The Right To Carry
The gun control issue has sparked major controversy in America today. People who support gun control feel that guns are the reason for the soaring crime rate in our country. I disagree with them. I feel that because of the black market, violent criminals released from prison early, and the need to ensure personal safety, stricter gun control will have very little impact on violent crime in America.
I believe that gun control works in theory, but not in real life. There are many violent crimes in which guns are used, but most of these guns are obtained illegally. Therefore, if guns were obtained illegally, why would the people obtaining the guns use them legally? The only way to control crime is to allow citizens the right to carry guns.
In the past, over 20,000 gun control bills have been passed through Congress (McCarthy). According to Jack Anderson’s book Inside the NRA Armed and Dangerous, The National Firearms Act of 1934 was the first federal gun law to be passed. This act imposed a two hundred-dollar excise tax on the sale of fully automatic weapons. The act also prohibited transport of fully automatic weapons and shotguns having barrels less than eighteen inches long or sawed-off shotguns. The Gun Control Act of 1968 made it a requirement for all gun dealers to have a federal license. This same act also banned the sale of guns through the mail and the sale of guns to all people who have formerly been convicted of violent felonies. It also prohibited dealers from selling handguns out of state, and out-of-state residents from buying handguns (57).
With the growing gun-related crime rate in the United States today, many recent bills have been proposed to control guns. Jack Anderson explains one of the most popular bills, The Brady Bill. This bill focuses on semi-automatic handguns. People wishing to buy a handgun will have to answer a federal questionnaire. The person’s background will be checked thoroughly for criminal records or records of past mental illness. The process should take only five days. This five-day waiting period, or the “cooling off” period, is supposed to allow a person’s temper to cool down. Supporters of the Brady Bill claim that people act on impulse. A person’s temper can interfere with his/her ability to think clearly; he/she is angry, so a gun is bought to get revenge (93). I have no problem with the Brady Bill, because it has lessened crime though it hasn’t prevented it.
A bill was passed by former U.S. President George Bush, which banned the production of nine types of assault weapons and the importation of forty-three types of assault weapons. Bush felt that assault weapons were responsible for the majority of the violent crimes committed in the United States (Anderson 98). Field & Stream writer David E. Petzal agreed with Bush, stating that, “Assault weapons are designed to put out a high volume of fire with a high degree of controllability. The only purpose these firearms have is to kill people” (27). Gun related crime, however, is still very common.
The problem with these laws is that people are forgetting about the black market. The Brady Bill will stop a person from acting on impulse but if a person is planning on buying a handgun for criminal purposes, he is not likely to buy it through a dealer. If he buys a gun through a dealer, the gun has to be registered in that person’s name. If the gun is used in any crime or murder where a shot is fired and the gun is left behind, the police could very easily trace the gun to that person. This situation causes many criminals to turn to the black market. Any person can buy any type of gun on the streets. J. Warren Cassidy, former executive vice president of the NRA, says, ” for a gangster, obtaining a gun is just a matter of showing up on the right street corner with enough money” (419).
What I feel needs to be done is to stop trying to eliminate guns and instead give people the right to carry them. Prof. John Lott, Jr., and David B. Mustard of the University of Chicago performed a study on citizens carrying weapons. The study showed that ” allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crimes and it appears to produce no increase in accidental deaths. If those states which did not have Right To Carry concealed gun provisions had adopted them in 1992, approximately 1,570 murders; 4,177 rapes; and over 60,000 aggravated assaults would have been avoided yearly ” (National). The study also showed that compared to the rest of the United States the states that have Right To Carry laws have ” 26% less total violent crime, 20% less homicide, 2% less rape, 39% less robbery, and 22% less aggravated assault ” Not only will allowing citizens the right to carry reduce crime but it can also produce an annual gain of at least $6.214 billion (National).
According to the National Rifle Association, Florida enacted a right to carry law in 1987. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Sheriffs Association, Florida Police Chiefs Association, and many other law enforcement groups supported it. Anti-gun activists claimed, however, if law-abiding citizens carried guns crime would increase. Politicians predicted that Florida would be known as the “GUNshine state”. News media claimed there would be “Wild West” shootouts at every street corner. These predictions were eventually proven false. Florida homicide rate actually dropped 41%, and the national rate dropped 20%. Only 0.02% of the issued gun licenses were revoked because of crimes committed by the holder. Some who originally opposed the right to carry law eventually agreed that it was a good idea, and that it hadn’t created the problems like they predicted. The success of this right to carry law helps show that people who have carry permits are more law abiding than everyone. Only a small percentage of holders use their firearms for crime (National).
Instead of gun control laws, the United States should reevaluate the justice system. According to David L. Bender’s book Gun Control, a study showed that only four criminals go to jail for every one hundred crimes reported. The FBI estimates that 60% of all crimes are not reported. The study also showed that for every one hundred prisoners with life sentences, twenty-five are freed before their third year; forty-two are out of prison by their seventh year; and people acquitted of murder by reason of insanity only spend an average of five hundred days in a mental institution before they are released. These people that only serve a portion of their sentence are often involved in crimes after they are back on the streets. The reason for the early release of many prisoners is the fact that jails and prisons are over-crowded (163).
