Political arguments of gun politics in the United States
Political arguments of gun politics in the United States center around disagreements that range from the practical — does gun ownership cause or prevent crime? — to the constitutional — how should the Second Amendment be interpreted? — to the ethical — what should the balance be between an individual's right of self-defense through gun ownership and the People's interest in maintaining public safety?
Political arguments about gun rights fall into two basic categories, first, does the government have the authority to regulate guns, and second, if it does, is it effective public policy to regulate guns.Spitzer, Robert J.: "The Politics of Gun Control". Chatham House Publishers, Inc., 1995]
A fundamental type of political argument about gun control is based on the premise that the government does or does not have the authority to regulate guns.
Jeff Snyder is perhaps the best known spokesman for the view that gun possesson is a fundamental civil right, intimitately related to the right to life, and so does not depend on the US Constitution. In this view, arguments about whether gun restrictions reduce or increase violent crime are irrelevant: "I am am not here engaged in...recommending...policy prescriptions on the basis of the promised or probable results [on crime] ...Thus these essays are not fundamentally about guns at all. They are, foremost, about...the kind of people we intend to be...and the ethical and political consequences of decisions [to control firearms] ." [Snyder, J: Nation of Cowards: Essays on the Ethics of Gun Control. Accurate Press, St. Louis, 2001:pp. i-ii] He terms the main principle behind gun control "the instrumental theory of salvation:" that, lacking the ability to change the violent intent in criminals, we often shift focus to the instrument in an attempt to "limit our ability to hurt ourselves, and one another." [ibid, p. 1] His work discusses the consequences that flow from conditioning the liberties of all citizens upon the behavior of criminals.
The Second Amendment argument
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution 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." [ [http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.billofrights.html#amendmentii US Constitution at Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute] ] Disagreement about the
Second Amendment to the United States Constitutionis a touchstone of modern political debate about guns in America. The position that the Second Amendment codifies an "individual" right to own guns is a common argument made by gun rights advocates, who state that each of the Ten Amendments comprising the Bill of Rights refer to individual–not collective–rights, and place explicit limitations upon the power of the federal government. [Story, Joseph, A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States(1986) Regnery Gateway, Chicago, Illinois, p.319-320, ISBN 0-89526-796-9] [Hardy, David T. The origins and Development of the Second Amendment(1986), Blacksmith Corp., Chino Valley, Arizona, pp.64-93, ISBN 0-941540-13-8] [Halbrook, Stephen P. That Every Man be Armed--The Evolution of a Constitutional Right(1987), The University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, New Mexico, pp.55-87, ISBN 0-8263-0868-6] [Gottlieb, Alan M.: "The Rights of Gun Ownership". Green Hill, 1981] A study of the National Rifle Association publication "American Hunter" found thirty-four references to this claim in a single issue of the magazine.Spitzer, Robert J.: "The Politics of Gun Control", Chapter 2. Chatham House Publishers, Inc., 1995] However, at present, only two of the thirteen federal circuits have adopted an individual rights view. A Second Amendment case is currently under review by the Supreme Court (" District of Columbia v. Heller"), having been granted certiorari, to resolve this jurisdictional split. [ " United States v. Emerson", "Parker v. District of Columbia", and " Silveira v. Lockyer"]
A key issue involves disagreement over the meaning of the Second Amendment, which is interpreted by gun rights advocates as an "individual right", and by gun control advocates as referring to a right of the people to arm themselves only when bonded together for communal defense.cite book|last=Gottesman|first=Ronald|title=Violence in America: An Encyclopedia|page=pp. 66,68|publisher=Simon and Schuster|year=1999]
The extensive emphasis on the meaning of the Second Amendment in modern political activity is reflected in the resultant public perception. A poll conducted by the National Rifle Association found that 89% of Americans believe they have a right to own a gun.Wright, James D.: "Public Opinion and Gun Control: A Comparison of Results from Two Recent National Surveys". Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 455. (May 1981)]
The "individual rights" view of the Second Amendment has been, and is, endorsed by many commentators, among them attorney and former senator Fred Thompson. In a recent article, Senator Thompson noted:
From the enactment of the Bill of Rights in 1791 until the 20th century, no one seriously argued that the Second Amendment dealt with anything but an individual right — along with all other nine original amendments. [Don] Kates writes that not one court or commentator denied it was a right of individual gun owners until the last century. Judges and commentators in the 18th and 19th century routinely described the Second Amendment as a right of individuals. And they expressly compared it to the other rights such as speech, religion, and jury trial. [Thompson, Fred D.: "Second Kates", National Review Online, May 10, 2007]
