Security is an issue of great significance especially when it comes to human life. In fact, all individuals from all walks of life have security needs (though they may vary from one individual to the other).
So, what happens in the event that one’s life is threatened and an individual has no means of protecting or defending themselves? Is it justified if an individual kept a gun just in case they may need to use it for self-defense? By allowing people to ‘keep’ guns for self-defense, will this lead to an increase in crime rates or a reduction of the same? How does firearm regulation affect crime rates? These are some of the issues that this paper will deal with, more so, the main focus will be on whether or not gun control reduces or increases crime rates.
To begin with, it is crucial to understand what the term ‘gun control’ really means. According to Goldberg (1993), gun control is the process of restricting the sale, purchase, and possession of unlawful guns or firearms. This process is enhanced through the enactment of Gun Control Laws which ensure guns or firearms are registered, licensed, or otherwise legally identifiable – this way, it would be easy to trace and take legal action on those with illegal possession of guns.
Gun Control Laws vary from country to country where some countries have very strict laws, for example, the United Kingdom, whereas others like the United States have moderate limits to the use and possession of guns. Those advocating for possession of guns by private citizens argue for individual rights of self-protection. In some cities and countries, citizens who have completed some form of training are issued with permits that allow them to carry guns for self-protection. In most cases, a criterion for giving these licenses is applied. They should be adults who have no record of criminal activities or mental illness. When drafting gun control policies, the government argues that there is a high rate of gun mortality and injury. Studies by scholars also show that there is a significant relationship between gun availability and gun violence. However, some critics argue that relating gun ownership with violence is based on misconceptions and factual errors.
Simply put, the process of gun control ensures that those who possess guns or firearms do so for the very right reasons; for instance, policemen, security men, individuals who work in the army, or purely for self-defense. Individuals who seek possession of guns for other reasons such as to be used in theft, crime, for personal gratification, or other malicious acts are thus restricted from doing so.
So, really, is Crime Reduced or Increased through Gun Control? Scholars Volokh (2009) and Blocher (2012) affirm that gun or firearm possession has both positive, as well as negative effects; thus, it can reduce crime and at the same time act as a catalyst to criminal acts.
Gun control by the government facilitates crime rates in a number of ways: It leaves law-abiding citizens defenseless. Defensive gun use ensures that the victim of crime has the power of self-defense against their assailant. Crime victims who defend themselves with guns are less likely to get as hurt as they would have if they had resisted without a gun or not resisted at all. This is in both robberies and assaults. Taking an example of women who are viewed as the weaker sex as compared to men, they are able to adequately defend themselves, especially from male threats related to rape, and help victims to find strength against their threats. However, in countries where there is intensive gun control, people are deprived of their ability of self-defense thus left vulnerable to crime and this increases the chances of them being attacked.
Criminals are certain that civilians are unarmed hence feel confident when attacking them. When law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry concealed guns, there is a decline in crime as potential criminals do not know who might be carrying a firearm. As a result, they will hesitate before attacking citizens or in the extreme scenario completely refrain from committing these crimes due to fear of getting hurt in the process. The idea that these criminals will be confronting someone with the ability to defend him or herself deters them from committing these crimes (Volokh 2009). However, this is not the case in countries with strict laws that prohibit the possession and handling of guns. There are more occurrences of crimes as private citizens are more vulnerable.
Gun control deprives citizens of their freedom. In some countries like Switzerland, all able-bodied male citizens are required to possess guns so that in case of a call-up, they can easily exercise their civic duty. These men are allowed to keep government-issued combat rifles and hand-guns with them at their homes, although they are not allowed to keep ammunition with them as this stays in the government offices; the men join may the military and help protect their country against a possible threat which the army cannot tackle fully on its own. It is difficult for a criminal to attack any of these homes with the knowledge that the men in these homes have undergone military training and are in possession of combat rifles. In other countries where such measures are not taken, crime rates increase while, at the same time, the citizens are deprived of their rights to protect themselves.
Gun control encourages other forms of crimes that might be even more hazardous. For example, it might lead to the use of mass murder weapons like bombs and grenades. These can destroy a whole section of a city in seconds. The argument is: if these people had not been restricted from having guns; they would not have turned to other worse means of committing these crimes. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Others might opt to use sharp or blunt objects like knives, metal pipes, crowbars, or chains. In this case, the civilians will be most disadvantaged as they will have nothing to protect them and hence will totally be at the mercy of their attackers.
Laws restricting possession and use of guns by private citizens also inconvenience citizens who use guns for sporting activities like hunting, target shooting and competing. As a result, they turn to other activities which might be illegal thus facilitating crime. Having such activities as pass-timers is much safer than having them engage in unethical activities.
Crime reduction takes lots of effort – both on the part of the government in ensuring only responsible citizens get these guns, and also on the part of citizens in ensuring they use them only when necessary; for example, using them for self-defense and to prevent crime only.
On the other hand, having intensive gun control measures can indeed lead to a reduction of crime rates: gun violence is one of the leading causes of premature deaths in the world. It results in enormous economic costs through injuries and deaths (this also translates to reduced productivity). Hence, gun control policies reduce the occurrence of all these.
