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Debate: Gun control

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Should laws be passed to limit gun ownership further?

Background and context

Gun laws vary widely from country to country, so this topic focuses upon arguments for laws restricting the right of private individual to possess guns. Particular debates might centre upon different categories of guns (for example automatic weapons, handguns or shotguns), licensing requirements for ownership, the right to carry concealed weapons, or requirements that manufacturers increase the safety features on their weapons. The USA is exceptional in protecting the right to own firearms in the Second Amendment to its Constitution, and gun control has been a major issue in American politics over the last few years, partly due to a series of tragic massacres involving children.

Contents

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Individual Rights: Does an individual NOT have a "right" to gun ownership?

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Yes

  • Right to BEAR ARMS is an individual not collective right. In the court case Heller v District of Columbia the court ruled that the right to bear arms has always existed and that the court case only affirms that right. In addition, the right to bear arms is not dependent on militia service, or that the right is individual and not collective. The six plantifs of Heller v District of Columbia were thus now legally able to own previously forbidden firearms. In response the city leaders reclassified handguns into the same category as machine guns. It is also impractical to own more than four guns; even if the person is a hunter.
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No

  • An individual right to bear arms helps protect against domestic tyranny Gun ownership allows citizens to check governmental and police abuses. This argument rests on a suspicion that police will act irresponsibility and brutally if citizens' gun ownership is restricted, and police are given a monopoly over armed force. Without such a dominating monopoly, police may be disinclined to abuse the law and individual liberties.
  • A government may be justified in adopting lax gun-control laws as a means to national defense. Lax gun control laws and the diffusion of weapons in a society, better enable a country to defend itself. In particular, it may allow for a country to mobilize forces in self defense. With guns already distributed within society, rapid mobilization would be adided. Guns could be rallied in an emergency, instead of having to wait for the manufacture and/or distribution of weapons. Gun owners would also already be relatively trained in the handling of their weapons, some even possible having become marksman. Thus, a government should permit private gun ownership as a means to the end of emergency national defense.
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Crime: Does stringent gun-control decrease violence and crime?

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Yes

  • Gun control would increase black market demand for guns. Increased sales make the black market a very profitable business for criminals, thereby increasing criminal activy.
  • Because guns used in murders and crime are not usually legally held or registered, efforts to enhance gun-protection through legal means are futile: Some have pointed out that in the vast majority of crimes involving firearms, the gun used is not legally held or registered. It is further noted that many of these illegal weapons are imported secretly from abroad, rather than being stolen from registered owners. Gun-control measures will not affect this major body of weaponry that is illicitly held in societies. This extends to the following section in regards to enforceability, but is relevant here in regards to the consequences of the nonenforceable of gun laws.
  • Gun restrictions and bans disadvantage citizens against armed criminals Gun laws restrict the ability of law-abiding citizens to carry guns and defend themselves, but they do not restrict the ability of unlawful individuals to acquire guns in the black market and use them against defenseless citizens. Putting lawful citizens at a disadvantage against lawless ones is not a good idea.
  • Clinton administration study finds gun laws don't correlate with crime. A study originally commissioned by the Clinton Administration, in 2003 the study found that strict gun laws could not be correlated with crime statistics. If this is the case, then the entire argument is mute, which favors lowering gun restrictions, as the "right to bear arms" could only be impeded if there was clear evidence that it contributed to increases in crime rates, which it does not. [citation needed]
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No