With the amount of crime there is in America today, the government should think about building more prisons, and larger ones, or it should consider enforcing the death penalty. I think that if death sentences were actually carried out, this would help regulate the prison population. It would also create more room so prisoners would not have to be released before they serve their full sentence. If these people were not on the streets when they are supposed to be in prison, there would be fewer repeat offenders.
I think self-defense is another important reason why we should have right to carry laws in the United States. A 1985 survey of convicted criminals by the U.S. Department of Justice showed that 34% reported that they had been scared off, shot at, or captured by an armed victim; 40% said they had decided to not commit a crime because they thought the victim was armed (Bender 153). This survey shows that handguns used for self-defense can actually reduce crime. If there were restrictions on handgun ownership, victims of crimes would be helpless. Taking away handguns from citizens only makes a criminal’s work environment that much safer.
The National Rifle Association also tells us that “Of the five major U.S. cities with the highest homicide rates, two (Detroit and Baltimore) severely restrict carrying; two (D.C. and Chicago) have banned handguns.” However, out of the ten states with the lowest violent crime, eight are states with right to carry laws in effect (National).
An article in American Rifleman quotes NRA executive director of general operations Craig D. Sandler saying ” New Hampshire has just about the least ‘gun control’ in the nation, and when I was in Nashua, we were rated the among the ten safest cities in the country. Across the border in Massachusetts where gun laws are almost as severe as in Hawaii, cities of comparable size had two and three times as much crime as we had” (25). Mr. Sandler goes on to say “As the people of Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and South Dakota can attest, there is a way to live safely without a loss of personal rights. Each of those states has a lower murder rate than Hawaii, without its outrageous gun laws” (25).
In order to give people the right to carry I feel that the issue surrounding the Second Amendment has to be solved. A majority of the gun control debate is focused on how the Second Amendment is interpreted (Huelsman). The Second Amendment 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” (Garraty A8). Melissa Huelsman, a Southwestern University law student, tells us “Historical records indicate that the Founding Fathers considered language specifying that arms be kept for self-defense and other purposes, but opted not to use such language.”
Our bill of Rights preserves and guarantees pre-existing individual rights rather than grant us specific rights (Guncite). The Ninth Amendment says, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be constructed to deny or disparage others retained by the people” (Garraty A8). What the Ninth Amendment means is we the people have rights above and beyond what is stated in the Constitution and that the federal government cannot justifiably deny us those rights (Guncite). Therefore, I feel that it is our right to be able to own and carry guns and the government should allow us to exercise that right.
When people look at the crime rate and death statistics compared to the number of times firearms are used, they are quick to point the finger at guns. Gun control supporters feel that if there were no guns in society there would be very little or no crime. American people need to stop and think, “How would gun control laws prevent or reduce crime?” People could easily purchase firearms from the black market if a dealer turns them down. They might even forget about purchasing from a dealer and go straight to the black market, not even trying to legally obtain a gun. The people that blame guns for our crime problem also need to look closely at the people who commit these crimes. Many times, the criminal has a past record of mental illness, or has formerly been convicted of a crime; this is how the Brady Bill came about. If these criminals were locked up like they were supposed to be, they would not be able to commit any more crime(s). There are gun laws that prevent these people from buying guns, but they are still getting them.
Carrying a concealed handgun has been proven to help lower violent crime and it produces no increase in accidental deaths. All other variables remaining the same when comparing numbers of crimes in area’s with concealed carry versus those without concealed carry we would see a large reduction in people being victimized.
Guns require people to operate them, without people operating them they cannot kill people; therefore they cannot be morally objectionable. The factor that changes in the equation above is the presence of a man. It is clear in the Lott-Mustard study that citizens of the United States who are not convicted felons or mental patients can and do carry concealed handguns without posing a risk to their fellow Americans. As long as the government forbids ownership of guns to people who have committed violent crimes and to mental patients there is no reason they should limit the rest of the society from owning them.
There is no way this controversy will be easily solved. There is also no solution that will make both sides happy. Congress could pass gun control laws banning semi automatic handguns, and restricting other guns, but gun owners, including collectors would be unhappy. If Congress doesn’t pass gun control laws, the paranoid citizens of America would be unhappy. Taking the black market, self-defense, and collectors into consideration, the United States should not use gun control laws to try to reduce crime.
Anderson, Jack. Inside the NRA: Armed and Dangerous. Beverly Hills: Dove, 1996
Bender, David L. Gun Control. San Diego: Greenhaven. 1992.
Cassidy, J. Warren. “The Case for Firearms.” Current Issues and Enduring Questions 5th ed. Eds. Sylvan Barnet and Hugo Bedau. Boston: Bedford, 1999. 418-20.
Huelsman, Melissa. “Gun Control” 21 Jan. 1996. Southwestern Univ. School of Law. 3 Mar 2000. .
Petzal, David E. “Reveille.” Field & Stream June 1994: 26-27
“Right to Carry 2000.” 17 Jan 2000. National Rifle Association. 2 Feb. 2000. .
“To Preserve and Guarantee.” 25 Sept. 1999. Guncite. 7 Mar. 2000 .