The Necessity of Guns in the 21st Century: A Fantasy in the Face of Reality

Sabrina Fiore, Features Editor

Thirteen thousand, two-hundred eighty-six human beings were killed by a gun in The United States in 2015. Fifteen thousand, five-hundred forty-nine human beings were killed by a gun in 2017 stated, Gun Violence Archive. The year 2018 has only just begun. Already 17 innocent teachers and students were murdered, on Valentine’s Day, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In the wake of this tragedy, schools and citizens across the nation are working to improve safety protocols and organizing marches for greater gun control. A substantial fewer number are casting light on the total lack of necessity to own a gun in the 21st century United States of America. While this notion is dismissed by many as idealistic and unrealistic, the statistics suggest otherwise.

In a 2015 Violence Policy Center study based on 2012 data, out of 1.2 million violent crimes in the United States, there were only 259 valid self-defense shootings. Two-hundred fifty nine valid cases of self-defense, compared to the 300 million guns owned in the United States. Based on a Supplemental Homicide Report released by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the ratio of self-defense shootings to gun murders is 1 to 32. This data directly contradicts the uneducated rhetoric of gun owners and the National Rifle Association, who make claims that 2.5 million justified self-defense shootings occur per year. The glaring error on the part of the NRA can be explained when you realize that they are relying on data from a 1995 study based on data from the early 1980s, published by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz. During this study, Kleck and Gertz used dubious methods to reach this number, surveying only 8,000 participants and then multiplying, and simultaneously distorting, that number by the entire US population.

If the foundational study for the pro-gun argument is thirty years out of date, and skewed to fit a bias to begin with, why are we still listening to it?

Some individuals will argue that, whether or not an individual ends up needing to use a gun to defend themselves, they regardless have the right to these firearms if they pass the appropriate background checks. What, then, accounts for the individuals who have no previous, recorded, criminal or mental health issues, but for the first time are planning to commit a violent act? There is not background check to determine the future capabilities of a future unstable mind. Furthermore, what prevents the 232,000 gun robberies each year, as reported by the Violence Policy Center? That leaves a ratio of 1 valid self-defense killing to 896 guns that were purchased legally and still end up in the hands of criminals. To the conservative arguments that “criminals will always find a way to get a gun”: yes, they will. They will obtain those that have already been legally issued by the United States. Eliminate the issuing of guns, eliminate or drastically reduce the number of guns ending up in the hands of violent criminals.

According to the Pew Research Center, based on data from the years 1999 and 2013, 48% of gun owners cited protection as the main reason for owning a gun in 2013, compared to the 26% in 1999. This data is in contradiction with the fact that gun violence had decreased steadily between these years, according to a report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division. In addition, the Pew Research Center reports that 74% of gun owners are male. There is a psychological and sociological connection that can be drawn between these two pieces of data. Gun owners’ perception that they need weapons for self-defense, and the fact that more than half of these owners are male. The men who own these guns subscribe to a stereotypically masculine school of thought: “beat the bad guy”, protect their families and themselves with honor, be a hero. The statistics show this scenario will likely never happen. However, for gun-owners, and men in particular, this fantasy is a comfort, both to their sense of masculinity, and the genuinely caring, albeit misguided, part of them that wants to take care of those they love.

Fifteen thousand, five-hundred forty-nine deaths by guns in 2017. Seventeen dead in Parkland, Florida within the first two months of 2018. These are numbers on a page, but they were also human beings with a life and a story and family and friends. We can argue with statistics and facts and laws forever, but we also should be arguing with real outrage, real compassion, with the conviction there is only one correct, humane solution. And that truth is that human lives come before any conservative’s right to own weapons of destruction. These victims were the victims of an American fairytale, the myth that guns are necessary, or acceptable, in the modern-day United States of America. Fifteen thousand, five-hundred forty nine people, eighteen teachers and students. How many more senseless deaths until we realize it’s time to stand up, stop being passive to the true crime that is gun ownership in the US?