Final Thoughts on Gun Control

In my two previous posts, I discussed the Liberal and Conservative perspectives on enacting more gun control laws. In this post, I will evaluate these views and express my own opinion. Although Liberals appeal to the public’s common sense by arguing that background checks and more gun control laws will lead to fewer gun-related deaths, suicides and accidental deaths, the Conservatives provide more convincing arguments. Conservatives use the Second Amendment to argue that enacting more gun control laws violate our right to self-defense and safety. They also claim that gun control laws do not deter crime and may lead to tyranny. This is why I favor the Conservative view on this issue.

First, I will discuss the Liberal’s strongest arguments. Although I don’t personally agree with this viewpoint, it is important to critically examine multiple perspectives. Liberals claim that background checks will prevent criminals and the mentally ill from obtaining guns. They also state that enacting more gun control laws will prevent suicides and accidental deaths. They have strong evidence to establish these points: 90% of adults with a gun in the home approve of laws to prevent the purchase of guns by the mentally ill and 60% approve of a federal database to track gun sales. 1* According to Don Macalady, a member of Hunters against Gun Violence, “Background checks prevent criminals and other dangerous people from getting guns.”

Liberals also claim that more gun control laws will lead to fewer suicides and accidental deaths. According to a March 2014 study published in the International Review of Law and Economics, when gun ownership went down in the United States, overall suicide rates went down. Between 1999 and 2013 there were 270,237 firearm suicides in the United States, accounting for about 52% of all suicides during those years. 1* Liberals claim that additional gun control laws would lower suicides because poison and knives are unlikely means of suicide when guns are unavailable. Accidental deaths would also be decreased.

In my opinion, however, the Liberal’s position is weakened because they are unable to disprove most of the Conservative’s arguments. Liberals claim that the Second Amendment is not ‘unlimited’ and does not grant the right of an individual to bear arms. Many Conservatives acknowledge that the Second Amendment is not unlimited. However, a 2008 Supreme Court case, District of Columbia vs. Heller, confirmed that an individual has the right to a gun.

Liberals also claim that more gun control laws would decrease gun-related deaths and therefore would reduce the societal costs associated with gun violence. Conservatives claim that gun ownership reduces gun-related deaths. However, the truth is that they may both be wrong. Justin King, a Journalist on Mint Press News says that gun bans, “…do not create a sustained period of increased murders, nor do they reduce the rate of homicides.” 2* The evidence for the argument that gun control laws increases or decreases gun-related deaths is inconclusive. Thus the Conservatives are left with more convincing arguments.

In my opinion, the Conservatives’ strengths heavily outweigh their weaknesses because they are able to disprove most of the Liberal’s arguments and provide several strong arguments for their own side. They start by citing the Second Amendment and correctly state that it grants the individual the right to bear arms. This includes using guns for self-defense because citizens have the right to feel safe. Conservatives also argue that gun control laws do not deter crime because guns can easily be obtained by criminals. Rather, they believe gun ownership deters crime. As I mentioned earlier, this argument cannot readily be verified, because the evidence is inconclusive. Finally, Conservatives legitimately worry that enacting more gun control laws will give the government too much power. They fear it may lead to tyranny and even to the government taking away all guns from citizens.

The Conservative perspective appears unreasonable to many people because they are unwilling to accept any form of gun control. This can be seen as an “extreme” view, because the majority of the general public consider some gun-control laws to be reasonable and common sense.

It is important to note that while my goal is to fairly represent each side of this issue, I may have unintentionally cast a shadow across the Liberal viewpoint simply because I personally disagree with many of their arguments. However, though my research and writing of these posts, I have come to better understand both the Liberal and Conservative beliefs and have confirmed my own.





Gun Control: A Conservative Perspective

In my previous post, I looked at the Liberal perspective on gun control. In this post, I will discuss the Conservative view point. Conservatives believe that more gun control laws should not be enacted. They claim enacting more gun control laws infringes upon our Constitutional rights, fail to prevent criminals from obtaining guns and committing crime, and give the government too much power.

The Second Amendment of the US Constitution reads, “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Conservatives believe enacting more gun control laws violates this amendment and infringes upon our rights to bear arms. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, stated, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

Conservatives also affirm that gun control laws prevent citizens from exercising their right to defend themselves. Although Liberals claim otherwise, the National Rifle Association (NRA) states that guns are used for self-defense 2.5 million times a year. Conservatives claim that Liberals fail to see that the right to bear arms is just as important as the other rights in the Constitution. Lawrence Hunter, Chairman of Revolution PAC, stated, “The Founders understood that the right to own and bear laws is as fundamental and as essential to maintaining liberty as are the rights of free speech, a free press, freedom of religion and the other protections against government encroachment on liberty delineated in the Bill of Rights.”

