Gun control is arguably one of the most popular and controversial issues in the United States of America. So far, there seems to be an even split between the number of people who believe that every citizen should have the right always to carry a personal firearm and those who don’t. Every so often, a mass shooting incident occurs that re-ignites this debate, which is not followed up by any significant legislative changes to the existing gun laws to make a tangible difference to the status quo. The main area of dispute, in this case, is the level of violent and needless shootings that are likely to take place if people can easily purchase guns without any in-depth background checks and other procedures that could help curb or eliminate the variations.5 What should America do to reduce the indiscriminate gun violence and killings that currently plagues the nation? Should guns be tolerated, eliminated, or drastically controlled?
“Respecting the Second Amendment does not mean abandoning common sense. The right to own guns in this country must remain, while we also must strengthen our laws to prevent mass shootings.” — Claire McCaskill
Based on various organizations’ research, the increase in these weapons’ supply and availability is directly proportional to the spike in gun-related violence that we are experiencing in the nation. The gun availability statistics of the United States of America is mind-blowing. We may not have an exact tally of how many guns there are in circulation in America. However, from data out there, we have over “393 million firearms spread across America—meaning that there are approximately 120.5 guns for every 100 people in the country.”1 When placed side-by-side with the nation’s total population, which sits at around 328 million people, we can see that there are more guns than people in America. From these numbers, all we can say is that America is locked-and-loaded. There is an earnest need to consider where we stand as a nation concerning gun availability, circulation, and controls.
Although the guns are distributed and sold with the sole purpose of enabling the users to protect themselves from harm, for some, it ends up becoming a solution to every dispute they have with people around them, leading to gun-violence crimes.4 Let us look at some numbers:
Everyday Gun Deaths
Statistics show that 100 Americans lose their lives to gunshots, and hundreds more are injured via this method of violence. Gun violence in the United States of America sends shockwaves of trepidation to millions of its populace’s minds. The organization, Everytown, has done a great job in gathering a Herculean amount of comprehensive data to inform readers about the alarming rate of gun violence in America.
Gun Deaths by Intent
According to Everytown, the average number of deaths per year stem from Gun Deaths by Intent in the United States is approximately 37603 (N). The leading causes of gun deaths by intent are suicide, homicide, police shootings, unintentional deaths, and undetermined gun deaths.2
Gun Deaths by Suicide
Approximately two-thirds of these gun deaths are suicides (i.e., 22,926 or 61% of N). The suicide rate in the U.S. is ten times higher than other high-income earning nations. Easy access to guns triples such acts—the most cases being in States with increased gun ownership rates. 74% of gun suicides deaths are White Men in the U.S.2
Gun Homicides Per 100,000 Residents
Homicide deaths is a runner up to suicide deaths. One-third of gun deaths are homicides in the U.S. (i.e., 13380 deaths or 36% of N). Easy access to firearms doubles the risk of death by homicide. It is also sad to note that Black Americans represent the highest statistics of gun homicide victims–they are ten times more likely than white Americans to die by gun homicide.2
From the infographics above, we abstract that the U.S. comes in at 4.1 concerning the gun homicide rate. Chile comes in at 1.9. Israel comes in at 0.7. Canada, Sweden, Italy, and Sweden comes in at 0.3. Switzerland, Finland, and the Slovak Republic comes in at 0.2.2
Death of American Children and Teens
Guns remain the leading cause of death for American children and teens, with over 1700 deaths due to gun homicide yearly. The leading cause is mainly due to domestic or family violence. According to Everytown, “Black children and teens are 14 times more likely than white children and teens of the same age to die by gun homicide.”2
Everytown does a great job stipulating collated facts about gun violence. (NB. Take some time to explore the points that they have postulated as it relates to the deadly impact of gun violence and how it impacts the citizenry of the U.S.).
The metrics of gun-related violence and incidence is drastically on the rise in the United States of America. It is fast becoming very troubling and has become the focus of many debates and dialogues on actions to control the rising incidence that puts the nation in a state of manic apprehension. The statistics on gun violence incidence across the country is scary. According to the Gun Violence Archive, at the time of this writing, “the total number of gun violence-related deaths in the U.S., from January 2020 to November 14, 2020, so far is at 37,509. Of this number, Homicide/Murder/Unintentional Gun Deaths/Defensive Gun Use (DGU) is at 16,455. Suicides are at 21,054. The number of gun violence injuries is at 34,207. The number of mass shooting victims is at about 557. The number of mass murders is at 16.” The metrics are radically on the rise daily. However, as stipulated, this data is highly organic—it is regularly changing as incidences occur. To follow the increase, one must regularly visit the Gun Violence Archive to ascertain the current statistics status quo. You can compare this data with the collated trends and statistics of the past six years in the infographic below.
