Gun Ownership and its Correlation to Murder with Guns Essay

Gun Ownership and its Correlation to Murder with Guns:Gun Control refers to the government limitation of the purchase and ownership of firearms. The availability of guns is controlled by nations and localities throughout the world.

Few public policy debates have been as dominated by emotion and misinformation as the one on gun control. The National Crime Survey estimates that 83 percent of Americans will be victims of violent crime at some time in their lives. (NCPA, 1987) The outcome of a violent incident is dramatically influenced by the weapons or methods used.

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Whether from assault or self-inflicted injury, the likelihood of death is especially high when a gun is involved. According to criminologists Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins the prevalence of guns is the main reason why the U.S.

homicide rate far exceeds those of other comparable Western countries: assaults in the United States more often involve guns, and thus more often result in death. (OSI, 2000) The National Crime Survey estimates that 83 percent of Americans will be victims of violent crime at some time in their lives. While some people feel that gun control should be exercised in order to prevent the rate of crime in the country, there are others who feel such control would infringe on their individual constitutional rights.

Those favoring gun control laws opine that such laws would help in restricting violence on the streets and reduce criminal activity. However, opponents of new gun restrictions contend that guns are a means of self-defense to a law-abiding person. They argue that guns can empower people with limited physical strength and protect them from physically stronger criminals. Thus we find that there are two sides to the discussion of gun control. Guns are a security issue and hence some regulations are needed regarding the purchase and use of guns by civilians.Throughout much of American history, gun control was openly stated as a method for keeping blacks and Hispanics “in their place,” and to quiet the racial fears of whites.

(Cramer, 1993) Thus, according to Clayton Cramer, gun control was primarily introduced in America as a racist measure.  But what does the constitution actually say about gun control? The Second Amendment to the US Constitution says, “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.” (Reynolds, 1995)This seems to imply that people should have the ability to possess arm, but there is much disagreement about the limitations of this amendment. Some pro-gunners have opined that this amendment cannot be extended for nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction, or heavy military equipment such as tanks, bazookas, etc.,In the study titled “Protection or peril? An analysis of firearm-related deaths in the home” (1986), researchers Kellermann and Reay reviewed all gun shot deaths that occurred in King County, Washington from 1978 to 1983. They found that for every case of self protection homicide involving a firearm kept in the home, there were 1.

3 accidental deaths, 4.6 criminal homicides and 37 suicides involving firearms. Thus the study concluded that keeping firearms in the home is a questionable practice. The same result is reaffirmed by Kellermann et al in the study titled “Gun Ownership as a risk factor for homicide in the home” (1993). The study focused on risk factors for homicide in the home and found that apart from the use of illicit drugs and a history of physical fights in the home, guns are also a risk factor leading to homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance. The study titled “Seeing Is Believing: What Do Boys Do When They Find a Real Gun?’ by Jackman et al (2000) concludes that many 8- to 12-year-old boys will handle a handgun if they find one. Guns that are kept in homes should be stored in a manner that renders them inaccessible to children.

In “Armed Resistance to Crime: The prevalence and nature of self-defense with a gun” the researchers studied the defensive use of guns. Many people who own guns claim that they have them for defense purposes – to protect themselves against crime. This is very common in the U.

S. and the research says that its is substantially more common than use of gun for acts of violence and murder. Even if the gun is not actually fired, the resistance showed by a victim with a gun has many times prevented injury.

Thus, according to the researchers, total prohibition of gun ownership will deprive many citizens of defending themselves. When we analyzed the four researches above, we find that while there is a support for gun ownership for self-defense purposes, keeping a gun at home also carries many risks such as potential suicides and homicides, danger to children and temptation to boys.The risk of keeping a gun at home is further emphasized by Mathew Miller. According to Mathew Miller’s study titled “Firearm Availability and Unintentional Firearm Deaths, Suicide, and Homicide among 5–14 Year Olds” a disproportionately high number of 5-14 year olds died of suicide, homicide and unintentional firearm deaths in states and regions where guns are more prevalent. This conclusion is understandable in the light of the fact that in the United States, only motor vehicle crashes and cancer claims more lives among children than do firearms. A Reuters news release in The New Light of Myanmar dated Friday 1, October 2004 titled “Researchers report on gun deaths in US”  points out that small town residents are as likely to die of gunshot wounds as people in big US cities, but the rural residents are killing themselves while urban dwellers are being murdered.

