Gun control not an answer to stopping crime

by Heidi Krick – Asst. Campus Voice Editor – hkrick@unca.edu

While rational arguments exist on both sides of the gun control debate, stricter regulations will never prevent tragedies from occurring.

Banning particular guns and enforcing stricter regulations on gun shows will only affect those who are actually willing to follow the changes.

Currently, Norway implements some of the most restrictive and regulated measures regarding gun control under the country’s Firearm and Ammunitions Act of 1961 and the Weapon Regulations of 2008.  Among the many gun regulations in Norway, users must possess a license to own a firearm.

Licensing requirements include a nine hour firearm safety training course, a written exam and a written statement explaining the need for a firearm. The applicant must also prove an active and continuing membership of a shooting club.  Background checks ensure the applicant is sober and responsible.

There is no such thing as a concealed-carry permit in Norway and the police are typically unarmed.  Norway mandates home storage safes for guns and ammunition.  High-capacity magazines are strictly forbidden and the Norwegian police have an enforced right to randomly search gun owner’s homes ensuring regulations are followed.

Yet, even with all the Norwegian government’s gun regulations, in 2011 a political extremist now known as Anders Breivik was able to bomb a government center in Oslo, Norway, killing seven people on a youth summer camp. Breivik then travelled to Utoya, an island 30 miles northeast of Oslo, and opened fire dressed as a police officer.  Breivik killed 84 children and adults and injured 96 more during his hour and a half long rampage on the island, using automatic rifles and handguns and several high-capacity magazines.  Surveyors of the Norwegian crime scene also found an undetonated bomb at the camp.

Breivik acquired the weaponry for his massacre both legally and illegally.  Breivik purchased the fertilizer used for both bombs for his farm.  Breivik bought some of the guns form the Internet and the rest he purchased legally in Norway, gun license in hand.

It may be unnecessary to say, but Norway has law-forbidding citizens from impersonating a police officer.  It is also against Norwegian law to build bombs and murder innocent people.

However, Breivik still found a way to commit one of the most heinous crimes in Norwegian history, and such would be the case for any other individual with hatred in their heart, regardless of the numbers of laws on the books attempting to control violent crimes.

According to the National Institute of Justice, 68 percent of murders in America are committed with a handgun, and less than 6 percent of these murders are committed with a legally obtained handgun.

The proposed 2013 Federal Assault-Weapons Ban introduced Thursday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., although a stringent effort to reduce the number of firearms in the country, unfortunately does not offer any solutions to handle the number of undocumented firearms currently in circulation in America.

Feinstein first proposed an assault weapons ban in 1994, which expired just 10 years later.  In the newly arranged proposal, only the sale, transfer and importation of a list of 150 different assault weapons and pistols are banned.  The proposal grandfathers in any guns already legally owned.  The proposed bill also completely bans high capacity magazines capable of holding 10 rounds or more.

While a ban on assault weapons certainly responds to the public’s outcry and demands for changes to existing gun laws, Americans must remain skeptical of such a utopian proposal to right criminal wrongs.

For example, the Bushmaster .223, allegedly used in the Newtown, Conn., shooting, and AK-47’s are similar to military weaponry only in style, not in the way they operate.  In fact, they are essentially just beefed-up looking rifles.

Are these weapons scary looking? Yes.  Are they capable of harm?  Of course.  But then again, so is a kitchen knife.  Real assault weapons, such as machine guns, were originally banned in 1934 and remain so today.

Instead of viewing the newly proposed ban as a magical fix to gun violence in America, Americans need to understand the actual effectiveness of such a ban.

The United Kingdom is typically the first source of statistical reference for proponents of stricter gun regulations.  The murder rate in the U.K. continues to steadily fall since the installation of the U.K.’s ban in 1996. However, the rate of violent crime, particularly home invasions, has steadily increased.

In fact, according to the most recent international crime report, England’s crime rate is higher than any other rich nation, with Australia following in a close second.  The report also shows an increased availability of illegal arms on the U.K.’s black market.

The increased violent crime rate can be easily explained by the inability of U.K. citizens to defend themselves against weapon carrying criminals

Looking at America’s own attempt to heavily regulate military style weaponry, data following the 1994-2004 Federal Assault Weapons Ban showed no evidence of decreasing gun crimes in America.

According to the FBI’s 2011 Uniform Crime Report, gun murder rates actually began to fall once the Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004, continuing to fall throughout the last several years.

The 1994 AWB also banned magazines holding more than 10 bullets.  Magazine regulations, according to reports, also did not have any effect on crime rates in America.

The demands for changes on American gun policy are understandable.  The tragic mass shootings seemingly plaguing the country are certainly cause for concern.  However, those willing to follow any changes to gun regulations are, generally, law-abiding citizens.  Those unwilling to accept gun restrictions are called criminals and no change in gun policy will correct that label.

Crime is simply an unfortunate reality in any country.  The difference in a free nation, though, is the ability of unsuspecting victims to defend their lives and property from criminal behavior, giving the victim an actual fighting chance of survival.

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