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This paper explores the relationship between gun control levels and crime rates in the United States. It discusses about the effectiveness of current gun control laws, and how citizens respond to it. Evidence showing that further gun controls will have degrading effects to the society is shown, such as denying protection for law abiding citizens, and will not necessarily reduce crime rates. Instead of blaming rising crime rates to the current gun control policy, the paper analyses the root of the problem and defined that unemployment and inequalities are some of the determinants for crime to happen. Information and statistics have been utilized to compare the crime rates to the number of gun ownerships in several developed nations.
Stricter gun control policies may have its positive effect on lowering crime rates, but no substantial support is found for this argument. It requires the need for more significant research for improved results. True causes of rising crime rates in America should be dealt with before deciding on altering current gun control laws.
Keywords: gun control, crime rates, violence, firearms, guns
Crime rates in the United States of America (USA) are on the rise despite dedicated gun control laws with the aim of lowering crime rates. Gun control is in its controversial stage in the country now, with the rise of the mass shooting cases calling for reforms in the gun control policies. In our paper, our definition of guns will be limited to those that are purchasable by the public, such as long guns, hand guns, semi-automatic and automatic guns. The crimes that are discussed in our paper will be such as homicides, suicides, robberies, burglaries and assaults, all of which possible with or without the availability of guns.
The origin of gun control in the USA came about prior to the 1920s, where the gun control laws were aimed at keeping weapons out of the hands of the African-Americans in the southern states. The second act of gun control, the National Firearms Act of 1934, required firearms under certain requirements to be registered. This gave a better control on the types of guns sold and designated the qualifications of those who purchase and own them. The gun control act gets reformed over the years with the different major events in United States that prompted the change in the legislation.
Banning of guns may be seen as the most effective and simplest method to counter the ever increasing crime rates. However, strict controls on gun ownership will definitely not solve the issues of the rising crime rates in the United States, but may instead cause greater problems for the society.
Effectiveness of Current Gun Control Laws
Gun laws in the United States vary among the different states, but federal laws regulate the sale, possession and usage of guns and ammunitions. However, there are cases where state firearm laws are significantly less restrictive than federal firearms law, which shows the inconsistency of gun laws among states. With the recent school shootings that have shocked the entire nation, the lesson learnt by the general public is the requirement of a greater control of guns.
Despite the implementation of several measures to prevent such mass shootings, the effectiveness of these specific gun control measures proposed were negligible. It could not have stopped the shooting incidents or reduced the death tolls in any way. According to Kleck, (2009), the measures included "restrictions on gun shows, child access prevention laws mandating locking up guns and bans on assault weapons" (p. 1447). These measures could not have provided the victims a chance to react in the situation, but only to act as a prevention method for gun violence. This shows that the effectiveness of current gun control laws as it only aims to prevent gun violence that is not useful due to widespread of gun ownership in the country.
Citizens' Response to Current Gun Control
The rising crime rates in the United States has caused a great deal of concern for the citizens of the country. According to Pressman (2008), despite the efforts by the government to strike a balance between the necessary gun control measures, the people doubt that honest citizens are being protected by their government and are pursuing for stricter regulations against guns and crimes. However, this issue is complex on many levels, with an estimated amount of 280 million to 300 million guns in private hands, legally or non-legally. The level of gun ownership in America is at a stage that it will not be that simple to change the existing gun control laws.
Many citizens in America are gun-control advocates, and some are even advocates of a absolute gun ban. They would like to see the United States become more like Canada, where there are far fewer guns per capita and where most guns must be registered with the federal government. However, there are others who believe the necessity of guns in private hands, solely for the purpose of self-defense which had been the norm in the United States. Despite different views and opinions, citizens ought to feel troubled knowing that it is a problem in the country that is not easy to solve.
Further Gun Controls and the Negative Impacts
Stricter gun control laws will not necessary lower the crime rates in the United States, but instead deny protection for citizens and worsen the situation in the country.
