The gun control debate has dominated public discussion in recent times, especially after the mass shooting of children in Newtown on 14th December 2012. The shooting roused the public to strong emotions and prompted intense debate with majority of citizens demanding legislation on gun control measures to avert such incidences in the future. The mass shooting was a painful reminder to the relatives of the victims of a similar mass shooting in 2007 who felt that the government and its security organs did not do enough after the slaughter to prevent future massacres. In view of the situation, a vital question arises, “Will gun control legislation cure insecurity and prevent homicide cases in the United States?” I am of the view that it will not happen. Crime is multifaceted and availability as well as accessibility of weapons is one of the many factors that enhance commission of crime, including mass murders. However, arms control may lead to effects that are contrary to the desires of the proponents.
Arms and Rampage Killings
While a few of serious rampage killings in the global and American history were committed by people suffering from mental disorders, the majority of them were premeditated and not committed in the "Heat of Passion". Many of such murders were motivated by religious, racial and other hate crimes, thrill killings, gang vengeance, obsession, and revenge. While it is undeniable that most were committed with the use of firearms, facts suggest that it is not obligatory to possess a gun to commit mass killings. An appropriate example is William Unek, who went on two different killing rampages.
The first was in1954 in Belgian Congo where he killed at least 21 people using an axe and later befell in the colonial Tanganyika where 36 people were murdered with a gun. Owing to this example, it is the motive that matters and not availability of weapons. In 1954, Unek did not have a gun but armed with an axe went ahead to commit one of the most serious killings in history. In 1956, Unek had both the motivation and firearms and went on another killing spree.
The motive and not the firearms is therefore the common denominator in both massacres (Branas). Recent homicides in countries with strict gun control also prove that one does not need to have a gun to commit mass murders. On Friday, April 5, 2013, a man went on a killing rampage in India slaughtering nine people with an axe (Edwards), while on September 12, a man killed five of his children and a wife by slitting their throats with a knife before committing suicide in Kenya (Capital FM). Some sociopaths often enjoy killing by other means other than firearms. It is at best exemplified with the case with former Central African Republic dictator Jean-Bédel Bokassa who allegedly killed eight children by smashing their skulls with his walking stick for booing him (Decalo). Therefore, gun control laws will not change the motives or the personalities of the killers.
Arms and Self-Defense
The founders of the American Nation enshrined in the constitution the right to possess firearms for self-defense. They considered self-defense to be an unalienable human right in protection of life and property and strongly believed that firearms were important tools for exercising the right. The wording of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is explicit. It 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” (justfacts.com). Throughout the history firearms have been claimed to be used for self-defense to a great extent. For instance, possessing firearms enabled black vigilante groups to protect themselves from Ku Klux Klan fundamentalists who were determined to exterminate black people in Bennettsville, South Carolina (McVeigh 99). Thus, denial of the right to effectively defend oneself and property through disarmament is unethical.
Disenfranchisement of Law-Abiding Citizens
The majority of guns that are used in crime including murder, armed robberies and rape are unregistered (Tahmesbi 96). Consequently, disarmament laws will not retrieve guns that are in the hands of the criminals. Law-abiding citizens will, however, be inclined to follow the law. As a result, only such citizens will be disarmed, hence simplifying criminals’ lives as they can protect neither their lives nor property effectively (Jefferson 21). Over time, guns have become an integral part of the American culture and sports such as game hunting and marksmanship have become popular pastimes in many parts of the country. Prohibition of gun ownership will effectively eliminate these pastimes thus inhibiting many Americans’ right to happiness which is contrary to the national values which people hold so dear.
Rising insecurity is a cause for concern for all patriotic Americans. Due to this fact, swift measures need to be taken to curb this worrying trend before it becomes uncontrollable. While guns are to some extent responsible for the same, it is only weapons that are in criminal hands that are used in committing crime. In many states the laws that govern gun ownership and handling are sufficient to curb the menace if implemented. The law in many countries, for instance, requires guns to be licensed and a gun owner to be of age (21 if a civilian and18 if a veteran or member of the armed forces), be of sound mind, have no criminal record, and complete and pass a firearm proficiency course. Such person is deemed to be quite unlikely to use their guns in criminal activities. Consequently, strict measures should be put in place to ensure that only qualified people own and carry firearms. The government agencies and other stakeholders should do their part to keep illegal guns out of the streets. They should also pursue other ways of eradicating crime such as fighting against drugs, which have been shown to drive people to crime, and fighting the rising cases of unemployment. Strict steps should also be taken against gun owners who neglect their duty to keep firearms out of reach of people who are not permitted by law to hand arms. The government should however not use insecurity as a leeway to take away the unalienable human rights enshrined in the constitution from the civilians.
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