It is estimated that in 1994, 39,720 individuals died from firearm related
injuries in the United States . This figure is very alarming, especially
when one considers this number not as a statistic, but 39,720 human beings.
The issue that will be addressed is one that brings with it great
controversy. Does our right to own guns infringe upon the rights of others
to live? Would it be a greater injustice to ban the right to own guns thus
saving lives? Would this action decrease pain and increase pleasure for the
I ask that an open mind be kept throughout this presentation, for guns
impact two basic rights provided by the Constitution. The first can be
found in these words at the end of the introduction: “.in order to promote
the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our
posterity” . The next can be found in the Second Amendment: “.the right of
the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” . These two rights
clearly belong to all citizens, but now one must question: What about the
39,720 individuals who were killed by guns in 1994. Were their rights
upheld, or has a great injustice been committed?
Whenever there is an issue which generates great controversy, there are
always at least two sides or views which must be considered.
There are many degrees of either freedom or control which individuals
believe, but they fall into either pro gun control or against gun control.
Those who are against restrictions on gun control are represented by the NRA
(National Rifle Association). The NRA states the Second Amendment as “.the
ultimate civil liberty- the right to defend one’s own life- without which
there are no rights”.The NRA strongly defends any and all gun rights, for
they see any gun restriction as the beginning of civilian disarmament.
Those who are for gun control and regulations also have varying degrees of
beliefs, but they all believe that more regulations are in order. Some want
the abolition of virtually all guns, while others simply want tougher
regulations on applicants desiring a gun. This side also has many
organizations which work to represent their beliefs, one of which is HCI
(Handgun Control Incorporated).
The right to own guns is defended by many for some of the following
reasons. The right to own a firearm provides the public with power. This
very power which we as United States citizens hold strikes fear into the
hearts of any dictator or Communist. Secondly, many have purchased guns for
the reason of self defense. In a confrontation with an attacker, a handgun
can mean the difference between life and death for a victim. There are also
many individuals who use guns to hunt and participate in competition.
The ATF reported that from 1899-1989 more then 211 million firearms have
been transferred, with approximately 7.5 million additional guns sold each
year since.As stated before, 39,720 died in 1994 due to firearm violence.
Without a doubt, America has a serious problem with gun related violence.
The question now arises weather this violence problem is restricted to the
Unites States, or is it a plague that we share with most other countries?
In Switzerland, each male is trained and issued a fully automatic weapon,
for they have no standing army. Yet, in 1990, only thirty-four homicides
were related to firearms.This shows that there is no direct relationship
between firearm ownership and crime, but just the opposite. A thoroughly
armed people is relatively crime free. Now consider Mexico, with a firearm
homicide rate two times greater then the United States. They have very
strict laws which do not allow individuals to own guns.In contrast,
Israel encourages all of its citizens to carry handguns or fully automatic
weapons. The result is that in any large crowd, there are many armed
individuals. In Jerusalem, 1984, a group of terrorists planned to open fire
on a large group of people. They resulted in killing only one person before
the three terrorists were shot and killed by armed citizens.
Gary Kleck is a nationally recognized criminologist from Florida State
University. He has reported that an estimated 2.45 million crimes are
prevented a year by citizens using firearms, most of which did not require
any shooting.This number represents all types of crime, not necessarily
crime that would have resulted in a death.
II. Application of Lebacqz to this Issue
I believe the theory of justice which applies best to this issue would be
Mills Theory of Utilitarianism. The determinants of what is unjust are some
of the following: 1. depriving people of things to which they have a legal
right 2. People not obtaining what they deserve-good to those who do right,
and evil to those who do wrong. His view can be stated as “whatever does
the greatest good will be just”.
Now, one could argue that those who have died due to gun violence have not
benefited, but in fact have died by the very freedom which is in question.
