By Shafiq Kyazze.

The Second Amendment of the United States 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.”

In the wake of the recent tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, USA many have called for the abolition of the Second Amendment and a total ban on guns in the USA. But such reactionary measures won’t immediately solve the problem of killings by guns as they fail to tackle the underlying root cause.

Sociological study of mass shootings in the US has found that there are various characteristics perpetrators of such heinous acts share with each other. For example, statistically, the majority of mass shooters have come from fatherless or ‘broken homes’. Of course, this is not to claim there is a direct cause and effect relationship between home structure and likelihood to engage in a killing rampage, but simply that guns in and of themselves can’t inherently be the problem.

Studies of children raised in single parent households have also shown a strong correlation with those likely to self-harm, suffer from depression and harm others, suggesting that the significance of both parents in the development of one’s happiness and health is second to none. However, if we are acknowledging family patterns as a contributor to any rise in mass shootings, this isn’t a new epidemic. In the US the increase in fatherless homes started in the 1960s under Democrat President Lyndon. B. Johnson and has been growing ever since. So instead of banning guns should policies not first attempt to address root causes of the issue?

I think it’s clear that even if guns magically disappeared tomorrow, there are still going to be individuals who are depressed, suffering from mental health and who are disengaged with positive society, inadvertently making them more susceptible to self-harm and harming others in different ways. In view of this, the US needs a tougher stance on background checks before issuing out gun licenses and needs to put a stronger emphasis on addressing and tackling mental health issues as well as boosting school security.

A scene at the signing of the constitution by the founding fathers. The second amendment in the USA is supported by the constitution (painting by Howard Chandler Christy)

Furthermore, in China where guns are banned, in 2012 a 36-year-old man was able to stab 23 children and a teacher. Evidently, in countries where guns have been banned, this hasn’t ended mass murders. To put it differently, to blame guns or knives for mass murders is like blaming cars for road accidents caused by intoxicated drivers.

While it seems sensible that fewer guns will lead to fewer shootings, the issue is intricate. In places where citizens are allowed to carry guns, the law abiding population can use guns for self defence against criminals. Criminals find it riskier to commit crimes due to fear of getting shot or even killed which is why 96% of mass shootings happen in “gun free zones” according to the Crime Prevention Research Center. As a matter of fact, gun ownership in the US increased by 56% while gun violence fell by 50% between 1993 and 2013.

On a further note, residential burglaries dropped by 89% after Kennesaw a town in Georgia, USA passed an ordinance requiring every head of a household to own a gun. Although gun-control advocates point out that criminals will give up their guns after a firearm ban, they forget the basic definition of a criminal – someone who doesn’t follow the rules and laws of a country. So why would a ‘criminal’ give up their firearm simply because it’s been outlawed by the government?

A ban on guns will push their primary supply directly through black markets and criminals will use these firearms against law abiding citizens whose only defence would subsequently be the police. Police who take minutes to arrive at a crime scene and in some instances eventually find themselves outnumbered. This was notably seen during the 1992 L.A riots. While police were busy dealing with riots, Korean shop owners had to rely on their firearms for self-defence and to stop rioters from looting, burning and destroying their shops. A further illustration was seen from the recent Florida school shooting, the local police received 45 calls about the parkland shooter and the FBI received a tip about the assailant’s “desire to kill people” but still failed to stop the shooting. The police can’t provide perfect protection which calls for a need for the population to have their own form of self-defence.

Korean shop owners during the L.A riots. While many people were fleeing for their lives, Korean shop owners defended their shops and lives using their guns.

Contrary to the conventional view of ‘more guns equals more crime’, a study by 2 criminologists, Professors Gary Mauser and Don Kates repudiates the views of gun- control activists. The researchers wrote in the report:

“If the mantra `more guns equal more death and fewer guns equal less death’ were true, broad cross-national comparisons should show that nations with higher gun ownership per ca pita consistently have more death. Nations with higher gun ownership rates, however, do not have higher murder or suicide rates than those with lower gun ownership. Indeed, many high gun ownership nations have much lower murder rates. (p. 661)”

The report also found that in Russia where it’s illegal to own a gun, the murder rate is 4 times higher than that of the USA and 20 times higher than Norway where citizens of both countries have a higher gun ownership rate than Russia.

While many gun control proponents point to Australia as an example due to its 1996 firearm ban, the number of guns in Australia has increased over the last 10 years and is almost similar to what it was in 1996 (1.6% less). Yet, despite a rise in gun the ownership rate, the number of homicides has been steadily declining .

 

It’s safe to say that if statistics are anything to go by, banning gun ownership will not immediately reverse the rate of gun related deaths. What government needs to prioritise is identifying and tackling the underlying factors which require more time and more thought; those which can’t simply be implemented with the signing of a piece of paper.

 

Shafiq has a strong background in philosophy and history having been exposed to such issues at a very tender age. He has a voracious interest in economics, history, politics, philosophy and social issues. He is a Chemical engineering student at The University of Manchester. Shafiq is also an avid Barcelona fan and is currently a writer for TCS.