The Ebonics Debate Essay, Research Paper
August 22, 1999
The American Arsenal
Firearms are so pervasive in this country that sometimes we forget the price we pay for an all-too-easy access to guns. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 10,744 Americans were murdered with firearms in 1996. However, only 174 of these homicides were justifiable. In 1995 alone, 35,957 Americans were killed with firearms, in homicides, suicides and accidents. In comparison, 33,651 Americans were killed in the Korean War and 58,148 Americans were killed in the Vietnam War. Once considered an ethnic-class struggle this issue has risen to epidemic proportions, touching every one of our lives.
There is an ever-growing concern for the safety we all face in our daily lives but few of us realize the actions of others are what lead to our insecurities. We must be able to defend ourselves. We have the right to do so. It is essential to our well being and security as a people. The question is how can we secure this idea of self defense without turning our society into a gun-
wielding circus? Is absolute freedom worth absolute fear? Are you ready to break into the new millennium with a finger on the trigger staring at life through the barrel of a gun?
The issue of gun control has risen to a fevered pitch in this country. In this paper I will examine the theory of gun control, tracing its origins through modern political policy and then evaluate each justly. I will then suggest a possible courses of action to help eliminate the problems today=s society faces involving gun violence. It=s time for this country to take a serious step to ensure the safety of its people.
AA well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right to bear arms, shall not be infringed.@ This sentence from the second amendment to the constitution constitutes the basis of argument for opponents of gun control. This also constitutes the largest fallacy behind the issue of gun control. Gun ownership is not a fundamental right protected by the two hundred year old doctrine written by the same people who told us Aall men are created equal@, yet continued slavery for another seventy years. The amendment was created to protect the people from tyrannical government – by allowing states to form militias. There was no standing army under the sole authority of the federal government at the time of the amendment=s conception. It was the intention of the founding fathers that no military power be under the control of the central government at any time. The purpose was to restrict the powers of congress from disarming these militias which were to be Awell regulated@ and not disintegrated. Obviously this amendment is outdated. Upon the formation of a national army this amendment should have been dissolved. State militias were composed of common citizens from the area, not enlisted service men. The national government then recognized the need for a national unified force, made up of well trained and level-headed personnel. This crossover should have marked the end of the Aright to bear arms@, as well as the second amendment itself.
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 (PL 103-159) requires that the backgrounds of perspective handgun purchasers be checked to ensure that the sale is legal. The law provides a five day waiting period so that law enforcement has time to run appropriate background checks. This controversial provision ends in five years when a national instant check system should be established. States that already require background checks which meet minimum standards are exempt. In five years, when the national instant check system is installed, states who wish to maintain a waiting period will be allowed to do so. As this waiting period also gives the Chief Law Enforcement Officer the time to evaluate serial numbers for possible gun trafficking incidents, the waiting period should stay in effect in all fifty states. This waiting period has also been dubbed a Acooling-off period@. Theoretically if a person goes into a gun store with the intention of doing harm to another, after five days the person may have cooled down or may have had enough time to rationalize their actions. A popular political cartoonist drew a cartoon that appeared all over the nation while the Brady Bill was still in heated debate. A frenzied man is standing at a gun counter screaming… AFive days!…But I=m mad NOW!@.
Since the Brady Bill became law in 1994 crimes with firearms are dropping at a steady rate, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report. A recent Bureau of Justice Statistics report estimates that since the enactment of the Brady Law 173,000 gun transactions were not completed because background checks revealed that the buyers were not allowed to take possession of firearms.
Perhaps even more significant is how the Brady Act disrupts interstate gun trafficking. Interstate gun trafficking occurs in part because of the disparity in state laws governing the sale of firearms. The illegal price of firearms in places with more restrictive laws is much more significant than the price of the same gun in a state where the laws are less stringent. The lack of control over the retail sale of handguns in some states makes it possible for those who are willing to engage in illegal trafficking over state lines to profit from price differences. The provisions of the Brady Act now require that gun dealers notify the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in the purchaser=s residence of the sale. During the waiting period the officer can not only check background information, but track through serial numbers were the gun originated to discover if it was carried illegally across state lines and even use this information to trace gun trafficking patterns.
