The unfortunate shooting incident in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado led some to hope that the state and federal governments may finally pursue stricter gun control regulations but the nation soon forgot the incident to carry on with its regular affairs. It would eventually take the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut to initiate serious dialogue in both public and political arena that should have followed the Colorado incident. The Connecticut tragedy was a stark reminder of how ill-prepared the nation is to protect its citizens against gun violence if even the children in school are not safe. As expected, the opponents of gun control wasted to time in repeating their old rhetoric and even accused supporters of gun control like Piers Morgan of attacking the Second Amendment (Acuna) but the opponents of gun control are only engaged in misleading information campaign. Gun control regulations should be pursued because the benefits of doing so will outweigh the costs.
The argument which is most often made by the opponents of gun control is that the constitution guarantees them the right to bear arms through Second Amendment which states, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” (Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School). In the 1939 United States v. Miller case, the Supreme Court explained that the Second Amendment was specifically meant to ensure the effectiveness of the military (Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School). Instead of merely using the Second Amendment’s wording to stage their defense, the opponents of gun control law should analyze the amendment in historical context. First of all, no right is absolute and that includes the right to freedom of speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment. We all know that speech in favor of personalities like Hitler and Osama Bin Laden or ideologies such as White Supremacy could be persecuted by the U.S. Government if they threaten national interests. The Second Amendment may have given the right to own weapons such as handguns for personal security but this doesn’t mean one can own literally any kind of weapon or the government can’t pursue any regulation of firearms in the public interest. In addition, we should also realize that the government could not provide as effective security to its citizens at the time the Second Amendment was passed as it can today, thus, the government wanted to transfer some of the responsibility to the citizens. But today, we live in completely different times with highly efficient security infrastructure that also has the capability to reduce instances of crimes through preventive measures of which gun control is one.
Another argument often advanced by gun control opponents is that guns don’t kill people, people kill people (Filipovic). The opponents forget that having a dangerous weapon increases the probability of its misuse. There is a reason why we don’t let children handle knives and why U.S. is opposed to Iran having nuclear weapons. By the same line of reasoning, Iran should be allowed to have nuclear weapons because nuclear weapons don’t kill people, people kill people and even if Iran is prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons, it will still find a way to threaten Israel’s existence. Even the evidence suggests that gun control laws indeed reduce the instances of gun violence. Harvard Injury Control Research Center found that guns and the frequency of murders has a positive relationship and this relationship holds true not only across U.S. states but also across the countries. Economist Richard Florida found that states with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence (Klein). It is clear that the presence of weapons increases the probability of misuse which is why gun control measures are necessary.
Gun control laws should also be implemented because they will result in huge social and economic benefits to the country. Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that gun-related deaths cost the U.S. economy tens of billions of dollars. Bloomberg estimated that gun-related fatalities may surpass deaths from automobile collisions by 2015 (Young). A study involving Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that U.S. homicide rates were 6.9 times higher than other high-income countries and firearm homicide rates were 19.5 times higher. Unintentional firearm deaths in the U.S. were five times higher than other countries and 87 percent of all children under 15 killed by firearms were children in America (Kenny). It is clear that gun control will not only economically benefit the country but will also help save our precious children some of whom may turn out to be the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates of tomorrow.
One argument given by the opponents of gun control is that some costs are always inevitable and we cannot eliminate a right just because it has some costs. One of the examples given is that many lives are lost due to automobile accidents every year but this doesn’t mean we should ban cars. The opponents should realize that the support for gun control laws is not due to the existence of costs but because of the fact that the costs of not pursuing gun control regulations exceed the benefits of not doing so. While some automobile accidents are inevitable, the government has implemented several regulations to ensure that the costs of putting automobiles on the road do not exceed the benefits they provide to the country. Such regulations include prohibition of driving under influence, stricter laws for young drivers due to less experience and maturity, and stricter licensing requirements for bigger vehicles and commercial vehicles. The government has a responsibility to advance the overall welfare of the society which is why gun control regulations should be pursued.
The critics also argue that the solution is not gun control regulations but better screening of potential criminals or troubled individuals by the government. This suggestion is not practical because identifying potential criminals is not an exact science and even the best measures will only go so far in preventing the possibility of tragedies. Moreover, it is also not entirely possible to prevent weapons from getting into the hands of the mentally challenged individuals due to privacy laws as the example of Virginia Tech shooter Seung Hui Cho’s example demonstrates (Virginia Tech Review Panel). Thus, it is apparent that the most effective way to reduce gun-related violence is through gun control.
The opponents of gun control often use Second Amendment as their defense but their interpretation of the Second Amendment is biased and inaccurate. No right is absolute and even if the Second Amendment grants the right to bear weapons, it doesn’t prevent the government from pursuing gun control laws for the greater interest of the society. The studies have demonstrated that weaker gun control laws have a positive relationship with gun-related violence and the government should pursue gun control regulations to increase the overall welfare of the society.
Acuna, Kirsten. Second Amendment Proponents Want Piers Morgan Deported. 24 December 2012. 18 January 2013 <http://www.businessinsider.com/piers-morgan-white-house-deportation-petition-2012-12>.
Filipovic, Jill. The conservative philosophy of tragedy: guns don’t kill people, people kill people. 21 December 2012. 18 January 2013 <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/21/guns-conservative-philosophy-tragedy>.
Kenny, Charles. Guns Don’t Kill People, Gun Culture Does. 13 January 2013. 18 January 2013 <http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-01-13/guns-dont-kill-people-gun-culture-does>.
Klein, Ezra. Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States. 14 December 2012. 18 January 2013 <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/14/nine-facts-about-guns-and-mass-shootings-in-the-united-states/>.
Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School. Amendment II. 18 January 2013 <http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/second_amendment>.
—. Second Amendment. 18 January 2013 <http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/second_amendment>.
Virginia Tech Review Panel. Mass Shootings at Virginia Tech. 16 April 2007. 18 January 2013 <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/metro/documents/vatechreport.pdf>.
Young, Jeffrey. Gun Deaths Cost U.S. Billions Each Year While Firearms Makers Thrive. 19 December 2012. 18 January 2013 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/19/guns-deaths-sandy-hook-shooting_n_2325706.html?utm_hp_ref=business>.