If ever there is one thing that human beings worry about constantly, it is their self-preservation. The desire to guarantee one’s security and protection from life endangering situations is an innate instinct that is observed even in animals. It is not surprising, therefore, that the issue of gun control is a very controversial topic in the U.S. This is especially the case considering that America is one of the few countries with the most comprehensive laws governing private ownership of firearms. However, the U.S. is unique in that different states have different laws on gun ownership, some of which may be at conflict with federal laws. In addition, the U.S. experiences the most cases of gun-related violence and criminal activities. Cases of youth violence, suicides, and school shootings are among the notable incidences that have sparked debates on the way forward regarding gun control laws. The controversy arises from the fact that any measures taken to control gun ownership violate the right to bear arms as provided for in the U.S. constitution. Americans are very conscious about their rights and equally sensitive about government policies that affect their private lives. Regardless, the need to respect people’s right to own firearms should not overshadow the negative impact of unregulated gun ownership. While people have the right to bear arms, it is necessary to protect the lives of innocent victims who get killed when such arms get into the wrong hands. Consequently, gun control rules are not intended to infringe on people’s rights to own firearms, but to avoid the chances of this right being abused by people with criminal motives and ill intentions. This paper argues that while the government has the responsibility of fighting gun-related violence and crime, federal and state regulations on firearms should not punish law-abiding citizens, but focus on restricting access to guns by minors, school children, and people with criminal and mental instability records.
The U.S. has suffered the blunt of uncontrolled gun ownership more than any other country in the world. Cases of gun-violence goes a long way back in U.S. history, since 1853 in Louisville, Kentucky, when student Mathew Ward purchased a pistol one morning, went to school and shot his schoolmaster to avenge the punishing of his brother the previous day. Most recently, on February 27, 2012, in Chardon, Ohio, a 17 year old fired a .22 caliber gun at a group of students in a cafeteria, killing three. On September 26, 2012, 13-year old Cade Poulos shot himself at Stillwater Junior High School, Oklahoma. Perhaps the two deadliest incidences to date are the 1966 shootings at the University of Texas, where former marine Charles Whitman killed 14 people, and the notoriously remembered incidence at Columbine High in 1999, where Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and one teacher (San Francisco Chronicle 2012). Without doubt, the U.S. has the biggest and deadliest record of gun-related violence among the youth. The question is whether such brutal killings should be happening in such a civilized and democratic society as the U.S.
These grisly incidences of school shootings alone should be enough to persuade even the most ardent advocates of firearms ownership rights to shift from their extreme stances and adopt more flexible, and solution-oriented rather than controversy-sparking positions. Parents, students, teachers, and even administrators consider schools to be safe places- until the unthinkable happens as it did in Chardon, Stillwater, Columbine, Texas, and elsewhere.
Finding long lasting solutions requires the active participation of all involved parties, including parents, school administrators, relevant government agencies, and gun sellers. They should collaborate to identify and seal legal loopholes that allow violence-prone maniacs, mentally unstable persons, and irresponsible minors to access and use guns. After incidences of gun shootings in schools, parents, teachers, and fellow students express surprise and shock with remarks such as “he did not fit the profile of a maniacal killer; he just snapped and went crazy; no one suspected he could do such a thing; he never threatened anyone before; no, he has never used a gun before,” and so forth. However, people do not just snap and go on a killing spree. They form ideas, plan on how to get a gun, and decide where to use it. They walk in streets crowded with people on their way to their targets, yet they do not snap and start shooting at pedestrians. Neither do they need prior experience of handling guns to know where trigger is. Similarly, they need not appear threatening to be able to kill people. In this light, there is need not only for parents and teachers to be keen in identifying warning signs in their children at home and students at school respectively, but also to put in place legal measures that restrict people with suspected mental instabilities from accessing firearms. In such cases, medical records and psychological reports should be scrutinized before allowing individuals to buy guns. This will ensure that only responsible citizens have the right to carry firearms.
In conclusion, therefore, the issue is not a question of protecting gun ownership rights versus government regulations that infringe these rights, but determining who should and who should not carry guns. Arriving at this solution requires flexibility on both sides of the debate, and making use of police criminal records, medical history and psychological reports to identify people who should never be allowed access to firearms. Such an approach will help reduce cases of gun-related violence without repressing the rights of law-abiding citizens who buy guns for protection and leisure activities such as game hunting and shooting competitions.