Why Guns Must Go
Little did Mikhail Kalashnikov know when he completed the design for the AK-47, that his invention would be responsible for millions of deaths worldwide. Little did the creators of the Second Amendment of the United States know that this article would lead to nearly 15,000 deaths per year, and for that matter, 30,000 injuries. And it’s all down to one small metal object: the gun. 372 mass shootings killing 475 people, were carried out in 2015, and many more the year before. We must ask ourselves: can these deaths be prevented? If yes, then it has to be done. And to my mind, there is no other way apart from stopping the possession of and banning guns altogether. In this article, I refer to the US when talking about guns, since they are a developed country where 300 million guns are owned, a good example to illustrate my points. The same arguments could be applied equally to other countries.
Why ban guns? Is there not a way through which guns can be possessed and not used to harm others? To answer that question, we need to ask ourselves two other, more answerable, questions: One – what is the purpose of a gun? And two – is it necessary to own guns, knowing that they lead to violence, injury and death? The answer to the former question is that the purpose of a gun is to wound, and, in many cases, to kill. The only other possible use, which I’ll refer to later on, could be as a deterrent, but since I don’t think guns really act as one, I refer back to the previous sentence. The answer to the latter question is that guns are definitely not necessary. Unlike say, cars on motorways (which will inevitably lead to a few accidents and deaths), guns are in no way essential for anybody to have (I suppose motorways are not essential as such, but without them there would be a huge detrimental effect to our transportation services and by extension our society). Therefore, since the purpose of a gun is to cause harm, and since a gun is not essential for anyone to have in everyday life, it is completely illogical to have one. Ask the relatives of the schoolchildren who have been killed by guns if you want to know how damaging and life-affecting guns can be. But despite this simple logic, people who are pro-gun ownership put forward completely irrational arguments, which I’ll tackle next.
The main arguments used in favour of gun ownership (especially the first) are that guns are a deterrent for potential criminals, that guns make people safer and feel more protected, that owning guns is a fundamental right (for US citizens, ‘enshrined’ in the constitution) and finally that, by banning guns, a ‘black market’ will emerge. The first point is flawed because supposed deterrents such as guns rarely stop crime (in the same way that the death penalty doesn’t stop crime). People don’t commit crimes for random reasons. Rather, they do it for their own gain, and disregard repercussions such as lengthy prisons sentences. When somebody goes on a shooting spree or commits a violent crime, they are fully aware that they will, at the very least, be locked up for a very long time. But that doesn’t stop them from committing the crime. The fact is that people who commit crimes are not in a rational state to begin with – if they were, they wouldn’t be committing them. Thus they will not act rationally in thinking about the repercussions that follow. Applying this arguments to guns, in the case of a robbery or shooting spree, the person committing the bad act will not worry about the risk of losing their life. Perhaps in the former example there may even be a deterrent effect for a small number of people, but even so, the harm the guns cause outweigh this. In addition, I do not believe a person whose house is being robbed should have the right to kill the perpetrator, since the measures taken are completely disproportionate to the original action. We’ve seen how this can go badly wrong in examples such as the Oscar Pistorius case. So the deterrent effect of guns is at the very most minimal, and is certainly not worth the amount of harm, suffering and death caused by them.
The other arguments are used less, but still noteworthy. On the second one, guns can only make people feel safer if they have the potential to be used, and if they are used, such people are almost always morally bankrupt (the deterrent argument has already been covered). As mentioned earlier, guns, in almost all cases if used, would not be appropriate to the situation. The only time guns could be used as a proportionate measure would be if they prevented other people from using guns (by far the most common method for murder) to kill people, but as nobody would have access to them, this scenario would not occur in a world where guns were banned (less than a third of homicides in the USA in 2011 were unrelated to guns. The practical considerations, that people could have guns illegally etc, are addressed in the ‘black market’ argument below. On whether it is important that people ‘feel’ more protected owing to guns, I say that while this would normally be important, people’s ‘feelings’ are completely irrelevant and even harmful when they cause or allow for suffering and death, and so I don’t pay much attention to ‘feeling’ arguments. This argument and the first argument are rather similar, but they are key nuances to each which I felt needed to be addressed above. In the same way, the argument that owning guns is a ‘fundamental right’ is rather based on feelings, and so should not be given too much attention either. Just because gun ownership is allowed in the law, this does not mean gun ownership is acceptable. The law may be wrong, as it has been countlessly in the past (slavery laws, laws against women. Etc.), and it is the arguments and ethics that count. A document containing rules written by imperfect beings without the benefit of hindsight should definitely not be used alone to do justice.
Finally, the ‘black market’ argument. It is true that banning guns would lead to a black market and illegal trade of firearms (as is the case in some countries today), but what is clear is that less people with guns means less violence. There may still be some violence and deaths with people who obtain guns illegally, but since a regular person would not delve into illegal dealings, the overall injury rate would be much lower. Put simply, more guns means more injury and homicide, and banning guns, while not stopping their trade completely, would significantly reduce the incentive to possess one (this ban would certainly be an example of a deterrent effect) for ordinary, sane people.
Before I conclude, I’d like to elaborate a bit on how possessing guns can lead to a cycle of violence. Take the example of the horrific Orlando shooting. To start with, this would not have happened in the first place if guns were banned. But after the shooting, people, scared by the terrifying power of a gun, bought guns themselves to combat their fear. More guns. Another person, triggered to buy a gun after this incident, goes crazy over something or acts irrationally over something in the spur of moment. They use the gun to devastating effect, normally killing or at best wounding people, and more people buy guns to make themselves feel safer (which we already established was illogical above). This process repeats again and again, leading to more and more gun violence and homicide. All because of one shooting, caused by the freedom to own a gun. Do we really want such a cycle of violence to happen when it can so easily be prevented?
To conclude, there is no good reason to own a gun. They cause harm, pain, suffering and death. The deterrent effect of a gun is negligible and certainly not enough to make up for the horrible violence that owning a gun gives rise to. Guns do not make people ‘safer’ and people’s feelings should not be taken into account when they are the underlying cause of such a vicious cycle. While a black market may occur, it is guaranteed to be smaller and less damaging than a legal market with far more danger. The arguments put forward by pro-gun ownership advocates are too sentimental, and we need to have a hard look at the ethics, and conclude that gun ownership needs to stop. If we want to factor emotion into this, which we should, then we take it from the victims who have been affected by the destructive power of guns. We need to start stopping needless and easily preventable pain, suffering, harm and death by banning guns altogether. Our generation is the one who has the power to make this important change. No halfway step, for example by increasing so-called ‘gun-control’, is a fully ethical response. So let’s take a much needed first step to make humanity free from violence by banning guns, and pave the way for a more peaceful, ethical world.