Gun control is an issue that has been debated by Americans since the 1960’s (Dolan 1). The debate questions the right of Americans to bear arms, this including, handguns, shotguns, and rifles. Some say a simple restriction of these arms is in order while some think they should be banned altogether (Dolan 1). Both sides hold strong opinions often causing conflict in the matter and confusion among the citizens of the United States. However, the opponents do agree that a death rate of 30 million a year due to the powerful and deadly weapon is too high; only they have different views on how to lower this rate.
These arms, proven by statistics, provide the result of 30 million murders, suicides, and accidental deaths each year (Dolan 1). The number of firearms is estimated to be over 150 million and outnumber all of ours cars, trucks, and busses by more than 25 million (Dolan 7). A large percentage of these firearms are held by half of the nation’s families that for the most part use them for the lawful protection of their homes and will most likely never be used (Dolan 7). “And the millions more are kept by responsible sportsmen for hunting, trapshooting, and target shooting,” this was a reply from Dolan to an English visitor to America, who was astonished by the figures of firearms (7). “I’d say that the United States is an armed camp,” said the English visitor (Dolan 7). In despondence to Dolan’s defending the millions of guns owned by citizens for protection or sport, the Englishman said, “One hundred and fifty million guns. It doesn’t matter what they’re used for. I they’re loaded someone’s bound to get hurt.”(Dolan 7-8). America has one of the highest death rates due to guns, however, gun deaths are on the rise in other countries, such as, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Australia (Hawkes 4). In the United States handguns are used in more than 184,000 armed robberies every year and more than 11,000 murders and manslaughter’s (Hawkes 6). Every 20 minutes someone in the United States dies by a gun as a result of murders, accidents, or suicides (Hawkes 5).
Although, all guns are deadly, the most dangerous is the handgun (Dolan 9). The handgun is responsible for 50 percent of the United States murders, leading to a figure of 30 murders a day and when you add suicides and fatal accidents the daily death-rate rises to over sixty (Dolan 9).
All of this leads to one of the most important and difficult issues of today, gun control. With so many different views on the issue it has been hard to come to reforms. A contributor to the rise of guns is the power it holds. Although, the gun has played a major part in our history, the larger result of the gun is a cycle: man lead to war- war lead to guns-guns led to crime- crime leads to fear- fear leads to more guns. “The right to own guns is set out in the American Constitution: ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,’” (Hawkes 10). The private ownership of guns is claimed by many to be a tradition. The must of having a gun was used by the settler for hunting and protection and went on later to play a major role in the winning of our nations independence (Dolan 13). This reflects the protective use of the gun, however, the growing violence in our nation has seemed to conflict with the right of citizens to protect themselves and their families. To say our nation has done nothing to control the violence and deaths by guns would be wrong. The nation has made many attempts for gun control, such as, State and Local Laws, which covers the aspects of issuance of gun permits and regulations (Dolan 20). Part of this includes a waiting period, which is not quite effective and not always mandatory. These laws, however, are not issued by all states, which still makes it very simple for a criminal or mentally disturbed person to purchase a gun. Only in the following states writes Dolan, are people required to have a permit or something equivalent to purchase a handgun: Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, North Carolina, Missouri, Virginia (in certain counties), and Illinois ( requires an I.D. card issued by the state) (Dolan 21). There are also Federal Laws, which came about in the 1900’s (Dolan 21). The Gun Control Act of 1968 consists of two main parts called “Titles” (Dolan 29). Title I is aimed at stopping underground sales, while Title II hits at discouraging the manufacture, import, and sales, of the weapons most favored by the criminal (Dolan 29-30). These laws, however, issued from the earlier 1900’s to the 1960’s have obviously not been enough to lower the millions of deaths due to the gun. The crime and death rate is higher than ever and it has become a realization in our present day that further reforms must be taken to end or at least lower the unnecessary deaths of our citizens.
Pro-control supporters vary in their opinions for control. Some just want the ability for a person to acquire a gun much more difficult, some believe ownership of handguns should be banned only in areas known to have exceptionally high crime rates, and some who hope for banning of handguns everywhere in our nation (Dolan 37-38). Anti-gun controlists hold two basic beliefs. First, they defend themselves with the Second Amendment, saying that laws banning firearms will violate their rights (Dolan 39). Secondly, they believe the banning of guns will do nothing to reduce crime and violence. Supporting this with their opinion that criminals will not turn in their firearms if they are banned and they will be left defenseless (Dolan 39). “The anti-control camp holds that criminals and not guns cause all the trouble,” (Dolan 39).
Still, in the midst of all these opinions and suggestions, no substantial reforms have been made. That is until just recently. With Vice President Gore’s campaign proposal for handgun licensing, Clinton has taken the strongest stand on the gun control factor yet (Washington Post 1). The Gore-to-Clinton reforms include a ban on the manufacture, import, and ownership of handguns as well as assault-style weapons (Washington Post 1). Another part of Clinton’s reforms is the development of guns that fire only when held by their owners and for much stricter enforcement of laws than the already existing ones (Washington Post 1).
Bill Bradley, a runner in the election race of the year 2000, also holds strict reforms for gun control. As part of his campaign, Bill Bradley says:
“As President, Bill Bradley will stand up to the National Rifle Association. Conventional wisdom tells us its politically perilous to take them on. But our children’s future and safety is far too precious to be left to conventional wisdom. We must act and we must act now. We must reduce the gun violence in America,” (Bill Bradley for President).
Bradley’s “commonsense proposal” will:
-Ban all “Saturday Night Specials” completely and permanently.
– Require registration of all handguns in this country.
– Require licensing and safety courses for every person who owns a handgun.
– Prohibit gun dealers from selling guns in residential neighborhoods.
– Require mandatory trigger locks for guns.
– Require background checks at gun shows.
– Limit handgun purchases by any one person to one a month (Bill Bradley for President 1)
With these new gun control reforms arising, hopefully they will be accepted into congress. As Bill Bradley says, the NRA is a strong block against gun control reforms with a strong fight to protect their rights established by the Second Amendment. Gun control, at this time is vital to our society. To stand by and let over 150 million people be killed by this weapon and the person standing behind the weapon is almost as band as pulling the trigger yourself. The nation has let the gun spread its havoc for years. The question that should be asked to the NRA is, why not give gun control a chance? The nation is at the point where the gun has become a major threat in our daily lives. The citizens have to cooperate and decide if they want the accidental deaths, murders, of our children, families, and fellow Americans is a strong enough incentive to make a change.
1. “Bill Bradley on Gun Control.” Bill Bradley for President. >http://www.billbradley.com/bin/article.pl?path=050100/10> (2 March 2000).
2. Dolan, Edward, F., Jr. Gun Control: A Decision for Americans. New York/ London/ Toronto/Sydney: Franklin Watts, 1982.
3. Hawkes, Nigel. Gun Control. New York: Gloucester Press, 1988.
4. “The President’s Shift on Guns.” The Washington Post. >http://www.electriclibrary.com>(31 February 2000).