Gun Control Research Paper Criminology Essay

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If a man is shot and killed, who or what is to blame. The gun. The manufacturer. Perhaps the policies which allowed the shooter to possess a gun in the first place. While it is essential for firearm policies to be strict and limit the possession of firearms, ultimately, the criminal who decides to commit a crime with a firearm deserves full blame. Gun control policies which restrict citizens from owning and obtaining firearms not only fail to reduce the amount of firearm related crimes, but also eliminate a means for citizens to protect themselves, putting them at risk.

In today's society, firearms are displayed prominently in media, war, and to an extent; sports. Police officers are frequently seen in public equipped with a standard issue handgun, along with their infamous baton and handcuffs. Television and Newspapers constantly report on ongoing conflicts overseas and almost always mention the use and possession of weapons. There is even a presence of guns in sports; athletic events such as track and swimming usually have an official signal the start of a competition or race with a special handgun. The majority of movies and television shows have several scenes in which firearms are shown or even used to take the lives of others. Of course, the use of firearms in the U.S. is no recent emergence and dates back to the 18th century, shortly following the country's birth. The Second Amendment, signed in 1791, states that "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" [1] . Despite the declaration of the country's founding fathers that citizens have the right to own their own firearms, there are rules and regulations in place which make owning a firearm more of a privilege than a right. The regulation of firearm ownership varies from state to state, however major concerns regarding how strict these regulations should be are debated over on a daily basis.

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Those that favor stricter gun control typically argue that by restricting the ownership and use of firearms, crime rates will decrease. This argument operates under the assumption that the population of firearm owners is directly responsible for a portion of criminal activity. A study was conducted in the city of Washington, D.C. which analyzed murder rates in the city before, during, and after a large gun ban. The bill, which passed in 1976, prohibited handguns and required that "all firearms… must be kept unloaded and disassembled" [2] . From the date the law was enacted, the murder rate in Washington, D.C. increased at its highest point to 80% in 1991, an increase of 53% from 27% in 1976.

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In contrast, a study conducted in Australia following a large-scale rifle and shotgun ban and a massive firearm buy-back seemed to yield insignificant changes in firearm related homicides. [4] 

In cases such as this however, it is often difficult to determine the cause of an outcome given the correlation between two factors. The results of each study differ from one another, in some cases the firearm regulations may yield insignificant results, in others crime rates skyrocket, and few have resulted in significant positive impacts. The variations in the outcomes of these studies make it increasingly difficult to determine whether or not gun control is beneficial to the overall population. Although some studies may appear to demonstrate the success of gun control or vice versa, "many criminologists say cultural, economic and demographic factors play a big role in murder rates" [5] as well. Thus, even if a certain firearm restriction is strongly correlated with a drop in criminal activity in one location, it cannot be concluded that the particular restriction would be a.) Responsible for the drop in crime rates or b.) Just as fruitful if tested elsewhere. Each location in the United States has a unique endemic culture and mix of people and this incongruity coupled with the presence of unknown lurking variables make the interpretation of statistical data arduous and complicated. Besides the use of gun control, other uncontrolled factors may influence the change in criminal activity, the demographic and culture of a city's people being just a of couple examples. These confounding variables can sway the results of a study significantly and can cause a piece of legislation to appear potent or vice versa while not being controlled or tested for, and are the primary reason why the correlation between gun control and crime rates cannot be interpreted as a direct cause and effect relationship. When the average of all data regarding gun-control laws and criminal activity is analyzed with the influence of uncontrolled and untested variables in consideration, the data suggests that there is no statistically significant decrease in criminal activity.

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Gun control laws may make it more difficult for criminals to illegally obtain a firearm, but do not make it impossible. Any regulations which restrict citizens from owning or obtaining firearms will ensure that all law abiding citizens are without a means to defend themselves, however dedicated criminals will most be able to obtain a firearm through some illegal channel. This leaves citizens who are disarmed unable to defend themselves against criminals who are in possession of illegally obtained firearms. In the book More Guns, Less Crime by Dr. John R. Lott Jr., Lott provides a comprehensive analysis of data regarding gun-control laws and crime statistics to conclude that firearm policies do not increase crime rates. Lott goes on to explain his interpretation of the constitution and how he believes it is pro-gun. As the title of the book implies, Lott argues that enabling citizens to make use of their constitutional right to own a firearm decreases criminal activity. He even goes as far as stating that "of all the methods studied so far by economists, the carrying of concealed handguns appears to be the most cost-effective method for reducing crime." [6] Strict gun control can and will disarm civilians, leaving them defenseless against criminals who will find a way to obtain weapons even if it means circumventing gun control laws. Criminals will also be unopposed by anyone except for state and federal officials due to the lack of civilian owned firearms, essentially giving criminals free reign over innocent civilians. Instead of directly regulating firearms, a different approach should be taken.

The first recorded murder is in the Bible, and occurs when Cain murders his brother, Abel. The murder is carried out when Cain invites Abel to go out and into the fields and catches Abel off-guard, and is suggested to have been committed with the use of an unspecified weapon, seeing as Abel is killed swiftly and is left bleeding. Once God, Cain's father, learns of Cain's actions, he curses Cain with the inability to cultivate crops and forces Cain to live a restless life as a vagrant. Once God determined that Cain murdered Abel, he did not fret over how the murdered was carried out. He did not blame the means by which Cain murdered Abel, and instead God of pinning of the blame of the murder on the murder weapon, God directly punished Cain. [7] Whether the murder weapon Cain used was a cane, rock, or a sword, God did not seek to limit, restrict, or ban it. In his eyes, Cain carried the guilt of the murder all by himself, and the availability of the murder weapon did not negate it. The same applies for firearms. The fact that firearms are available and people have the right to own them does not sanction officials to blame guns for the actions of human beings. Guns are simply one of many mediums that human beings use when they choose to commit crimes, and cannot be blamed for the decisions of people.

Gun control laws will not stop crimes and tragedies such as the Columbine Massacre, The Virginia Tech shooting, or the Sandy Brook incident. Potential perpetrators would not be deterred by any laws and would go out of their way to circumvent the law to obtain a firearm to carry out their plan. The best and safest method to prevent such incidents would be to reform the mental health care system nationwide, and specifically instituting a plan to begin the comprehensive analysis of the mental health of individuals on a regular basis. Regular people are prone to suffer from traumatic experiences, hostile environments, and unfavorable lifestyles which can result in mental degradation. By identifying people who may have psychological afflictions and swiftly treating them, the likelihood of a person becoming disgruntled to the point where they feel they need to act out in a fit of violence should decrease. Guns are inanimate objects and therefore they obviously cannot kill humans on their own. Humans have to choose to kill another human and act on it, and it is precisely that psychology, one that views murder as acceptable, that has to be prevented.

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Firearm policies which strip citizens of their firearms leave citizens vulnerable while leaving crime rates high. A more efficacious approach to prevent firearm crimes is to help those mentally ill or depressed in order to stop people from getting into a situation where they desire to commit a crime with a gun. The concept of gun control itself is not bad, and particular types of people should certainly be restricted from owning firearms, however a complete ban in practice is simply not the proper approach. Instead, a series of policies which allow responsible citizens to own firearms and also works to reform the mental health system would provide the best results.