One of the primary objectives of any government is to provide security and protection to its citizens from all forms of security threats. One of how this can be ensured is through the enactment of policies regulating the use of guns. However, a tug of war between the U.S gun control policy makers and the citizens about the issue of use of weapons has ensued for a long time. Strict gun control laws for crime and homicide control in U.S has been questioned. Do strict gun control laws reduce the number of homicide cases? This is the question many people would like to get an answer for. This paper takes closer look at facts, figures and history about gun use and uses them to prove that strict gun control laws will virtually do nothing meaningful in reducing homicide in U.S.
People use guns and firearms for various reasons. Some use guns for self-defence and protection. Others use them for property protection while others use them for recreational purposes in terms of sports such as game hunting. On the other hand criminals use weapons for their criminal activities. Others use weapons for homicide. Since the use of guns has a direct impact on any society then it becomes the primary objective of any government to make and implement laws and regulations regarding use of such weapons (Carter, 2002). However, it is worth noting that the issue of guns and homicide is a multi-factorial issue and it may not be guaranteed that strict gun control laws will automatically reduce the number of homicides in United States (Kellerman et al., 1993).
It is claimed that availability and accessibility to guns could be one of the leading factors to homicide. A report by Kellerman et al. (1993) claimed that:
Homicide claims the lives of approximately 24,000 Americans each year, making it the 11th leading cause of death among all age groups, the 2nd leading cause of death among all people 15 to 24 years old, and the leading cause of death among male African Americans 15 to 34 years old. (Kellerman et al., 1993, p. 1)
A first look at these statistics may prompt one to think that strict gun control policies may be the best option for controlling such a high number of homicide cases. Supporters of gun control argue that such measures would minimize the access of guns to criminals and even other potentially risky individuals. They believe that such policies when implemented will considerably reduce the number of firearms available to the risky individuals while at the same time retaining the right of ownership to legitimate safe users hence reduces homicide cases.
Proponents of gun control laws have always argued that restricted access to guns will lead to automatic reduction in the number of homicides. However a critical analysis of causes of homicides indicates that there are more predisposing factors to homicide and accessibility to guns is just one of them.
It may be possible to argue that homicide is not primarily a result of gun possession but rather due to other factors of which one of them is poverty. A homicide report by Advermeg (2011) was quoted claiming that “United States had the highest child poverty rate of 17 industrialized nations, with the United States rate being three times as high as those in other nations” (Advermeg, 2011, p. 1). The poverty levels could arguably be one of the greatest predisposing factors to homicide.
Poverty causes a lot of dissatisfaction in life. With little to spend on important things in life, poor people especially children are more likely to be more frustrated in life and thus at a higher risk of getting involved in situations that may eventually result into homicide (Sherman, n.d.). It thus follows that the gun control policies may not solve this social problem as the frustrated population may use other means to achieve their goals. The government may be advised to “consider the social problem first before thinking of gun control policies which do little to solve the root cause” (Advermeg, 2011, p. 1).
Drug use has always been associated with all types of criminal activities and thus it doesn’t come as a surprise that homicide and drug use are very much related. A research carried out in Virginia indicated that there was a corresponding drastic drop in the number of homicides when stringent measures were taken upon drug users. It was claimed that “homicide rate had fallen by 36% in two years; this was attributed to success of the waning of the crack, cocaine epidemic, and to a no-parole policy that kept felons locked up longer” (Advermeg, 2011, p. 1). U.S policy makers need to borrow a leaf from such a well calculated plan that focused on solving the root cause of a problem.
Such approaches are most likely to yield lasting solution in the long run. In addition it may be worth noting that among the cases of homicides caused by criminals and drug users were most likely caused using illegal weapons and as such strict gun control policies would do very little in solving these problem.
A homicidal violence study carried out in the U.S. found out that homicide was most likely to be carried out by persons with mental conditions. the report claimed that “A 1996 review of homicidal violence in the United States examined offenders with psychotic, borderline, dependent, narcissistic, masochistic or depressive conditions” (Advameg, 2011, p. 1). Mental health experts claimed that these mental conditions were highly likely to lead to violence and homicide. Such a report suggests that homicide could be prevented to a larger extent by addressing these mental problems rather that placing a bottle neck to gun use. It may be argued that for such cases homicide may result even with or without the availability of the guns (Advameg, 2011).
Work place homicide
Perhaps one of the most vulnerable places with respect to homicide is the work place. It is claimed that homicide is at number two in work place related deaths. Approximately 1000 people lost their lives at the work place in the year 1992. A point worth noting is that there was a significant increase in the number of bosses and senior officials being killed in homicide at the work place. Another issue worth noting is that over 10,000 of homicide victims were women who were targeted by their spouses (Advameg, 2011, p. 1).
Experts pointed out that the most predisposing factor to homicide was the fact that there were conditions in the work place that were demoralizing, dehumanizing or frustrating this was most likely to cause dissatisfaction which could trigger homicide acts among the workers. Dissatisfied workers and spouses taking on their victim’s throat would still accomplish their task irrespective of whether guns are available or not. It may be the high time U.S. policy makers tackled the root causes of problems instead of implementing policies such as gun control policies that only cure the symptoms and not necessarily the root cause of the disease. Satisfied and a well nurtured population will certainly have no need or reason for homicide (Lattimore, 1999).