Further gun controls does not necessarily reduce crime rates. In many states of America, there have been statistics to show that stricter gun controls did not actually reduce crime rates. According to Mauser (2007), some states in USA have adopted further gun controls due to the high rates of violent crimes, but the situation did not improve. But in most states, gun-related murders were low in spite of relaxed gun controls. This signifies that of the states with high gun possessions and nearly no gun controls have fewer gun related murders. This is the actual situation in many states of America whereby states with looser gun controls have lower crime rates, as stated by Mauser (2007), "murder rates in handgun-banning US cities including New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC are far higher than in states like Pennsylvania and Connecticut, where handguns are legal and widely owned." (p. 26). This does not mean that looser gun controls will reduce crime but shows that further gun control certainly do not aid in reducing crime.
Denying protection for honest citizens. Through the years of gun control policies, the citizens of the United States have adopted a great deal of self-defensive use of guns, which creates this socio-cultural phenomenon for crime doers to think twice before they rob someone's houses. This is supported by pro-gun activists' belief that leads them to the opposite conclusion, where the widespread firearm ownership reduces violence by deterring criminals from confrontation crimes. (Kates, Mauser, 2007).
"National Institute of justice surveys among prison inmates find that large percentages of report that their fear that a victim might be armed deterred them from confrontation crimes. '[T]he felons most frightened about confronting an armed victim were those from states with the greatest relative number of privately owned firearms.' Conversely, robbery is highest in states that most restrict gun ownership."
This substantiates that such phenomenon is positive in the case for USA, where many own guns for their self-protection, and it is a proven fact that it deters criminal activities, making the perpetrator think twice before committing. With further gun controls, honest citizens will be robbed of the ways for self-defense, with no absolute way to deal with criminals and felons. Mauser (2007) notes that prohibitions on guns are hardly productive as lawbreakers managed to obtain firearms even though they are of a lower supply. This means that with stricter gun controls, it will most likely result in only restricting honest citizens to purchase guns for protection, and criminals will get access to guns regardless.
Real Causes of Crimes
The presence or absence of a gun does not affect the probability that a crime will be committed. According to Hoskin (2011), criminals will be able to use weapons other than firearms to commit crime and attain their negative objective, as the missing presence of firearms do not mean that crimes involving guns are easily evaded. Possession of guns does not necessarily be the factor for the cause of crimes, and there are many other factors to consider.
Gun ownership and control generally has no effect on how much crimes involving violence a society has. Mauser (2007) found out that the main determinant of crimes relies on economic and socio-cultural factors, not simply with the obtainability of weapons such as guns. Banning of guns is seen by many as a quick fix for the rise of crime rates in the country, however, it only disarms the law-abiding and yet are ignored by the criminals. There are other causes that lead to the committing of crimes, with no concerns to ownership or presence of guns.
There are fewer crimes committed in a stable and vibrant economy as compared to a shaky and ambiguous economy. Unemployment rates are correlated to crime rates to a certain degree. The incentive for committing crimes will be reduced when the labour market is in healthy condition. Mocan and Bali (2010) mentions that the impact of an increased unemployment rate will overpower the impact of a decreasing crime rate due to stronger gun controls. The unemployed are motivated to commit crimes, to gain wealth or just simply to vent their frustrations for their shortcomings.
Inequalities are imminent in any current day society. The inequalities - levels of wealth, social and power status, education, family instability and racial differences - are the factors which contribute to crimes being committed. With greater inequality, there will be more frustration and higher strain, thus, greater inducement to commit crimes. When being placed next to people with greater success and higher income, those with lesser success and lower income will feel frustrated at their situation. According to Hoskin (2011), "power is a static property derived from one's position in the stratification system, but situational resources like the possession of a firearm can give one power over others" (p. 126). The more disadvantaged members of the society will have higher inclination to commit crimes, to earn that moment over power over those with greater power in the society.