Recent tragedies played out in the media have brought gun control back to the forefront. These cases offer the perfect ammunition against gun lobbyists and organizations like the National Rifle Association. Both the President Clinton and Vice President Gore are pushing for tougher gun regulations that would expand the Brady Act to include sales at gun shows and even forge new legislation. It seems that the leaders of the country are finally realizing that the problem goes deeper than just the sale of guns. In the past, the gun problem was fought like the war on drugs. Instead of attacking the root of the problem, government focused on trying to stop the sale of drugs. History teaches that if there is a need it will be filled – simple supply and demand. Perhaps focusing on better educational systems and living conditions would offer a more long term solution. Al Gore recently submitted a proposal, although not yet passed, that would do just that. Congress has, however, recently passed a modified version of legislation backed by President Clinton to extend the ban on gun ownership to include individuals convicted of a misdemeanor involving domestic violence, including child and spousal abuse. The taboo surrounding effective gun legislation finally seems to be lifting, but after the horror of Littleton and Conyers diminishes, will these efforts fizzle out? Either way, the issue is sure to find its way into the upcoming election platforms, promising at least some focus on the subject (Shepard: A1).
There are many policy options that government should consider legislating. One option would be to ban entire categories of weapons, or at least to limit their sale and use. Limiting ammunition holds promise in breaking the cycle of violence as well. Metal shredding Acop killer@ bullets are already illegal in most states. Another option is to limit the sale of high tech features on guns such as long range sights and night vision equipment. At the risk of sounding arrogant, this would at least bring some of the criminals out into the open. Some gun manufacturers are already being pressured to add extensive safety equipment that would prohibit a gun from firing, using technology such as electronic identification and fingerprints to identify rightful ownership of the gun. A promising way to decrease access to weapons is by controlling and destroying excess stock and surplus, which are often targets for theft. After all, stolen guns most assuredly find there way into the hands of criminals
Legislation is most necessary for stopping the access children have to firearms. If a person must be twenty-one to be deemed responsible to drink, it seems logical that the minimum age requirement to own a gun should be raised well above 18. Following the same logic, before receiving a licence to drive a car a person must pass a series of tests proving their competence. However, no prior training is needed to purchase a firearm. Would you rather have your child riding with an inexperienced driver or accompanying a reckless teenager with a loaded gun?
Although not all violent acts are committed with guns, statistics sadly prove a large percentage of fatal ones are. Our population is getting too large and our societal problems are too complex to be carelessly allowing ourselves easy access to deadly firearms. Adding gun powder to the melting pot is making our country explode with violence – violence that echoes through the halls of every school and every street in the country.
GOP polltaker Frank Luntz puts the problem into perspective. AOnce in a while an issue comes along that makes people look inward at who we are and what we have become. This is one@ (Fineman : 3). Clearly some drastic action needs to be taken. Although each action seems to be a small step, any policy that would save even one life is worthwhile. We the people might just have to give up a little freedom to ensure the security of ourselves and our children. Most importantly, this powder-keg of a nation needs to evaluate the root of the problem. We are the leading country in the world for firearm deaths, however, we are by no means the leading gun-toting nation. If we are determined to conserve our confused right to bear arms, perhaps we can take a lesson from other countries. In stark contrast to our staggering 9,390 handgun deaths in 1996, Great Britain boasts only 30 homicides, and most surprisingly Japan had only 15. Countries with similar and even heightened overcrowding and poverty problems such as we face, seem to solve their quarrels without murdering eachother. It is up to each one of us to solve this problem. Hate is baggage. To coexist we must have a greater understanding and compassion for our fellow man. A new respect for life and individuality must be forged!
We are not enemies, but friends.
We must not be enemies.
Though passion may have stained,
It must not break our bonds of affection.
The mystic chords of memory will swell,
When touched again.
As surely they will be-
By the better angels of our nature.