  • Reducing the prevalence of guns reduces crime Legal boundaries for gun-ownership may not provide sufficient social protections, as many criminals steal legally-owned guns, and commit violent crimes or murder with them. These criminals would have greater difficulty in obtaining such weapons if firearms were generally less prevalent in society. In other words, it is argued that the world would be safer with fewer guns, and laws that lead to fewer guns by restricting the right of gun-ownership.
  • Legal gun owners sometimes turn their gun on others: Legal gun-owners frequently commit murder with their legally-owned gun. This happened at Hungerford and Dunblaine in the U.K.[1] This may indicate that legal gun-ownership is not a sufficient social protection against the lethal potential of guns.
  • Guns make suicide too easy argument: Some groups maintain that there is a correlation between the laxity of a country’s gun laws and its suicide rate – not because gun owners are more depressive, but because the means of quick and effective suicide is easily to hand.
  • Households with guns have a much greater risk of homicide: In homes with guns, a member of the household is almost three times as likely to be the victim of a homicide compared to gun-free homes.[2]
  • Self-defense with a gun is rare Robert F. Drinan, Former Democratic US Congressman from Mass. and member of the House judiciary Committee, "Gun Control: The Good Outweighs the Evil", 1976 - "Handguns Are Not Viable Tools For Self-Defense: The alleged value of handguns as tools for self-defense is a major underpinning of Mr. Kates's argument. In support of this position he cites a number of isolated examples in which handguns were effective in defense against attacks. These graphic examples of individual instances of self-defense are hardly persuasive. For each such example, there are literally thousands of accidental and deliberate homicides and assaults in which a handgun was used against the owner of the rearm, his family, or his friends. No real point is proved by compiling long lists of examples on either side of the self-defense question. Only overall statistics can provide an accurate estimate of the real value of handguns as weapons of self-defense--and these statistics clearly demonstrate the bankruptcy of the self-defense argument."
  • Burglars often break into houses to steal guns Guns in a household can actually provide an incentive for criminals to break into a house, increasing the risks for gun owners. Therefore, gun ownership can be self-defeating, as citizens purchase guns for self defense only to find that their home, property, and lives are at greater risk.
  • The argument that people kill people and not guns is ignoring the issue presented, and that is the danger of guns. Guns make it easier to kill people than other means. No criminal in their right mind would try to rob a bank with a knife. Guns allow for flexibility in various cases. They allow shooting from a distance, in secrecy, and if you are physically at a disadvantage, it is even easier to take someone down.
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Self-defense - Is self-defense a good reason for gun ownership?

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Yes

  • A citizen has a "right" to guns as a means to self-defense: Many groups argue that a citizen should have the "right" to defend themselves, and that a gun is frequently the only thing that can provide for such protection. Certainly, all societies have crime, and all citizens are at risk of being the victims of crime. Since governments are inherently incapable of fully protecting their citizens from crime, people have a "right" to protect themselves. Though some governments might do a better job than others in protecting their citizens, individuals themselves should not be deprived the ability to adopt the necessary means to defend themselves.
  • Individuals are responsible to defend themselves as police are not. The Supreme Court case Warren v District of Columbia estabished that there is no right to police protection and that there is no contract between the individual and local police. In short the court has ruled that each person is responsible for his/her own protection.
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No

  • Threatening criminals with guns only works if it is credible. The argument that owning a gun for the sake of deterring would-be burglars is just since in these instances there is no will or intent to take human life is specious at best.
  • Threatening the life of another to protect property is wrong. If it is in fact wrong to take a life in order to protect property, it is unclear why it would be just to threaten to take a life for the same purpose.
  • It can be an alibi to hide the truth! People can just claim the use of their gun was self defense to hide the truth. The gun owner may simply have a thirst for causing injury or death. They may just have wanted to live out their action movie fantasies in an incident where the victim posed no threat to the gun owner.
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Social: Are greater gun control measures important culturally and socially?

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Yes

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No

  • Shooting sports do not a require a fully automatic weapon. Most armed threats that an average civilian will face can be easily stopped with a semi automatic weapon.
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Accidents: Would decreasing gun ownership reduce accidental deaths?