Statistics on the Effects of Gun Control in America and Other Countries
Countries such as the Soviet Union and Russia has had extremely stringent gun controls which were successful in disarming its people of guns, and very few murders were associated with guns in the past. However, the Soviet Union's and Russia's rate of murder is still a few times higher than USA due to the substitutes of guns as weapons. Kates and Mauser (2007) points out that in places where the availability of guns are uncommon, other potential weapons will be used as an alternative for murder. Table 1 shows the other developed countries - including Germany, France and Demark) - with high gun ownership but with murder rates as low as many other developed nations which has lesser gun ownership.
Despite having looser gun control than the other countries, the crime rates in USA caused by guns is not as high as the other countries with fewer civilian gun ownership. The thesis of "more guns, more murder" is not supported in the study done in Mauser (2007).
In Table 2, it shows the gun ownership rates and homicide rates in Canada, USA and Mexico. Mexico, where gun ownership rates is nine times lesser than USA, has more than twice the amount of homicides as compared. Therefore, stricter gun controls on the civilians does not necessarily mean lesser crimes. Kates and Mauser (2007) concluded that law-abiding and responsible citizens who are in possession of guns will not use it unnecessarily for committing crimes, but the same cannot be applied to dangerous individuals with background of crimes and violence. Anyone who wants to commit a crime will unquestionably find a way to obtain any dangerous weapon for such an act.
Proposed Future Gun control Policy in the United States
With recent incidents such as mass shootings in schools and public areas, many have called for reforms in the gun control policies in the country. After his reinstatement as the president, President Obama formulated a plan to better control the possession of firearms in the United States. He also focuses on tackling the root of the problem, by permitting larger access to mental health services through higher financing for coverage particularly for younger people. Proposed actions include stricter background checks on all gun sales, and ensuring a strong ban on assault weapons that would not usually fit as weapons for self-defense. Better funding for emergency response plans for schools in America will be provided, to allow citizens to better act in times of similar crisis. If the proposals are accepted and initialized, it will better protect honest citizens and prevent dangerous individuals from purchasing such weapons to a higher degree.
To a certain extent, the limiting effects of gun control and presence of guns do help in reducing the possibility of crimes conducted with guns. The presence of guns empowers and corrupts ones' judgment in situations, and the improper locking and storing of guns may provide unauthorized individuals an opportunity to use guns to their personal gain.
Presence of Guns
Guns may promote violence by emboldening and empowering an aggressor. A gun may provide one with the control and the nerve to perform a violent act that would not be possible then, a phenomenon known as "facilitation". (Hoskin, 2011). With a gun in their control, one will be more susceptible to committing crimes with a weapon that creates fear in their hands. It will absolutely motivate them to commit the crime that he or she will not be able to do without the enabling factor of guns.
Gun Access and its Impact on Juveniles
In the United States, there are some gun control advocates who strongly believe that youth access to guns are the primary cause of school massacres, incidents that highly show the need for better gun coordination in the countries. Kleck (2009) mentions that gun possessors are relatively at fault for easy gun accessibility to youths, especially parents, if they do not hide and lock up their guns properly to deny easy access. There must be better controls set in place to prevent unauthorized access to guns, regardless to youth or other people. Ludwig (2005) acknowledges the benefits of proper security of guns as it avoids unapproved access and thus, might lessen crimes that are committed with guns. This can greatly help avert violence or even make incidents less lethal by keeping guns locked up.
The availability of gun may prompt juveniles into using them for the wrong reasons. Guns being easily available are related to the propensity of crimes being committed. Mocan and Tekin (2006) found that youths who have better accessibility to guns are more inclined to commit crimes than those who do not have access to guns. It acknowledges the point whereby juvenile criminal behaviour will be affected by having an ease of obtainability of guns at home.
Negative Influence of Gun Control and the Crimes They Encourage
Instead of banning guns for all the citizens of the United States, the country should instead continue the ban on certain categories of people. This is such as the prohibition of guns for vicious convicts, youths and the insane present in both American and Canadian laws, however, such regulations are tough to administer. (Mauser, 2007). With a list of high-risk individuals and having the specified authorities to monitor them, it will disarm those that are deemed dangerous with a gun, and not citizens who merely want to defend themselves.