The truth is that there are many different methods of increasing safety and security. Still, there is only one way to reduce or completely eradicate the number of deaths from gun-related violence—by completely taking away guns from anyone who isn’t part of law enforcement. Let’s be honest; that is just wishful thinking at best. However, doing this would garner a lot of opposition and fierce criticism and direct opposition to the Second Amendment Rights of the American citizenry that allow them to bear arms in the first place. There are various pros and cons of allowing the population of a country to license and own firearms. Understanding these benefits and costs would better provide better guidance on efforts that must be put in place to begin to curb the looming and increasing gun violence and gun-related killings and injuries in the United States of America.
Benefits of Owning Firearm
There are some pros to owning a firearm. Reading through a Medscape journal article titled “Risks and Benefits of a Gun in the Home,” David Hemenway highlighted some benefits. That guns are for sport (i.e., hunting and target shooting), protection against crime, determent of crime, and thwarting a crime in progress. The core benefit is the defense or protection of the individual who possesses the firearm. Let us take a deeper look at the protection benefit.
“If you take guns away from legal gun owners, then the only people who would have guns would be the bad guys. Even a pacifist would get violent if someone were trying to kill him or her. You would fight for your life, whatever your beliefs.” — Bruce Willis
First, the main advantage of owning a firearm is the sense of security the owner can enjoy. If a house owner’s life is at risk at any time due to a home invasion, a firearm could come in handy in providing protection. In this instance, a properly functioning gun could offer an immediate and effective first defense line against the intruders. Calling the police is always the best option; however, there are cases where immediate action to manage the situation could save lives before the authorities arrive. Failure to curb the problem could result in loss of life or severe injury to the homeowners. In such a circumstance, it would make sense to own a firearm.5 It could be a split-second decision of either protecting yourself and your loved ones or stand the chance of being killed or fatally injured, should you not own a firearm or failing to react if you possess a gun at that instance.
The second advantage still relates to the individual’s security in correlation to their community or their profession. For instance, there are cases where an individual resides in neighborhoods that are not particularly protected or prone to gun violence. There are also situations where the individual does work that is quite sensitive or dangerous (e.g., a law enforcement officer working undercover). Because of this, there could be a constant threat to their personal safety and that of their loved ones. The option of hiring security personnel to be at their disposal always may be too costly and not be a viable option of protection. Hence, a firearm purchase may be the next best option to ensure security and safety in life-threatening situations. These individuals will have the capacity to play an active role in guaranteeing their defense and their wards without breaking the budget.5
Costs of Owning Firearm
On the flip side of the coin, there are various disadvantages to keeping firearms. In the preceding paragraphs, there are precise shreds of evidence that gun ownership can be harmful. The statistics and data provided by the organization, Everytown, tells the whole story. According to Hemenway in the Medscape journal, the summary of the costs of owning firearms revolves around the dangers of accidental discharge, suicides, assaults and homicides, and the intimidation factor that gun carriers inflict on society. Let us further reiterate these dangers in the following points below.
“We lose eight children and teenagers to gun violence every day. If a mysterious virus suddenly started killing eight of our children every day, America would mobilize teams of doctors and public health officials. We would move heaven and earth until we found a way to protect our children. But not with gun violence.” ― Elizabeth Warren
First, retaining a gun generally makes one’s household more dangerous. Many sensible parents take steps to ensure that their firearms are out of the reach of children. However, to their surprise, most find out that their children have handled their guns on numerous occasions without their knowledge. Report and data show that a firearm in the household increases the chances of encountering an accidental shooting by up to four times the regular rate.4 This means that you are more likely to shoot an innocent person than likely to kill a home invader. The firearm also poses a constant threat to the young ones in the household. In bouts of curiosity, they may try to use the gun and end up injuring themselves or worse. There have been situations where children have accidentally shot themselves, their siblings, or even their parents while playing with a loaded firearm.5
Second, guns in the hands of criminals make for a deadly society. If you take away guns from everyone, criminals and terrorists will find illegal ways to obtain these firearms to perpetrate more crimes of terror and mayhem. There will be a tremendous spike in armed robberies, drug trafficking, bank heists, predatory sexual crimes (e.g., rapes), gang gun violence, etc. These criminals will have greater freedom to conduct their nefarious activities, almost unhindered and heavily armed in the process. In situations where we have seen a mass-shooting in action, people in the fray who have firearms can better protect themselves and others. Guns in the wrong hands of those willing to inflict harm on others is a grave disadvantage. We have seen mass shootings occurring all over the country, leading to the death and injury of many innocent bystanders. That is the disadvantage of having an excessive circulation of too much firearm in society.