The news articles cites a report published in the American Journal of Public Health which says that the most urban counties experienced 1.90 times the adjusted firearms homicide rate of the most rural. This finding is new and it shows that in the case of urban people gun deaths due to murder are more frequent.Tom W. Smith in his 1997-98 National Gun Policy Survey of the National Opinion Research Center lists several important findings with respect to gun ownership and murder. He gives the chilling statistic that over 70% of murders are committed with a firearms (National Center, 1996).

This study maps public opinion towards gun ownership and makes four major findings: Majority of the people who took part in this study favor 8 of the 11 measures taken to regulate guns such as making serial numbers on guns be made tamper resistant, mandatory regulation of handguns and long guns and regulation of handgun ammunition. Secondly, people have expressed a desire to have quality firearms (childproofing, personalizing, magazine safeties and load indicators). Third, people want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals such as those convicted of domestic violence, those who drove a care while intoxicated, those who have committed simple assault, those guilty of being drunk and disorderly and those who carried a concealed weapon without a permit. Fourth, the public is wiling to pay more in taxes and higher prices to reduce gun violence and improve gun safety. Finally, support for gun control has remained high and reasonably stable in recent years. The study also shows that even among gun owners, support for gun controls is often quite high.

This study throws light on public opinion regarding gun ownership and it shows that majority of the public feel that gun ownership should be regulated by the government to reduce crime rate. Gary Klect and Michael Hogan in their research article titled “National case-control study of homicide offending and gun ownership” (1996) study the relationship between gun ownership and the possibility of committing homicide. The case-control study by Kellermann et al 1993 indicated that persons who lived in households with guns were 2.7 times more likely to become homicide victims as persons in households without guns. This study focuses on the finding by Kellermann et al. The finding of this study is that gun ownership had a weak (odds ratio = 1.36) and unstable relationship with homicidal behavior, which was at least partly spurious.

Thus, this study contradicts the study by Kellermann et al.The focus of the present paper is on gun ownership and murder rate in the country. In short,  “Why and how would gun ownership affect the likelihood of a person taking the life of another human being?” The easy answer would be that guns are more lethal than other weapons that could be substituted for them. Guns have been historically viewed as related to power and violence. Generally, firearms are seen to give some people the courage to act in a daring and aggressive manner. Guns, in particular offer the advantage of attacking from a great distance, although few assaults occur at ranges longer than the length of the average living room (Kellermann et al. 1996:1441). It has been hypothesized that guns may facilitate attack by persons too timid or squeamish to come into physical contact with their victims or to use messier methods to injure them (Wolfgang 1958:79).

Klect and Hogan point out to the fact that guns can be a more impersonal, emotionally remote, and even antiseptic way of attacking others, and could allow some attackers to bypass their inhibitions against close contact with their victims.Experimental psychologists Berkowitz and LePage (1967) have proposed the “weapons effect” hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, the sight of a weapon could trigger aggression from angered persons, due to the learned association between weapons and aggressive behavior.

On the other hand, weapon possession may also have aggression-inhibiting effects. In an early study of victim survey data from eight cities, Hindelang (1976:263) concluded that when a gun is involved in a victimization, both the victim and the offender appear to be more restrained and interested in avoiding an attack with the weapon. At least twenty studies have consistently confirmed that criminal aggressors armed with guns are less likely to attack and injure their victims than aggressors without guns (reviewed in Kleck 1997a:225-226).Klect points out that in many cases of criminal attacks, the attacker may want to only frighten or hurt the victim without killing. However, possession of a lethal weapon gives such an assaulter more killing power than she/he needs or wants, and to attack would risk inflicting more harm than the assaulter wanted. The possession of deadly weapons raises the stakes into what may seem to be an all-or-nothing situation – kill or do not attack at all. This tendency translates into an inhibition of attack behavior. This explains the lower injury rates in incidents where offenders are armed with guns.

