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Saturday, 15 December 2012

Why I think that America needs to enforce stricter laws on firearms (and why they won't)

We have yet another gun related tragedy on our hands. We've had enough of them in recent times, but the sense of universal mourning on behalf of the families of those involved doesn't seem to be any less overwhelming, and the questions that are asked in light of them still don't appear to be receiving any answers. 

The thing that makes the Connecticut shooting particularly hard to stomach is the fact that it involves a gunman taking the lives of children. Twenty innocent lives taken in a heartbeat, without a second's notice, six more ripped from their families and friends, older than children, but still taken too soon.

I'll never be able to comprehend what forces would drive one person to take the lives of another, especially on a mass scale, particularly when it involves children. To be honest, I don't even want to try.

So let's agree not to talk about nature vs nurture, the effects of undiagnosed psychosis on individuals or society or the social forces that end up contributing to the creation of a monster.

Let's talk about guns.

America's obsession with firearms developed from a sense of duty to protect their own country from invaders, according to certain sociologists. Their very society relied on a population that was armed and willing to defend their land. 

Over the years, the threat of foreign invaders has declined, and the main threat now comes from American citizens themselves, citizens that, because of US gun laws, have the opportunity to buy firearms. 

There seems to be a sense of pride among Americans in relation to said gun laws. I'm not convinced that these laws are something to be proud of.

Firearm owners state that possessing a gun allows them to feel as though they are better protected against criminals, and that the freedom to own a gun makes them feel safer.

In my opinion, if you need to take up someone up on the opportunity of owning a gun, then you're not free at all. You're imprisoned by fear. Fear of crime, political corruption, and the withdrawal of rights. You're fearing for your existence and the life that you were born into.

Here are some of the reasons why I personally think that America should enforce stricter laws on firearms: 

Threat to innocents
If you keep a gun in your household, it's much more likely that either you or a member of your family will be injured by it than it is for a perpetrator to be shot. It's more common for deaths and injuries to be caused by homicidal plots made by loved ones, suicide attempts or children curiously playing with the gun than it is for an intruder to be severely injured.

Increased risk of getting shot
Charles Branas, along with his team at the University of Pennsylvania analysed 677 cases of gun crime over a two and a half year period, in an attempt to determine whether or not carrying a firearm makes you more or less likely to become a victim of crime. The victims were of similar age, sex and ethnicity. The results were shocking. They found that those who carried a gun were 4.5 times more likely to be shot, and 4.2 times more likely to be killed. This could be because carrying a weapon gave them a false sense of power and invincibility, or because their weapon was taken off of them and used against them by the very person that they were wanting to use it on.  

Likelihood of you managing to shoot the person you are aiming for
Even if an intruder did break into your house and you managed to get to your weapon in time, there's no saying that you would be able to shoot him. There are a number of outcomes that could happen if you pulled a gun on an invader. One is that he could pull a gun on you too and shoot you first. Another is that you aim for him, but due to the domestic environment/lack of training you are unable to hit him. Or maybe you managed to shoot and kill him, then you've got to live knowing that you took the life of another for the rest of yours.

Other options
Guns are not the only form of self defence. Martial arts paired with pepper spray, or tazers, are other forms of self defence that can be used effectively against assailants. They are used as a form of self defence, rather than a weapon whose sole purpose is to kill.

Here is a list of reasons why, although they probably should be outlawed, sadly won't be: 

The gun industry in American make estimated profits in the region of two to three billion dollars, annually. They are the leading exporter of firearms, exporting $336.5 million worth in 2011 alone. The government have now implemented a $25 gun tax on all new purchases. It's lucrative for the government to exploit the popularity of firearms. Why would a country whose economy is benefited from the gun industry to such an extent ban the weapon? Will there ever be enough needless deaths to convince them that their gun laws are not strict enough? I genuinely don't think that either you nor I will live long enough to see the day where terrible crimes such as the Aurora massacre or the school shooting in Connecticut are prevented thanks to stricter gun laws. It's cynical, but it's true. 

Popularity of guns
A large amount of the American public like guns. Florida is close to becoming the first state to have one million gun permits, allowing its citizens to carry concealed guns. One million legal guns in Florida. Legal. Take into consideration all of the illegal guns that exist in the state and it means that the Florida alone own more one million firearms. Politicians who threaten the legality of owning guns are essentially writing off these citizens votes, as gun supporters, and gun owners in particular, and highly unlikely to vote for them if they hold anti-firearm views. 

Gun culture
Hollywood glorifies the use of firearms, as well as the idea of good guys defeating the bad guys at any cost. For the most part, this cost tends to be the bad guys lives. Masses of on-screen deaths are justified by the black and white classification of good and bad people, and the two dimensional nature of the antagonist in comparison to the emotionally layered protagonists. Filmmakers, for the most part, do not want to present villains in any way other than pure evil. They don't want the audience to feel for them in the slightest. They want you to cheer when the hero puts a bullet in between their eyes. We are becoming desensitised to the sight of guns, and graphic violence, and that is a very dangerous thing.

One last thing to think about before I wrap this post up. Here's some of the largest countries in the world, in order of population size, and the amount of homicides committed by firearm in each of them [source]

(NOTE: This was going to be a top twenty, but eight of the countries did not have homicide by firearm figures, so I didn't include them)

  1. India - 3,093
  2. United States - 9,146
  3. Brazil - 34,678
  4. Bangladesh - 1,456 
  5. Japan - 11
  6. Mexico - 11,309 
  7. Philippines - 7,349
  8. Vietnam - 834
  9. Egypt - 453 
  10. Germany - 158
  11. Turkey -  535
  12. Democratic Republic of the Congo - 248
United States may not have the highest death total caused by firearms, but it's still a terrifyingly high number for that of a first world country, a number that could be reduced with the proper changes to the law.

So America, although this plea will undoubtedly land upon deaf ears, the world must ask you once more...

Honour the deaths of the Connecticut tragedy's victims, as well as the victims to previous and future gun crime, and demand for stricter gun laws to be introduced in your country.

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