Homicide by other means
We may not be justified to implement strict gun control policies without looking at the statistics about how many homicide cases were caused by use of guns. A statistical report by Kellerman et al. (1993) claimed that:
Two hundred and nine victims (49.8 percent) died from gunshot wounds; a knife or some other sharp instrument was used to kill 111 victims (26.4 percent); the remaining victims were either bludgeoned (11.7 percent), strangled (6.4 percent), or killed by other means (5.7 percent). (Kellerman p. 1)
A look at these homicide figures is clear enough to claim that gun related homicide represents less than 50% of all the homicide cases. The fact that other means of committing homicide such as use of knives and bludgeons still do exist prompts us to suggest that even if gun control laws were to be implemented homicide would still be accomplished using other available means. Gun control would only take away only one of the tools used in homicide and as such it can be argued that no much achievement will be accomplished.
Home based homicide and love triangles
Hardly a second passes without the news that yet another homicide caused by a love gone sour situation. Relationships are difficult and tricky to maintain and sometimes lovers end up committing homicide in revenge missions due to heart breaks. It doesn’t come by surprise that slightly more than half of all homicide cases are committed by people on love related revenge mission “a majority of the homicides (50.9 percent) occurred in the context of a quarrel or a romantic triangle” (Kellerman, 1993, p. 1).
It becomes an issue of concern that relationships can cause such a high rate of homicide. It should be understood that it is not the availability of the guns that results to these homicides but rather family and relationship wrangles which when addressed would greatly reduce the homicide cases. Control of use of guns may be an ill-advised idea because it will not solve the primary cause of homicide.
Comparison with other countries
Proponents of gun control argue that implementation of gun control policies in other parts of the world has given positive results. They claim that if gun control policies do work for other countries then they should as well work for U.S. but it can be counter argued that different countries have different cultures and traditions, what works for one country may not automatically work for the other. A study comparing the relationship between gun control and number of murders in Japan and U.S found out that “In Japan, the murder rate is almost 1 per 100,000. In the U.S., there are about 3.2 murders per 100,000 people each year by weapons other than firearms” (Smith, 2011, p.11).
This is clear evidence that even with strict gun control policies in U.S murder rate would still be higher than that of Japan. It is evident that guns are not the only tools used in murder and homicide and strict gun control policies may not have the desired results in reduction in the number of homicide cases. What the policy makers should do instead is to take a broad approach to the problem and not necessarily narrow down on gun control policies.
The U.S gun control policy makers seem to be overlooking one important fact. States that have policies allowing authorized possession of guns have recorded low crime rates in the long run as compared to the states that have strict gun control policies. It is claimed that “the 31 states that have “shall issue” laws allowing private citizens to carry concealed weapons have, on average, a 24 percent lower violent crime rate” (Lampo, 2000, p. 1). We can therefore conclude that implementation of strict gun control policies might not bear any significant success in controlling homicide cases though it is also imperative to understand that responsibilities come with accountability. It is up to the legalized gun users to use them appropriately (Singh, 2003).
The policy makers would certainly consider gun licensing as one of the ways of controlling gun use. This poses a big question, does gun licensing have any positive impact on reduction of homicide cases in places where it has been already applied. A look at the case of Canada proves otherwise. It is claimed that “Canadian homicide rates were virtually unchanged before and after gun registration requirements were implemented (1.8/100,000 people in 1998 and 1.8/100,000 in 2007)” (Smith, 2011, p. 16).
The question the U.S. policy makers need to ask themselves is; what makes U.S. any different from other nations? If strict gun use policies have proved to be a total failure in other countries what good will they be for the American community. It were better if they tackled the greater problem that lies in the community, the problems that make someone decide to commit homicide rather than focusing on the tools used. In any case there are far too many people in possession of guns as compared to the number homicide cases (Krouse 2002).
How applicable are the current gun laws
Proponents of gun control argue that the availability and accessibility of guns is the major cause of homicides in learning institutions. Gun control proponents usually refer to the Columbine school homicide case. The case was a good example of homicide by use of guns and the situation might have been an eye opener for law makers. However, a different perspective on the case puts into question the applicability of gun control laws.
A report by Lampo (2000) was quoted claiming that “Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold violated close to 20 firearms laws in amassing their cache of weapons (not to mention the law against murder), so it seems rather dubious to argue that additional laws might have prevented this tragedy” (Lampo, 2000, p. 1). This is a clear indicator that implementation of strict gun control policies may do very little to reduce cases of homicide.
It is thus justified to claim that guns do not commit homicide but people do. People will still commit homicide irrespective of whether guns are available or not and this case is a clear evidence of what extent people can go to accomplish their needs. Perhaps what the government ought to have done is to look into the reasons that may make someone violate close to 20 firearms laws to commit homicide rather than regulate the tool itself. In addition, it is also possible to argue that Dylan and Kleiboid could still have committed their crime with or without guns (Lampo, 2000).
It is the primary objective of any government to assure safety and security of all citizens by all means. Gun control laws have been suggested as one of the key solutions to reducing the cases of homicide committed in U.S. However, a closer look at facts, figures and history has proved that strict gun control laws will virtually do nothing meaningful in reducing homicide in U.S. Implementation of strict gun control laws may not work, primarily because: the root causes of homicide have not been well addressed, similar laws in other countries have not worked, already present gun control laws have done nothing significant in reducing homicide.
People committing homicide only use guns as one of the tools and thus homicide will still go on with or without gun control. It has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that strict gun control laws will do nothing to reduce homicide in U.S and it is recommended that the policy makers addressed the issue in a global perspective, covering all the precursors to homicide and not merely on the tool used.
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