This House would limit the right to bear arms

Gun laws vary widely from country to country, so this topic focuses upon arguments for tightening gun laws in principle. Particular debates might centre upon different categories of guns (for example automatic weapons, handguns or shotguns), licensing requirements for ownership, the right to carry concealed weapons, or requirements that manufacturers increase the safety features on their weapons.

Because the USA is exceptional in protecting the right to own firearms in the Second Amendment to its Constitution, and gun control has been a major issue in American politics over the last few years, partly due to a series of tragic massacres involving children, it is likely to be the focus of this sort of motion.

By contrast, in the UK gun ownership is extremely low, as is the gun homicide rate.[1]  After a couple of high profile incidents (including the Dunblane Massacre), private gun ownership was almost completely banned[2], to the point where the UK Olympic shooting team have to train in Switzerland.  A couple of high profile shooting sprees in recent years by Derrick Bird[3] and Raul Moat[4] have again raised the issue of whether the UK’s gun laws need further tightening, or are already so harsh that they restrict legitimate usage while doing nothing to prevent criminality.  The best way to run this debate in the UK would be to reverse the premise.

[1] Home Office Statistical Bulletin, ‘Homicides, Firearm Offences and Intimate Violence 2009/10’, http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110218135832/http://rds.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs11/hosb0111.pdf

[2] Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1997/5/contents

[3] The Guardian, ‘Twelve killed in Cumbria shooting spree’ 2nd June 2010 http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jun/02/gunman-sought-person-shot-dead-whitehaven

 

Title 
The only function of a gun is to kill
Point 

The only function of a gun is to kill. The more instruments of death and injury can be removed from our society, the safer it will be. In the U.S.A. death by gunshot has become the leading cause of death among some social groups; in particular for African-American males aged from 12 to 19 years old.[1] Quite simply, guns are lethal and the fewer people have them the better.

[1‘Study: Homicide leading cause of death among young black males, Jacksonville.com, 5 May 2010, http://jacksonville.com/news/crime/2010-05-05/story/study-homicide-leading-cause-death-among-young-black-males

Counterpoint 

Prohibition is not the answer, especially not in countries such as the USA where gun ownership is such an entrenched aspect of society. Banning guns would not make them disappear or make them any less dangerous. It is a legitimate right of citizens to own weapons with which they can protect themselves, their family, and their property (see point 4). Many people also need guns for other reasons. For example, farmers need guns in order to protect their stock and crops from pests, e.g. rabbits, birds, deer, foxes, stray dogs attacking sheep, etc.

Title 
The legal ownership of guns by ordinary citizens inevitably leads to many accidental deaths
Point 

The legal ownership of guns by law-abiding citizens inevitably leads to many unnecessary and tragic deaths. Legally held guns are stolen and end up in the hands of criminals, who would have greater difficulty in obtaining such weapons if firearms were less prevalent in society. Guns also end up in the hands of children, leading to tragic accidents and terrible disasters such as the Columbine High School massacre in the U.S.A. Sometimes even normal-seeming registered gun owners appear to go mad and kill, as tragically happened at Hungerford and Dunblaine in the U.K.

Counterpoint 

Guns don’t kill people – people kill people. Restricting gun ownership will do nothing to make society safer as it is the intent of the criminal we should fear, and that will remain the same whatever the gun laws. In the vast majority of crimes involving firearms, the gun used is not legally held or registered. Many of illegal weapons are imported secretly from abroad, or converted from replica firearms rather than being stolen from registered owners.

Title 
Sports shooting desensitizes people to the lethal nature of firearms
Point 

Shooting as a sport desensitises people to the lethal nature of all firearms, creating a gun culture that glamorises and legitimises unnecessary gun ownership. It remains the interest of a minority, who should not be allowed to block the interests of society as a whole in gun control. Compensation can be given to individual gun owners, gun clubs and the retail firearms trade, in recognition of their economic loss if a ban is implemented.      

Counterpoint 

Shooting is a major sport enjoyed by many law-abiding people, both in gun clubs with purpose-built ranges and as a field sport. These people have the right to continue with their chosen leisure pursuit, on which they have spent large amounts of money – an investment the government would effectively be confiscating if their guns were confiscated. In addition, field sports bring money into poor rural economies and provide a motivation for landowners to value environmental protection. While compensation could be given the cost would be huge; in the UK shootings value to the economy was £1.6billion in 2004.[1]

[1] ‘£1,600,000,000 – the value of shooting’, Shooting Times, 27 September 2006, http://www.shootingtimes.co.uk/news/96001/pound1600000000__the_value_of_...

Title 
Gun ownership increases the risk of suicide
Point 

There is a correlation between the laxity of a country’s gun laws and its suicide rate – not because gun owners are more depressive, but because the means of quick and effective suicide is easily to hand. As many unsuccessful suicides are later glad that they failed in their attempt, the state should discourage and restrict the ownership of something that wastes so many human lives.

