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Gun Control Mercedeh Mehrabi Social Psychology National University

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Gun Control Gun control refers to policies and measures that are put in place by the government to limit the owning and usage of firearms. Different countries have taken different approaches to this burning issue. The United States, for instance, has remained vaguely neutral on the matter. This is, however, not a matter to be taken lightly or swept under the rag. The right to bear arms in the United States is constitutionally protected. Opponents of the gun control agenda argue that it is fundamental to allow a person to own and operate firearms, and use it in case of an attack. Self-defense has become the scapegoat of people fighting to do away with gun control. This poses many questions pertaining policy in the country. Questions still linger on whether gun control policies reduce or increase cases of violence in the country. This paper will seek to address the issue of gun control from a psychological viewpoint. It will address the negative and positive sides of gun control. In doing so, the paper will seek to analyze how owning a gun is likely to affect a person’s behavior. Another pressing issue on the debate about gun control is the legal age limit for firearms ownership. This paper will address this issue, as well. The level of gun ownership in the United States is alarming. It is estimated that there are roughly 300 million firearms in the country’s population. There are different factors that influence the probability of a person owning a gun. Firstly, almost half of the households in the country own a firearm. Most guns are family property. Males are three times more likely to own arms than women. Moreover, Caucasians are twice as likely to own arms in comparison to people from other racial groups. The issue of political affiliation also plays a significant role in

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the matter. It is common knowledge that Republicans are the key campaigners of gun ownership. Hence, a gun owner is more likely to be a Republican than a Democrat or Liberal. All these factors contribute to the alarming numbers of people having arms in the country. The ease of purchase is also alarming. One needs to have a clean record on criminal activities and enough money to pay for a firearm. This way, anybody wanting to possess a firearm in the country can do so. Once a person has undergone a background check on gun safety, owning a gun becomes as easy as owning a mobile phone. What is the right age for a person to own a firearm? This question has raised heated debates between warring groups. From a psychological point of view, people achieve full emotional maturity at different stages in their lives. Some 20-year-old people are emotionally mature. Others die before they can achieve this goal. A person, who is emotionally immature, no matter what age, should not be allowed to own a gun. This is because such a person is rarely able to control his or her feelings. If exposed to a gun, they are likely to use it for the wrong purpose. Since it is hard to measure a person’s emotional maturity accurately, it is extremely difficult to determine the right age for a person to own a firearm. What is, however, clear is that children and teenagers should not own or use any weapon (Marvell, 2003). Just like any element of nature, gun ownership and gun control have their pros and cons. The first advantage of owning a gun is self-defense. In case a person is attacked, they can use their gun to either scare or kill the attacker. This is the core argument of gun supporters. This hypothesis has proven to be effective, especially in cases of home invasions. There are, however, a few psychological issues that are raised by the self-defense argument. The first is the issue of living with one’s conscience after killing in self-defense. Killing itself takes a toll on the

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perpetuator’s conscience. When a person kills in self-defense, they have the argument that it was the right thing to do. However, this is not always the case. Most people live with the trauma of pulling the trigger. The advantage of self-defense hence breeds the trauma disadvantage. By tightly restricting regulations around gun ownership, the government can avoid this misfortune. To add to the self-defense argument, it would be hard for a criminal to approach a person knowing that the person has a firearm at their disposal. The criminal will have some fear of being attacked back by the victim, and this will make him refrain from the act. This offers some reduction in criminal activity levels, although by a small margin (Plassmann, Whitley, 2003). Expressing the urge to protect one’s family, business of weapon possessions is primal. Parents need to protect their children, and husbands are responsible for protection of their wives. This is a societal need that places responsibility on adults. Proponents of gun ownership will argue that due to gun ownership, a person is able to exercise his or her abilities to protect their family and belongings. This offers some leeway for people to own and operate arms. Another advantage, albeit tentative, is the fact that owning a gun makes people more responsible than they would be without a firearm. A gun owner has to follow the strict rules of gun safety. For instance, the gun is to be always kept unloaded and pointed in a safe direction. Following these rules, a person is able to exercise control even in other aspects of life. Nevertheless, the fact remains that gun is one of the most dangerous things to keep in the house. Hence, a person, who does this, usually shows a level of maturity and organization that is admirable.

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Having looked at the advantages of owning a gun, it is clear to see that guns are essential, to some point. The above benefits are the reasons why people want to own arms. These are also the reasons why people want to keep arms in close proximity. There are those who own guns but keep them in safety deposits. These are mostly decorative guns, owned as works of art instead of weapons of protection. A person worried about their safety will keep their gun in close proximity, either in their car or house. Some of the gun owners in the country have, however, never used their weapons. In this case, it is not a threat to themselves or the society to own these weapons. The disadvantages of owning a gun by far outweigh the advantages. One of the most negative attributes of owning firearms is the weapons effect. This effect heightens the anger levels of a person by the mere fact that they own a firearm, or are near one. By this logic, having an argument with such a person is likely to end in them using the weapon. This is a psychological reaction that has been linked to gun owners and users. It makes them more likely to use their weapons even in situations that do not warrant such a reaction (Branas, 2003). Random acts of mass shooting also play against gun ownership. In the recent past, there have been cases of students shooting others in school or people opening fire in public gatherings and killing innocent civilians (Wellford, 2004). The number of death accredited to civilian gun owners is on the rise. This number is higher in the United States than in any other developed country. All these lethal cases can be avoided by restricting people from owning firearms so easily. The greatest disadvantage of owning arms is the sharp increase in suicide rates. In households with guns, a person is more likely to commit suicide by using the firearm, than by

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any other means (Kellermann, 2001). This is especially so in families that exhibit trends of depression or other emotion-related ailments. Also, some of these deaths are not caused by intentional suicides, but self-inflicted injuries. Children in these homes are exposed to guns at a premature age, and this might alter their course of growth by introducing them to violence at the young age. In order to achieve gun control in the United States, activists should overcome a long way of unawareness. Pro-gun control groups should fight harder to move their agenda forward. The government should step in and help this group in their noble task. This group should necessarily include gun safety in their agenda. In the quest to promote safety, the government should open more facilities where people are trained on gun use and safety. This will reduce the level of accidents affiliated to gun owners. The government should also be more stringent with gun regulations. An age limit to gun ownership should be set preferably at 30 years. Violators of gun safety and others who use their weapons for criminal activities should get a harsh punishment, so as to give a lesson to other gun users. Gun owners should also exercise restraint in the way they use their weapons. They should also take it upon themselves to protect the rest of the community from any harm that might be brought about by their arms.

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Branas, C. et al. (2003). Investigating the Link Between Gun Possession and Gun Assault. American Journal of Public Health. Kellermann, A L. et al. (2001) Suicide in the Home in Relation to Gun Ownership. Chicago: John Riley& Sons Publication Marvell, T. B. (2003). The Impact of Banning Juvenile Gun Possession. The Journal of Law and Economics. Plassmann, F. Whitley, J. (2003). Confirming "More Guns, Less Crime"', Stanford Law Review. Wellford, C. et al. (2004). Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review. The National Academies Press.

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