This is true, but one must consider all of the criteria which Mills uses to
define what is unjust. It is unjust for those who do evil not to have evil
returned to them. This I believe is the main problem encompassing the issue
of gun rights verses human rights. “In 1990, of the estimated 147,766
people convicted of violent crimes including murder, rape, robbery, and
aggravated assault, 20 percent-or about 29,553 violent offenders received
sentences that included no prison or jail time at all. Twenty-eight percent
of those convicted of aggravated assault and fourteen percent of those
convicted of rape were sentenced to straight probation.” I believe that
this leniency towards violent offenders is the root of many deaths caused by
guns. If our Judicial system strictly adhered to a standard which convicts
those who commit violence with a gun, individuals would think twice before
As stated by Former Mayor Wilson Goode: “When you limit or take the freedom
of an individual to do something, you are in effect damaging your own
freedom”.This applies to the freedom of Speech as well as the right to
bear arms. If, for example, the FCC strictly censors what Howard Stearn
says on his radio show, what is to stop them from censoring individuals when
they address an issue of political corruption?
As United States citizens, I believe that we often take for granted the
freedoms which we have. The Democratic process has allowed us to rest in a
certain security that our rights are permanent, and will not change. But
this freedom did not come so easily for those who founded our nation. There
was a war in which the colonists fought for their freedoms. The colonists
would not have been able to put up a fight if they did not have guns. The
fact that we could fight brought to us respect, and if for some reason, we
found that once again our rights were in jeopardy, we have the power to
fight for them.
I believe that the following statement sums up the issue of guns for self
defense best: “Where the individual has the capacity, if necessary, to
defend himself and his property by force, and to inflict injury or death on
those attempting to violate them, that factor will always be present in the
thinking of those seeking to exercise coercion over him, whether by
political power or by more honest forms of robbery.”
III. Application of Biblical Principals
The Bible does not directly address the issue of gun control, but I do feel
that there are some applications which are valid. The Old Testament,
although not as current as the New Testament, I believe still can provide
some valuable insight. The law “an eye for an eye” comes to my mind in
particular. When one realizes that their actions have consequences, they
are far less likely to act. Five years ago, my father went to Saudi-Arabia
on a business trip. He had the opportunity to view a public execution for
an individual convicted of murder, which he elected not to attend. There is
a very strong awareness of consequences in Saudi Arabia, and for good
reason! To we Americans, this Biblical method of justice they practice
seems absurd, but I cannot argue that it is not just or effective!
What if current laws reflected this Biblical Standard, would it make a
difference? I personally believe that firearm violence lies not in the
weapons themselves, but in the fact that the attacker knows that most
likely, their victim is unarmed, and secondly, that they will have a light
For example, since the law has become very hard on those who drive while
under the influence of alcohol, individuals and their friends are much more
likely to give up their keys.
There are many who may not agree with my conclusion, but then again, it is
my right to draw such a conclusion. I believe that it would be an unjust
act to ban guns, for it would be at the sacrifice of the majority. There is
no hard evidence that banning guns would reduce violence, but just the
opposite. The real injustice which takes place every day is that
individuals die, and those who take their lives get away with a slap on the
Garen Wintermute, “The Relationship Between Firearm Design and Firearm
Violence.” Journal of American Medical Association. June 12, 1996: 1749.
Jordan Winthrop. The United States. New Jersey: Englewood, 1991: 420.
Jordan Winthrop. The United States. New Jersey: Englewood, 1991: 422.
Tanya Metaksa, “Self Defense-A Primary Civil Right”. American Hunter.
November 1995: 43-44.
Pete Shields, Guns Don’t Die- People Do. Arbor House: New York. 1993, 160.
Violence Policy Center, www.vpc.org.com.April 1, 1998.
Wayne LaPierre, Guns, Crime, and Freedom. Regency, Washington: 1994.
Wayne LaPierre, Guns, Crime, and Freedom. Regency, Washington:1994.
David Kopel, Guns- Who Should Have Them? Amherst: New York, 255.
Gary Kleck. “Crime Control Through the Private Use of Armed Force,”
Social Problems, Feb 1988: 15.
Karen Lebacqz, Six Theories of Justice, Augsburg, Minneapolis:1986,19.
Wayne LaPierre, Guns, Crime, and Freedom. Regency, Washington: 1994.
Wilson Goode, American Government (Class), December 4, 1998.
David Kopel, Guns- Who Should Have Them? Amherst: New York, 195.
Category: Social Issues