The claim that the Second Amendment does not codify a constitutionally based individual right to guns is a common theme of gun control advocates. Robert Spitzer [Robert J. Spitzer, Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1980., author and professor of political science at the State University of New York, College at Cortland.] summarizes his opinion of United States Supreme Court precedence on this question:
"The Court in this case "(
U.S. v. Cruikshank, a pre-incorporation Supreme Court case)" established two principles that it (and most other courts) have consistently upheld: that the Second Amendment does not simply afford any individual a right to bear arms free from governmental control; and that the Second Amendment is not "incorporated," meaning that it pertains only to federal power, not state power..." [Spitzer, Robert J.: "The Politics of Gun Control", page 1. Chatham House Publishers, Inc., 1995]
According to Spitzer, the Second Amendment does not in any way restrict the States from passing legislation which regulates firearms. The vast majority of firearm laws in the United States are not federal, but local codes, and are not constrained by the Second Amendment. [Spitzer, Robert J.: "The Politics of Gun Control", page 39. Chatham House Publishers, Inc., 1995]
incorporation doctrine, which causes the federal Bill of Rightsto be applied to the state governments, the second amendment has never been incorporated into the fourteenth amendment's liberty clause by any federal courtcite book
author=Wilson, Harry Leon
title=Guns, gun control, and elections: the politics and policy of firearms
publisher=Rowman & Littlefield
Gun laws in the United States (by state)"
Each of the fifty states has its own constitution and laws regarding guns. Most of the states' constitutions provide for some form of state-level right to keep and bear arms with only seven states remaining silent on the issue.cref|a Many states' constitutional provisions for firearm rights are at least similar to, if not directly derived from, the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. Hawaii's constitution simply copies the text of the Second Amendment verbatim, [http://hawaii.gov/lrb/con/conart1.html Hawaii State Constitution Article 1, § 17] ] while North Carolina, and South Carolina begin with the same but continue with an injunction against maintaining standing armies. [http://statelibrary.dcr.state.nc.us/nc/stgovt/preamble.HTM#I North Carolina State Constitution Article 1, § 30] ] [http://www.scstatehouse.net/scconstitution/a01.htm South Carolina State Constitution Article 1, § 20] ] Alaska also begins with the full text of the Second Amendment, but adds that the right, "shall not be denied or infringed by the State or a political subdivision of the State". [http://ltgov.state.ak.us/constitution.php?section=1 Alaska State Constitution Article 1, § 19] ] Rhode Island, on the other hand, subtracts the first half of the Second Amendment leaving only, " [t] he right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed". [http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/RiConstitution/C01.html Rhode Island State Constitution Article 1, § 22] ]
The majority of the remaining states' constitutions differ from the text of the United States Constitution primarily in their clarification of exactly to whom the right belongs or by the inclusion of additional, specific protections or restrictions. Seventeen states refer to the right to keep and bear arms as being an individual right with Utah and Alaska referring to it explicitly as " [t] he individual right to keep and bear arms", [http://le.utah.gov/~code/const/htm/CO_02007.htm Utah State Constitution Article 1, § 6] ] [http://ltgov.state.ak.us/constitution.php?section=1 Alaska State Constitution Article 1, § 19] ] while the other fifteen refer to the right as belonging to "every citizen", [http://www.legislature.state.al.us/CodeOfAlabama/Constitution/1901/Constitution1901_toc.htm Alabama State Constitution Article 1, § 26] ] "all individuals", [http://www.legis.nd.gov/constitution/const.pdf North Dakota State Constitution Article 1, § 1] ] "all persons", [http://www.nh.gov/constitution/billofrights.html New Hampshire State Constitution Part 1, Article 2-a] ] or another, very similar phrasecref|b. In contrast are four states which make no mention whatever of an individual right or of defense of one's self as a valid basis for the right to arms. Arkansas, Massachusetts, and Tennessee all state that the right is "for the common defence", [http://www.sos.arkansas.gov/ar-constitution/arcart2/arcart2-5.htm Arkansas State Constitution Article 2, § 5] ] [http://www.mass.gov/legis/const.htm Massachusetts State Constitution Article 17] ] [http://www.state.tn.us/sos/bluebook/online/section5/tnconst.pdf Tennessee State Constitution Article 1, § 26] ] while Virginia's constitution explicitly indicates that the right is derived from the need for a militia to defend the state. [http://legis.state.va.us/Laws/search/Constitution.htm#1S13 Virginia State Constitution Article 1, § 13] ]
Most state constitutions go on to ennumerate one or more appropriate reasons for the keeping of arms. Twenty-four states include self-defence as a valid, protected use of arms;cref|c twenty-eight cite defense of the state as a proper purpose.cref|d Ten states extend the right to defence of home and/or property,cref|e five include the defence of family,cref|f and six add hunting and recreation.cref|g Idaho is uniquely specific in its provision that " [n] o law shall impose licensure, registration, or special taxation on the ownership or possession of firearms or ammunition. Nor shall any law permit the confiscation of firearms, except those actually used in the commission of a felony". [http://www3.state.id.us/cgi-bin/constretr?sctid=003010111.K Idaho State Constitution Article 1, § 11] ] Fifteen state constitutions include specific restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. Florida's constitution calls for a three day waiting period for all modern cartridge handgun purchases, with exceptions for handgun purchases by those holding a CCW license, or for anyone who purchases a blackpowder handgun. [http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?Mode=Constitution&Submenu=3&Tab=statutes#A01S08 Florida State Constitution Article 1, § 8] ] Illinois prefaces the right by indicating that it is " [s] ubject...to the police power". [http://www.ilga.gov/commission/lrb/con1.htm Illinois State Constitution Article 1, § 22] ] Florida and the remaining thirteen states with specific restrictions all carry a provision to the effect that the state legislature may enact laws regulating the carrying, concealing, and/or wearing of arms.cref|h
