The good guys with guns
Enacting stricter gun control laws will limit citizens’ means of protecting themselves from violent crime
IN THE aftermath of the tragic massacre of 20 students and six adults in
Newtown, CT, calls for increased gun control are mounting. Citing concerns about “assault weapons,” President Obama claimed that a “weapon of war” has no place in the hands of an average American citizen. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) aims to ban many firearms in an upcoming bill that expands on the 1994-2004 Assault Weapons Bill (AWB). However, these arguments and positions hold little merit and in fact represent violations of the intent of the Founding fathers.
Let us start with the term “assault weapon.” Simply put, there is no such thing. According to Bruce H. Kobayashi and Joseph Olson in the Stanford Law and Policy Review, “it is a political term, developed by anti-gun publicists to expand the category of “assault rifles.” Note that the U.S. Army defines an assault rifle as a “short, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachinegun and rifle cartridges.” These weapons are already highly regulated under the 1934 National Firearms Act, and new manufacture for the civilian market has been banned since 1986. The AR-15, the much vilified rifle used in the Newtown shooting, is actually no different than hunting rifles that have been widely used in the United States for decades. It fires one bullet per trigger pull.
The impact of rifles on crime is severely overemphasized. According to the FBI, 323 individuals were killed by rifles in the United States in 2011. Compare that to 496 people killed by blunt objects and 1,684 people killed by cutting objects in 2011.
Crime statistics show that strict gun control has a negative effect on crime rates. Many that support gun control cite examples such as the UK’s post-Dunblane massacre handgun ban, in 1997. The UK Home Office statistics recorded an 89% increase in firearms crime from 1999-2009 in England and Wales.
As the real world statistics show, the prohibition of handguns does nothing to prevent criminals from acquiring guns and attacking innocents. Meanwhile, in the U.S., where gun ownership is common, from 2006 to 2010, the FBI reported a 14% decrease in gun crime despite a 40% increase in retail firearms sales in 2009 alone. More than 3.3 million AR-15s have been sold since 1986, yet violent crime continues to decrease in the United States. The crime decrease also coincides with a massive loosening of gun restriction nationwide, including the expiration of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.
Another common argument is that Americans have no need for semi-automatic firearms. Again, this is completely false. The 2nd Amendment exists so that American citizens can carry out armed resistance against tyranny. The Founding Fathers did not include limitations on the First and Second Amendments so that citizens would always have modern means to resist. The citizens of Athens, Tennessee demonstrated the importance of the 2nd Amendment in 1946 when they used private and National Guard firearms to retake control of their local government when the incumbents routinely committed voter suppression. The other common use for semi-automatic firearms is self-defense. A 15 year old boy in Texas recently defended his sister from two burglars when he opened fire with an AR-15. Or consider the example of Vice Principal Joel Myrick, who subdued a gunman at his school simply by threatening to use his handgun.
Recently, much has been made of “high capacity” magazines. The Columbine and Virginia Tech shooters used weapons with restricted magazine capacities of ten rounds as determined arbitrarily by politicians. Suzanna Hupp, a Texas legislator and survivor of a mass shooting noted, “it [magazine capacity] doesn’t matter.” When the police are minutes away, the shooter has leeway to do whatever he/she pleases. Remember that it took Newtown police more than 20 minutes to respond to 911 calls. However, in self-defense situations, where seconds and fractions of seconds separate life and death, magazine capacity does matter. NYPD data for 1990-2000 showed that trained officers, many of whom had previous gunfight experience, required an average of 10.3 rounds to end the engagement. Limiting citizens, many of whom do not possess backup, body armor, and training, to ten rounds, a number that even police officers cannot deal with, is irresponsible.
To sum it all up, we can confidently say that the data and evidence is soundly against further gun control. A Justice Department report reviewing the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban noted “we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence.” Given that gun control has not shown positive effects and has often had negative effects, I feel safe in stating my opinion that gun control must not be expanded.
Mitchell Chen is a University student in the Engineering School.