Conservatives also believe that in addition to taking away our rights, enacting more gun control laws would fail to deter crime. Liberals argue that more gun control regulations deter crime. However, Conservatives effectively argue against this point. John R. Lott, Jr., PhD, gun rights activists stated, “The problem with such gun control laws is that they take away guns from law-abiding citizens, while would-be criminals ignore them.” Conservatives claim that gun control laws will not prevent criminals from obtaining guns or committing crimes. Instead, they firmly believe that gun ownership deters crime.

John R. Lott, Jr., PhD, author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, said, “States with the largest increases in gun ownership also have the largest drops in violent crimes…When states passed these laws (concealed gun laws) the number of multiple-victim shootings declined by 84 percent. Deaths from these shootings plummeted on average by 90 percent and injuries by 82 percent.” Journalist John Stossel explains, “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” In short, Conservatives claim that gun control laws do not deter crime; rather, gun ownership deters crime.

Finally, Conservatives fear that gun control laws give too much power to the government and may result in tyranny. The Founding Fathers lived under the tyranny of King George. To avoid living under such tyranny ever again, they created the Second Amendment. Radio host Alex Jones said in a January 7, 2013 interview with Piers Morgan, “The Second Amendment isn’t there for duck hunting, it’s there to protect us from tyrannical government and street thugs… 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms!”

Conservatives are also concerned that enacting new gun control laws will invade our privacy. Background checks and microstamping would involve government databases that keep personal information on gun owners such as their name, addresses, mental health history, criminal records and more. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is worried that we are going to see “searches of the databases and an expansion for purposes that were not intended when the information was collected.” Senators Rand Paul, Mike Less, and Ted Cruz wrote that they would oppose any legislation that infringes “on the American people’s constitutional right to bear arms, or on their ability to exercise this right without being subjected to government surveillance.” This is yet another reason Conservatives believe enacting additional gun rights would be a grave mistake.

In conclusion, Conservatives believe enacting additional gun control laws will take away our rights to bear arms, defend ourselves, and feel safe. More gun control laws will not deter crimes, and gives too much power to the government, which may result in tyranny and the revocation of even more of our rights.

Make sure to read my next post! I will be evaluating the Liberal and Conservative perspectives and coming to my own conclusions about enacting more gun control laws.



Gun Control: A Liberal Perspective

Should more gun control laws be enacted? This question is highly contested. As with all controversial issues, in order to decide what we believe we must look at both sides. For this post, I will focus on the Liberal perspective, which stands in favor of this issue. In the next post, I will discuss the Conservative view, which stands against the issue. The Liberals make a very convincing case, stating that the Second Amendment does not give citizens unlimited gun ownership, most adults support gun control laws, more gun control laws would reduce the societal costs associated with gun violence, and more gun control laws would reduce gun deaths.

The Second Amendment, as with all rights granted in the Bill of Rights, is not unlimited. The freedom of speech is also not unlimited. For example, we cannot yell, “Fire” in a crowded movie theater when there isn’t one. Likewise, gun rights must be restrained. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia stated, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose… nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” Liberals are not denying citizen’s right to bear arms; they are suggesting the need for restrictions on gun ownership.

A majority of adults would agree that gun control laws such as background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are common sense restrictions. According to a Pew Research survey conducted in March 2013, 83% of all adults surveyed (and 79% of gun-owners; 86% of people living with a gun-owner; and 74% of NRA households) approve of background checks for private and gun show sales. 56% of all adults surveyed approved of assault weapon bans and 60% approved of a federal database to track gun sales. Surprisingly, up to 40% of all gun sales are undocumented private party gun sales that do not require a background check.   Most Americans found this statistic alarming, including Don Macalady, a member of Hunters against Gun Violence. He explained, “As a hunter and someone who has owned guns since I was a young boy, I believe that commonsense gun legislation makes us all safer. Background checks prevent criminals and other dangerous people from getting guns.” Liberals appeal to the common sense in all of us to not only endorse the current gun laws but also to endorse the enactment of more gun control laws in the future.

Liberals claim that enacting more gun control laws would significantly reduce the societal costs associated with gun violence. The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation paints a troubling picture. In 2010, gun violence cost each person in the United States about $564 and the U.S. government $5.5 billion in lost tax revenue; $4.7 billion in court costs; $1.4 billion in Medicare and Medicaid costs; $180 million in mental health care for victims; $224 million in insurance claims processing; and $133 million for law enforcement and medic response to shooting injuries. Also in 2010, a total of 36, 341 emergency room visits and 25,024 hospitalizations for gun injuries costed an estimated $6.3 million. Societal costs of gun violence can also include legal services, foster care, life insurance, and psychological costs, among others according to the World Health Organization.