Presence of Guns do not Promote Violence
The presence of guns do not necessary turn a law-abiding citizen into a murder due to a moment of rage, and there are many other factors that actually contribute to the usage of guns. Kates and Mauser (2007) discuss that possibly all types of perpetrators or murderers are not ordinary citizens that abide to the law, and most of the killers are immensely deviant people with a history of violence tendencies, psychopathology, drugs exploitation and other hazardous conducts. The possession of a gun will definitely not turn someone of logical thinking and mind into a murderer.
Conclusion and Future Study
This paper had discussed the banning of guns and its impact on crime rates in America. A stricter gun control program will not necessarily reduce crime rates, as there are many other causes that lead to crimes in the country. Instead, a further restriction in guns will only deny law-abiding citizens from their best way of self-defense. Statistics in the paper have proven that higher gun ownership has no correlation to the number of crimes committed and stricter gun controls does have more negative impacts than positive bearings.
Instead of just banning guns as an attempt to lower crime rates in the country, other possible ways of reducing crime ways should be considered and further developed on. Stricter gun control policies will have both positive and negative impacts, and there is a need for more research and evidence to obtain a more accurate result if further control policies are beneficial in the long run. The blaming of current gun control regulations for the worsening of crimes control in the country is not absolute. It is important to research and examine the true causes of rising crime rates in America, before deciding on altering current gun control laws which may be ineffective.
Kates, D. B., & Mauser, G. (2007). Would banning guns reduce murder and suicide? A Review of International and Some Domestic Evidence, 30, 649-694. Retrieved from http://home.heinonline.org
Kates and Mauser discuss whether the banning of guns will reduce murder and suicide cases. It shows several examples of countries, such as Russia and England where stricter gun controls does not lead to lower crime rates, but does the latter. However in the United States, where a more lenient gun control policy is in play, crime rates are significantly lower as compared to Russia and England. The author summarizes and uses statistics and other data to show the co-relation of possession of guns and crime rates.
The authors state that the use of guns for self-defence purposes are higher than the use of guns for committing crimes. Therefore, there is a direct relation of gun ownership and lower crime rates, especially in the case of United States where gun ownership for self-defence is a considerable socio-cultural occurrence. Defensive gun ownership deters criminals from committing crimes as citizens of United States have a right to defend themselves with the use of guns when threatened. This article will be useful in our research paper as it agrees with our stand on the topic, and show that gun ownership can do more good than harm.
Mauser, G. (2007). Some international evidence on gun bans and murder rates. Fraser Forum, 5, 23-27. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.unlv.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/229332019?accountid=3611
The author analysed data from United Nation studies to inspect the association between gun ownership and homicide and suicide rates. The author found that in the United States, the thesis of more guns relates to more murders is not supported. As stated in the article, the murder rate among the African-Americans is six times more than among the others, even having the lower density of the total population owning guns. The author states that the association of high gun ownership is not directly related to homicide rates. According to the article, a law abiding citizen or a criminal-minded person having gun ownership provided the crucial factor to the link between gun ownership and murder rates. This can be specifically used in our article to explain that crimes can be conducted even without the possession of a gun, and law-abiding citizens should not be denied of their right to own a gun for self-defence.
Kleck, G. (2009). American behavioral scientist. The worse possible case for gun control, 52(10), 1447-1464. doi:10.1177/0002764209332557
This article discusses about the mass shooting cases happening in schools and the lesson learnt from it. The author states that the gun control measures proposed after such aftermath were highly irrelevant and could not have prevented the incidents or even reduced the death tolls. The article explains the avenues whereby citizens of the United States can obtain guns, and suggests possible methods of improving the gun control measures imposed. Statistics to show the effectiveness of such improved measure are shown. This article is very useful to support our stating that the banning of guns will not necessary lower crime from happening.
