Gun ownership is a controversial topic that draws a lot of debate around the globe because it touches a very sensitive issue of security. People wish to go about their routine activities without worrying about threats to their lives or property that they have acquired through hard work. A parent sending his or her child to school does not expect a gun wielder who is less concerned with human life to end the life of his or her child. There is a perceived correlation between gun control and crime rates. One can explore the issue of gun control by taking an example of China and the US both of which have different policies on gun control. In the US, gun ownership is not heavily restricted as is the case with China.
Activists in support of gun ownership by ordinary citizens and those against this issue have various arguments in support of their respective positions. The effects of the varying degree of control on gun ownership in China and the United States can help an individual reach an informed position on the issue of gun control. Adam Gopnik’s work on Shootings provides a firm basis as to why gun control is important. Therefore, based on the saddening killing episodes that have resulted from gun mismanagement, the paper reveals the need to have guns being controlled as a way of enhancing security of property and people.
The history behind gun control in China and the United States is different. However, it can be said to play a big role in understanding the different approaches that both China and America apply with regard to gun ownership. China comes from a communist background that advocates for a powerful government that controls most of the major activities that take place within the country such as trade, security issues, and media to politics (Neighbors 12).
For this reason, the fact that the government can autonomously institute gun control measures without necessarily obtaining the full consent of the citizenry shows how the situation for China has been easier to manage. It becomes simple for China to control the movement of small arms within and out of the country with minimum resistance. The government is able to handle efficiently the problem of insecurity especially with regard to homicide since perpetrators will rarely use guns, which if used may place them on a level playing ground with law enforcement agencies. On the other hand, America’s historical path is different. With the uniting of the America’s states in 1971, most people were pessimistic about the future prospects of the newfound unity.
They resolved to keep with themselves weapons, which they could use to rebel against a government that would want to infringe on their constitutional rights and/or turn out to be dictatorial. The situation angered many scholars such as Adam Gopnik who went ahead to write against the issue of gun handling in America (par. 2). Neighbors’ work on The Long Arm of Qing Law also reveals that circumstances have changed and that the American people enjoy the rights and privileges guaranteed by the constitution (19). There is now a need for a change of attitude by some of the gun rights activists towards gun control. Even if they were to fight against the government, they would not manage to achieve much since the US has a very powerful and skilled military.
Arguments and Counter-Arguments
According to Branas, gun rights activists claim that the unrestricted gun ownership by individuals is important for purposes of hunting, self-defense, and sporting activities (106). Besides, it is in the nature of human beings to be violent. However, when they become violent, they pose a threat to other people’s safety since they lose the level of emotional stability that can enable them make the right choice. Gopnik reveals a traumatizing situation where hundreds of innocent young and old people are killed in less than an hour (10). Different people are likely to become violent under different circumstances. There are also factors that promote violent activities.
These may include family disputes, revenge, and bad deals among others. The rates of homicide coincide with the number of firearms. This situation is quite evident from previous statistics on both the United States and China’s homicide rates. The homicide rate in the U.S is five times that of China. The strict regulations in China with regard to ownership of guns have helped maintain low rates of homicides. Studies suggest that when one is in possession of a firearm, it is highly likely that he or she will result in violence when serious misunderstandings ensue between him or her and another person or a group of people. Specifically, someone is more likely to end another person’s life in the US if he or she possesses a firearm compared to when he or she does not.
Analysis of data over the years at Harvard University’s department of public health bears proof of this correlation. The analyzed data covered both the developed and developing countries. The findings show that no matter the economic status of a person, the likelihood of him or her killing another person depends on whether or not the person owns a gun.
Another argument in support of gun control lies in the fact that the overwhelming majority of the public supports some degree of gun control. Politicians who are against gun control assert that they are representing the public by shooting down bills that aim at controlling the ownership of guns. However, the truth seems to suggest otherwise when published research results point out that the public’s support for very strict control measures on gun ownership in the US stands at fifty four percent (Celinska 233).
Support for the common procedure of gun control, which involves background checks on an individual before issuance of a license to such person to own a gun, has the support of about ninety-one percent according to these research findings (Celinska 233). These observations show that although politicians may be divided on the issue of gun control, the public is firmly behind it. The public’s concerns are supported by trends, which show that many of the massacres experienced so far make use of weapons whose ownership is within the law. This situation reveals why cases of massacres are a rare phenomenon in China unlike in the US where one can point out several incidents in the recent past.
Taking a case of the period 1982-2002, the United States had about sixty-two mass shooting incidents with forty-nine of them being perpetrated through legal weapons. What makes it worse is that roughly half of the forty-nine incidents involved the use of assault rifles. The effects of a simple shotgun, a musket, or even a handgun could not have resulted in the same high number of lost lives. Therefore, controlling ownership of these assault rifles can see a reduction in their use (Celinska 237).
