AP English - Research Paper FINAL (1)

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Joey Drees
Mr. Collins
AP English Language and Composition
7 April 2011
Shooting for a Safer Society
The issue of gun control has been debated about for decades, yet there has never been a
solution that can please everybody. Many people feel that outlawing or illegalizing the sale of
firearms is against the Second Amendment, but when innocent lives are at stake, the government
needs to intervene. The gun laws that are currently enforced by the American government are
simply not enough to allow for a safer country, as they are too easy to get around and are not
strict enough. This is evident by the amounts of shootings that occur every day around the nation,
especially in the devastating shootings that emerge because of the easy accessibility to guns.
Many lives could be saved just by forcing potential firearm buyers to pass a system of tests to
make sure that they can handle the possession of a weapon. While guns do not need to be
completely banned from society, the government does need to examine the current gun laws to
find an arrangement of laws that prevent the horror and tragedy that occurs when guns are not
handled the correct way. American laws allowing citizens to purchase and own guns need to be
stricter in order to prevent firearms from being in the possession of those not capable of bearing
the responsibility of owning a weapon.
The debate over gun control has lasted for around a century. The first gun control law
was passes in New York. This was the Sullivan Law of 1911, which “required all city residents
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to obtain a police permit for any and all handguns in their possession” (Streissguth 33). Ever
since the Sullivan Law, countless numbers of proposals and laws have been suggested. The War
Revenue Act was the first ever federal firearm law. Passed, in 1919, the act created the first tax
on manufacturers of firearms and ammunition, which would pay for the arms and ammunition
used in World War I (Streissguth 33). The most sweeping gun-control legislation was the Gun
Control Act (GCA) of 1968. It set minimum size and performance requirements for handguns,
but only targeted foreign importers of guns. This act also raised the license fee for gun dealers to
ten dollars, and these dealers had to keep records of all the guns that they bought and sold. It
banned the sale of handguns to minors and the sale of rifles, shotguns, and handguns to convicted
felons. The GCA also prohibited the sale of guns to individuals through the mail (Streissguth
38). One of the most recent gun control laws is the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act, also
known as the Brady Bill. The Brady Bill was passed in 1993, and it imposed a national five-day
waiting period for a gun purchase. The most important aspect to this law is that it required
background checks by the FBI for a potential gun purchase. The law states that “a person with a
felony conviction, with a mental illness, or a record of domestic violence may not buy a gun”
(Streissguth 39).
Because of the leniency of gun laws, many innocent people lose their lives due to gun
violence. The amount of people that die or are injured by gun violence is evidence enough that
laws should be tightened. In an average year, approximately 100,000 people in America are shot
or killed in America (“Gun Violence Facts”). In 2007 alone, 31,224 Americans were killed in
homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings. This is the equivalent of more than eighty-five
deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour (“Gun Violence Statistics”). Another
shocking and horrifying stat is that the amount of American soldiers killed during the Vietnam
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War between 1955 and 1975, 58,000, is less than the number of civilians killed with guns in the
U.S. in an average two-year period (“Gun Violence Statistics”). Suicides are another main aspect
as to why gun control needs to be stricter. Over fifty percent of all suicides are committed with a
firearm. In 2007, firearms were used in 17,352 suicides which made up 55% of the gun deaths in
America (“Gun Violence Statistics”). Making guns harder to obtain would greatly improve these
There have been numerous school shootings in America which have had devastating
effects on not only the victims of the shooting, but also their friends, family, and classmates.
While the physical effects are often horrifying and often result in death, there is also a large
psychological effect on the people that witnessed the shootings or were impacted in another way.
One of the most well known and disastrous school shootings was the shootings at Columbine
High School in Littleton, Colorado on April 20, 1999. The shooters were high school seniors
named Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. They ended up killing twelve students and one teacher
and wounded another twenty-three people. After they caused all of this devastation, the shooters
committed suicide. This was the worst school shooting in U.S. history until the shootings at
Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007 (“Columbine High School Massacre”). The massacre at
Virginia Tech ended up being the deadliest shooting rampage in American history. The shooter,
Seung Hui Cho, was declared dangerously mentally ill by a judge less than two years before the
shootings, but he was still able to legally obtain a firearm because his background check showed
that his criminal record was clean (“Cho Didn't Get Court-Ordered Treatment”). Laws should not
permit a person who is dangerously mentally ill to own a weapon of any kind, especially a gun.
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The main reason that gun laws need to be stricter is that weapons are too often in the
possession of people who cannot bear the responsibility to own a weapon. The accessibility of
weapons is too lenient for kids and those who are prone to use it in a harmful manner. This could
be easily handled because there is no need to create an entirely new law for it. The Brady Bill
somewhat handled this situation when it required background checks by the FBI for a potential
gun purchase. The bill prevented felons, people with a mental illness, and people with a record of
domestic violence from buying a gun (Streissguth 39). To prevent guns from being in the
ownership of people who aren’t responsible enough or not capable of owning one, the
government needs to more strictly enforce this law. They need to make a person pass a
psychological test before owning a gun in order to try to prevent harm. While this may not be
able to expose every killer out there, it can thwart the plans of some who might have injured or
killed someone if they were able to buy a firearm. One thing that should be added to the Brady
Bill is the inspection of homes that have firearms in them. Many children could obtain a gun
from within their household without any problems. In a survey by the National Institute of
Justice, fifty-two percent of the high school-aged students who carried a gun outside the home
indicated that “they had been given or loaned a gun by a family member or had taken it from
their home without their parents’ permission” (Sugarmann 113). Gun owners, specifically those
with children, should be required to keep their weapons locked and unloaded in a gun case where
only they have access to them. Without these precautions, children could easily have possession
of their own guns which often leads to harm to either themselves or someone else. An estimated
3.3 million children in the United States live in households with firearms that are always or
sometimes kept loaded and unlocked (“Unintentional Firearm Injury”). This shows the
magnitude of the possible danger that exists in America. Many shooters in school shootings
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obtain their firearms from stealing them, usually from a family member or friend. These guns
should be kept out of the reach of children and locked up at all times so that these terrible
tragedies cannot happen.
