Whether you agree with the interpretation of the Second Amendment in the United States that private ownership of firearms is permitted or not, everyone can find common ground with their concerns about gun violence. The scale of this issue is enormous in the United States even though the overall rate of crime is on a 20-year downward trend in many communities.
The facts about gun violence are undeniable. More than 38,000 people died because of a gunshot wound in the U.S. in 2016. Roughly 60% of these fatalities are self-inflicted. Another 80,000 people survive after being shot each year as well.
Depending on how one defines a “mass shooting,” the United States averaged one per day in 2016. Three of the deadliest events that qualify under any definition of this crime happened in 2016 and 2017.
Perhaps even more disturbingly, a woman in the United States is fatally shot by her partner once every 16 hours in the United States in an act of domestic violence.
There are many solutions being proposed on how to stop these violent acts from occurring. One of the options that is frequently discussed is the idea of gun control.
Here are the unbiased pros and cons of gun control to review as they pertain to the United States.
List of the Pros of Gun Control
1. By any definition of mass shooting used, most come from guns that were purchased legally.
In a study originally published by Mother Jones, over 75% of the incidents of mass shootings that took place over 30 years of research had the guns involved purchased legally in some way. The idea of gun control is simple here. If you take the ability to own weapons that are potentially dangerous from people who are likely to use them, then it offers the possibility of making society safer.
2. A majority of mass shootings start because of a domestic violence incident.
The Huffington Post discovered that 57% of the mass shootings that occurred from 2009 to 2015 in the United States happened when an attacker targeted a romantic partner or a family member. These incidents involved the deaths of at least four people happening inside or outside of the home. Leslie Morgan Steiner, author of Crazy Love, told The Trace this during a 2018 interview.
“One of the myths about domestic violence is that it’s private, that it happens behind closed doors and we should just stay out of it. It’s such an enormous community problem.” Federal law prohibits convicted domestic abusers from gun ownership, but matching state laws do not exist.
3. Homes with guns stored in them (even safely) increases the risk of a violent incident.
Research published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that the risk of a homicide occurring in a home is 40 times higher when there is a gun stored in it when compared to households that do not own a gun. Suicides are 90 times more likely to happen in homes where a firearm is present.
Linda Dahlberg found in her 2004 study that locking up the gun as a way to protect people does not impact these risks either. There is an increased risk of a violent incident happening no matter how safely the guns are stored or the number that are available in the home.
4. Current legal gun owners don’t need to lose their rights to make others safer.
One of the arguments against gun control is that a good guy with a firearm can stop a bad guy with one before something violent happens. The idea of gun control isn’t to break into the homes of people to take their firearms away if they own them legally. It is to restrict access to them when someone may be tempted to commit an act of violence with them.
There are numerous ways where this could occur with a minimal impact to current gun owners.
• Licensing requirements could work like a driver’s license to ensure firearm knowledge.
• Enforcing laws on the federal level in states would prevent ownership for those should shouldn’t have access to a gun.
• Temporary restrictions for specific charges that are domestically related could prevent “crimes of passion.”
The Supreme Court already ruled that individuals have the right to own guns. Gun control suggests that part of that right should involve responsible and knowledgeable ownership.
5. Gun control efforts could prevent accidental injuries.
Devin Hodges killed himself on New Year’s Eve 2018 after he accidentally shot his friend to death after showing off a loaded handgun in a shed on his property in Lawrenceville, GA. The accidental shot struck 17-year-old Chad Carless while he was sitting next to him.
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute notes that children who live in a home with a firearm, even if it is locked safely, are three times more likely to die because of an accidental shooting compared to kids who live in homes without a firearm.
About 200 people each year under the age of 25 die because of an accidental shooting in the United States. Up to 30% of these incidents could be prevented with simple gun control measures that include a loading indicator that anyone can understand.
6. There are loopholes in gun ownership that control measures could close.
There were over 4,400 gun shows in the United States operating in 1998. Roughly 500 of them occurred in Texas alone. Each year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms estimates that at least 2,500 of these shows occur annually. Up to 50% of the dealers at them are not licensed to sell firearms. Up to 10% of the guns that are used in crimes committed by juveniles were sold at either flea markets or gun shows.