Strategies to Enhance Gun Control
The use of assault weapons as a sport is a baseless claim in countering gun control by gun rights activists. The truth is that gun control measures do not necessarily call for a total ban on the use of weaponry. The pro-gun control people are not in any way against rifle use for hunting purposes or keeping of a shotgun at home for self-defense purposes if such an action enhances one’s feeling of safety. Policies should be formulated to control gun ownership or the use of very powerful weapons such as AR-15 assault rifle. Excuses of using such a rifle for sport purposes do not make sense. They only serve to worsen the levels of insecurity (Wright, Wintemute, and Claire 620). China should serve as a model to the United States with regard to the benefits of having effective gun control measures. Ownership of a simple shotgun in China is almost impossible for an ordinary citizen. The result is the low number of cases of homicide.
The number of guns in civilian ownership is already too high in the US. A survey on small firearms in the United States in the last two years revealed a high number of firearms almost proportional to the size of the population (Smith 61). The findings suggested that about 88.9 firearms for every 100 people. This situation surpasses the figures for Yemen, which is one of the unsafe countries to live. Yemen is characterized by many homicides that remain unaccounted. Even countries such as Colombia and Mexico where drug cartels conduct many killings in their operations do not have this gun ownership rates.
Gun ownership in the United States is even higher in relation to that of war-prone countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad. Somalia, a failed state, has a much lower gun ownership per person ratio. This shows how heavily armed Americans are in relation to people in other parts of the world. Measures need to be implemented to curb such undesirable situations, especially for a free state such that the US that prides itself in its democratic space that guarantees each citizen the freedom of expression, association, and belief (Kleck 1452). Although China is perceived as having a limited democratic space, it feels safer to live in comparison with the US.
Banning of assault rifles will save the lives of many people. If China were to lift the ban on ownership of rifles by the public, one would obviously expect to see a rise in homicide rates (Gius 1688). It will be inconceivable for one to think that the trend of low levels of murder can persist under such new circumstances. Taking the case of Australia, in 1996, a shooter bearing an automatic rifle in Port Arthur opened fire on a group of people thereby killing thirty-five of them.
This situation was quite depressing and almost impossible to comprehend. It drew a lot of attention and reaction from the citizenry. Two weeks after the massacre, John Howard who was serving as the Australian Prime Minister launched a massive crackdown on the ownership of guns. It is considered the most aggressive action in Australia’s history of gun control. The action saw the confiscation and destroying of about 650,000 firearms in addition to the institution of new measures to check the ownership of guns. This strategy saw a huge drop in the rates of gun-related homicides of up to fifty-nine percent in the first decade of operation of the new laws restricting gun ownership (Gius 1690).
This effort is a proof of the fact that the United States can also achieve a China-like situation in terms of homicide rates if it chooses to institute proper gun control measures. It is also worth noting that even after the implementation of the new gun control measures in Australia, homicide rates did not go up. This finding means that people did not settle for other forms of homicide such as poison and machetes in the absence of guns.
Human beings are likely to become violent at certain points in their life. This situation can have far-reaching consequences when one possesses a firearm. This claim reveals why the rates of homicide are commensurate with the level of gun ownership. An overwhelming category of the public is in support of measures that ensure some level of restriction on gun ownership. Trends in massacres can help one understand why the public is interested in seeing control instituted to check on gun ownership. Some arguments in support of gun ownership such as shooting as a sport are not valid. The number of firearms in civilian ownership in the United States is already too high.
It only serves to increase the sense of insecurity whereas China feels safer with its low gun ownership figures. Banning of assault rifles will secure people’s lives. Both China and America’s history have contributed a lot to the current state of affairs in relation to gun control in both countries. However, this situation should not serve to excuse America’s handling of the issues of gun control, which is a sensitive matter that affects the lives of innocent and law-abiding citizens.
Branas, Charles. “A Review of: Suing the Gun Industry: A Battle at The Crossroads of Gun Control and Mass Torts.” Journal of Legal Medicine 27.1 (2006): 103-108. Print.
Celinska, Katarzyna. “Individualism And Collectivism In America: The Case Of Gun Ownership And Attitudes Toward Gun Control.” Sociological Perspectives 50.2 (2007): 229-247. Print.
Gius, Mark. “The effect of gun ownership rates on homicide rates: a state-level analysis.” Applied Economics Letters 16.17 (2009): 1687-1690. Print.
Gopnik, Adam. Shootings, 2007. Web.
Kleck, Gary. “Mass Shootings In Schools: The Worst Possible Case For Gun Control.” American Behavioral Scientist 52.10 (2009): 1447-1464. Print.
Neighbors, Jenifer. “The Long Arm of Qing Law? Qing Dynasty Homicide Rulings in Republican Courts.” Modern China 35.1 (2008): 3-37. Print.
Smith, Barbara. “Commentary on: Gun control, gun rights, and the role of nurses and the profession.” Nursing Outlook 61.2 (2013): 61-62. Print.
Wright, Mona, Garen Wintemute, and Barbara Claire. “Gun Suicide By Young People In California: Descriptive Epidemiology And Gun Ownership.” Journal of Adolescent Health 43.6 (2008): 619-622. Print.