Is the root cause of these mass shootings gun ownership? Or, is it the psychological instability of those that possess them? After all, there are legal gun owners who don’t carry out crimes with their piece. How could we curb gun violence? What are some strategies to help reduce gun violence across the nation?
8 Strategies for Controlling Gun Violence
If citizens are allowed to purchase and own firearms, there must be measures to ensure that anyone looking to buy a gun meets specific criteria. First, there is a need to establish that they are not a viable threat to their safety and others. Second, the issue of allowing purchases without specifying valid reasons for the firearm purchase creates a knothole that enables people with ill intentions to purchase and own firearms legally. It would make more sense to ascertain these reasons to reduce the number of people who take advantage of the system to hurt others.4 Third, the government needs to find a way to track all firearms in circulation—for instance, a voluntary registry for individuals who own an unlicensed firearm to register their ownership. At best, this may be wishful thinking because many people who own guns illegally will never willingly register their claim of such a weapon.
Fourth, the mental condition and moral standing of the firearm purchaser will also need to be determined. Mental illness is more prevalent than most people are willing to admit, which means that many mentally ill and psychologically unstable people do not get the help they require in time. Because of this, some turn to the purchase of firearms and violence to fix every problem they face.6 Carrying out proper evaluations will help reduce this kind of danger in society. An investigation is necessary to ascertain that those who have a history of crime or affiliated with known criminals don’t have the option to purchase firearms.6 Fifth, the severity of the Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is high as of now. However, the severity level of the background check system by the FBI NICS may need to be taken up a notch or two as an avenue to help with further curbing of guns getting into the wrong hands.
Sixth, this point is much more a propositional strategy. There needs to be a series of education and testing that should go with the purchase of firearms.5 As a proposition, there should be a test and certification program before firearm purchase for the following tiers of possible proof: firearm knowledge and use, psyche analysis for mental stability, and ethics tests that educate users on the improper use of guns. Future firearm owners need to take all these classes. They also need to pass culminating certification tests certified by the FBI NICS board as ready to own firearms. The test results will be on the FBI NICS database and checked at all firearm sales outlets across the country before the sale of guns to any individual. This proposition does not eliminate firearms as a whole; however, it helps the government reduce variations that frequently lead to catastrophes.
The proposition mentioned above in point six will lengthen out the firearm purchase process; however, it is an avenue to ensure that the wrong people don’t have access to guns and hurt others in the long haul. The government could achieve this by establishing what I call the Firearm Certification Education Schools (FACES) that offer these training and certifications. After the individual passes and is certified, they receive an issued card from the gun school that verifies them as being in the green for purchasing the firearm of their choice. The schools then funnel the information into the NICS database. At every firearm point-of-sale (POS), the gun school certification card will be run on the NICS database to ensure that the customer is legal to purchase a firearm. After the first verification, the POS clerks will run the second and final criminal background check (i.e., normal background check process) as a double layer of assurance to ensure that the person is still green with no criminality records. Only then can a firearm be sold to them. It is a long process; however, the benefits would far outweigh the wait to acquire a gun—it will make for a more ethically sound breed of firearm owners.
Finally, on point number six, upon the apprehension of any criminals with a firearm(s), or anyone, for that matter, law enforcement officers will run their names against the NICS database to ensure that they are all in the green for gun ownership and that they are not criminals. If they are not in the FACES-NICS database, that goes for criminality counts that they will be heavily fined for or serve time for breaking the law. With such laws in place, it will go a long way in curbing the gun violence issues that plague our society. Seventh, another proposition is that the government should institute the Get-It-Right-Tracking (GIRT) Project system. This project will give a chance for all gun owners to register unregistered guns to the NICS database. The GIRT Project will also create an avenue for these gun owners to go through the FACES process. Finally, eighth, the House and Congress could review the legal age for purchasing firearms. They could increase the age range and ensure that the rule goes across the board throughout the whole country—this is just a proposition. These strategies, if adopted by the powers that be, could be instrumental in reducing random shootings in the country with time. The goal is to curb and eliminate gun violence in America.
