Allan B. Colombo
Guns, guns and more guns. Why on earth do people still have guns in a civilized country like the United States of America? Guns killed 12,000 people in 1989, even more today, and yet Congress continues to allow U.S. citizens to own guns. In fact, in some states it's legal to carry a gun in a concealed manner.
There's no doubt that guns were necessary during the colonization of North America. Guns offered protection against wild animals and, right or wrong, Native American Indians who believed that the white man was encroaching on his land, his hunting grounds, burial grounds, as well as his rights. Pioneer men and women also used firearms to provide food for their growing families.
What about now, the Twentieth Century? Are guns really that necessary now?
Guns may be more important today than you think. Owning a gun in some parts of the country is actually essential to effective home protection. It may even be essential to those who do not own a gun. The simple fact that citizens have the right to have a gun in their homes is often enough to make criminals think twice before they attempt to break into a home.
Statistics do exist that shed light on just how many times victims of violent crime take measures to protect themselves. Overall, 70.6% of those who were victimized in 1993 took measures to protect themselves. The following table shows the percentage of victims who took protective action by crime classification.
|Crimes of Violence (Total)||70.6%|
Surprisingly enough, more than a fifth of those victimized said that they resisted or even captured their assailant. And more than 16% of them ran away or hid to avoid being victimized. Running away is one method prescribed by crime prevention practitioners to avoid a violent confrontation. The following chart offers additional information on the various actions taken by the victims of violent crime.
|Attached offender with weapon||1.0%|
|Attacked offender without weapon||11.6%|
|Threatened offender with weapon||1.7%|
|Threatened offender without weapond||2.0%|
|Resisted or captured offender||21.2%|
|Scared or warned offender||8.4%|
|Persuaded or appeased offender||12.3%|
|Ran away or hid||16.1%|
|Got help or gave alarm||8.9%|
|Screamed from pain or fear||1.7%|
|Took other measures||15.1%|
It was also found that 67.2% of the victims of violent crime who took protective action felt that doing so helped their situation and 8.4% said it made things worse. More than 70% of those who fell victim to robbery said that taking protective actions helped them, and 6.7% said they believe that it made their situation worse.
The following chart illustrates the result of each action taken according to the crime committed.
|Type of Crime||Helped||Hurt|
|Crimes of Violence (Total)||67.2%||8.4%|
Those who seek to administer more gun laws honestly believe that doing so will stop the violence. But, Mike Royko, a columnist with The Chicago Tribune, says that "...I've noticed something that should be fairly obvious. With all the gun laws we have, the bad guys still have guns and use them to shoot the good guys." President Clinton recently made the claim that tougher gun registration laws have prevented up to 60,000 criminals from obtaining firearms over the past two years.
Just what do the majority of U.S. citizens think about firearms and additional gun legislation? According to the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, 1994, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), Washington, D.C., in 1982, 66% of those queried said that they favor and 30% said they oppose it. In 1993, 81% said that they favor gun registration and 18% said they oppose it.
What about the additional gun restrictions that antigun proponents continue to push? In 1995, 62% of those queried said that they would like to see more gun laws and 24% said that they want gun laws to remain as they are. Researchers also asked respondents whether they believe that it would be beneficial to enact laws that would make it illegal for anyone, other than police and authorized persons, to own a firearm. In 1980, 65% said "no" and 31% said "yes," and then in 1993, 60% said "no" and 39% said "yes."
In terms of the number of firearms in U.S. homes, 41% of those queried said they have a gun in their homes, 67% of the farmers questioned said that they have a firearm in their homes. In addition, 45% of the manual workers said they have a gun at home, 36% of the clerical workers said they have one, and 38% of all professional/business people said that they have a gun at home.
By political party, 49% of the Republicans questioned said that they have a gun in their homes, 37% of the Democrats likewise said they have one; and 39% of those who consider themselves a member of an independent party said that they have a gun at home.
By religion, 46% of the Protestants queried said that they have a gun in their homes, 34% of the Catholics said they have one, 18% of the Jewish faith said they do, and 32% who are of no particular religion said they have a gun at home.
Educationally speaking, 44% of high school graduates questioned said that they have a gun in their home; and, of those who graduated from college, 38% said that they have a gun at home. Of those who only attended grade school, 37% said that they have a gun in their home.
There is no doubt that guns have long been an American tradition. As evidence of that, 24% of those queried in the BJS report said that they own a pistol, 24% own a shotgun, and 24% own a rifle. Eleven percent said that they carry a firearm with them when they leave home.
Although, for the most part, U.S. households no longer need a gun to feed their families, there are those who continue to enjoy the sport of hunting deer, rabbit, and other wild animals. Farmers also need their guns to protect cattle from predators and rid their fields of unwanted pests. Adults in the inner city and suburbs, whether they realize it or not, also need their guns to protect their home and family members. In recent years, even rural families are finding it necessary to have a gun around the house for protection.
In reference to firearm-related child injuries, part of the answer is proper firearm training for parents as well as their children. The BJS report revealed that 56% of those questioned have received formal firearm training; but, in the author's opinion, this number should be in the 80+ percentile.
Not only would proper training enable adults and children alike to respect and properly use guns, but it would also encourage parents who now habitually leave their guns loaded and laying unlocked around the house to keep them unloaded and locked up so their children will not play with them and hurt themselves or someone else. This is an important part of accident prevention, especially since 29% of the survey respondents said they store their guns in a loaded condition and 21% said they allow their guns to remain unlocked and accessible.
Thank's for taking the time to listen.
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By Alicia Colombo