Possession of firearms long ceased to be a preserve of the disciplined forces. As earl y as the 1960s, there was widespread debate on whether the licensing of firearms was necessary or not. Associations such as the Handgun National Control were at the forefront of fighting for the rights of individuals to own guns. Several years later the debate goes on with several countries having a specific code with regard to gun ownership. For instance, Canadians who wish to possess a firearm, they must be issued with a Firearms Acquisition Certificate (F.A.C.) from the police. Acquisition of the certificate requires that the applicant provides the police with information on their background for the past five years. It permits the firearm owner the permission to acquire long firearms and possess them for a period of five years. The restrictions on gun ownership in Canada are quite similar to those imposed in America. In America, the legal restrictions on gun ownership vary from one state to another. California laws require that the gun owners and dealers keep the police informed on ever y gun transaction that has been carried out after acquisition of a license to own a gun. These restrictions are just examples on the terms spelt out for gun owners or for those already in possession of guns. These restrictions have had both negative impacts. The arguments that have been advanced for and against the restriction of firearms legally are both important. Guns can come in handy for self-defense purposes, for hunting or for shooting targets. Placing a blanket restriction on the gun ownership is a limit to such recreational uses. However, it needs to be noted that the legal restrictions on gun ownership have done little to prevent misuse of firearms or curb crime.
In the recent years there has been a proliferation of crime incidences in most countries. As a result personal security is no longer guaranteed. The growing mistrust between the government and the public at large has hindered the efforts to curb insecurity to a large extent. It is against this background that the ownership of guns has become a subject of legal debates.
Proponents of gun ownership argue that each person is entitled to the right to protection from violence. To begin with, individuals might choose to own guns for recreational purposes. There are various forms of hobbies that involve the use of guns such as target shooting and hunting. However the debate on gun ownership rarely touches on the subject of gun ownership for recreational purposes. The main argument is centered on the right to self-defense. For instance, if a person breaks into another person’s home and points a gun at the home owner, chances of shooting the home owner are very high. It can therefore be argued that for the purposes of self-defense in preparation for such incidences, it is important to own a gun.
However the opponents of gun ownership present counter arguments to this argument. It has been argued that owning a gun does not increase a sense of personal security. Statistics have even shown that owning a gun increases the chances of suicide and homicide by up to 43 times. This makes owning a gun more of a liability
than an asset. It has also been argued that gun ownership is to blame for the increased riots in schools. Having considered both sides of the argument, it becomes clear that there are legal restrictions on gun ownership as a result of the safety concerns that have been raised in the recent past. This paper shall analyze the arguments that have been advanced for the legal restrictions on gun ownership and the counter arguments that have been presented. Legal restrictions on gun ownership are pegged on arguments that are only partly backed by research on crime rates. It is therefore necessary to sparingly consider them in relation to curbing the proliferation of illicit firearms.
The legal restrictions on gun ownership in different countries
The debate on gun ownership has led to the enactment of legal restrictions in several countries. For instance, in Norway, there is a ban on carrying all forms of automatic weapons. For individuals who own guns, there is a limit to the ammunition they can purchase at any given time. An individual can only own a gun of a certain caliber. To possess any form of firearm, one must acquire a license from the government. Obtaining of a license is a preserve of the professional hunters and trained shooters. To ensure that there is proper use and storage of the firearms, the police can carry out random checks in homes of firearm owners.
The restrictions are not only limited to Norway. For Canadians who wish to possess a firearm, they must be issued with a Firearms Acquisition Certificate (F.A.C.) from the police. Acquisition of the certificate requires that the applicant provides the police with information on their background for the past five years. It permits the firearm owner the permission to acquire long firearms and possess them for a period of five years.
The restrictions on gun ownership in Canada are quite similar to those imposed in America. In America, the legal restrictions on gun ownership vary from one state to another. California laws require that the gun owners and dealers keep the police informed on ever y gun transaction that has been carried out after acquisition of a license to own a gun.
