The Gun Debate

Father educating his son about guns.
Woman aiming with a rifle.
Young girl finding a gun.
Gun stored in a safe, a common way to store guns.
A re-enactment of a dead body lying on the floor behind police barrier tape.

The United States has a relatively high rate of gun violence. Furthermore, from time to time, tragic mass shootings occur in the country. This fuels criticism of American gun laws and sparks heated debates on the right of private citizens to own firearms.

In the gun debates, people who are tired of gun violence often propose such measures as mandatory gun registrations, tightened background checks and bans on certain types of guns and magazines in order to reduce the violence. These restrictions are advocated as common sense measures that would make the United States safer while still preserving people’s second amendment rights.

A slippery slope

Though claiming to agree with all reasonable gun safety, the gun lobby’s response to proposed gun restrictions is usually one of skepticism. Believing that their political opponents’ proposals often cast too wide a net, they argue that law-abiding citizens must not lose their rights because a small minority of people misuse firearms. Staunch gun advocates also contend that seemingly reasonable, moderate gun control measures could be the start of a slippery slope where, ultimately, peace-loving people’s guns are taken away while criminals, who disregard laws, hold on to theirs.

Guns falling into the wrong hands

A counter-argument to the gun lobby’s response is that firearms can fall into the wrong hands by accident, and that the risk of this happening is a numbers game. In other words, what many proponents of gun restrictions say is that the more guns people own the greater the probability that criminals or children get hold of them. Decreasing the risk to public safety, as a result, according to the same people, becomes a matter of lowering the overall number of guns in circulation, something that could be achieved through tougher gun legislation. If only one life is then spared by this measure, the same voices argue, stricter gun control would be worth it.

Responding to the argument for reducing the number of guns in circulation, gun rights activists don’t agree with the contention that giving up one’s weapons necessarily means less violence. Instead, they usually argue that widespread gun ownership among properly trained responsible citizens increases public safety by making criminals think twice before attacking somebody. To really hit this point home, the gun rights activists habitually point to the fact that school shootings and other extreme gun violence often occur in gun-free zones, where guns are not allowed.

A strong attachment

Drawing conclusions from the differences in argumentation, lastly, it is easy to see that people on opposite sides of the gun debate could have difficulty finding common ground. Nevertheless, it does sometimes happen that a majority of people do find common ground. This, as a consequence, has led to various gun control legislation being agreed on and enacted in a number of American states, and also nationwide. However, drastically confiscating most guns, which is sometimes suggested, would likely lead to civil unrest or even some type of civil war. This is because a small but still significant portion of gun owners seriously assert that they would rather risk dying in a shootout with the people coming to confiscate the guns than give up the only tool they believe can protect them and their families in crisis situations.