That translates to about 26,000 firearms used in criminal activities that come from this sales process that remains widely unchecked. Gun control measures to require licensed vendors could prevent many of these sales as it would require them to conduct a criminal background check.
If the FBI fails to complete a background check in 72 business hours, even a licensed dealer can decide to complete the sale. Law enforcement then has three months to research the application, and then confiscate the gun if that person shouldn’t have purchased it. About 3.5% of background checks are not finished in those first three business days.
7. Only 3% of people own 50% of the civilian weapons in the United States.
The United States tops the world for the most guns that are owned privately in civilian hands. There is roughly one firearm owned in the U.S. for every person. There are an estimated 101 guns for every 100 people. The next country that comes even close to this ownership rate is Serbia, which has 75 guns per 100 people.
Only 1 in 4 households in the U.S. owns a gun, which means the majority of the quantity is owned by a relative few people. 3% of Americans own 50% of the firearms. If gun control measures looked at future purchases as a need instead of a want, it could help to reduce this issue.
8. It stops people from turning an act of murder into an act of mass murder.
Mother Jones also found that in roughly half of the mass shootings that happened between 1982-2012, high-capacity magazines were used to commit the crime. When this feature is available to a shooter, the fatality rate rose by more than 60% for each incident. Injury rates from high-capacity mags climbed 156%. When some can hold up to 90 rounds, then accuracy no longer becomes part of the equation. People intent on killing can spray an area to inflict mass casualties. Gun control measures could restrict this option without limiting firearm ownership.
9. Gun control laws could save a lot of money from a societal standpoint.
The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation found that the average cost per person of gun violence in the United States was about $560 per year. The U.S. government lost over $5 billion in tax revenues because of these violent acts, with the majority of the costs due to the need for court proceedings. 84% of the people treated for gunshot wounds do not have insurance, which means taxpayers are responsible for the cost of their treatment. An increase in gun-related crime can even lower the property values of a neighborhood by more than 10%.
List of the Cons of Gun Control
1. Gun control doesn’t stop people who are determined to purchase a firearm.
If we have learned anything from the war on drugs that has occurred over the past 30+ years, it is that making a product illegal does not stop access to it. If someone wanted to smoke crack or use heroin, then they could still get the product despite the fact that ownership was not permitted under the law. There is no reason to suggest that firearms would follow a different track.
The problem with many forms of gun control is that it places restrictions on those who already own firearms instead of dealing with those who create problems in society. That is why there is a legitimate fear from current owners that steps like this could one day result in a confiscation effort.
2. Guns are tools that people use.
Anything can become a weapon for someone if their mind is set on causing harm. There have been recent terrorist attacks that killed dozens of innocent people because someone used a car as a weapon. There was a mass stabbing attack in China in 2014 that killed 29 people at a railway station. Over 700 people are murdered every year through a person’s hands, fists, or feet.
Although there are over 10,000 victims of homicide each year attributed to handguns or firearms, a gun is still just a tool. It might be an easy one to use if someone wants to afflict damage on others, but banning firearms won’t change an outcome for a determined individual.
3. Most of the gun violence statistics involve suicides.
When the statistics of gun violence are quoted in the media or in content like this, it is vital to remember that most sources combine homicide and suicide numbers as a way to drive home the point that guns offer fatal consequences. If someone decides to take their own life, it is clearly a tragedy. Something somewhere failed that person, making a gunshot the only way out.
About 25% of the successful suicide attempts in the U.S. in 2012 involved hanging or suffocation. Another 17% of people chose poisoning as the preferred way to end their life. If you combine these two actions, more people die from causes not related to firearms in this manner.
Identifying people who are contemplating this action is the step we must take to provide them with the help they require. If we only focus on gun control, then the other methods of suicide will see a surge of interest.
4. Gun control actions are usually based on fear instead of fact.
According to the Washington Times, 48% of people say that they are not comfortable seeing someone carrying a handgun in a holster in public. That figure climbs to 65% when speaking with Democrats. At the same time, 52% of people say that the “average American” can’t be trusted with a firearm and only 41% say that people should be able to carry guns in public in the first place.
Fear is often what drives the gun control debate. 40% of Americans are scared that they will become a victim in a mass shooting one day. A better solution than banning firearms would be to offer educational programs that help people to understand how it is a useful tool.
