Among the industrialized nations of the world, the United States has the highest rate of youthful gun-related violence. Between the 1970s and 1980s the number of homicides by guns doubled. Juvenile gun violence reached its highest point during the late 1980s and early 1990s. A significant decline in youthful gun violence took place from the mid 1990s to 2005. Since then, we have witnessed its slow and gradual increase.
Although the Youth Handgun Safety Act of 1994 prohibits gun possession by anyone under 18, youth appear to have little difficulty in obtaining a gun. Some 42% of 7th and 10th graders in Milwaukee and Boston reported they could get a gun if they wanted one. One 1999 National Survey CDC (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Review) found that 1 in 10 male high school students had carried a gun in the last 30 days. In some schools and neighborhoods, virtually every teenager either has a gun or knows someone who does.
More young people die by gunshot than any other suicide method. This is now true for girls as well as boys, for younger or older teens, and for those of all races. (Suicides seem more prevalent in the suburbs; homicides in urban, high-crime neighborhoods.) Among U.S. 10 to 19 year-olds, there were 1,078 suicides with guns in 1999—that works out to an average of three a day. Young people most often take their lives by guns in their homes, and studies show the accessibility of firearms is related to the risk of suicide among young people.
Guns are an essential feature of military operations. Most believe guns are important as a sport and even socialization of the young in terms of hunting. Others strongly see guns as a Second Amendment right and important for personal, family and, perhaps even civilian community protection. Guns are an important cultural symbol for many, a hobby for others. Those who are pro-gun see such weapons as a protected right in the U.S. Guns are even seen by some as a Constitutional mandate.
Pacifists are usually against guns in principle. Feminists and liberals may see guns as part of patriarchal control and masculine aggressiveness. Those who mourn the loss of loved ones in inner cities may hate guns as much as guns are loved by hunters. Solutions to urban violence often involve a reduction in guns, which so easily fall into the hands of angry young people, who have had no training in their use and therefore inflict injury and death to innocent bystanders.
A great issue of the gun debate is whether the presence of guns makes life safer or more dangerous for civilian populations. Gun advocates argue that though news media scream out headlines of gun deaths, there is no coverage of the crimes avoided because of gun defense.
John R. Lott Jr. has written More Guns, Less Crime. He argues forcibly against what he considers five myths promoted by anti-gun advocates. 1. When one is attacked, passive behavior is the safest approach. 2. Friends or relatives are the most likely killers. 3. The United States has a high murder rate because Americans own so many guns. 4. If law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry concealed handguns, people will end up shooting each other after traffic accidents as well as accidentally shooting police officers. 5. The family gun is more likely to kill you or someone you know than to kill in self-defense. To each of these Lott gives a strong counter argument.
Bob Ricker, on the other hand was a top lawyer for the National Rifle Association (NRA). From there he went on to become a lobbyist for gun manufacturers. More recently, however he is on a crusade against the NRA. The reason? In 2000, Smith & Wesson agreed with the Clinton administration to put safety locks on guns, improve technology that would prevent or hinder usage by anyone other than the owner, and to stop selling guns at gun shows without proper background checks. To most this seemed to be a reasonable compromise. But to others and the NRA, this was an infringement on their Constitutional rights and easy use of firearms.
The giant oil company, ConocoPhillips, was one of many businesses establishing policies against carrying guns onto company premises. The NRA decided to make ConocoPhillips “the example of what happens when a corporation takes away your Second Amendment rights” (said NRA Exec. VP, Wayne Pierre). As a result of the boycott, the ConocoPhillips went out of business and was sold for a price under its market value. Ricker is now persona non grata in many gun circles.
Differing opinions regarding gun violence and gun control illustrate cultural polarities between inner-city and suburbs, urban and rural poor. According to Sudhir Venkatesh in a NYTimes opinion page, “Understanding Kids, Gangs and Guns,” 3Oct12: Chicago, just through September… “recorded its 400th murder for the year. Chicago has surpassed NYC and Los Angeles, as a hub of gun-related violence, most of it involving young people. Since 2001, Chicago has recorded more than 5,000 gun-related deaths, compared with the 2,000 American military deaths in the war in Afghanistan.”
1. What are your own views about guns and violence? What do you see as proper uses of guns?
2. What kind of gun control would you favor?
3. In your opinion, what should be done to a high school student found carrying a gun in school?
4. What do you see as the relationship between the accessibility of guns and homicides or suicides among young people?
5. What kind of gun education do you favor? When and how? What should be its relationship to anger and depression management?
1. Since Canadians have as many guns per person as United State citizens, there must be other factors involved in high U.S. gun violence-factors such as anger and fear.
2. Misuse of guns calls for a national consideration of all aspects of the issue-from discussions in schools to community forums and legislative consideration. It is important that we learn to talk across deep emotional divides on this and other social controversies.
3. Addressing the issue of youthful gun violence begins with declaring it a public health issue. We know that hundreds of youthful deaths in communities where members of our Congress and business leaders live would bring immediate response.