The gun debate is a very dicey one, to be honest. The points am making are my own opinion about guns or no guns. I am of the notion of not wholly abolishing the Second Amendment Right, which is the right to bear arms. My peculiar stance is for a more robust methodology towards gun ownership, as I have proposed with a supposed “FACES” program. I am a Nigerian-American, and I have two real-life tales of coming very close to death because of being vulnerable from a physical safety standpoint. The first tale happened several years ago in the late ’90s while living in Nigeria. Armed robbers attacked our home in Umuahia, Abia State, during the dead of the night. Then, as a young adult, I remember being beaten by the armed robbers as I felt the cold barrel of what felt like a shotgun behind my back. They asked my parents and me to choose how we wanted to die—death by a gunshot or by them pouring acid on us. We begged for our dear lives, and we were fortunate enough not to be harmed. God saved us on that day. Others are not always this fortunate. However, if we owned a firearm during that home invasion, would it not have given us a generous ounce of advantage and some security if it came down to us using it for home defense? On some occasions, owning a firearm could be the difference between staying alive or being sent to the afterlife prematurely. So, would you not say that a more robust ethical gun control and usage would be a better option than total abrogation? Ponder on this for a moment.
The second scenario was like the one above. Not too long before I left Nigeria to come to the United States at the dawn of the 21st Century, armed robbers, again, attacked one of our homes in Owerri, Imo State. They cratered a hole through our concrete fence and broke into our house. I was at home with my elder brother and a house-help, who pleaded with them not to hurt us as they carted away with a large sum of money. On this property of ours, we owned two homes, of which we rented the other out to another family. After they robbed us and spared our lives, they proceeded to the other home to attempt to break-in. As they approached the other house, our tenant and his kids let out a warning shot in the direction of the armed burglars, who scurried into hiding and stalled their advance. At this time, the neighbors had already called the police, so the armed robbers escaped so that they wouldn’t get into a firefight with the police and risk getting caught. I tell these two stories to establish that home defense, in my opinion, is of the essence. If guns are exclusively abolished, it will be a free-for-all for criminals to go to town in various cities—hurting, killing, terrorizing, stealing as they go. As an opinion, a proposition like FAECS is what America needs. It will take time, to say the very least; however, it will make for a more ethical and safer future—a step in the right direction—related to firearm ownership and use.
“There is a recognition that Second Amendment rights, like the First Amendment and other rights, come with responsibilities and limitations. There is no reason both sides of the gun debate can’t support policies that both protect the right to legally own guns for sport and safety and reduce the likelihood of mass fatalities.” — Randi Weingarten
In summary, due to the Second Amendment Rights in the United States of America, the nation may never completely abrogate guns from American society. However, there is a crucial need for more robust gun control laws to help reduce the nation’s improper use of firearms. We have seen the leading pros of gun ownership as the security that it avails the owner. However, we have also seen some of the disadvantages of gun ownership. We noticed that possessing a gun makes your home more dangerous, especially if your wards have access to your piece(s). There is a need for gun owners to ensure that their weapons are out of their children’s reach to prevent any deadly accident or injury from taking place. We also saw that excessive guns in circulation make it easy for criminals to access it, as they use it to further perpetuate their heinous crimes. We saw eight different strategies that could help bring some sense of order in gun ownership and hopefully reduce the number of murderous atrocities perpetuated due to gun ownership. In all this, the goal is to reduce and possibly eliminate the dangers and variations that come with gun availability and its attendant use. Since its abrogation may not be possible, the goal then should be ethical gun usage. Let’s ponder on these facts as we continue the “guns or no guns” debate.
- Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute. (2018). Gun violence: Facts and statistics. Retrieved from https://injury.research.chop.edu/violence-prevention-initiative/types-violence-involving-youth/gun-violence/gun-violence-facts-and#.W-2rbpNKhPY
- Everytown for Gun Safety. (2018). Gun violence in America. Retrieved from https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-america/
- Hemenway, D. (2011). Risks and benefits of a gun in the home. Medscape, 5(6), 502-511. Retrieved from comedsoc.org/images/Risk%20Guns%20at%20Home%20Hemenway%20Am%20J%20Lifestyle%20Med%206-12_copy1.pdf
- Kleck, G. (2017). Point blank: Guns and violence in America. Routledge.
- Sheley, J. F., & Wright, J. D. (1995). In the line of fire: Youths, guns, and violence in urban America. Transaction Publishers.
- Wright, J. D. (1995). Ten essential observations on guns in America. Society, 32(3), 63-68.