Right of self-defense
Many gun rights advocates believe that the Second Amendment protects the right to own guns for individual self defense, hunting, and target shooting. Gun rights supporters argue that the phrase "the people" applies to all individuals rather than an organized collective, and state that the phrase "the people" means the same individuals in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 9th, and 10th Amendments. [Story, Joseph, A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States(1986) Regnery Gateway, Chicago, Illinois, p.319-320, ISBN 0-89526-796-9] [Hardy, David T. The origins and Development of the Second Amendment(1986), Blacksmith Corp., Chino Valley, Arizona, pp.64-93, ISBN 0-941540-13-8] [Halbrook, Stephen P. That Every Man be Armed--The Evolution of a Constitutional Right(1987), The University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, New Mexico, pp.55-87, ISBN 0-8263-0868-6] They also cite the fact that the Second Amendment resides in the Bill of Rights and argue that the Bill of Rights, by its very nature, defines
individual rightsof the citizen. [" [http://www.haciendapub.com/comm13.html The Second Amendment --- Reaching a Consensus as an Individual Right] " by Miguel A. Faria] [" [http://www.haciendapub.com/edcor12.html Guns and Violence] " by Miguel A. Faria]
ecurity against tyranny and invasion
Many gun rights advocates also read the Second Amendment to state that because of the need of a formal military, the people have a right to "keep and bear arms" as a protection from the government. The cultural basis for gun ownership traces to the American revolution, where colonists owned and used
muskets equivalent to those of the British soldiers to gain independence. Thomas Jeffersonalso stated that the right to bear arms is necessary for the citizens to protect themselves from the "tyranny in government"cite book |author=Mulloy, D. J. |title=American extremism: history, politics and the militia movement |publisher=Routledge |location=New York |year=2004 |pages=pg 115 |isbn=0-415-32674-5 |oclc= |doi=]
A position taken by some personal gun rights advocatesweasel-inline is that an armed citizenry is the population's last line of defense against
tyrannyby their own government, as they believe was one of the main intents of the Second Amendment. This belief was also held by some of the authors of the Constitution, though a right of rebellion was not explicitly included in the Constitution, and instead the Constitution was designed to ensure a government deriving its power from the consent of the governed.
The Declaration of Independence itself says when discussing the abusive British rule: "...Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it..."
"This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it."
Thomas Jefferson wrote in defense of the
Shays' Rebellionin a letter to William Stevens Smith (November 13, 1787), quoted in Padover's Jefferson On Democracy,
"What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."
Yet, the legal scholar
Roscoe Poundhas said:
"(a) legal right of a citizen to wage war on the government is something that cannot be admitted. ... In the urban industrial society of today a general right to bear efficient arms so as to be enabled to resist oppression by the government would mean that gangs could exercise an extra-legal rule which would defeat the whole Bill of Rights." [Pound, Roscoe.: The Development of Constitutional Guarantees of Liberty, page 91. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT. 1957]
Opponents of this right of revolution theory also argue that the intent of the Second Amendment was the need to avoid a standing army by ensuring the viability of people's militias, and that the concept of rebellious private citizens or rogue militias as a check on governmental tyranny was clearly not part of the Second Amendment. As historian Don Higginbotham notes, the well-regulated militia protected by the Second Amendment was more likely to put down rebellions than participate in them. ["The Federalized Militia Debate" in Saul Cornell's "Whose Right to Bear Arms Did the Second Amendment Protect", April 7, 2000] In his book "Armed People Victorious," Larry Pratt recounts how countries as dissimilar as Guatemala and the Philippines preserved their freedom against communist insurgency by arming the people and forming rural militias in the 1980s. [Pratt, Larry, "Armed People Victorious" (1900) Gun Owners Foundation, Springfield, Va., pp.17-68] Gun-rights advocacy groups argue that the only way to enforce democracy is through having the means of resistance [Story, Joseph, A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States(1986) Regnery Gateway, Chicago, Illinois, p.319-320, ISBN 0-89526-796-9] [Hardy, David T. The origins and Development of the Second Amendment(1986), Blacksmith Corp., Chino Valley, Arizona, pp.64-93, ISBN 0-941540-13-8] [Halbrook, Stephen P. That Every Man be Armed--The Evolution of a Constitutional Right(1987), The University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, New Mexico, pp.55-87, ISBN 0-8263-0868-6] .