Counterpoint 

There are substantial exceptions to that correlation, for example Japan has the world’s 5th highest suicide rate but very low gun ownership.[1]

As the proposition concedes, the availability of firearms is not a direct cause of suicide and thus the restriction of availability of firearms can only have a marginal effect on the suicide rate.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_in_Japan

Title 
Gun ownership is an integral aspect of the right to self defence
Point 

Law-abiding citizens deserve the right to protect their families in their own homes, especially if the police are judged incapable of dealing with the threat of attack. Would-be rapists and armed burglars will think twice before attempting to break into any house where the owners may keep firearms for self-defence. (This can also be applied to the right to carry concealed weapons, deterring potential rapists, muggers, etc.)

Counterpoint 

Burglary should not be punished by vigilante killings of the offender. No amount of property is worth a human life. Perversely, the danger of attack by homeowners may make it more likely that criminals will carry their own weapons. If a right to self-defence is granted in this way, many accidental deaths are bound to result.

Moreover the value of guns for self-defence is overrated.  A firearm kept in the home for self-defence is six times more likely to be used in a deliberate or accidental homicide than against an unlawful intruder.[1]

[1] Drinan, Robert F. ‘Gun Control: The Good Outweighs the Evil’.  The Civil Liberties Review. August/September 1976  http://www.saf.org/LawReviews/Drinan1.html

Title 
Gun ownership increases national security within democratic states
Point 

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary top the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” – 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.[1]  Any country is much more able to defend itself from aggression if many of its citizens are able to use guns, keeping them for leisure and sporting use. Some countries actively require adult citizens to maintain weapons in their house, and periodically to train in their use.   The high levels of firearm availability in Iraq and Afghanistan have been significant contributory factors in allowing for a viable insurrection to form which has the potential to generate the political pressure necessary to cause the withdrawal of foreign occupiers.

Of course, such widespread ownership of weapons is also a safeguard against domestic tyranny.

[1] See also DIstricxt of Columbia v Heller, 554 U.S. 570  (2008) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/District_of_Columbia_v._Heller

Counterpoint 

The 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was written in the age of horse and musket, where a private citizen could gain access to the same (or even better) weaponry that the state did.

Unless the opposition want to remove all barriers on gun ownership completely, no armed citizenry can seriously compete with a modern military armed with tanks, drones and precision weaponry.  Popular resistance movements rely upon creating an unaffordable political cost to maintaining the occupation (e.g. The US was eventually forced from Vietnam, despite winning virtually every major battle of the war), but this assumes that the occupying power is vulnerable to that kind of pressure.  An undemocratic invader or a domestic tyranny will happily slaughter dissidents with impunity (see the pre-intervention stages of the Libyan civil-war and the 2011 Syrian uprising).

Title 
Sports shooting is a safe activity
Point 

Shooting is sport enjoyed by many law-abiding people, both in gun clubs with purpose-built ranges and as a field sport. These people have the right to continue with their chosen leisure pursuit, on which they have spent large amounts of money – an investment the government would effectively be confiscating if their guns were confiscated.

Counterpoint 

Shooting as a sport has the potential to desensitize people to the lethal nature of all firearms, creating a gun culture that glamorizes and legitimizes unnecessary gun ownership.

Title 
Effective gun control is not achievable in democratic states with a tradition of civilian gun ownership
Point 

Much like the failure of the prohibition era to stop alcohol consumption, trying to restrict the use of guns that are already widely owned and prevalent in a society is an impossible task.[1]

The people who intend to use guns for illegitimate purposes are obviously unconcerned with the fact that it is illegal to acquire the guns in the first place in countries where this is already the case such as in the UK .[2][3]

[1] Kates, Don B. ‘Why a Civil Libertarian Opposes Gun Control’. The Civil Liberties Review. June/July 1976 http://www.saf.org/LawReviews/Kates1.html

[2] The Independent. ‘Up to 4m guns in UK and police are losing the battle’. 4th September 2005. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/up-to-4m-guns-in-uk-and-police-are-losing-the-battle-505487.html

[3] The Guardian. ‘Firearms: cheap, easy to get and on a street near you’ 30th August 2008. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/aug/30/ukcrime1

Counterpoint 

Limited restrictions on ownership and use are different in nature to absolute prohibition and are more easily enforced. 

Statistical analysis shows that that gun control laws do have a deterrent effect on firearm deaths and that the magnitude of the effect is dependent on how well the rules are enforced.[1]  The ineffectiveness of badly drafted or enforced gun control regulations is not an indicator of the ineffectiveness of well drafted and enforced regulations. 

[1] Kwon et al. ‘The effectiveness of gun control laws: multivariate statistical analysis’, The American Journal of Economics and Sociology. Jan 

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