Very few issues have dominated news headlines in the United States, and by extension, globally more than the gun debate and whether the right to bear arms is a deterrent or a problem in itself. On one hand, you have the Second Amendment apologists who swear by the right to bear arms, with some insisting that one should not only be allowed to carry a firearm with them at all times, but to openly carry unconcealed weapons, in full view of those around them. And on the other hand, you have those that argue that guns are the problem, and that societies without them do far better in controlling crimes. Australia is the country of choice when trying to justify this position. This article aims to examine both arguments, with the use of facts, and determine which side is likely correct.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) President is infamous for the quote “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”. And that quote runs deep, forming the very basis of the argument that deterrence is a far better tool at stopping crime, and if that fails, self-defense is a requirement. In addition, those who oppose gun control point to a study in 1993 by Dr Gary Kleck (criminologist) that concluded that guns were 3-4 times more likely to be used to prevent a crime than they would to commit one. In addition, a separate study by professors James D Wright and Peter Rossi suggested that up to 34% of convicted felons had been scared, shot at, wounded or apprehended by a victim with a firearm. An even more interesting statistic from the same study has it that 57% of the same felons were more worried about running into a potential victim with a firearm than they were running into law enforcement. Dr Kleck also compared home burglaries in the United Kingdom (UK) and the Netherlands, two countries with much stricter gun laws, and found that their break in rates (into homes) was much higher.
However, a parallel study by the Violence Policy Centre (VPC), a non-profit organisation, found that the NRAs claims were wildly overstated, specifically in relation to instances of self-defense. The study found that in 2012, there were 8,342 instances of criminal gun homicide against 259 instances of justifiable gun homicide. Over a 5-year analysis period (2007-2012), the VPC found that self-defense violence or homicide contributed to only 0.8% of all gun related violence, showing clearly were indeed the problem, and not the solution.
The challenge with the NRA being the voice of reason when it comes to gun control is that they cannot be trusted to be objective, especially since they and their members benefit from the sales of guns in the US. They are therefore seen to have a conflict of interest, and cannot expect to be reasonably listened to due to this apparent bias. All in all, more studies will have to be done for a more conclusive conversation to take place.