Critics of the 'security against tyranny' argument argue also that replacing elected officials by voting is sufficient to keep the government in check,, although there are numerous examples in history of elected officials assuming absolute power, with little regard to laws. Gun right advocates put forward the
Battle of Athensin August 2, 1946as an example of citizens in desperate circumstances using firearms where all other democratic options have failed. [cite web
url = http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1985/2/1985_2_72.shtml
title = The Battle of Athens
accessdate = 2008-04-28]
Then-senator John F. Kennedy recognized the intent of the founding fathers "fears of governmental tyranny" and "security of the nation" in his statement "Know Your Lawmakers, Guns, April 1960, p. 4 (1960),"
"By calling attention to 'a well regulated militia,' the 'security' of the nation, and the right of each citizen 'to keep and bear arms,' our founding fathers recognized the essentially civilian nature of our economy. Although it is extremely unlikely that the fears of governmental tyranny which gave rise to the Second Amendment will ever be a major danger to our nation, the Amendment still remains an important declaration of our basic civilian-military relationships, in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of his country. For that reason I believe the Second Amendment will always be important." [ [http://www.law.ucla.edu/volokh/2amteach/sources.htm "Sources on the Second Amendment and Rights to Keep and Bear Arms in State Constitutions", Prof. Eugene Volokh, UCLA Law School] ]
Gun rights advocacy groups rarely believe in the plausibility of an "instant" rebellion's success through traditional warfare. Those who believe that arms allow for successful rebellions against tyranny hold that Guerrilla Warfare is the method in which liberty could once again (or even for the first time) be achieved. The right of free people to form militias to protect life, liberty, and property has been shown historically to be essential for the preservation of freedom. [Pratt, Larry (ed.) "Safeguarding Liberty-- The Constitution and Citizens Militias" Legacy Communications, Franklin Tennessee, pp.197-352.ISBN 1-880692-18-X]
Few people in the past had debated the applicability of the Second Amendment in conjunction with the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. More recently, scholars had begun to recognize the importance of these Amendments in conjunction with the Second Amendment in preserving individual freedom. Clearly, the founding fathers recognized that some rights were so clear and obvious that they needed no enumeration. In the end, the Bill of Rights with these Amendments was a necessary addition to the federal Constitution for its assured ratification by the states.
Public policy arguments
A second class of political arguments is founded on the premise that even if the government has the authority to regulate guns, to do so may or may not be sound public policy. [ [http://teapot.usask.ca/cdn-firearms/Suter/med-lit.html Guns in the Medical Literature -- A Failure of Peer Review] ]
Importance of a militia
Opponents of a restrictive interpretation of the Second Amendment point out that at the time of the second amendment in the late 18th century, the word "militia" meant all able-bodied male citizens between the ages of 17 and 45. Even today, the United States Code states that the militia is all male citizens and resident aliens at least 17 up to 45 with or without military service experience, and including additionally those under 64 having former military service experience, as well as including female citizens who are members of the National Guard. [ [http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=browse_usc&docid=Cite:+10USC311 U.S. Code on General Military Law, Part I, Chapter 13.] ] Some people argue about even the number of commas in the amendment. [Schulman, J. Neil, "Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns", Page 162. Pulpless.Com, 1994.] Also, there is disagreement about the difference between organized militias and unorganized militias, and their relationship to the Second Amendment, the general question being, "Does the right pertain to only organized, well-regulated militias or all citizens?"
Those concerned about high levels of
gun violencein the United States in comparison to other developed countries ["Firearm-related deaths in the United States and 35 other high- and upper-middle income countries", International Journal of Epidemiology (1998) Vol 27, pages 214-221] [ [http://www.unodc.org/unodc/crime_cicp_survey_seventh.html "The Seventh United Nations Survey on Crime Trends and the Operations of Criminal Justice Systems (1998 - 2000)"] , United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)] look to restrictions on gun ownership as a way to stem the violence. Those supportive of long-standing rights to keep and bear arms point to the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which some interpret as specifically preventing infringement of the "right of the people to keep and bear arms", independent of serving in a militia, as the means by which to stem the violence. [ [http://www.haciendapub.com/humeven1.html More Gun Control, More Crime] ] [ [http://www.haciendapub.com/gunpage15.html Women, Guns and Disinformation] ]
Within the gun politics debate, gun control advocates and gun rights advocates disagree on more practical questions as well. There is an ongoing debate over the role that guns play in
crime. Gun-rights groups say that a well-armed citizenry prevents crime and that making civilian ownership of firearms illegal would increase the crime rateby making law-abiding citizens vulnerable to those who choose to disregard the law. [http://www.haciendapub.com/gunpage4.html Public Health and Gun Control: A Review, Part I] ] [http://www.haciendapub.com/gunpage5.html Public Health and Gun Control: A Review, Part II] ] They note that more people defend themselves with a gun every year than the police arrest for violent crimes and burglary [citation|author=Evers, Williamson M.|year=1994|title=Victim's Rights, Restitution, and Retribution|publisher=Independent Institute|pages=7] and that private citizens legally shoot almost as many criminals as public police officers do. [citation|author=California Department of Justice, Bureau of Criminal Statistics and Special Services|year=1981|title=Homicide in California] Gun control organizations say that increased gun ownership leads to higher levels of crime, suicide, and other negative outcomes.
