Is It Necessary for Citizens to Possess Guns in the USA?devil

Emi Yamaguchi

 Zimring and Hawkins states that America is a gun culture with these words from the report of the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence in 1969.  "Firearms have long been an important part of American life.  For many years the armed citizen-soldier was the country's first line of defense.  Firearms no longer play a significant role in keeping food on American tables, yet Americans own and use firearms to a degree that puzzles many observers.  If our frontier has disappeared, our frontier tradition remains" (Zimring and Hawkins, 1987: 30).
 The Economist states in an editorial that when people can get guns more easily there are more deaths which are caused by guns.  There is a research result in 1996 about murders with guns.  According to this research, there were two murders in New Zealand, fifteen in Japan, 30 in United Kingdom, 106 in Canada, 211 in Germany.  On the other hand, in the USA, there were 9,390 gun related murders (America, 1998).  This is a plain fact.  Though there is a difference in population between each countries, it seems that there are too many gun related murders in the USA.  Firearms-related incidents are taking place even in countries that it is illegal to possess guns.  Therefore, it is needless to say that more gun related incidents would be occurring if the government permits gun ownership.

 However, is it really necessary for citizens to possess guns in this modern life?

 According to The Economist, most citizens in the USA want to own guns whether they use them or not despite of fact that guns are dangerous and the cause of death.  To become an owner of gun, they don't care about the price.  The reason is that they think firearms are indispensable to keep them safe (America, 1998).
 There are two reasons to prove that guns are not necessary for citizens.  First, we can say that guns are lethal weapons.  Zimring and Hawkins introduce a 1969 research result by the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence about death percentage of gun and knife attacks.  In Chicago during 1965 to 1967, there were 16,518 total attacks with knife and death percentage with knife was 2.4 percent, while there were 6,350 total attacks with gun and deaths percentage with gun was 12.2 percent.  Firearms were about five times higher than the death rate of attacks with knife.  Although guns are the most dangerous weapons and knives are the second most dangerous weapons used in homicide, from this report, we can understand that there is a big difference in the fatality rate (Zimring and Hawkins, 1987).  Although anti gun controllers say " guns don't kill people, people kill people" we can recognize that guns make more deaths easily from statistics in above.  In Australia, which is the second highest country in death rate from guns, a 28-year-old gunman, Martin Bryant opened fire on tourists indiscriminately in April 28, 1996.  As a result of this shooting, 35 people died and 18 people injured (Australia, 1996).  Martin Bryant used semi-automatic rifle.  If he had not used semi-automatic weapon, he could not have killed so many people.
 In addition to this, in countries which prohibit the possess guns by law, incident such as a teenager kills his or her friends with guns in school usually doesn't occur.  However, in the United States, gun related incident in school by teenager sometimes occur when people forget former incident.  May 21, just two months ago, a shocking incident occurred in Springfield, Oregon.  According to a newspaper article, a 16-year-old high school student, Kipland P. Kinkel, suddenly shot guns in high school cafeteria.  At that time, the cafeteria was very crowded, so many students injured.  Before he opened fire in high school, he killed his parents in his house (Barnard, 1998).
 There is an another research result by the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence in 1964 that Zimring and Hawkins mention in their book.  According to the research, 71 percent of the handgun owners answered that they possess guns for self-defense.  Even the long-gun owners, 41 percent of them answered that they possess guns only for self-defense.  However, Zimring and Hawkins are disagreeing with them who own guns for protection.  They states "It is absolutely clear that the handgun in your house is more likely to kill you or a member of your family than to save your life" (Zimring and Hawkins, 1987: 30).  In fact, 60 percent of accidental firearms related deaths occur in the home.  When we look statistics by the National Commission on Causes and Prevention of Violence in 1969, we can realize that especially women and children are highly risked.  Eighty-six percent of women victims and eighty-four percent of child victims were killed at home by guns.  People expose themselves and their children by keeping guns.  This is a second reason that guns are not necessary for citizens.
 Sheley and Wright states that teenagers get guns mainly by theft.  Usually people thinks how difficult teenagers to get guns.  Thus, most teenagers who could get guns answered they could obtain guns no trouble.  Their common targets are homes and cars.  Their main sources of guns are family, friends, and street sources, particularly in inner-city, street sources is main way to obtain guns for youth and they can get guns only a few dollars (Sheley and Wright, 1995).  Every year, about 500,000 guns are stolen from homes, cars, gun shops, and stolen even directly from manufacturers and also taken from militaries.  Eighty percent of guns are stolen from homes.  More than 7,000 guns are stolen from cars and 30,000 guns are stolen from licensed gun shops.  Police officers say that 10-32 percent of these stolen guns are used in crimes and 17-27 percent of guns which were bought from licensed dealers are used in crimes (Witkin, 1997).
 In case of Thurston High School in Springfield, Kinkel confessed toward the investigation by the police that he stole his parents' guns, but he was already arrested one time the day before gun shooting in high school.  Kinkel and his friend tried to buy a stolen gun on school.
 To make matters worse, in half of the states in the United States, citizens can get permit easily to carry a gun.  These state governments explain that citizens can feel relief and protect themselves by having guns (West, 1996).
 In the United States, there is a gun control law, the Brady gun law.  The Brady bill became a law on February 28, 1994, that people who want to buy a gun must have five days waiting period and a background check.  State government can estimates criminals who want to get guns effectively by this law, but it is difficult to say that the Brady law has a great success.  The first reason is that the most gun dealers check background of buyers on the phone to the state agents.  They finish background check within minutes despite of five days waiting period.  The second reason is that there are many private dealers who need not for sales records or background checks.  They are unlicensed dealers.  Mental patients, criminals and dangerous people can still obtain guns (Lacayo, 1995).
 West also states that it will be impossible for any program to eliminate guns from the citizens (West, 1996).  Certainly, it may be impossible, but it is possible to reduce gun related incidents and gun related accidents.  To reduce gun related incidents and gun related accidents, more strict gun law is necessary.

Works Cited

America and guns. (1998). The Economist, 346, (8062), 16-17.
Australia: Earthy Hell. (1996). The Economist, 339, (7964), 35.
Barnard, J. (1998). Suspended student kills one in high school cafeteria; two dead at his   home. The Oregonian. (May 21).
Lacayo, R. (1995). A small-bore success. Time, 145, (7), 47.
Sheley, J. & Wright, J. (1995). In the line of fire. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
West, W. (1996). When citizens carry sidearms, crooks bear the consequences. Insight on
          The News, 12, (13), 48.
Witkin, G. (1997). Handgun stealing made real easy. U.S. News & World Report, 122,
          (22), 34-35.
Zimring, F. & Hawkins, G. (1998). The citizen's guide to gun control. New York:  Macmillan Publishing Company.

 August 11,1998
By Emi Yamaguchi,