Gun control is an important issue which people tend to feel very strongly about. Gun supporters have emailed me and I´ve read abuse on pro-gun forums because of this page. Most of the detractors are ignorant and instead of making anything approaching an actual argument they just curse and rant, usually with no awareness of grammar or spelling. Occasionally someone has an actual argument with you, they try to defend their point of view and this can lead to an interesting debate. Below I´ve laid out some classic anti-gun arguments and pro-gun arguments and answered them. Feel free to send your own thoughts on this subject and I´ll add interesting ones to this page. If you can´t think of a coherent argument then at least try and make sure your ignorant abuse is witty.
Before you read the points below I have to explain a few things. I live in Scotland where gun crime statistics are very low, for example according to the Scottish Executive there have been a total of 8 gun homicides over the last year. When talking about gun control it is important to note that any gun control policies must go hand in hand with a vigorous police effort to prevent illegal gun ownership. I do not advocate taking guns away from law abiding citizens and doing nothing about illegal gun ownership.
By the way this section focuses on private gun ownership but the arms we produce for export are causing a lot more trouble. The UK is one of the biggest arms exporters in the world and you can read about British tax and the illegal arms trade here. Or find more information at the Campaign Against Arms Trade website.
Pro-gun people hate this idea and amazingly try to deny the obvious truth of this statement by saying "no they´re for hunting or target practice". Well the development of guns has been driven by warfare there is no denying this. Make no mistake many of the guns which are popularly sold in the US were designed specifically to kill people. While there may be a legitimate claim for some farmers to own a rifle or shotgun this is very different to a city dweller owning a .357 Magnum or an Uzi. It doesn´t matter if you don´t use your gun for killing humans that is still what it was designed to do.
This is often taken as a highly inflammatory statement but again it is obviously true. If you don´t have a gun you can´t shoot yourself or someone else with it. In situations where people are getting emotional a gun instantly makes things life and death. While you could argue that people will kill anyway, using whatever is to hand, you have to admit that guns are much more effective at killing than most of the other available options. Even discounting deliberate deaths from guns what about the number of accidental deaths which result from having guns in the house? In terms of suicide 53.7% of all suicides in the US in 2003 used guns, see the Suicidology Report.
These two simple points are the crux of my argument. The world would be a better place without guns. Sadly not everyone believes this....for example -
Well by owning a gun you are increasing your chances of being killed by a gun. Someone may steal it and use it, someone may accidentally shoot someone with it or someone might just wrestle it from you and shoot you. Gun owners are not immune to crime, gun owners are just as likely to be attacked and burgled as the rest of us. Owning a gun does not make you safe. How many of the people who claim they need a gun for their own safety have actually had to use it anyway? If you claim to need a gun but you´ve never used it then why do you need it? If you live in a really rough place perhaps it is normal to own a gun for your own protection and in the absence of government or police action to improve your area this may be your only way to feel safe. This is tough to argue with, because this shouldn´t be the case, it basically means that your government and police are failing to keep you safe, instead of arming yourself you should fight (peacefully) for them to do their job. I realise this is easier said than done but hey I´m idealistic, I´d like a world without guns or wars, this is often discounted as naive, it´s not naive it´s an honest statement, naivety would be believing that I could make it happen. However if enough people worked together with this aim it could be achieved and if you agree then you should swallow your cynicism and try to do something about it, if you don´t think the world would be a better place without guns and wars then you should seek professional help.
This argument simply leads to the idea that guns aren´t controlled strictly enough. There are too many in circulation and too many still being produced for the government or police to keep them from falling into the wrong hands. Well maybe we shouldn´t allow our governments to subsidise the weapons manufacturers with our tax money, maybe the manufacturers should be held to account for profiting from death. It is a failure of government if people have to protect themselves in this way and the corrupt link between the weapons manufacturers and government must be broken.
By the way, almost every pro-gun person who contacts me makes this point. I´m not surprised at the level of fear that people have about crime when you look at the way the media reports on it but the idea that a gun keeps you safe is debatable. For a start a criminal has no way of knowing that you have a gun so I don´t see how it can act as a deterrent, the crime rate is not lower amongst populations that can legally own guns so where is the evidence that these guns are protecting people? The fact that criminals ignore laws (kinda the definition of a criminal) and law abiding citizens don´t therefore disarming citizens leaves them at the mercy of criminals doesn´t work - the logical extension of that would lead to mob law and vigilantes. If the law is failing to protect you surely we should change the law rather than encourage people to take it into their own hands.