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Yes

  • Competent gun-owners do take the proper precautions.
  • Education on safe gun ownership can be improved and risks reduced.
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No

  • Increased gun ownership has coincided with decreased accidents. National Center for Health Statistics, between 2003-2004 gun accident deaths in the United States fell 11 percent and the per capita rate of such accidents fell 12 percent, to their lowest points in recorded history. Over the last 20 years, along with a steady increase in gun ownership - more than 4 million new guns per year, on average - fatal gun accidents have decreased 61 percent.
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Economic benefits? Is gun control economically beneficial?

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Yes

  • Lax gun control laws are economically costly The Coalition for Gun Control claims that, "in Canada, the costs of firearms death and injury (including murder, suicide and unintentional injuries) alone have been estimated at 6 billion dollars per year. In the US the number of deaths and attendant costs are much higher. In addition to the costs measured in terms of the economic value of lost lives, violence in the US diverts health, policing and social resources from other problems."
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No

  • Gun sports have economic benefits Field sports bring money into poor rural economies and provide a motivation for landowners to value environmental protection.
  • Private gun retailers will lose business. If there are tighter gun controls those registered gun retailers will see a decrease in sales, therefore there is little economic benefit when the market is more restricted .
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Enforceability: Are gun control laws enforceable?

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Yes

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No

  • The failure of the British police to crack-down on arms-trafficking is an example of the enforceability of gun-restriction laws.: Don B. Kates, Jr., "Why a Civil Libertarian Opposes Gun Control", 1976 - "British police, unhampered by the Fourth Amendment, have nevertheless been unable to stem illegal arms traffic-even with the special search and other powers which successive gun prohibition bills have given them. The British army has been unable to enforce gun laws in Northern Ireland, even with mass street searches and random raids in homes."
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Hand-gun ban: Should hand guns be banned? (See also: Debate: DC handgun ban)

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Yes

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No

  • The 2008 Supreme Court Case of District of Columbia v. Heller affirmed the earlier D.C. Appeals Court case of Parker v. District of Columbia, which determined that handguns qualify as, and should thus be considered as, "arms" under the Second Amendment.
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Guns as sport: Are gun sports a poor justification for gun-ownership?

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Yes

  • Guns sports should be protected and justify gun ownership. Shooting is sport enjoyed by many law-abiding people, both in gun clubs with purpose-built ranges and as a field sport. These people have the right to continue with their chosen leisure pursuit, on which they have spent large amounts of money – an investment the government would effectively be confiscating if their guns were confiscated.
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No

  • Gun sports are socially desensitizing and damaging. Shooting as a sport has the potential to desensitize people to the lethal nature of all firearms, creating a gun culture that glamorizes and legitimizes unnecessary gun ownership.
  • Only a small minority want to possess firearms for sport.
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Concealed-carry: Should it be illegal for citizens to conceal weapons?

Concealed-carry defined: Concealed-carry laws generally offer the privilege to citizens with gun permits to conceal their weapon on their person out in society.
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Yes

  • Open-carry laws generally deny citizens with gun permits the right to carry conceal their weapon when out in society.
  • When citizens carry concealed weapons, criminals fear the risks of committing crimes and are deterred Criminologist Wright and Rossi in 1982 and 1983 interviewed felons in prison regarding deterrence. They found that the fear of strict laws, police enforcement, or prosecution as ineffective at detering criminals. What they did find was criminals would select victims based on their perceived 'easy targets' of opportunity. In addition the fear of being shot or harmed in conducting a crime was an important factor in committing a crime.
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No

  • The idea of a criminal not messing with you if you have a firearm is flawed, and it is contradictory to the definition of concealed. To be concealed is to be out of visual reach; to not be seen. How exactly would an assailant know if the intended victim is carrying a concealed firearm?
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Automatic weapon ban: Should automatic weapons be banned?

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Yes

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No

  • When psychology terror amounts in an individual, the physiological response of the body may shut down to prevent the body from experiencing any pain--In this instance, it is pertinent to have, as protection, a machine that works automatically to save the owner and hinder the imminent attack.
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Pro/con resources

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Yes

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No

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Pro/con organizations

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Yes

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No

See also

External links and resources

Books:

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