Logical Pitfalls in the Gun-Violence Debate
The essential question in the gun policy debate is, "Will restrictions on gun ownership (or, for a particular proposed law, will "this" restriction) cause violent crime to decrease?" Debate attends even this question, with some claiming that overall reduction in violent crime is the goal, while others claiming that reduction in gun-crime is a good in itself (even if replaced by equal numbers of, say, knife-crime) because of the gun's assumed higher potential for lethality. [Kleck, G: Targeting Guns, Firearms and their Control, Aldine de Gruyter, New York, 1997:pp.215-217.]
The "gold standard" for how an intervention (such as a new law) affects a human population is the double-blinded, randomized control study. Such studies are almost never available to answer public policy questions. Current studies (see below) examining guns and violence have either tried to stratify the risk of violence based on "gun ownership" (determined by interview for individuals within one locale, [ [http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/abstract/329/15/1084 "Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home", The New England Journal of Medicine, October 7, 1993] ] or by population statistics for international comparisons [EG Krug, KE Powell, and LL Dahlberg (1998) "Firearm-related deaths in the United States and 35 other high- and upper-middle- income countries" Int. J. Epidemiol., volume 27; pages 214 - 221] ), or by level of "legal restriction," using either an international comparison for different levels of regulation, or a historical one (i.e. how did the regional crime rate change when a new gun law was introduced there). [Lott, John JR. More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws. Chicago, IL, University of Chicago Press, 1998.]
These studies have different faults. The chief problem of the gun-ownership-as-risk-factor studies is that while they canndash if well designedndash show an association (or lack thereof) of gun-ownership and violence risk, they cannot decide whether the relationship is a causal one.
John Lottuses the example of hospitals: there may be a significant association between those who recently died and those who recently were in hospital, but that does not necessarily mean the hospital stay caused their deaths: a third factor (e.g. severe illness) may have caused both the hospitalization and the death. [ [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2007/04/20/DI2007042001760.html "Debating Gun Control," online discussion by John Lott, The Washintgon Post, 4/20/07] ]
The internationally controlled comparisons are flawed by the fact that other international differences (such as level of illegal drug trafficking or level of civil-rights limitations on police surveillance) may overwhelm the gun-restriction or gun-ownership differences as a source of difference in violent crime rate. [Kopel, David B. The Samurai, the Mountie, and the Cowboyndash Should America Adopt the Gun Controls of Other Democracies? (1992), Prometheus Books, New York, pp.13-15, ISBN 0-87975-756-6]
Similarly, the historically controlled studies may miss other trends over time (e.g., economic cycles, changes in gang presence, changes in other laws, etc.) that are more important than the introduction of the studied gun law.cite journal |author=Black, Dan, Daniel Nagin |title=Do 'Right to Carry' Laws Reduce Violent Crime? |journal=Journal of Legal Studies |volume=27(1) |pages=209-219 |year=1998 |id=NCJ|177169]
No study can be free of all of these faults, and so part of the policy debate will center on which studies are "most free" of confounding error. It must be considered, however, whenever a public policy change concerning firearms is proposed (either loosening or tightening gun restrictions), that three assumptions are being made.
First, it is assumed that the proposed law, if enforced as intended, would actually reduce overall violent crime (or simply gun-related crime, if that is the goal). Second, it is assumed that enforcement of the law as intended (that is, its applicaton to the target populationndash e.g., criminals or identifiable potential criminalsndash without its simply being ignored or easily circumvented by that group) can, in fact, be accomplished. Any study claiming that its data "shows" that a given law produced a given effect is simultaneously asserting that these first two assumptions were true.
Finally, as the resources to prevent violence will never be infinite, there is a third assumption: that devoting the resources to implement the new law will make "more" of a difference in violence prevention than simply devoting those same resources to (better?) implementation of existing law. [Kleck, G: Targeting Guns, Firearms and their Control, Aldine de Gruyter, New York, 1997, p.17: " [S] ince all resources...are limited, more resources devoted to some strategies [to reduced violent crime] mean less available for others."]
Relationships between crime, violence, and gun ownership
There is an open debate regarding the relationship between gun control, and violence and other crimes. The numbers of lives saved or lost by gun ownership is debated by criminologists. Research difficulties include the difficulty of accounting accurately for confrontations in which no shots are fired, and jurisdictional differences in the definition of "crime".
