Gun violence and the problems and effects

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Gun Violence is a major problem in society today. Gun violence can be categorized as injury by firearm, accidental shootings, suicide (with a firearm), or homicide (using a firearm). It is estimated that around 80 million Americans own some form of a firearm (That's nearly one in four Americans). According to the FBI, 125,000 violent crimes were committed in 2005 using firearms. But one type of firearm is responsible for most of these crimes, handguns. In 2005, out of 10,100 homicides, 7,543 were committed using handguns. Handguns account for around seventy-five percent of all gun related homicides in the America. If the U.S. wishes to reduce firearm related violence, the U.S. can accomplish this through stricter regulations on handguns (Milite 15-17).

An important point to understand about the opposition to handguns is that the call to ban handguns, and increase safety measures on handguns, is not inspired by a generalized hatred of guns. It is a response to the blood price that our nation has paid... (opposing 18). According to the Violence Policy Center, from the year 1962 through 2000, out of all documented acts of firearm related violence, more than two out of three times a handgun was responsible; between those years, handguns were involved in 667,000 acts of firearm violence out of a total one million (amongst all types of firearms). Out of an estimated 190 million firearms in the U.S., compounded of shotguns, rifles, and pistolspistols are outnumbered two to one by rifles and shotguns. Yet, pistols account for most of the violence. In 1993, pistols constituted eighty-six percent of all fire-arm related crimes (opposing 18). Whats the appeal for owning a handgun? Marketers advertise pistols for their self-defense value. Though, the amount of successful uses of pistols for self-defense is miniscule compared to that of violent crime. In 1997, out of a grand total of 15,690 homicides, handguns accounted for 54.2 percent (8,503) of homicides. Of those homicides committed with a handgun, only 2.3 percent (193) were considered justifiable homicides. The main reason for owning a handgun, self-defense, occurs so rarely that justifying ownership is hard to imagine. The drawbacks to handguns in society clearly outweigh the benefits. A ban on handguns would appear to be the best way to reduce handgun violence (opposing 18-21).

There are several methods which may reduce handgun violence In the U.S. The most drastic method is the complete ban of handguns. People who advocate for a complete ban arent witless. They understand that if the government outlaws handguns every citizen will not simply turn in their firearms without receiving something in return. The idea is to persuade those who might not turn in their guns by compensating for their guns. This program would mean that the government would compensate citizens for their guns by essentially purchasing them back from citizenscalled a buyback. Since most handguns are cheap quality junk guns, the average compensation price would be around $250 per gun (opposing 23-24). Unfortunately, this idea would take a toll on our government and tax payers considering there are an estimated 70 million handguns in the United States. According to that estimate, the cost of compensating citizens for their handguns in the U.S. would run at about 17.5 billion dollars. Its clear that this strategy is very expensive and unfair to taxpayers (milite 15).

Buybacks have occurred before, and the results were less than outstanding. After the 1998 Australian buyback of all firearms, firearm related murder rose a little surprisingly. The total suicide rate (both firearm and non-firearm) was fairly unaffected. More suicides were carried out using firearms than non-firearms prior to the buyback. After the buyback, the firearm suicide rate dropped, though non-firearm suicide rate rose, which evened out total suicide rate to remain about the same as how it started (Australia PDF). One problem never mentioned about the buyback program is who determines how much a person is to be paid for their guns. Certainly not the citizen. This major flaw in the buyback system inevitably results in discrimination against law-abiding citizens who may get paid less than how much their gun is worth. Discrimination becomes a downside to outlawing all handguns whether there is a buyback or not. The reason is that outlawing all handguns punishes citizens who own a handgun and never had the disposition to misuse their gun. My Great Grandpa Brewer owned several handguns. He was the number one pistol marksman in the country for several years following WWII. If there were a ban placed on handguns during his time, he would lose his sport/hobby (Gardner). This would be a problem for handgun collectors as well. It can be assumed that anyone working under the government required to carry a handgun to protect civilians (such as FBI agents, police, pilots, etc.) would continue using their handguns. Unfortunately, this means that merchants and civilians in jobs with high risk of being robbed would be discriminated against by not being allowed the use of handguns as a means of protection. For example, if a gas station cashier is being robbed by an assailant (armed with a non-firearm) who plans to kill the cashier, the chances that police will make it to the scene in time to save the cashier's life are slim. On the other hand, if the cashier had a handgun, then he or she could defend him or herself. For reasons such as this, law-abiding citizens such as merchants and people in high risk jobs may defy a law completely outlawing handguns because a handgun could save their life. After the ban of handguns in Washington D.C., the rate of handgun inflicted murders averaged 73 percent higher (justthefacts). It is obvious that the outlawing of handguns in D.C. produced just the opposite effect it was shooting for. Another reason completely outlawing handguns is flawed is that, lawful citizens may feel more compelled to keep a gun for protection, since they may have an unfair advantage against criminals lacking a firearm. An editorial written by the Washington Times regarding the D.C. handgun ban said it best that In general, gun-control laws disarm law-abiding citizens, not criminals who dont care about the law. The lesson is that freedom and safety go hand in hand. (Washington Times). On the other hand, Freedom does get in the way of ridding the U.S. of handguns. The reality is that there are an estimated 70 million handguns in the U.S. and due to restrictions for proper enforcement of a complete ban, such as the fourth amendment, guns can be easily hidden. The fourth amendment would force police to have a search warrant before they can evade the privacy of a citizens home believed to have a handgun. The chances that every citizen would give up their guns (when they could hide them and likely never get caught) are slimmer due to this freedom established in the constitution. For this reason, the idea of completely outlawing handguns may create more misuse in handguns, like what happened after the Washington D.C. handgun ban and Australia buyback. There are better methods in reducing handgun violence that are less drastic (just the facts).