Also, gun control reduces violence and saves lives. Putting up laws that prohibit gun handling by youths under the age of 21 ensures the safety of the many children who might have access to them when unsupervised. It also reduces crime in that these children might get into an argument or be teased by the rest of the children and they may turn on them with the guns, hence committing the crime. Most of those children in juvenile are mostly victims of circumstances where they reacted negatively to certain situations and acted without adequate reasoning.
Gun control further prevents the re-occurrence of crime, especially, when possession and purchase of guns are prohibited to high-risk groups of people. These include people convicted of crimes of violence, either in public or domestic violence. There have been claims that guns have been used at homes to intimidate spouses or relatives other than to fight crime. This shows the seriousness of the matter; if one can be comfortable enough to wave a gun in a household with children, there is no telling what they could do in a secluded area when presented with an opportunity to use it. The convicted criminal always has the desire to go back to their old ways even when they have been pardoned by the state, hence, it is always safer to have rules which ensure they have limited access to guns.
In addition, gun control prevents the creation of an atmosphere in which violence and hatred are embraced. In a community where there are no rules governing the possession and use of guns, people make use of guns a ‘pass-time’ and in most cases, this always ends fatally for those involved. For instance, they could engage in shooting competitions which might result in accidents leaving behind fatally wounded people. People might also result in shootings to resolve misunderstandings. This is mainly because they have grown comfortable with the idea of having guns around them and, for most individuals, see them as a means of resolving conflict. This clearly explains why there is a need to have gun control measures in place so as to reduce crime rates as much as possible.
Gun control reduces the rate of homicides involving firearms. Gun availability is a risk factor for homicides. This could be through accidental or intended fatal gunshot wounds. Gun control policies and laws ensure that private citizens who might be harboring bad motives do not have access to guns. House robberies might not reduce, but the degree of the harm will be reduced greatly – there is much less damage caused when an unarmed robber attacks a person than when an armed one attacks.
Measures to control possession of guns also reduce the rates of suicides by guns. Suicide is highly impulsive and if one possesses a gun, it might seem to them as the fastest and most effective means to end their misery. This is especially rampant in low economy societies where people have low levels of happiness due to the daily struggles of life. Although people who are suicidal might turn to other methods of dealing with their grief or misery, some methods are much more likely to ‘backfire’ hence saving their lives; most times, this may not be the case with suicide through gun use.
There is a reduced risk of vigilante or armed rebels in countries in which gun control policies and laws are enforced; these are people who come together to form a group that punishes crime, especially when they feel the processes of the law are insufficient. They are illegal because they do not uphold the rule of justice and are also not recognized by the law. More often than not, they always end up hurting innocent civilian who gets caught in the middle of their activities. This is because when these outlawed groups are formed, they will need to have some means of weapons with which to carry out their crimes. If the laws of the land restrict their ability to obtain them, their activities will be crippled and eventually lead to their extinction.
Basically, when guns are much harder to obtain and own, there is a lower rate of violent crime (Stolley 2010). Where there is stricter gun control, there is a lower gun crime. Countries like England, Canada, and Australia, which have tight gun control regulations, have fewer crimes. For instance, fewer people will hold up guns in a bank if in the first point they do not have the capability to have the guns. Although people argue that gun control takes away their right to bear arms so as to protect themselves and their children, this is mostly very controversial. This is because one cannot always be there to protect their children
The question of whether gun control reduces or increases crimes is always debatable; it can only be determined by collecting relevant and adequate information, as well as critically analyzing the situation at hand without bias or prejudice. However, crime rates vary depending on the surroundings and/or environments and also the people that occupy those areas. This means that gun control measures will be effective in some areas and non-effective in others. The greatest agenda should however always be to ensure all laws of the land are followed and implemented.
From the above discussion, it is quite evident that gun control is a bit controversial as it has both positive and negative effects. Stolley (2010) affirms this contradiction by stating that indeed there is ‘an unsteady finger’ when it comes to issues of gun control. Also, Kahan (2003) supports this ideology and affirms that gun control cannot necessarily be categorized on the positive or the negative side; he says, “… this issue (of gun control) has attracted a great debate as to whether it is of aid to societal crime, or the complete opposite.”
It is crystal clear; therefore, that gun control does have its pros as well as its cons. The pros include the ability to protect society from ill acts of violence and/or terror. As for the cons, individuals lack means of self-protection in countries or nations where there are strict gun control policies. Nevertheless, it is good to acknowledge areas of necessity; imagine a world where anybody had a right to possess a gun and use it as he or she deems right – only one word would describe this situation: DANGER.
All in all, it is actually important that a country implements gun control measures that are effective and at the same time sensible. Governments should ensure they put the people’s security first in any given situation. Also, the need for gun possession should be weighed and relevant decision making. These measures will ensure the safety of human life; after all, life lost cannot be replaced.
Blocher, J. (2012). “The right not to keep or bear arms”. Stanford Law Review 64. 1: 1-54.
Goldberg, S. B. (1993). “Gun control”. ABA Journal, 35(1), 79- 87.
Kahan, D. M. (2003). “The gun control debate: A culture-theory manifesto”. Washington and Lee Law Review, 45(2): 3-12.
Stolley, A. P. (2010). “An unsteady finger on gun control laws”. ABA Journal, 96(12), 14-16.
Volokh, E. (2009). “Nonlethal self-defense, (almost entirely) nonlethal weapons, and the rights to keep and bear arms and defend life”. Stanford Law Review 62. 1: 199-255.