Frequent talk show guest, columnist and think tank founder John Longenecker argues that the nation's founders'
Original Intentcontinues to align with the interests of the nation [ [http://transferofwealth.net/ Longnecker, J: "Transfer of Wealth: The Case For Nationwide Concealed Carry Of Handguns"] ] . Longenecker sees the Founding Fathers' defeat of the abuse of due process when the process of overthrowing British rule as a crucial aspect of freedom, without which the nation will perish. Longenecker adds that the Founders did not write the Constitution for citizens as much as to impose limits on government - a subject they knew only too well. Regarding the Second Amendment, the Founders did not fear nor imagine weapons of the future, but foresaw and forbade abuses of due process in the future, and wrote that the Citizen is the supreme authority to protect the new nation against abuses for all time. The Second Amendment embodies this by backing that ultimate citizen authority with force. Longenecker emphasizes that Crime is often used as an excuse to disarm that ultimate authority - the people - for the unhampered growth of cottage industries and other anti-crime policy. Finally, Longenecker shows how claims of no change in right-to-carry states are untrue: For the FBI's report of 10,177 gunshot deaths in 2006, there were 2.5 million crimes de-escalated by armed citizens, who believed they had sufficient control of the situation that they did not have to fire their weapon. "Clearly," Longenecker says, "What the people don't see tells the story 2.5 million times a year. Armed citizens play their role in crime control and they do it in due process."
Some writers, such as
John Lott, author of " More Guns, Less Crime", say they have discovered a positive correlation between gun control legislation and crimes in which criminals victimize law-abiding citizens. Lott asserts that criminals ignore gun control laws and are effectively deterred only by armed intended victims just as higher penalties deter crime. His work involved comparison and analysis from data collected from all the counties in the United States. [ [http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/493636.html Interview with John Lott, author of "More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws"] ] Lott's study has been criticized for not adequately controlling for other factors, including other state laws also enacted, such as Florida's laws requiring background checks and waiting period for handgun buyers.cite journal |author=Black, Dan, Daniel Nagin |title=Do 'Right to Carry' Laws Reduce Violent Crime? |journal=Journal of Legal Studies |volume=27(1) |pages=209-219 |year=1998 |id=NCJ|177169] with similar findings by Jens Ludwig. [cite journal |author=Ludwig, Jens |title=Concealed-Gun-Carrying Laws and Violent Crime: Evidence from State Panel Data |journal=International Review of Law and Economics |volume=18 |pages=239-254 |year=1998] Since concealed-carry permits are only given to adults, John J. Donohue suggests that analysis should focus on the relationship with adult and not juvenile gun incident rates.cite book|author=Ludwig, J., & Cook, P. J. |title=Evaluating Gun Policy Effects on Crime and Violence |year=2003 | publisher=Brookings metro series. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press |chapter=Part III, Chapter 8: The Impact of Concealed-Carry Laws |isbn=0815753128
"Note:" Chapter 8 authored by John J. Donohue: "With the benefit of more complex data than were available initially to Lott and Mustard, I conclude that the best statistical evidence does not support the claim that shall-issue laws reduce crime." Comments by David B. Mustard and Willard Manning regarding Donohue's research and findings are also included at the end of the chapter.] He finds a small, positive effect of concealed-carry laws on adult homicide rates, but states the effect is not statistically significant.ibid] NAS suggests that new analytical approaches and datasets at the county or local level are needed to evaluate adequately the impact of right-to-carry laws.cite book |title=Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review |year=2004 |publisher=National Academy of Science |author=Committee on Law and Justice |chapter=Chapter 6 |url=http://www.nap.edu/books/0309091241/html/120.html]
Another researcher, Dr.
Gary Kleck, a criminologist at Florida State University, estimated that approximately 2.5 million people used their gun in self-defense or to prevent crime each year, often by merely displaying a weapon. The incidents that Kleck studied generally did not involve the firing of the gun and he estimates that as many as 1.9 million of those instances involved a handgun. [http://www.guncite.com/kleckjama01.html "What Are the Risks and Benefits of Keeping a Gun in the Home?", Gary Kleck, PhD, August 5, 1998] ] Kleck's research has been challenged by scholars such as David Hemenway who argue that these estimates of crimes prevented by gun ownership are too high. Indeed, Hemenway argues, according to Kleck's study (which is based on gun owners' self-reporting), hundreds of thousands of murder attempts are thwarted every year by gun owners, which would mean that the vast majority of murder attempts are in fact prevented by self-defense gun use.cite book
author=Wilson, Harry Leon
title=Guns, gun control, and elections: the politics and policy of firearms
publisher=Rowman & Littlefield
isbn=0-7425-5348-5] The National Rifle Association regularly reprints locally-published stories of ordinary citizens whose lives were saved by their guns.