Those with more lethal intentions, a greater willingness to hurt others, or a stronger instigation to aggress will tend to choose more serious weaponry, regardless of how vague their intentions are, or how impulsively, quickly, and even unconsciously these might be arrived at. Thus, weapon lethality and attacker lethality should be closely associated, and their effects can easily be confused with one another (Cook 1982:247-248).  It is an interesting bit of statistic that probably less than 15 percent of gunshot woundings known to police result in death (Cook 1985).  This implies that attacker lethality may not be as good as the weapon lethality. This leads one to deduce that in the case of gun ownership, probability of murder increases with aggressive attitude of the gun owner.Apart from the fact that gun control laws do not reduce the crime rate, it has also been found that gun control laws may actually increase crime. For instance: New Jersey adopted what sponsors described as “the most stringent gun law” in the nation in 1966; two years later, the murder rate was up 46 percent and the reported robbery rate had nearly doubled.

In 1968, Hawaii imposed a series of increasingly harsh measures and its murder rate, then a low 2.4 per 100,000 per year, tripled to 7.2 by 1977. In 1976, Washington, D.C., enacted one of the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation.

Since then, the city’s murder rate has risen 134 percent while the national murder rate has dropped 2 percent. (Reynolds, 1985) Among the 15 states with the highest homicide rates, 10 have restrictive or very restrictive gun laws. 20 percent of U.S. homicides occur in four cities with just 6 percent of the population – New York, Chicago, Detroit and Washington, D.C. – and each has a virtual prohibition on private handguns.New York has one of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation – and 20 percent of the armed robberies.

Thus we find that in places where gun control laws are toughest tend to be the places where the most crime is committed with illegal weapons. Similar effects have been observed in Canada and Taiwan as well. Why does this discrepancy arise? One should take note of the fact that gun control laws are most likely to be obeyed by people who are otherwise law-abiding. Criminals will tend to remain indifferent to law and continue to possess guns. A popular saying goes “If guns are banned only outlaws will have guns.

” This of course is a dangerous situation to be in.The two most significant federal statutes controlling firearms in the civilian population are the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968. (Krouse, 2002) The 1934 Act established strict registration requirements and a transfer tax on machine guns and short-barreled long guns. The 1968 Act prohibits mail-order sales and the interstate sales of firearms, prohibits transfers to minors, limits access to “new” assault weapons, and sets forth penalties and licensing requirements for manufacturers, importers, and dealers. (Krouse, 2002) The Brady Bill was implemented on February 28, 1994.

This law established a national 5 business day waiting period on handgun purchases through licensed dealers. It also required local authorities to conduct background checks on handgun purchasers. The majority of Democrats voted for this bill and the majority of Republicans voted against it.

Bill Clinton signed it into law. The law banned 19 specific models of semi-automatic firearms and other guns with assault-weapon features. The ban expired Sept. 13, 2004, and gun rights groups pressed the Congress to allow the ban to lapse.

(, 2004)  However, it is true that gun control laws are effective in some cases. The Brady Bill was implemented in February of 1994. In 1997, the number of violent crimes committed with firearms had fallen 25% since 1994, while the overall number of violent crimes had declined 14%.

(Ruoco, 1999)Today, more police resources are spent on gun registration, gun law enforcement and gun law convictions and fewer resources are available to deter real criminals. Many innocent civilians are often produced before court for violation of gun control laws. Punishments meted out for gun law violations not connected with real crimes tend to depress citizens’ respect for law and the criminal justice system.

Further, when innocent civilians are treated as criminals for possession of what they believe is a weapon for self-defense, they lose respect for the law. Stanford law professor John Kaplan argues that when a law criminalizes behavior that its practitioners do not believe improper, the new outlaws lose respect for society and the law. Even simple registration laws meet with massive resistance. In Illinois, for example, a 1977 study showed that compliance with handgun registration was only about 25 percent.

A 1979 survey of Illinois gun owners indicated that 73 percent would not comply with a gun prohibition. With more widespread American gun control, the number of new outlaws would certainly be hugeMost people have a gun in order to have peace of mind. People with guns feel safer during their walks in the neighborhoods.