I know the NRA reports on cases where gun ownership saved someone from being attacked or enabled them to protect themselves and gun ownership for personal protection is obviously higher in "bad" neighbourhoods. Not living in such a place myself I don´t want to glibly deny these people the right to defend themselves but I still think the right approach would be to improve law enforcement. As I said before if you really need a gun to protect yourself then your government and police force are failing you and you should campaign about it.
This is true but you have to look at the differences in the types of gun, why they have been bought and where the owners live. All this really shows is that guns are even more dangerous in violent cultures than they are elsewhere, the gun is worshipped in the US, a nasty hangover from the war of independence. The National Rifle Association spends a fortune promoting guns and deflecting publicity from gun murders because there is lots of money to be made selling them. The media spews a parade of violence and terror and the US army is actively engaged in a number of countries. The attitude to guns in the US is consequently very different from Canada. There are gun deaths in Canada too though, how many is too many?
This is a good argument; you can´t blame an inanimate object for the actions of mad people. The thing is it would be much harder for these people to kill anyone if they didn´t have a gun. The Columbine massacre wasn´t caused by guns but they certainly made things worse. The real causes of this atrocity should be addressed, it was a failure of society but you have to question a situation where two teenage kids can get their hands on this amount of weaponry. If you are going to have guns then at least treat them responsibly, keep them locked away and educate people about the dangers.
This would be a good reason to allow gun ownership, if people actually took action but they don´t. If the government raid someone´s house and they resist with a gun then they generally get shot dead by police marksmen. In a democracy we are supposed to oppose government by voting them out, granted this system has failed because not everyone is represented but I don´t think it would make much difference if people opposing the government were armed or not unless they organised themselves into a military force and to be honest I am opposed to violence so that doesn´t strike me as a great idea.
Interestingly private gun ownership has historically proven to be very useful to the native population when their country is invaded, though this doesn´t appear to be a great risk to the US it is still a valid point to note. There is also the idea that private gun ownership would allow the citizens to conduct a guerilla war against tyrannical government and fight for freedom, though it would be wrong to suggest that the population is powerless without them. To be honest I do not believe that this is the reason most pro-gun people demand their right to bear arms and ultimately using the US as an example again it is hard to imagine a group of private gun owners conducting a successful war against the might of the military machine.
This is another good argument, along the lines that the right to defend yourself is a basic human right. For the record the second amendment actually states "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." I think it is a basic human right to defend yourself if you are attacked but guns are used in all kinds of situations and too many gun owners don´t limit their gun use to firing ranges and self defence. I can see how any erosion of the second amendment would be a serious cause for concern and could pave the way for other changes which would undermine basic human rights and if that was the cost of banning guns then it wouldn´t be worth doing. I live in the UK so this doesn´t really have the same meaning for me, we have no constitution just an ever changing set of precedents and I think the only way people keep their human rights is to constantly fight for them. Ultimately if the government want to erode those rights they seem to be capable of doing so anyway, just take the Patriot Act for example or the newly introduced "anti-terrorist" laws in the UK which allow detention without charge amongst other things.
The media definitely concentrates on awful stories about guns, but then they concentrate on awful stories in general, mostly about death, crime and celebrities. I guess there will be occasions when a gun saves the day but I don´t believe that makes up for the misery they cause.
This is a fair statement in that gun control laws in the UK for example have little impact on gun crime figures because criminals do not have any respect for the law. Gun crime is on the rise in the UK presumably because there are more and more guns produced everyday and more and more of them are being smuggled into the country. Gun control must go hand in hand with vigorous policing to ensure that illegal guns are seized as often as possible and those holding them are punished appropriately. However gun control does impact in several important ways, less accidental gun deaths, less suicides from guns and less legal guns stolen and then subsequently used in a crime. While gun crime is increasing in the UK it is overwhelmingly drug related criminal on criminal violence, the average citizen in the UK does not require a gun to protect themselves and it is worth pointing out that the gun death figures are still incredibly low compared to the US.
Accepting that guns will not be entirely eradicated I do not see a problem with farmers owning guns for vermin control and people using guns at an organised club for target practice provided there is a licensing system and the guns are kept under lock and key when not being used. I think allowing free private ownership would be a big mistake in this country and the vast majority of people would be against it. The level of gun ownership in the US may now be at a level which would make the situation we have here impossible or at least very difficult to achieve but I still think it is a worthy goal. The statistics show a clear relationship between proliferation of guns (especially hand guns) and gun related deaths.