Gun control needs to be enforced more strictly to prevent injury and death. Many of these
deaths by guns are homicides or even accidents, but the majority of the deaths are actually
suicides. About six of ten Americans who commit suicide kill themselves with a firearm
(Sugarmann 35). If the American government were to ban firearms or restrict the laws that set
guidelines for a person to buy a gun, there could be a rapid decrease in the number of suicides
per year. While this wouldn’t completely get rid of suicide, it could drastically help to make it
less of a factor. Suicide not only takes the life of a person, it also scars the people that cared for
them forever, so any decrease in it could positively impact many people. Other incidents that
lead to many deaths by guns are domestic violence. A study by researchers at the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention showed the hazards posed to women by guns in their homes.
“Firearm-related assaults by family members and intimate acquaintances were twelve times more
likely to result in death than were those involving weapons other than a firearm” (Sugarmann
97). This study shows the possibly fatal consequences of having a gun in the house. If a husband
and wife were to get in a heated argument, it would take one pull of the trigger by the husband to
end his wife’s life and drastically impact his forever. That split second decision that he made
when he wasn’t thinking could ruin his life. That is why it is best that there are laws set in place
to avoid these things. While the Brady Act made psychological tests a requirement for those
wanting to purchase a gun, these arguments can happen between anybody. It just takes one time
for somebody to snap and use the gun in the house to kill their spouse. Unintentional deaths are
another problem with easy access to guns, especially among children. In 2000, 174 children in
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the United States between the ages of zero and eighteen died from unintentional firearm-related
injuries (“Accidental Firearm”). Because many parents who own guns do not lock them up or
teach their kids about the dangers, many kids are unaware of the life-threatening risks they are
taking when playing with guns. Many of these unintentional deaths occur when kids are playing
with the guns or hunting. If a parent owns a gun, it should be locked up at all times. The
government should have agencies that could inspect the homes of gun owners to prevent these
kinds of things from happening.
The main argument against stricter gun control is that it is unconstitutional and against
the second amendment. The Second Amendment 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” (O’Neill 43). People feel that by restricting gun laws and the sale of firearms to
certain people, the government would be performing unconstitutional actions, specifically
against this amendment. They think that “the main clause of the Second Amendment (‘the right
of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed’) secures the right to own guns,” and
that “the subordinate clause (‘a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free
State’) justifies this right” (Roleff 62). While people may have different interpretations of laws,
the government needs to come to a conclusion on the situation. Court cases have gone for and
against gun control, and there has never been a case that proves that gun control is
unconstitutional. While completely banning the sale of weapons to civilians may be against the
Second Amendment, restricting the gun laws so that the wrong people cannot own weapons is
not. It is for the good of the people in America, and it is necessary for the safety of innocent
lives. When the body count in the country starts to become higher than the body count that has
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accumulated during a war, there is something wrong with the policies of the country. What
people don’t take into account is the difference of time periods between the time the amendment
was written and today. Over the past 200 years America has developed into a different nation.
The society today is completely different than it was back then, and making the current gun laws
stricter is necessary to avoid the devastation caused by firearms.
Another popular argument against gun control is that gun ownership protects people from
crime and violence. Those who believe this feel that vulnerable victims benefit from guns
(O’Neill 27). They think that by owning a gun, people will not hurt them because they are afraid
of getting injured themselves. However, owning guns leads to the opposite more often than not.
This cannot be the case when those who own firearms are more likely to be victims of homicide
or to commit suicide. Two sources show that keeping a gun in the home makes it 2.7 times more
likely that someone will be a victim of homicide in that home 4.8 times more likely that someone
will commit suicide (“Gun Control and the Second Amendment”). Thus, owning a gun will not
protect a person from harm, but it will only increase the chances of something horrifying
happening to them.
People in America are injured or killed every day because of guns. The responsibility that
comes with owning a weapon is too much to bear for some people, which can cause to terrible
consequences, such as a school shooting, homicide, or suicide. With the current gun laws in
America, it is too easy for the wrong people to get their hands on guns, especially children,
teenagers, and those with mental illnesses. If these laws are not made stricter, America will
continue to suffer from the constant tragedies of the loss of friends and families to gun violence.
America needs to aim for a safer society, one that is not filled with guns and violence.
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Works Cited
"Accidental Firearm." National MCH Center for Child Death Review. Web. 5 Apr. 2011.
"Cho Didn't Get Court-Ordered Treatment." The Washington Post. Web. 5 Apr. 2011.
"Columbine High School Massacre." History. Web. 5 Apr. 2011. <http://www.history.com/this-day-inhistory/columbine-high-school-massacre>.
"Gun Control and the Second Amendment." Gun Information. Web. 5 Apr. 2011.
"Gun Violence Facts." Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Web. 5 Apr. 2011.
"Gun Violence Statistics." Legal Community Against Violence. Web. 5 Apr. 2011.
O' Neill, Terry. Gun Control. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2000. Print.
Roleff, Tamara L., ed. Gun Control: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2007. Print.
Streissguth, Tom. Gun Control: The Pros and Cons. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow, 2001. Print.
Sugarmann, Josh. Every Handgun Is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns. New York: New,
2001. Print.