Reader Mitchell Sheppard wrote the following takedown of gun control for his high school sophomore English class. And despite his teacher being on the other side of the issue (this was a Massachusetts public school, after all), Mitchell reports that his grade for the heavily researched essay was an A. What grade would you have given it?
In 2010 there were nearly 13,000 murders in the United States. When a statistic like this is stated, it is frequently followed by a demand that “something must be done” to stop violent crime in the United States. Often, these statements claim the obvious answer to our violent crime rate is gun control . . .
The argument claims that if you take away the guns to commit crimes with, there would be less violent crime, especially murders. Or perhaps not. What if gun control does not reduce violent crime? In fact, guns have no effect on our country’s violent crime rate and are actually beneficial to a citizens safety.
Neither gun control nor the availability of guns in United States affect the amount of violent crime in our country. Despite what gun control advocates claim, the availability of guns does not increase violent crime. In the years since the Second World War, between three and four million guns have been sold to civilians of the United States per year. Though the supply of guns went up every year, the trend was for the murder rate to stay the same or go down (Kates NP).
If guns being available to the populace caused more violent crime, then the violent crime rate and especially the murder rate would have gone up during this time. Since violent crime has not become more common since WWII, we can deduce that the availability of guns does not increase violent crime. The question now is, does gun control further reduce violent crime, or aggravate it?
To answer that question, we turn to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s records of violent crime. Since 1991, the number of violent crime cases has been steadily dropping. Over the twenty years between 1991 and 2010, the national murder rate has gone from almost 10 murders per hundred thousand people to just under five murders per hundred thousand people (FBI Table 1). This same trend is followed by the states as well, with violent crime going down across the board (FBI Table 4).
Over this time the political climate has changed from pro-gun control to the United States having “Forty-one states [that] currently have right-to-carry laws” (Lott NP). Despite the changes in gun control laws of many states, violent crime has continued to go down across the board (FBI Table 1). This evidence seems to point to gun control having no effect on the amount of violent crime experienced by a nation.
To further look into this conundrum, The Task Force on Community Preventive Services (a.k.a. The Task Force), sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, did a study on the effectiveness of firearms laws in preventing violence. They found “insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws reviewed for preventing violence” in part due to inconsistencies in many of the studies from which they acquired data. When looking at laws banning certain types of firearms and ammunition, the task force found that “certain studies indicated decreases in violence associated with bans, and others indicated increases” (Task Force NP).
According to the Task Force, gun control does not always have either a beneficial or negative outcome. The Task Force’s outcomes are consistent with the evidence of the lack of an increase in crime despite the guns that are flooding into American hands every year (Kates NP). These studies point out a serious problem in the gun control argument: if gun control does not decrease crime as gun control advocates claim it does, then what is the point of controlling guns?
Despite the mounting evidence, many gun control advocates claim that there is no need for the average American to have a gun even though guns have proven to save the lives of innocent bystanders. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence claims that “Allowing more people to carry concealed handguns in densely populated cities, on crowded subways, on buses and in sports stadiums, is a recipe for disaster” (Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence NP). Although this claim may seem sound, the idea that concealed carry permit holders are a danger to society is a tragic misunderstanding.
The first major flaw in this argument is that permit holders are going to commit more crime than the average person simply because they have a gun. In fact, the facts seem to point the other way, towards permit holders being incredibly law abiding and only losing their permits at “hundredths or thousandths of 1 percentage point” (Lott NP). The lack of permit losses by concealed carry permit holders refutes the new trend in gun control advocacy claiming that concealed carry permit holders are just “armed vigilantes,” by showing how incredibly law abiding concealed carry permit holders are.
During a series of studies by criminologists and economists, only one claimed that concealed carry permit holders increase a specific type of crime slightly over a short period of time. In comparison, eighteen criminologists and economists claim a reduction in violent crime while ten do not see any effect, positive or negative (Lott NP). The studies done by these experts shows the overwhelming evidence stacking against the effectiveness of gun control. Although this evidence points towards there being no negative effect of Americans being armed, the question of why you need a firearm still remains.
