The Problem with Guns
Sources and Resources
Gun control is the regulation of the selling, owning and use
Gun control can help towards lowering the
number of lives lost each year through problems associated with gun ownership.
Europe, which has much stricter gun-control laws than the United States, also
has a much lower rate of gun-related deaths. The rate of gun-related deaths in
the United States is 8 times higher than that of other high-income countries. (9)
Gun control can include:
- Banning handguns. Handguns are the cause of most of our
gun-related problems. Banning them will greatly
reduce the number of people dying each year.
- Banning the manufacture and sale of "junk" guns.
- Banning assault weapons. These weapons are extremely
dangerous and should not be in the hands of regular citizens.
- Regulating all gun sales. Guns should be allowed to be
sold only by licensed dealers.
- Requiring that all gun owners obtain a license. This will
provide information on gun owners.
- Screening of gun-license applicants. Effective screening
can be used to try to keep guns out of the hands of those who are a risk to
themselves or others.
- Requiring that all guns and ammunition be registered. This
will provide information on the guns and ammunition owned by the gun owners.
- Requiring gun education. Requiring gun purchasers to take
lessons in gun safety can prevent many accidents.
- Requiring that all handguns be equipped with safety devices. This will help prevent unintentional gun deaths among children.
On the Handguns page,
you see that handguns are the cause of most gun-related problems. Banning these
guns would save many lives each year.
Banning the manufacture and sale of "junk" guns
A particularly dangerous type of handgun is the
"junk" gun also known as "Saturday Night Special". Junk guns
are cheap, low-quality handguns with a very small barrel length (under 3
inches). Their short barrels and low quality make them dangerous and unreliable.
Their low price and small size make them very popular. Junk guns are the type of
handgun most used in violent crimes. It is illegal to import them into the
United States, but they can be legally manufactured and sold in most states. The
majority of junk guns are produced by the "Ring of Fire", a group of
Southern California manufacturers. (10)
A ban on all handguns would be most desirable, but a ban on
"junk" guns would already be a great help in reducing the number of
Banning Assault Weapons
Assault weapons are semi-automatic and fully automatic rifles, shotguns and handguns designed primarily for
military and law enforcement use. (Semi-automatic weapons fire one bullet per
trigger pull. Automatic weapons keep firing for as long as the trigger is
depressed.) Assault rifles and shotguns are usually
lighter and more concealable than standard long guns.
Assault weapons are built to kill large numbers of people
quickly and efficiently. They do not belong in the hands of regular citizens.
The current assault weapon ban in the United States has many
loopholes that need to be closed. Assault weapons are still being sold with
slight cosmetic alterations which allow them to evade the law.
The studies "Firearm
Availability and Unintentional Firearm Deaths, Suicide, and Homicide among 5-14
Year Olds" and "The Kansas City Gun Experiment" reviewed on
the Gun Availability page show a
strong positive correlation between gun availability and gun-related problems.
The results of these studies strongly suggest that restrictive licensing could
have a positive effect on lowering the number of gun-related problems.
The effect that restrictive licensing of handguns can have on
the number of gun homicides and suicides can be seen in a study conducted about
the situation in the District of Columbia before and after a restrictive
licensing law went into effect. What follows is a short review of this study.
"Effects of Restrictive Licensing of
Handguns on Homicide and Suicide in the District of Columbia"
C. Loftin, D Mcdowall, B. Wiersema and TJ Cottey. Published in the New
England Journal of Medicine, Volume 325:1615-1620, December 5, 1991. (8)
Background: In 1976
the District of Columbia adopted a law that banned the purchase, sale,
transfer, or possession of handguns by civilians.
Methods: In the
study homicides and suicides that occurred between 1968 and 1987 were
classified according to place of occurrence (within the District of
Columbia or in the adjacent metropolitan areas where the law did not
apply, cause (homicide or suicide), mechanism of death (guns or other
means) and time of occurrence (before or after 1976 when the law was
Results: The study
concluded that restrictive licensing of handguns was associated with an
immediate decline in homicides and suicides by guns in the District of
Columbia. In Washington, D.C. the number of homicides by guns declined 3.3
per month (or 25%) and the number of suicides by guns declined 0.6 (or
23%) after the adoption of the law. There were no similar reductions in
the number of homicides or suicides committed by other means than guns.
There were also no similar reductions in the adjacent metropolitan areas
in Maryland and Virginia. And there were also no increases in homicides or
suicides by other means than guns.
study found that restrictions on access to guns in the District of
Columbia prevented an average of 47 deaths each year since the
implementation of the law.
In 2003, a study was done to check whether gun safety devices
could actually prevent some gun deaths. What follows is a short preview of this
"Unintentional and undetermined firearm
related deaths: a preventable death analysis for three safety devices"
J.S. Vernick, M.O. Brien, L. M. Hepburn, D.W. Webster and S.W. Hargarten. Published in
Injury Prevention 2003;9:307-311. (5)
The study aimed to determine the proportion of unintentional and
undetermined gun related deaths preventable by three safety devices:
- Personalization device: with these
devices, only authorized users are able to operate the gun
- Loaded chamber indicator (LCIs):
indicates whether the gun contains ammunition
- Magazine safety: prevents the gun from
firing when the ammunition magazine is removed
Information about all unintentional and undetermined gun related deaths
from 1991-1998 were obtained from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
for Maryland and from the Wisconsin Firearm Injury Reporting System for
Milwaukee. Each death was classified as either preventable, possibly
preventable or not preventable by each of the three safety devices.
the 117 gun related deaths, 95% (81%) involved handguns. Some of the
results can be found in the following table.
and undetermined firearm related deaths: a preventable
death analysis for three safety devices" study results of 117
Deaths involving children 0-17 were more
likely to be preventable. The study findings were projected to the entire
United States, which resulted in an estimated 442 preventable deaths in
2000 if all guns had been equipped with these safety devices.
Safety devices incorporated into guns can potentially save hundreds of
lives each year.