Mocan, H. N., & Bali, T. G. (2010). Asymmetric crime cycles. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 92(4), 899-911. doi: 10.1162/REST_a_00048
This article presented the evidence of the linkage between unemployment and crimes. The authors explore the possibilities concerning people being unemployed and the fluctuations of the crimes committed in the periods of economic expansion and recession. This journal article will be helpful in our research paper as it states that the actual reason for crimes is a shaky economic and unemployment.
Moorhouse, J. C., & Wanner, B. (2006). Does gun control reduce crime or does crime increase gun control. Cato Journal, 26(1), 103-124. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.unlv.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/195598468?accountid=3611
This article discusses about whether gun control reduces crimes or if it is the other way round. The author debates the true meaning of gun control, and the degree of gun control required to make it actually effective. Statistics and tables are included to show if gun control affect crime rates the following year. To compare, statistics showing if crime rates affect the severity of gun control are included as well. The results failed to show a negative relationship between gun control and crime rates, and therefore assuming that gun control is ineffective to a certain degree. This article will be quite useful in our stand against stricter gun controls which leads to higher crime rates.
Pressman, S. (2008). Expanding the boundaries of the economics of crime. International Journal of Political Economy, 37(1), 80-80. doi:10.2753/IJP0891-1916370104
This passage of the article discusses about gun control and the statistics and the number of gun-related deaths each year. Via the economic analysis, it represented the worst case scenarios if guns are made illegal, which will indefinitely lead to a black market for guns. It argues that the lower in supply of guns does not affect the demand for it, where the high prices of guns does not deter purchases. This will only result in higher success for criminal activities, as gun control takes away the protection for law-abiding citizens. This is slightly useful in our case as the information is reliable, and supports our argument with regards to the looser gun control and lower crime rates.
Hoskin, A. (2011). Household gun prevalence and rates of violent crime: a test of competing gun theories. Criminal Justice Studies: A Critical Journal of Crime, Law and Society, 24(1), 125-136. doi:10.1080/1478601X.2011.544445
This article provides statistical data and comparisons of the topic of guns and crime rates. The author mentioned that the possession of guns will not increase the crime rates; it will deter the crimes from happening in the point of victims being able to defend themselves if they do possess a gun as well. In the case of the attacker possessing the gun, the author mentioned the lowered probability of the victim being able to flee when being attacked by a shooter. The author also stated that having a gun gives the attacker the courage to commit crimes that they may not have the guts to do when without a gun. The author pointed out that the possession of guns does not increase crime rates; it only aggravates the degree of assault on the victims. This article will be helpful in our stand which is against the motion that higher gun ownership is related to higher crime rates.
Ludwig, J. (2005). Better gun enforcement, less crime. Criminology & Public Policy, 4(4), 677-716. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9133.2005.00352.x
This journal article discusses about the major federal initiative to combat gun violence via reducing gun availability and its modest impact on gun crime. It discusses about Project Safe Neighbourhoods (PSN), and explains its effectiveness on the reduction of gun crimes. The author shows evidence in how to better improve PSN by targeting at the demand rather than the supply side of the gun market. However, this source may be biased to the idea of having a better law enforcement will lower crimes, by focusing on how to improve the current initiative. This article may not be as useful as others, but it can be used to show a different opinion of how better gun control will lead to lower crimes.
Mocan, H. N., & Tekin, E. (2006). Guns and juvenile crime. Journal of Law and Economics, 42(2), 507-531. doi:10.1086/508330
This article discusses about the relation of availability of guns and the juvenile crime rates. The article offered an investigation on the effect of gun availability at home on crime done by juveniles, such as robbery, burglary, theft, and property damage. The authors specified that the easy gun availability at home is directly related to the tendency to commit crime. However, the authors also found that there is no claim that better gun availability lowers the inclination of being subjected to crime. This source helps us in our research paper, however, it only focuses on juveniles, and will not be as effective to debate on the citizens of United States as a whole.