Liberals also state that more gun control laws would reduce gun-related deaths. Between 1999 and 2013, there were 464,033 total gun deaths.   Guns were the leading cause of death by homicide (66.6% of all homicides) and by suicide (52.2% of all suicides). Firearms were the 12th leading cause of all deaths, topping liver disease, hypertension, and Parkinson’s disease, as well as death from fires, drowning, and machinery accidents. A Lancet study conducted in March 20, 2016 found that implementing federal universal background checks could decrease firearm deaths by a projected 56.9%; background checks for ammunition purchases could reduce deaths by a projected 80.7%; and gun identification requirements could reduce deaths by a projected 82.5%.

In summary, Liberals do believe that citizens have the right to bear arms. They simply believe that restrictions are necessary in order to protect people’s right to safety. The majority of adults agree with these basic, common sense restrictions on gun ownership. However, Liberals also claim that additional restrictions need to be made. They state that these additional restrictions will decrease both the societal costs associated with gun violence and gun-related deaths.

Keep an eye out for my next post, where I will discuss the Conservative’s perspective on gun control.




Are You Liberal, Conservative, or Confused?

In today’s world, everyone is eager to tell you their opinion: from local newscasters and politicians to businessmen and barbers. The weatherman may be wrong half of the time and your barber probably shares too much gossip, but the truth remains: opinions can be found everywhere.  For example, this most recent election was replete with fake news, controversy, and contention. I left the political debates confused and disheartened. Is this really what our country has come to? I asked myself. Making up facts and name-calling?

As a teenager, I struggle to sort through this surplus of opinions and often ask myself, “What do I believe?” I have always claimed to be a conservative, but have never examined the liberal perspective. By examining political platforms with an open mind, I hope to discover what I believe and gain a deeper understanding of why others believe the way they do. Once I know what I believe, I can make well-informed decisions and know for which political leaders to vote.

For future reference, I will refer to Democrats as liberals (or “Left”) and Republicans as conservatives (or “Right”). However, it is important to note that not all Democrats are liberals and not all Republicans are conservative. I will also not limit myself to political platforms of the major political parties but search for fair representations of the minor political parties and other diverse opinions wherever possible.

I will start by exploring the basic principles of the Republican and Democratic platforms. I will also study specific controversial issues of the liberal and conservative viewpoints. It is not my goal to prove that one side is right and the other side wrong. Rather, it is my intent to better understand the underlying reasons for each side’s beliefs. Based upon this understanding, we will be better able to confirm or change our present beliefs and make better-informed decisions.

Conservatives believe that God is the source of human rights, the government should be as limited as possible, and good and evil is based upon universal absolutes. Liberals, on the other hand, claim that the government grants us our rights, the government should be as powerful as possible and good and evil is relative to the individual and the society. The stark contrast between these two political perspectives explains why our nation is so divided and divisive.

The conservative’s beliefs are based upon Judea-Christian values. Therefore, they believe that we are created by God and are given divine, unalienable rights. They also believe that the more power granted to the government, the more liberties that are taken away from the people. Finally, they claim that good and evil is based upon universal absolutes such as the ten commandments. In contrast, liberals believe our rights come from the government. They also claim that it is a good thing for a big government to be heavily involved in the people’s lives. Finally, they believe that good and evil is relative and changes based upon the individual and society.

Conservativism is based upon the concept that “all men are created equal but not necessarily good”, while liberalism originates from the idea that “all men are good but not necessarily equal.” Universal equal rights were implemented in the Spanish colonies when Dominican missionary Bartolome’ de Las Casas begged for legal protection for the Indians. Because of philosophers such as Hume and Locke, universal equal rights were a major part of the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson.

Original sin states that all human beings have a tendency to stray from the straight and narrow path. This is why no one can be unquestioningly trusted with power. John Adams explained, “It is weakness rather than wickedness which renders men unfit to be trusted with unlimited power.” Both universal equal rights and original sin drive conservatives to the conclusions that freedom is the most valuable blessing we have and no single person or organization can be trusted to safeguard it for us.

Liberals also believe in universal equal rights, but negate the doctrine of original sin. They instead believe in evolutionism, a belief that humanity is guided by a driving force that will lead to a higher form of life and intelligence. Liberals believe that if they follow the right path, they will achieve world peace. They also believe in the theory of “the survival of the fittest” and that some are more equipped to be leaders than others.

In short, the Conservative’s perspective is quite grim and they believe we must fight for our freedoms. Liberals promise world peace if we will only follow their principles.