One citizen named Paul Kamprath, who is currently working legislative jobs for both Democrats and Republicans since 1993, posed the question should we Require [a] gun safety course before purchase of a handgun? This idea to reduce handgun violence would require people who wish to purchase a handgun to first take a gun safety course and become licensed to own a handgun. One important problem today, which causes most accidental shootings, is simply ignorance. People who wish to own a handgun arent required to have any experience shooting one prior to purchasing one. This means people who have possession of a handgun havent always learned how to properly use a handgun, and arent comfortable using a handgun. When an innocent person gets into a situation where they need to defend themselves, they will be scared, not thinking calmly, and using an object they are not comfortable using (or have never used). Logically, the chances of successful defense are much slimmer against an experienced or confident armed assailant. The end result of this situation could be the death of the innocent person who is trying to defend him or herself. On the other hand, if these innocent people were allowed to buy or keep their handguns due to licensing, which they would obtain by taking a gun safety course, the odds of successful defense in a dangerous situation could improve greatly. Accidental shootings would greatly decrease if this program was set in place. After personally going through a hunter safety course, there was a huge difference in how I felt about guns before and after. Common mistakes uneducated people make when handling a firearm are as follows: pointing the gun at anything they do not wish to shoot, looking down the barrel to check if the gun is loaded, and putting a finger inside the trigger guard (or directly on the trigger) when handling a firearm. Without the stern lecture the class received on the severity of gun safety, many people in the class would not have taken gun safety very seriously. The first day at class I observed one kid pick up a (thankfully unloaded) gun and proceed to hold it sideways to read the inscribed note on the stock. He was (without realizing it) pointing the gun at the entire class. The thought of people with no prior gun safety education purchasing any firearm is unnerving to say the least. It is similar to driving a car. A person must have a license to drive a car, which they get when they take a test to show that they can operate the vehicle properly. There are many citizens in the U.S. that wreck their car and injure people every day, but cars are not made illegal. The same can be argued for guns. Just because a few people misuse them does not mean that the whole population should be punished for it. Requiring a gun safety course before purchase of a handgun has not been documented to have taken effect anywhere in the U.S. though the argument to do so is disputed on several internet forums.

People should never have to feel the direct affects of handgun violence, especially not with the technology available today to keep handguns safer. Today there is technology available to make personalized guns (smart guns) that recognize the owner and only shoot for him or her or someone they program into the gun. This technology even allows for guns that require the proper alignment of magnetic rings installed in the grip before the gun can be shot. Often the way this is accomplished is through having the user where a special magnetic ring on the middle finger (or ring finger) of one hand or both which would align internal parts unlocking the gun (magna-trigger). Some prototype gun personalization methods were never put into production. One method requires that a computer chip in the handle decode a message from a chip implanted in (or worn by) the user before the gun can be shot (wired). The last personalized gun idea required people to use the identification of a finger print before the gun can be shot (inventorspot). Technology like this could be used on guns to keep stolen guns from being used. It would also keep accidental shootings from happening because only the trained mature owner of the gun could shoot the weapon; whereas the majority of accidental child shootings occur when a child finds and accidentally discharges someone elses gun. Why then does society not utilize this technology to save lives? Cost always seems to be an issue when discussing technology. However, to argue that it would cost too much to put safety devices on guns, is the same as arguing that lives are not worth the money to protect them. Who is to decide how much a person's life is worth? Not only is this argument immoral it is also invalid. The constant sky rocket in the development of new technology has driven down the cost of electriconics in many fields. In fact, the cost to put a safety device, such as magnetic locks (which is in production for certain guns) on a pistol only costs around 250 to 300 dollars (magna trigger).