A study supported by the NRAFact|date=April 2008 found that homicide rates as a whole, especially homicides as a result of firearms use, are not always significantly lower in many other developed countries. This is apparent in the UK and Japan, which have very strict gun control laws, while Israel, Canada, and Switzerland at the same time have low homicide rates and high rates of gun distribution. Although Dr Kleck has stated, "...cross-national comparisons do not provide a sound basis for assessing the impact of gun ownership levels on crime rates." [Kleck, Gary: "Point Blank". Transaction Publishers, 1991] This is in contrast to an independent study published in the [International Journal of Epidimiology] , which found that for the year of 1998 [ [http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/search?sendit=Search&pubdate_year=&volume=&firstpage=&DOI=&author1=&author2=&title=Firearm-related+deaths+in+the+United+States&andorexacttitle=phrase&titleabstract=&andorexacttitleabs=and&fulltext=&andorexactfulltext=and&fmonth=Jan&fyear=1972&tmonth=Apr&tyear=2008&fdatedef=1+January+1972&tdatedef=1+April+2008&
] EG Krug, KE Powell, and LL Dahlberg (1998) "Firearm-related deaths in the United States and 35 other high- and upper-middle- income countries" Int. J. Epidemiol., volume 27; pages 214 - 221] :
During the one-year study period (1998), 88 649 firearm deaths were reported. Overall firearm mortality rates are five to six times higher in high-income (HI) and upper middle-income (UMI) countries in the Americas (12.72) than in Europe (2.17), or Oceania (2.57) and 95 times higher than in Asia (0.13). The rate of firearm deaths in the United States (14.24 per 100 000) exceeds that of its economic counterparts (1.76) eightfold and that of UMI countries (9.69) by a factor of 1.5. Suicide and homicide contribute equally to total firearm deaths in the US, but most firearm deaths are suicides (71%) in HI countries and homicides (72%) in UMI countries.
In a New England Journal of Medicine article, Kellermann found that people who keep a gun at home increase their risk of homicide. [ [http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/abstract/329/15/1084 "Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home", The New England Journal of Medicine, October 7, 1993] ] Florida State University professor Gary Kleck disagrees with the journal authors' interpretation of the evidence and he argues that there is no evidence that the guns involved in the home homicides studied by Kellermann, et al. were kept in the victim's home. [http://www.guncite.com/kleckjama01.html "What Are the Risks and Benefits of Keeping a Gun in the Home?", Gary Kleck, PhD, August 5, 1998] ] Similarly, Dave Kopel, writing in "National Review", criticized Kellermann's study. [ [http://www.nationalreview.com/17apr00/kopel041700.html "An Army of Gun Lies", Dave Koppel, April 17, 2000] ] Researchers John Lott, Gary Kleck and many others still dispute Kellermann's work. [Suter, Edgar A, Guns in the Medical Literature-- A Failure of Peer Review, Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia;83:133-152, March, 1994 ] [ Kates DB, Schaffer HE, Lattimer JK, Murray GB, Cassem EH. Bad Medicine: Doctors and Guns in Guns -- Who Should Have Them? (Ed., Kopel DB), New York, NY, Prometheus Books, 1995, pp. 233-308.] [Faria MA Jr. The perversion of science and medicine (Part III): Public Health and Gun Control Research and (Part IV): The Battle Continues. Medical Sentinel 1997;2(3):81-82 and 83-86.] [Kates DB, Schaffer HE, Lattimer JK, Murray GB, Cassem EH. Guns and public health: epidemic of violence or pandemic of propaganda? Tennessee Law Review 1995;62:513-596] Kleck agrees only with Kellermann's finding that contrary to widespread perception, the overall frequency of homicide in the home by an invading stranger is much less than that of domestic violence. Kellerman's work has also being severely criticized because he ignores factors such as guns being used to protect property, save lives, and deter crime without killing the criminal—which, Kleck and others argue, accounts for the large majority of defensive gun uses. [Suter E, Waters WC, Murray GB, et al. Violence in America-- effective solutions. J Med Assoc Ga 1995;84(6):253-264.] [Lott, John JR. More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws. Chicago, IL, University of Chicago Press, 1998.] [Kleck G. Targeting Guns-- Firearms and Their Control. New York, NY, Aldine De Gruyter, 1997.] Kellermann responded to similar criticisms of the data behind his study in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine [ [http://www.guncite.com/kellermann98Response.html Kellermann letter to The New England Journal of Medicine, September 24, 1998] ] Finally, another argument cited by academics researching gun violence points to the positive correlation between guns in the home and an already violent neighborhood. These points assert that Doctor Kellerman's causal story is in fact backwards and that violent neighborhoods cause homeowners to purchase guns and it is the neighborhood that determines the probability of homicide, not the presence of a gun. Lott's results suggest that allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed firearms, deters crime because potential criminals do not know who may or may not be carrying a firearm. The possibility of getting shot by an armed victim is a substantial deterrent to crime and prevents not only petty crime but physical confrontation as well from criminals. Lott's data comes from the FBI's massive crime statistics from all 3,054 US counties. [ Lott, John R.Jr., More Guns, Less Crime-- Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws(1998), The University of Chicago Press, Chicago Illinois, pp.50-122, ISBN 0-226-49363-6] Other scholars, such as
Gary Kleck, support Lott's findings but take a slightly different tack; while criticizing Lott's theories as (paradoxically) overemphasizing the threat to the average American from armed crime, and therefore the need for armed defense, Kleck's work speaks towards similar support for firearm rights by showing that the number of Americans who report incidents where their guns averted a threat vastly outnumber those who report being the victim of a firearm-related crime. [Kleck, Gary, Targeting Guns--Firearms and their Control(1997), Aldine de Gruyter, Hawthorne, New York, pp.191-214, ISBN 0-202-30569-4] Others have pointed out that the beneficial effects of firearms, not only in self-protection, deterring crime, and protecting property but also in preserving freedom, have not been properly studied by public health researchers.