5. An effort at gun control doesn’t change the root cause of the issue.
People commit acts of violence against other for a variety of reasons, but it is a core issue of value that we must look at as a society to begin fixing the issues of violence that occur. We must think that all human life and its potential is priceless for us to begin moving beyond where we are at. Gun control measures might make it more difficult to commit acts of violence, but it will not change the heart at all.
As Time Magazine reports, the international standard for private healthcare plans and government-run facilities around the world is that a human life is only worth $50,000. Even when inflation comes into play, the highest valuation is less than $130,000. Core attitudes like this one are what set us back – not the decision to pick up a gun to try to do something about the problem.
6. Most incidents of violence that involve a gun are self-defense actions.
People are four times more likely to use a gun for self-defense purposes than they are to commit a crime with the firearm. Defensive stories are everywhere when you look for them specifically. A father in Jonesboro, GA, was attacked by an armed robber while walking with his daughter. He shot the criminal in self-defense and did not face charges.
Andrea McNabb shot two of the three men who tried to rob her business in 2015. A pharmacy manager fatally shot a robber and wounded another after they threatened to kill people who were in the store. There are always stories of tragedy to find, but it is also important to review the stories of success where gun control could have prevented a successful outcome too.
7. Gun control laws do not deter crime.
A 2013 study published by Dr. John Lott, Jr, author of More Guns, Less Crime, found that in roughly 30 years of gun control bans, homicide rates at the state level were not significantly impacted by the legislation. The states which had the highest rates of gun ownership actually had the steepest drops in violent crime. Homicide is only one violent action. Rape, armed robbery, and similar acts also decline when there are more legal weapons owned by private individuals in society.
8. Laws that restrict gun ownership infringe on the rights of legal owners.
About 14 million hunters purchase firearms and accessories for their activities each year. Many of the guns that are targeted for control measures are called “assault rifles,” but that is not really what they are. The guns that often provide the most fear for people are also the firearms that are used in marksmanship competitions. 32% of gun owners say that the only reason why they own this tool is because they go hunting with it. The average gun is not more or less powerful than the average sporting or hunting weapon.
9. Gun control laws put the power of ownership in the hands of the government.
57% of people say that the reason why they don’t support most gun control measures is that they don’t want the government to have that kind of power over them. If a society does not have a way to protect itself, then there is nothing to stop a government from turning into a tyranny that could harm others. Even if the only measure passed is an expanded background check, then it creates more information for the government to use in one of their databases.
If the government knows who owns all the guns and can keep that information indefinitely, then there is nothing that can stop them from targeting those people first.
10. Measures to control guns create a violation of privacy.
Gun control measures may have the best interests of everyone in mind, but it is also an effort to reduce the amount of privacy that is available in society today. If microstamping efforts, licensing, or other forms of coding are instituted to track guns, then it would create a privacy issue where a database search could offer access to more information than anyone needs about a legal gun owner.
11. More people die from other causes at a significantly higher rate than they do with firearms.
People in the United States are over 20 times more likely to die because of heart disease than they are because of an act of gun violence. They are 18 times more likely to die because of a malignant tumor. They’re even 2.5 times more likely to die because of the complications they experience because of diabetes or 2 times more likely to pass away because of Alzheimer’s disease. Between 1999-2013, firearms were only the 12th-leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for 1.3% of fatalities.
12. Gun control laws do not prevent suicides from occurring.
Lithuania is an excellent example of why gun ownership is not a measuring tool to use when looking at the rate of suicide for a country. This nation has one of the lowest rates of gun ownership in the world today at 0.7 per 100 people. It also has one of the highest average suicide rates in the world at 45 per 100,000 people. Japan has a lower rate of gun ownership and a suicide rate of 18 per 100,000 people. The U.S. ranks 26th in the world in this statistics despite having the highest rate of firearm ownership by far.
The pros and cons of gun control offer no easy answers for the American culture to consider. Rulings that involve the Second Amendment provide for individual ownership. That means both sides of this debate must work together to find elements of common ground that can help each group find ways to reduce the deaths attributed to firearms. If every life is precious, then we must treat it that way even when looking at challenging topics such as this one.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.