America – land of the free, home of the brave and protector of constitutional rights. The great nation of opportunity, where dreams and guns are both within reach, boasts higher levels of gun ownership than other developed countries. Around 40% of Americans say they or someone in their household owns a gun. During the Covid-19 pandemic, gun sales boomed (for example, sales in May 2020 increased 80% year over year). Research by the Swiss-based Small Arms Survey in 2018 showed that Americans owned 393 million guns, both legally and illegally. This means that roughly for every 100 residents in America, there are 120.5 guns. That being said, as the law doesn’t allow a country-wide database for people to register the guns they own, there is no official number, only those produced by various polls. And yet, in 2020, 20,000 Americans were killed by gun violence.
Here are three arguments in support of gun control laws and three more in support of gun ownership.
Arguments for Gun Control
Gun control laws don’t diminish the Second Amendment.
Gun control proponents aren’t interested in taking away citizens’ guns. They cheer the 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.” They support the Supreme Court 2008 decision, which validates the interpretation of the amendment that protects an individual’s right to own a firearm unrelated to serving in a militia, and to use that arm for lawful purposes, such as self-defense within one’s home.
But this same Supreme Court decision also emphasizes that, in former Justice Antonin Scalia’s words: The Second Amendment is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for any purpose whatsoever.” Regulating deadly machinery (as we do with cars) is not about denying access but about oversight in the interest of safety for the community at large.
Gun restrictions prevent selling to the wrong hands.
If anything, gun restrictions are aimed at making the world safer by limiting guns from getting into the wrong hands. This leads to fewer deaths. Universal background checks on private and gun show sales, an issue that survivors of the February 2018 Parkland massacre helped push legislators to prioritize, can help prevent criminals and the mentally ill from getting guns. Research asserts that federal checks could cut gun deaths by an estimated 90%. And let’s not forget about mandatory safety features. Installing safety devices on guns would minimize accidental gun deaths, especially of and by children. Think about it: We have childproof caps on medicine bottles, so why not have childproof firearms?
Such laws help prevent selling the wrong guns.
High-capacity magazines enable a shooter to fire multiple times without reloading, turning murderers into mass murderers. An investigation into mass shootings found that high-capacity magazines were used in at least 50% of the 62 mass shootings that were analyzed. For example, the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, saw 17 people dead and 14 wounded, thanks to a semi-automatic AR-15 – a deadly, military-inspired rifle that has been the weapon of choice for many mass shooters. After the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017, the Trump administration banned bump stocks, a device that lets semi-automatic rifles function like machine guns.
So while banning the purchase of such technology, magazines or assault weapons won’t prevent gun crime from happening, it will greatly reduce the carnage.
Arguments for Gun Ownership
An enhanced sense of safety.
Law enforcement agencies are constantly protecting civilians. Countless policemen have heroically saved others during shootings even at the expense of their own lives. Still, the police can’t always protect everyone everywhere all of the time, so firearms significantly contribute to gun owners’ sense of – and actual – safety. In a 1982-83 study, almost 2000 imprisoned felons in 10 states were surveyed about whether gun control prevented crime. More than half (57%) said that most criminals feared armed citizens more than the police. Additionally, 40% said they were deterred from carrying out their crime when they thought their potential victim was armed. It’s no surprise, then, that 57% of people feel that possessing a gun prevents them from being victimized.
Exercises civil liberties.
Gun ownership exercises a fundamental individual right under the U.S. Constitution. For most upstanding citizens, owning a gun is as important to them as maintaining freedom of speech, the press, religion, among others. In fact, three quarters of gun owners believe that the right to bear arms is paramount to their freedom. No wonder gun owners take it personally when gun control laws appear to infringe on this right, thus impeding efforts to acquire firearms and protect themselves and their families. Plus, there’s the risk that certain proposed background checks may require government databases to keep gun owners’ personal information indefinitely. This could lead to future database searches unrelated to the information when it was first collected. This understandably can be perceived as an unfair invasion of privacy.
Unintended consequences of ineffective gun restrictions.
When the law meant to protect you, instead, turns you into prey, it’s understandable to want to take self-defense into your own hands. In Chicago, where there are bans on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, and where gun shops were banned until 2012, gun control laws are not proving effective. Though the city has some of the toughest gun restrictions in place, it suffers from rising gun and gang violence. The city’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot, is working to increase public safety, but has an uphill battle. Chicago is just one example of many cities where law-abiding citizens are paying the price – with their lives – of ineffective gun control laws.
The Bottom Line: Gun control laws keep people safer, and self-preservation is why gun owners have guns to begin with. With that, law-abiding gun owners still have the constitutional right to protect themselves against crime and should not be penalized for the actions of others. How would you feel about keeping a gun in your house?