Following the horrendous shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, the issue of gun control has once again come to the forefront of political dialogue. Superficially this seems like a good idea. Intuitively limiting guns, magazines, and ammunition will surely reduce gun violence and save lives. While this may be emotionally satisfying, or soothing to the conscience that something was done, I would submit that such actions are not only ineffective and encroach upon our constitutional rights, but may even increase violence and crime. Consider the following points as the gun control debate continues.
- From a historical perspective, prohibition-styled laws have rarely achieved their intended goals yet have had unintended consequences. One has only to look at Prohibition as an example. Not only did it fail to achieve the desired goal, but mob violence also increased as factions fought to control the black market supply. Likewise, the War on Drugs has not significantly decreased drug usage, but rather inadvertently assisted in the formation of powerful Drug Cartels and increased violence over drug-sales turf in our cities.
- Those who deal with gun violence on a daily basis seriously question the effectiveness of proposed gun control legislation. A recent poll among police officers conducted by PoliceOne, whose 400,000 plus membership is comprised of current and retired law enforcement officers, revealed that 91.5% of the law enforcement respondents said that additional gun control or weapons and ammunition bans would either have no effect on reducing violent crime, or may increase violent crime.
- Some point out that strict gun control laws in other countries have been successful in deterring violent crime. Japan, Britain, and Australia are often cited as examples of such. One problem with this argument is that the cultural, political, reporting practices, and historical differences are not taken into account. In addition, the handling of criminals and efficiency and effectiveness of alternate criminal justice systems seems to have had more potential impact on crime rates than gun control laws.
- Another argument being made is that gun control laws are similar to other laws that create limits and rules thereby making society a safer place. This argument should be rejected on the premise that most laws are designed criminalize specific bad behavior such as murder and rape, whereas gun control laws restrict all people by penalizing or restricting them from ownership.
- Looking at crime from a criminological perspective, crime occurs when the conditions of a motivated suspect, an opportune target, and a lack of a guardian are all present. In essence, additional gun restrictions, ammunition bans, or other gun control proposals all potentially remove ‘guardians’ from society and thereby increase the likelihood of the three conditions converging. This can be seen in the mass shootings that have occurred in that they have primarily occurred in ‘gun free’ zones where the likelihood of an armed protector was minimal.
- The statement, “If it just saves one child, it’s worth it” should also be scrutinized for legitimacy. Although this sounds like a worthy cause, it brings the up the question, how many lives will be lost because someone didn’t have the ability to defend themselves or others due to banning or limiting access to weapons, magazines, or ammunition?
- Finally, more stringent gun control and ammunition limitations erode the Second Amendment Right to bare arms. The Second Amendment was carefully crafted to provide for the security of a free State against outside forces as well as also to prevent governmental rule from within. While capitulating to reduced magazine capacities may seem acceptable, once the government is permitted to intrude upon one of our rights where will it intrude next? Perhaps today the government intrudes upon the Second Amendment, will it intrude upon the First Amendment or the Fourth Amendment tomorrow? History has demonstrated that once a government gets involved in society, it rarely releases control of it. Rather, government tends to embed itself even deeper.
In conclusion, wide-reaching gun control measures penalize and potentially criminalize the good citizens in hope of preventing a few criminals from doing harm. Unfortunately, gun violence is only a symptom of much deeper problems in our society that need to be addressed. Furthermore, attempting to reduce violence by sweeping gun control measures is a misguided endeavor that assumes the criminal element will start to obey society’s laws. The answers are not in restricting all people but rather in enforcing those laws already in effect and reducing the elements of motivated suspects, opportune targets, or lack of guardians that promote crime at their juncture.
About the Guest Author: Eric Peterson
Eric Peterson retired from the Bartlesville Police Department as a Lieutenant after serving with the department for over twenty- three years. Having worked as a supervisor for the past twelve years, he served on each of the police department’s patrol shifts as well as in the Criminal Investigations Division. While a member of the Department he worked as the police department’s Crime Stopper’s Police Coordinator, Range Master, and Firearm’s Instructor. His previous duties have also included assignments as the police department’s Training Coordinator, as a member of the Special Operations Team, and as a Field Training Officer. During his tenure, Eric Peterson was awarded the police department’s Medal of Valor, the Chief’s Award, received recognition from the U.S. Department of Justice, and was credentialed as a Law Enforcement Professional by the National Law Enforcement Credentialing Board. In August of 2010, he was awarded the Paul D. Boudreau Award by Crime Stoppers International for recognition as the International Crime Stoppers Police Coordinator of the Year. He actively serves as a Firearms Instructor for C.L.E.E.T. at the State Police Academy as well as on the Executive Board of the Washington County Crime Stoppers.
Eric Peterson obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Oklahoma Wesleyan University and his Masters in Business Administration from Southern Nazarene University. Currently, he is an assistant professor in the Chesapeake Energy School of Business.