They are less apt to be afraid at night in their homes, less likely to have been burglarized or robbed within the last year. People who live in areas where the crime rate is higher often opt to buy firearms for protection. Twenty-seven percent of gun owners say they have a gun mainly for protection. Another 62 percent say that protection from crime is at least one of the reasons they own guns. (Bruce-Briggs, 1976)  Of households with guns, those with no adult male are twice as likely as others to keep a loaded gun.

Black gun owners are four times as likely as white gun owners to keep a loaded handgun. (NCPA, 2001) Dr. Roth argues that “Self-defense is commonly cited as a reason to own a gun. This is the explanation given by 20 percent of all gun owners and 40 percent of all handgun owners contacted for a household survey conducted in 1979.

(Dr. Roth, 1979) But research has shown that a gun kept in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a member of the household, or friend, than an intruder. (Kellerman and Reay, 1986) Research by Dr. Arthur Kellerman has shown that such an action carries a murder risk 2.7 times greater than not keeping one.

(Kellerman et al, 1993) The use of a firearm to resist a violent assault actually increases the victim’s risk of injury and death (Zimring, 1991).Switzerland is one country that has permitted its able bodied male citizens between ages of 20 and 50 to have military issued automatic weaponry and it is interesting to note that Switzerland has one of the lowest murder rates in the world despite this.(Proguns, 2001) Israel allows its citizens to possess guns and yet it has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Denmark and Finland also have high rates of gun ownership and low crime rates. The experience of these countries shows that widespread gun possession is compatible with low crime rates. On the other hand, nations like Japan and England also have low crime rates but low gun ownership. There is no simple relationship between firearm availability and crime.

Contrary to popular notion, eighty-eight percent of violent crimes do not involve firearms. The National Crime Survey (NCS) estimates that there are about 5.4 million violent crimes (both reported and unreported) and that guns of all types are involved in some 650,000 or 12 percent.10 In other words, 88 percent of violent crimes do not involve firearms. While there is a lot of violent crime in America relative to other industrial nations, an overwhelming majority of the violence involves knives, hammers, sticks, broken bottles, hands and feet and other weapons besides firearms. Less than 2 percent of the estimated 36 million crimes of all types (National Crime Survey) committed each year involve a gun. A majority of gun crimes are assaults, but only one in 42 handgun crimes involves a victim being shot.

However, it has been found that presence of guns has increased in the suicide rate in the United States. Suicide by firearms was the most common method for both men and women, accounting for 55% of all suicides (National Institute of Mental Health).  In 1997, guns were used in 17,566 suicides, compared with 13,522 homicides, according to the National Vital Statistics Report. (NCGV, 2006) Apart from suicides, guns are also held responsible deaths due to gunfire accidents.Banning guns to reduce crime makes as much sense as banning alcohol to reduce drunk driving. The argument that possessing a gun will induce a person to kill is as much logical as the fact that people with swimming pools are more likely to die by drowning. What is needed is the introduction of subtle regulations to check the indiscriminate purchase of guns as well as the illegal flow of guns. There should be a national system for registering guns and ammunition, instant background checks on people attempting to buy guns or ammunition, stiffer sentences for gun crimes, more education on gun safety, improvement in overall education and introduction of hand grip ID tagging.

(Jason, 2005) Hand grip ID tagging means each gun is “registered” to one’s person palm prints (the legal purchaser of the gun), and only that person can fire that gun. If another person tries, the gun simply will not fire. Thus, stolen guns become useless, and cannot be used to harm anybody in the course of a crime.To conclude, guns by themselves are neither good nor bad. But when suicides, homicides, accidents and shootouts in public places mention the use of guns, one realizes that guns are truly a security issue. Hence some regulations are needed regarding the purchase and use of guns by civilians.Bibliography:Bruce-Briggs Barry, “The Great American Gun War,” The Public Interest, 1976, Vol. 45, pp.

37-62Cook, Philip J. 1982 “The role of firearms in violent crime.” In Criminal Violence, eds. Marvin E. Wolfgang and Neil Alan Weiner.

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