Gun Control Perspectives Essay
Gun control and the right to carry arms has been a controversial, and incredibly serious issue around the world since the very origin of gun usage. There are various stances that different individuals, countries, constitutions, communities, and political parties take on it and they have all applied different ways of controlling and regulating the usage and accessibility of firearms to the general public. Over the course of time, the accessibility of guns to the public has changed, and in modern times, it is generally speaking a lot more controlled and limited than it was in the past. However, there are definitely exceptions to this, most notably the United States and less developed countries, where rules and regulations are more lenient, and aren’t enforced properly. In the U.S. however, the gun laws vary by state, which just goes to show that the views on gun control are more entrenched than ever. Guns can have such a huge amount of power on people both mentally and physically, that laws to control and regulate them are not decided on or enforced easily. Because of this the amount of perspectives and opinions on the issue are incredibly widespread, being based primarily on different religious, ethical and ideological ideas. In this essay I am going to present these different perspectives on the issue, focusing mainly on the ideological and ethical viewpoints that are significant in the world today.
One of the most prominent ideologies that is still relevant today is the U.S. 2nd Amendment to its Bill of Rights, which applies to America. It states that “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.” (Wikipedia, Second Amendment to the United States Constitution) However, this particular part of the Bill was passed in 1791 at a time when guns and other weaponry were more accepted and necessary in society than they are today. In the last 224 years nothing has changed, even despite events such as the Civil War in 1865 and more recently, 9/11. On December 14, 2012 the brutal massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in New Town, Connecticut of 28 staff and students also caused a huge amount of debate and discussion around the issue of gun control, but still nothing has changed (Wikipedia, Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting). According to conservative definitions there have even been 30 U.S. school shootings since then (The Brady Campaign), so the question is, why don’t the United States just abolish guns? Isn’t the answer simple? However, it isn’t that easy. The cause for the disparity in ideologies lies much deeper than it seems. The very foundation of the United States is built upon the pioneering spirit and freedom for the people. This creates a misconception that exists within the United States that is believed by constitutions like the Tea Party (Republicans) and the NRA that guns will always be used responsibly and for the appropriate purposes. However, it is of course impossible to enforce and control this among a population of 318.9 million (Google) where people die every day because of privately owned guns. This is why opposing constitutions such as the Democratic Party lean more towards the right to life, which guns come in the way of causing them to be against guns, and pro gun control. An example of this is seen between the neighbouring states Massachusetts and New Hampshire, where in New Hampshire their state motto is “Live free or die,” and guns can be bought freely because they adhere more to the view of liberty and responsibility. However, Massachusetts has always been a very democratic state and so guns are illegal there. This highlights the vastly different ideological views in the United States, and also represents the principles behind different gun control laws around the world.
Gun control laws are not only varied in the United States, but also all over the world. The majority of Europe is pro gun control and guns are typically illegal unless one goes through an elaborate process through which their criminal background and mental health are taken into account. Most of the guns issued to citizens are for hunting purposes only and are not automatic weapons and only have limited ammunition. This makes it a lot easier for governing bodies to control and regulate who has guns and what they are being used for. However, there are countries on the other end of the spectrum such as Somalia and Mexico where guns are supposedly illegal, but everyone still has access to them and no laws are enforced. This creates an environment where the government is kind of helpless because of the huge amount of crime and homicides that occur because of these guns. The general public are also helpless in a way because unless they have a gun of their own, they have no way to protect themselves and are vulnerable. To conclude, the laws and ideology behind the gun control of each nation is dependent on the state of their own country and their governmental influence on the people, and how efficiently they can enforce their laws. It varies by country and so there is no general answer to whether or not guns should be legal, which is why it is still such a heated topic today.
Shifting to the ethical perspective on things the question becomes, what is right and what is wrong? Is owning a gun the right or wrong thing to do? Although these questions are quite complex and depend on the country and the circumstances, the explanation can be broken down quite simply. Ethically speaking, it is generally considered wrong to kill, and the primary purpose of a gun is ultimately to kill. Whether from an offensive or defensive point of view, the purpose remains the same. From this one could easily conclude that owning a gun is wrong, but as a statement that is much too general because the motives behind owning a gun are often justified. An example of this is in the United States, where many citizens own a gun in the case of a situation where they would need to protect themselves. However, statistics clearly show us that in countries where guns are controlled, limited and regulated the gun induced homicide rate is much lower, compared to countries where the gun laws are more lenient. This can be seen between Singapore and the United States, where in Singapore the rate is 0.2 deaths per million, and in the U.S. it is 30 deaths per million (The Guardian). From an ethical point of view, one can conclude that whether or not the law allows you to carry guns or not should not make any difference if everyone was to uphold basic human rights and ethical morals. However, since that will not always be the case due to lapse of reason or general unethical behaviour, from an ethical point of view, gun control would give a lot more certainty and safety for the people.
Another thing to take into account is that people’s ethical morals can largely be based on their religious beliefs. Religions in general typically have a fundamental underlying belief system that harming others through using a gun, or any other means is wrong. In Jainism and Buddhism the harming of any living being is considered wrong, and in Christianity causing intentional harm to another person is one of the worst sins one could commit. In general Judaism and Islam also condemn the killing of another human being. However, both the Bible and the Quran contain contradictory statements to this which can be misinterpreted and create situations where killing someone else could be considered appropriate. In the Bible this can be seen through the statement “An eye for an eye” (The Old Testament. Can be seen in various different segments of the Bible, notably in Deuteronomy 19:21 and Exodus 21:24) and a similar such statement in the Quran “fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out. If they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers”.(Excerpt K 2:190-191 Set 2, Count 3+4). Different negative interpretations of these statements, and others like these have created lots of conflict, and led to the creation of extremist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS, and resulted in blood feuds in Southern Europe, whether Sicily and Albania.
In conclusion, the extent to which gun control is implemented and enforced by countries and states is largely influenced by different ideologies, and therefore to some extent different religions. However. the ethical side of things is often ignored considering that ethical beliefs are primarily universal. E.g. – generally speaking everyone believes that killing is wrong. However, on the basis of the human rights that we pride ourselves so much in, gun control in general should be enforced everywhere in order to create a safe living environment and protect the right to human life. This can all be clearly backed up by factual evidence, and can be seen by the positive impacts it has had on different countries around the world, such as Singapore. Personally, I wholeheartedly support this point of view, because it creates a safer and more ensured environment for people to live in, where guns can be properly controlled and regulated. Through gun control laws where extensive background checks and tracking of firearms are required, the potential damage that guns could cause is minimised and they can be primarily used as a force for good. In the end it comes down to the fact that, without access to firearms, no one can use them.