Criminal Justice 1010-402

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Criminal Justice 1010-402

Gun Control

Final Paper

Karly LeAnn Eland


Throughout the centuries there has always been a debate of gun control. We look at the papers each day and see multiple stories involving murder, robberies, school shootings, and many other unfortunate events. The debates on either side possess strong arguments to support their opinions. Before I divulge my own opinion, I want to take a little history trip.

In order to know how guns have advanced, we must first look at the history of guns. Why were they used throughout the centuries? From single shot muzzleloaders to the weapons that now fire an amazing 500,000 rounds per second. In his book Gun Control, Harry Henderson looks into the history of guns and the gun’s control dispute since the beginning in Britain. The British, whom were invaded by the Normans in 1066 and not conquered and again until the 16th century, saw their navy as being their best defense. The British army was always small because they lacked the sheer population of their neighboring countries such as Spain, France, and later Germany. The way they combated their size deficit was an availability of the armed, organized citizen in times of crisis.

Many of the opponents of gun control look to the militia tradition and the English common law for their interpretation and inspiration. However, a different side they don't often mention is the right or duty to bear arms for the defense of country. They also had other regulations as to who could bear the arms. One example of this is “the Assize of Arms of Henry II in 1181 seized arms and armor from Jews to distribute to the ‘free men’ it armed. The Glorious Revolution established a right to bear arms for Protestants, but not Catholics, and the arms to be borne were those "suitable to their conditions [social class] and allowed by law.”(Henderson 11-12).

Henderson goes onto say that just as the right to bear arms was becoming far less important to the citizens over in England, over in colonial America it was “essential for the colonists who were establishing settlements in America in the 1600s” (Henderson 12-13). They now had new enemies both animal and Native American.

It’s now 1776, the U.S. Constitution is signed by some of the greatest and brightest men our country has known. Later on our second amendment was put into practice in 1791, and clearly stated what the right to bear arms entailed; or did it? In the constitution we read, “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” (The Constitution of the United States," Amendment 2). So, does the second amendment give every worthy citizen the right or privilege to bear arms? It is most certainly a privilege given to citizens, like a driver’s license there are basic regulations to jump through in order to obtain a license to be able to purchase a rifle or handgun.

In the 20th century gun control started to become a large debate. The 1920’s and 1930's saw the first real regulations placed on the sales of guns. In the early 1900's congress passed its first laws. In 1934 the first National Firearms Act was created. It never actually outlawed machine or sawed off shotguns but imposed a $200 tax on the manufacturing, sale, and ownership of guns, which at the time, was a substantial amount of money (legal dictionary). In 1938, congress increased their control of firearms even more by requiring all manufacturers, importers, and dealers of firearms to become licensed. It would not allow the delivery of a firearm to someone who had been convicted of a crime or who didn’t meet local licensing laws. By the end of the 1930s the federal government had its hand in the gun control laws and their enforcement. Since the 1930s there have been many cases, both locally and federally, which have led to various interpretations issue.

The United States have some laws in place which make it more difficult to obtain a gun than in other countries. We can’t just walk into a local pawn shop, throw down $250, and obtain a firearm. In the book by Maggi Aitkens called Should we have gun control? it provides some of the groups which are restricted and some of the gun control laws that are in place currently. They are as follows:

  • Minors (under 21 for handguns and under 18 for rifles and shotguns)

  • Convicted criminals

  • Drug addicts

  • Persons who have been judged to be mentally incompetent

  • Persons dishonorably discharged from the military

  • Persons who have renounced their U.S. citizenship

  • Illegal aliens

  • Fugitives from injustice

Concealed carry is one of the biggest issues when discussing gun control. Does allowing people to conceal carry really cut down on violent crimes, or does it counteract this theory and add to violent crimes? In the same book of opposing viewpoints it says that up until 1987 police forces within all counties and states had a broad discretionary status as to determine whether a citizen was in need of a gun and was competent enough to conceal carry. The right to self-defense now fell in the hands of those who are sworn to protect our families and homes. What happens when they can’t get there before a murderer, robber, or rapists carry out their acts? With new laws enacted for most states, those who have been given the privilege to carry guns increased and the statistics were staggering. In a study done by John Lott and David Mustard in 1997 shows the statistics for 3,054 counties throughout the U.S. from 1977-92. The following displays some of the stats within a list. When shall issue laws (laws which state that if a citizen is mentally competent with no past crimes then the state shall issue the license) went into effect in a county that:

  1. Murders fell on average by 7.65%

  2. Rapes 5.2%

  3. Robberies 2.2%

  4. Aggravated assaults 7%

The study goes onto state that if all of the counties had these shall issue laws there would have been 1,414 fewer murders, 4,177 fewer rapes, 11,898 fewer robberies, and 60,363 fewer aggravated assaults. A handgun, as far as economics is concerned, is also the cheapest deterrent in opposing crimes in comparison to hiring more law enforcement.

The gun control issue has been debated many times throughout our country’s young history, but it is needed now more so than ever before. Upon completion of my research I have found more information than I ever thought possible. In my opinion guns do in fact save lives when used and managed properly. Often, guns used in self-defense don’t kill the perpetrator of the crime, but rather deters or detains them until authorities can arrive as in the case of the assistant principal.

I originally was of the opinion that every citizen should carry a gun that was able and willing. I didn’t know exactly what laws were currently in place and the lackadaisical state our country was in with regards to the issue. The topic is far from over, but I now feel gun control should definitely be tightened. Gun stores and gun shows should no longer be able to carry banana or round clips that hold anywhere from 10-500 bullets at a time. These types of machines should be used only by trained military professionals when up against criminals and in times of war. We must, as a society, come down harder on those criminals who use these weapons of assault for malicious purposes. People who provide these weapons of mass destruction to criminals, who then use them in violence towards another, should face similar punishments as the criminals. It is impossible to know what someone is capable of when you sell a weapon, but most citizens should have a right to possess them.

Guns should be allowed by part of society, but the way in which we issue and the components we have for them, should become far stricter than they are at the present. If we keep allowing guns to be distributed so easily with nothing more than a proverbial ‘slap on the wrist’ to the distributor, we will never be able to control the violence. The laws and punishments in place from legislation now must enhance for the near future or we may see continued violence in places that once were peaceful sanctuaries for the public. It would take great political courage to do anything about this problem we face in our society, but it is courage we must all find; courage not only for our children, but for future generations.

1. Aitkens, Maggi. Should We Have Gun Control? Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications

Company, 1993.

2. Henderson, Harry. Gun Control. New York, NY: Facts on File, Inc., 2005.
3. Lott, Jr. John R., and David B. Mustard. "Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns." The Journal of Legal Studies 26.1 (1997):
4. "National Firearms Act of 1934." N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.

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