for protection. But if they wanted to arm themselves, they were out of luck: when the riots were over, there were still 11 days to go in California’s waiting period (49). The net effect of the federal waiting period could well be more rather than fewer deaths (49). If the Brady law is not the answer, what is?I believe stiffer jail terms will make gunmen more gun-shy. Gun control is a highly divisive issue that pits citizens who believe that the right to own guns for legitimate purposes is constitutionally guaranteed against those who want to sharply reduce the number of guns in circulation (Becker 18). But it is both desirable and possible to cut down on the number of guns in the hands of thugs and criminals without curtailing the right to own guns for other purposes (18).
“An effective gun-control policy must try to deter the use of guns to commit crimes and to intimidate at school and elsewhere” (18). The best way to do this is for states to impose a stiffer punishment on lawbreaker who use guns for criminal ends (18). A mandatory jail sentence-or additional time-should be added to the usual punishment for a crime if guns are involved (18).
“If the normal punishment for robbery is a year in jail, for example, this sentence might be doubled, to two years, when guns are involved (18).
Many gun-control advocates cringe from reliance on imprisonment and other punishments for the use of guns to commit crimes because these seem too indirect and uncertain to be effective deterrents (18). However, considerable evidence, summarized by James Q. Wilson and Richard J. Herrenstein in their Crime and Human Nature, indicates that greater certainty of apprehension and conviction is an effective deterrent to robbery and most other serious crimes (18). For this reason, I would like to see much greater spending on police and courts to increase apprehension of criminals and expedite their conviction. We need to send a clear signal to those who choose to use guns to commit crimes (18).
To increase the certainty of punishment for criminal use of guns, it may be necessary for states to mandate the extra jail sentence, so that little desecration is left to judges, juries, and prosecutors (18). A rapidly growing number of states require additional punishments when guns are involved. True, some federal judges have criticized the mandating of sentences for federal crimes such as drug sales or white-collar crime, but a state mandatory term sends a clear signal about the risk of using guns to commit crimes (18).
Harsher punishment for those who use guns to commit crimes does not penalize those who use guns for legal means and others who are vulnerable to criminal attacks. In the confrontation between criminals and their prey, this approach to gun control gives potential targets a better hand (18).
Let’s stop treating the symptoms and start treating the disease.The right approach to gun control can get widespread agreement and would not be subject to the bitter controversies to this issue (18). This approach supports registration and cooling-off periods; however, it relies mainly on punishing those who use guns for crime and intimidation (18).
Works CitedBecker, Gary S. “Stiffer Jail Terms Will Make Gunmen More Gun-Shy.” Business Week.
28 Feb. 1994.
Brady, James. “In step With: James Brady.” North West Florida Daily News Parade. 26 Jun.
Newton, David. Gun Control: An Issue for the Nineties. New Jersey: Enslow, 1992.
Witkin, Gordon. “A Surprising Ban on Assault Weapons.” U.S. NEWS & World Report 16 May 1994.