People not only argue that the cost of putting safety devices on guns would be too expensive, but also argue that it could actually put the gun owner in a worse situation. They say that one could be put into a situation where he or she needed to fire their gun immediately but would not be able to because they would not have time to take off the trigger lock or activate the gun. They also argue the owner wouldnt remember the safety device and would not be able to fire when it counts (inventerspot). The new technology that should be put into production and put on guns would allow the owner to shoot the gun immediately, because it would recognize the owner through electronic signal or finger prints that can be read in less than a second. This would eliminate the possibility of a situation occurring in which a person needs to shoot a gun immediately but cant.

Regardless of the cost and efficiency of the new technology, it could save the lives of innocent children. With this new technology, such as magnetic rings, in place on handguns, the following situation would not happen: Parents are away from home and they left their twelve year old child home alone. He has a friend over and they are looking for something to do. They search through the closet and find the fathers handgun. Whoa, that is pretty cool they would think. They would take turns pointing it at each other, then saying "bang." Finally one of the two would pull the trigger. At least six lives would be forever changed that day. The child who was shot died immediately and took with him his parents heart. The other child who fired the gun will forever remember this moment; life for him will never be the same. As for his parents, they will be sued for negligence since the gun was easily accessible to the children. Nevertheless, they will always carry the burden of having been responsible for a child's death. If safety devices had been put on these guns, nothing like this would have happened. Some may lose their lives with safety measures in place. Yet for every life lost with the presence of a safety device, hundreds may be saved.

Safety devices will not stop gun violence alone. New technology will keep people from using stolen guns and prevent accidental shootings from occuring, but it will not stop criminals and unstable individuals from getting their hands on new handguns. For this reason, laws must be implemented restricting people with criminal backgrounds and psychological problems from being able to purchase guns. There is already a law known as the Brady Bill that requires a five day waiting period for handgun purchases in which time a background check is to be conducted. The Brady Bill was put in place to prevent people from killing (or harming) themselves or other people. The bill gives these people who want to buy a gun to commit violence time to cool off and rethink what they plan on doing (put in cite"). If a background check was successfully conducted on everyone purchasing a handgun, such as the law requires, those with psychological problems and a criminal background would be kept from purchasing a handgun. In turn, handgun violence rates would drop. The problem is that since there are so many people purchasing guns, in five days the federal government cannot conduct every background check and many people slip through the cracks. To prevent this from happening, the Brady Bill should to be revised in accordance with how much time the FBI needs to be able to conduct every background check. Furthermore, the penalty for a gun dealer not requesting a background check needs to be substantial in order to prevent background checks from being skipped. In Colorado the penalty for the sale of a firearm without a background check is $500-$5000 and a prison sentence of up to 24 months. This appears to be a slap on the wrist seeing as the person they illegally sell the gun to could take someones life. If these policies and laws changed, handgun violence could be immensely reduced (Ballotpedia).

Handgun violence seems to be plaguing this nation, and with seventy million handguns in America it is no surprise (Milite 15). Something has to be done to stop the violence from growing and getting worse. There is only one effective and fair way to go about solving this problem. The answer is obviously not completely outlawing handguns since the cost of doing so would be tremendous and the results unascertainable. More than likely, a bill outlawing handguns would drive more guns underground. Leaving regulations and safety measures as they are now is just as ridiculous since handgun violence has always caused more violence than long guns(opposing 18) To leave regulations and safety measures alone would be the same as sitting back and watching people get killed. Therefore, the only fair and effective method to reduce accidental and intentional handgun violence is to develop and use new technology to make handguns safer, as well as making laws that keep handguns out of the hands of children, criminals, and the mentally ill. In the end, junior David Murdter at the College of Arts and Sciences couldnt be more correct that Handguns have no place in a responsible society [which] values the safety of its citizens. (cornellsun)