To answer this question, we turn to Israel, where in 2002 a terrorist tried to bomb a supermarket by killing customers with one bomb, and then killing the police that would inevitably surround him with a second bomb. Unfortunately for him, a shopper ended his scheme before he could set the first bomb with a fatal gunshot wound. Occurrences such as this are plentiful in Israel, where the government issues as many concealed carry permits as possible (Kates NP).
In situations such as this, where the police could not have been there fast enough to save the civilians that could have been killed by the first bomb, the armed and aware citizen has shown to be an unobtrusive, efficient way of limiting violence. The old adage “when seconds count, police are minutes away” is often used to describe situations such as these, and is commonly interpreted to mean that you and only you are responsible for your safety. Being that you are responsible for your own safety, “what’s wrong with having the extra protection of a gun” (Kates NP).
Although the gripping idea of violence on the streets of American cities can make many ask what could make our society safer, gun control is not the answer. The reason for this is clear, gun control just does not work. Despite gun control advocates’ claims, more guns does not mean more violence. In the case of concealed carry permits, more law abiding citizens with guns could actually make society safer by killing violent criminals before they can commit atrocious crimes. If the question is whether gun control is useful, effective or necessary, the answer is no.
Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “Carrying Concealed Weapons Overview.
Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, 2012. Web. 7 May 2012. <http://www.bradycampaign.org/stategunlaws/publicplaces/carrying>.
Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Offense Data by Region.” Crime Statistics. U.S. Dept. ofl Justice, n.d. Web. 3 May 2012. <http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/standard-links/region>.
– – -. “Table 4 Crime in the United States by Region, Geographic Division, and State, 2009–2010.” Crime in the United States. U.S. Dept. of Justice, n.d. Web. 10 May 2012. <http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10tbl04.xls>.
– – -. “Table 1 Crime in the United States by Volume and Rate per 100,000 Inhabitants, 1991–2010.” Crime Statistics. U.S. Dept. of Justice, n.d. Web. 3 May 2012. <http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10tbl01.xls>.
– – -. “Table 7 Offense Analysis United States, 2006–2010.” Crime Statistics. U.S. Dept. of Justice, n.d. Web. 2 May 2012. <http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10tbl07.xls>.
– – -. “Table 23 Offense Analysis Number and Percent Change, 2009–2010.” Crime Statistics. U.S. Dept. of Justice, n.d. Web. 2 May 2012. <http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10tbl23.xls>.
“Gun, Ammo Sales Up.” Guns Magazine Nov. 2008: 88. General OneFile. Web. 2 May 2012. <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA185385622&v=2.1&u=mlin_m_carlisle&it=r&p=GPS&sw=w>.
Kates, Don B. “Statistics Show the Benefits of Gun Ownership.” Handguns 20.5 (2006): 18+. General OneFile. Web. 2 May 2012. <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA150744376&v=2.1&u=mlin_m_carlisle&it=r&p=GPS&sw=w>.
Lott, John R. “Right-To-Carry Lowers Violent Crime.” Baltimore Sun 18 Mar. 2012: n. pag. The Baltimore Sun. Web. 3 May 2012. <http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/readersrespond/bs-ed-lott-letter-20120316,0,5424697.story>.
Task Force on Community Preventive Services. “First Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies for Preventing Violence: Firearms Laws.” Recommendations and Reports.
U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 23 Oct. 2003. Web. 2 May 2012. <http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5214a2.htm>.
United States Census Bureau. “Table 716. Families Below Poverty Level by Selected Characteristics: 2009.” Income, Expenditures, Poverty, & Wealth. United States Census Bureau, n.d. Web. 3 May 2012. <http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0716.pdf>.
Williamsen, Kart. “Beyond the Gun-Control Debate: This Reflection on the Virginia Tech Massacre Looks Beyond the Gun Debate to the Importance of Cultural Morality in Reducing Senseless Crimes of Violence.” Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Gale Gengage learning, 28 May 2007. Web. 13 Apr. 2012. <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA164255785&v=2.1&u=mlin_m_carlisle&it=r&p=GPS&sw=w>.