Arguments for the restriction of legal restrictions on gun ownership
In order to justify the legal restrictions on gun ownership it has been argued that the benefits of a gun ban are by far more beneficial based on the following premises: The failure to restrict gun ownership resulting in the death of an individual through the use of a firearm is by far more morally unacceptable as compared to the violation of the right of the individual to defend themselves. It is much better to violate one person’s freedom than to put an entire population at risk for the sake of one person’s freedom.
For the company that sells guns, there is some moral responsibility placed upon them. The company is more often than not certain that the guns they sell have been used to commit crime or will be used to commit crime at some point. Having provided the means for committing the crime makes the gun dealer partly responsible for the activities of the criminal and by extension for the lives lost or harmed as a result of the use of the firearm from their company.
There is widespread perception in society that any person who carries a firearm is more likely to commit a crime. According to a survey conducted in the United States of America, more than 9% of Americans are more afraid of a person who possesses a firearm than the police. It is the duty of the government to ensure its citizens feel safe thus the restrictions on gun ownership are a means through which the government reassures its citizens of its concern about their welfare.
The restrictions on gun ownership make it mandatory for gun owners to have a license for their fire arms. In so doing, the government can keep track of the firearms that are in the hands of its citizens whether it is for recreational or self-defense purposes. If a firearm is reported missing by a registered firearm owner, it is easy to begin the search for it since the police can trace it given they have the make, the license number and the serial number of the gun. This is particularly important in instances when a firearm is reported stolen and used to perpetrate a crime. The owner can easily be absolved from any legal responsibility since he had his or her weapon registered.
Arguments against the legal restrictions for gun ownership
Most gun owners carry their guns for the purpose of self-defense. Guns are more likely to be used to prevent crime than to perpetrate the crime. The notion that gun owners are more likely to commit homicide and suicide is analogous to an argument that given that diabetic patients are more likely to possess insulin than non-diabetics thus insulin poses a risk to the diabetics. It is has also been demonstrated by research that fatal use of guns only occurs in 1% of the population that owns the guns.
The legal restrictions that are imposed in several counties have several deficiencies. For instance, a restriction on the possession of handguns would be met by resistance. About 50 million individuals possess firearms in the United States and more than half of these individuals would largely ignore a ban on owning a hand gun. Enforcement of such a law would even be more catastrophic to the prison system. It would trigger the harassment of law aiding citizens who possess the firearms for self-defense purposes and recreational purposes. The incarceration of firearm owner would lead to straining of the prisons hence manpower and resources required for fighting crime would be misdirected in arresting “alleged criminals” who simply want to defend themselves.
The mandatory waiting period between the time an individual purchases a firearm and the time it is delivered is totally irrelevant. This waiting period is claimed to be necessary in the reduction of homicide rates. It is has been argued that the person intending to commit homicide will have time to cool off in between the time they applied for a license to own a firearm and the time that it is actually delivered. This argument has been flawed by research which shows that there is no correlation whatsoever between the rates of homicide and the time when firearms are delivered to individuals who wish to own firearms. The waiting period only controls the purchases of firearms that have been made from legitimate stores. However the guns that are used in violent crimes are more likely to be obtained through theft or from illegal arms dealers.
The systems that have been put in place for registration have been ineffective in the control of possession of firearms. To a large extent, the argument is flawed because criminals would rarely leave a trace that can be followed when using a gun. They rarely revert to the use of registered firearms for their criminal activities and also do not license their guns since they do not want to be caught. Even the groups that were the proponents of the proposal to register and license handguns such as the National Coalition to Ban Handguns assert that "it is doubtful that registration would act as a sufficient deterrent.
Outlawing of guns has been a major factor in the proliferation of firearms in the black market. Given the procedure and the restriction that have been imposed in several countries with regard to firearms, individuals with different preferences apart from those specified by the law are more likely to opt for firearms from the black market. The black market therefore continues to thrive courtesy of laws that are meant to stem its growth.
The restrictions on gun ownership need to review in line with the statistics on crime rates. The restriction only serve as a means to put strenuous procedures on gun owners and would be gun owners’ in spite the fact the use of guns is not limited to perpetration of crime. Gun ownership should therefore be made possible for individuals whose intent on self-defense or recreation.
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