In his book "Private Guns, Public Health", David Hemenway makes the argument in favor of gun control and he provides evidence for the more guns, more gun violence and suicide hypothesis. Rather than compare America to countries with radically different cultures and historical experiences, he focuses on Canada, New Zealand and Australia and concludes that the case for gun control is a strong one based on the relationship he finds between lower crime rates and gun control. ["Private Guns, Public Health", David Hemenway, University of Michigan Press]
Firearms are also the most common method of suicide, accounting for 53.7% of all suicides committed in the United States in 2003 [ [http://www.suicidology.org/associations/1045/files/2003data.pdf "U.S.A. Suicide: 2003 Official Final Data", Suicidology.org] ] .
A 2003 CDC study determined "The Task Force found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws or combinations of laws reviewed on violent outcomes." [cite web
url = http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/guic.pdf
title = First Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies for Preventing Violence: Firearms Laws
accessdate = 2008-03-28] They go on to state "(Note that insufficient evidence to determine effectiveness should not be interpreted as evidence of ineffectiveness.)" after reviewing 54 studies and over one hundred years of history.
"For a more detailed discussion of the historical and current gun violence issues in the United States, see
Gun violence in the United States."
ecurity against foreign invasion
There is some historical evidence that an armed populace is a strong deterrent against a foreign invasion. Personal gun rights advocates frequently cite tyrants who feared the idea of invading countries where the citizenry was heavily armed or when these tyrants needed to disarm their own populace to be effective. For example,
Adolf Hitlersaid (as quoted in his "Tischgespräche im Führerhauptquartier", April 11, 1942): "The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to permit the conquered Eastern peoples to have arms. History teaches that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by doing so." Once the Nazis had taken and consolidated their power, they then proceeded to implement gun control laws to disarm the population and wipe out the opposition. Genocide of disarmed Jews, gypsies, and other undesirables followed. [Simkin, J, Zelman, and Rice, A, Lethal Laws: Gun Control is the Key to Genocide-- Documentary Proof that Enforcement of Gun Control Laws Clears the way for Governments to Commit Genocide, Jews for the Preservation of Firearm Ownership, Inc.,1994, pp.149-186, ISBN 0-9642304-0-2] [Rummel, RJ, Death by Government (1994) Transaction Publishers, New Jersey, pp.111-122, ISBN 1-56000-145-3] Request quotation|date=April 2008
Battles of Lexington and Concord, sometimes known as the Shot heard 'round the world, in the 1770s, were started in part because General Gage sought to carry out an order by the British government to disarm the populace [Kopel, David B. The Samurai, the Mountie, and the Cowboy--Should America Adopt the Gun Controls of Other Democracies? (1992), Prometheus Books, New York, pp.313,351, ISBN 0-87975-756-6] .
Mujahideencountered well-equipped SovietArmed Forces with antiquated bolt action rifles. As noted by Major Keith J. Stalder, USMC, in 1985, "... the Lee Enfield-armed Afghans can often hit at 800 meters or longer range while the Kalashnikov-armed motorized riflemen are ineffective beyond 300 meters..". [ [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/1985/SKJ.htm "The Air War in Afghanistan", Major Keith J. Stalder, U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Corps Command and Staff College, March 25, 1985] ] As Kenneth W. Roycehas phrased it, 60,000 dead Soviets cannot all be wrong. Ultimately, the Soviets left in defeat, losing against mostly WW I and WW II bolt action rifles, while they themselves were armed with the latest weapons. Of course, the Mujahideen did have significant support from the West with 'Stinger' Anti-Aircraft missiles, but their bolt-action infantry weapons were still essentially indigenous.
Carrying concealed weapon
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
Gun law in the United States
Gun politics in the United States
Gun violence in the United States
Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership(JPFO)
Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition
National Rifle Association of America(NRA)
Right to arms
Second Amendment Foundation(SAF)
Second Amendment Sisters
Second Amendment to the United States Constitution
Students for Concealed Carry on Campus
Pro gun regulation links
* [http://www.bradycampaign.org/ The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence]
* [http://www.vpc.org/ Violence Policy Center]
* [http://www.lcav.org Legal Community Against Violence]
Pro gun rights links
* [http://www.gunowners.org/ Gun Owners of America]
* [http://www.nra.org/ National Rifle Association of America]
* [http://www.saf.org/ The Second Amendment Foundation]
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