BLOG: New Perspective on Gun Control

NATHAN FOSTER

Gun control is almost always a very “hot” and relevant issue here in America, especially recently. The conflict about guns is very understandable. On the pro-gun side you have people who are concerned about their safety and feel that the best way to protect that is to take matters into their own hands. On the other side many people feel that the fact that here in America almost anyone over the age of 18 can go out and buy an AR-15 with the intention to harm others is an unacceptable possibility. If you look at the statistics, though, it’s obvious guns are not the main issue in American violence.

 

Let’s take a look at some statistics from the U.S Department of Justice. Unfortunately the latest year data is available for is 2011. First let’s take a look at the number of people involved in the total fatal and non-fatal firearms violence from 1993-2011. In 1993 it was 1,548,000, compared to 2011 which was 478,400. This drastic reduction was made under the same gun control laws we currently have.

 

Many people point to the number of U.S. gun deaths as reason why we need more gun control, but 64 percent of all gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides. This has a big influence on how this statistic can be used. You could probably make a better case for our nation having a mental health problem than a gun problem based on this information. Also when you take a look at what percentage of total violence guns are involved in you will find that it only accounts for 7.5 percent of total violence in the U.S.

 

Another statistic people have used to bring attention to gun violence is the fact that for the first time in U.S history gun deaths outnumber automobile deaths as of 2010. Although the statistic is somewhat alarming, both gun deaths and automobile deaths are decreasing every year. Which is more relevant to the increase in car safety than an out of control gun problem. One statistic that can reliably reflect gun violence is the firearm related homicides in the U.S, which fell 39 percent between 1993 and 2011. Another statistic that correlates to the drop in gun violence is the drop in gun ownership. According to NORC gun ownership in the U.S has fallen 17 percent reaching the lowest point in 40 years. This is very encouraging to pro gun control advocates, but correlation does not mean causation. This is one factor among many that have led to a reduction in violence.

 

I personally fall somewhere in the middle on the issue of gun control. I believe that the education about guns someone is given as a child is very important. That is why when I hear ideas thrown around that limit the opportunity to educate our youth about guns like limiting how old someone can be to shoot a gun. I get concerned, because at the end of the day all any firearm ever will be is a tool. I wouldn’t want a child to think that guns as an object create violence, just like I wouldn’t want a child to not fully understand how much destructive capability a gun in the wrong hands can have. That way when they grow up they can have a balanced reasonable opinion about guns. Guns are a tool that can be used in any way the person behind it sees fit and this creates an issue of trust. Unfortunately trusting in people you don’t know will always be a part of our society. The best example of this is driving a car. You have to trust that those around you are playing by the same rules as you and won’t make a mistake or randomly lose control and cause a tragic car crash. The same way that people who own firearms have a responsibility to use and store their weapon responsibly.     

 

Even though these statistics seem to reflect that the source of violence is not the guns, but the people. There are many things legislation can do to reduce gun violence. Usually this involves not letting guns fall into the wrong hands although buying guns from the black market will always be an option for people who can’t purchase a firearm legally. There are many good ideas on how to help keep track of where legal guns are going such as having a Firearm Owner’s Identification or F.O.I.D. which works very much like getting a hunters safety card. To get a F.O.I.D you are required to take a class learning about firearm safety. Then are required to carry your identification card with you when transporting or using your firearms. F.O.I.D has been implemented by the state of Illinois, but the data isn’t in yet so we can’t tell if it has really had an effect on gun violence yet. Also gun owners are encouraged but not required to use trigger locks on all of their firearms. These are a way gun owners can be almost 100 percent sure they are the only ones who can use their firearms. Another good way to secure your firearms is by using a gun safe to store firearms in your house.

 

As far as types of guns, there are a few different ways a gun can cycle. Bolt, pump, lever, semi-automatic, and single shot. It is very important to understand how different types of guns work to adequately understand how gun control legislation will affect what will be available for people to own. For those who don’t know here is a basic explanation: Bolt actions have to be manually cycled after every shot. The pump action is similar to the bolt action but slightly faster and is traditionally used in shotguns. Lever actions also have to be cycled after every shot and are about as fast as a pump action, Semi-automatic actioned guns cycle automatically after every shot and are the fastest firing weapon any civilian can own. There is also many single shot weapons which have no magazine and need to be reloaded after every shot. You can find rifles, shotguns and handguns with each type of action.

 

Those who want to limit the type of guns you can own usually point to semi-Automatic weapons as being excessive for most civilian use and to dangerous for the public to have access to. On the subject of gun violence especially mass shootings one big factor besides the type of weapon people use that is seldom talked about is how proficient the person is with that weapon. A semi-automatic weapon is the hardest to be accurate with because when you are using a high rate-of-fire recoil has a major affect on your ability to hold on your desired target. So whereas a semi-automatic weapon in trained hands may be much more effective, when used by an inexperienced marksman they are much less effective than their manually cycled counterparts, which eliminate recoil as a factor when aiming.

 

Whereas I do not support laws outlawing semi-automatic weapons I do however believe in limiting magazine capacity. If you are using a firearm to hunt waterfowl, upland game birds or big game (depending on the state) you are usually limited to a three-round capacity. From my experience of hunting I have found that three shots is all you should need at one time, so I believe it would be very reasonable to limit all rifles and shotguns to a three-round magazine capacity. One main issue people have with limiting magazine capacity is that it limits your ability to harvest invasive species like wild hogs. But the use of large cage traps can be just as effective. A notable exception to this would be handguns, because they have a different purpose. Most handguns are designed for self-defense and in that scenario more rounds may be necessary. Therefore the best way to limit magazine capacity might be by caliber.    
There are many factors involved in the issue of violence and especially gun violence in our country, but one thing is almost for certain: We won’t find a quick and easy solution to the problem, because even if Americans do have too much freedom in what guns they can own we also need to explore the reasons why people want to kill other people in the first place. Once we understand those things I hope our world will become a much better place.

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