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Gun Violence in America

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Gun violence has become an epidemic in America. Every year, more than 23,000 Americans are killed with handguns, in homicides, suicides and accidents. Handguns were used to murder 10,567 people in this country in 1990. There were 11, 267 Americans who took their lives with handguns in 1989.

Many of these tragedies could have been prevented. Whether the case is a handgun murder in a moment of passionate anger or a curious child who finds a "toy" in the closet, the result and message are the same. If the handguns had not been available, the person would more than likely still be alive.

Gun control advocates stress that although gun owners often claim they need their weapons for protection or for sporting purposes, these guns are frequently misused. Dr. Arthur Kellerman of the University of Tennessee conducted a study of deaths involving guns. His research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, revealed that for every gun inflicted death occurring in self defense, there were 43 other deaths that had been classified as suicide, homicide, or accidental shootings. According to Dr. Kellerman, his research, conclusion, "shake the belief that if you have a gun in the house you are protecting yourself."

Having a loaded gun handy during a heated family argument can often result in tragedy. During intense, rage filled moments, family members, friends and acquaintances have been shot to death. Proponents of gun control stress that if a gun had not been available, the confrontation might have resulted in a bruised face or a bloodied nose rather than a funeral.

In addition, it is not surprising that the U.S. leads all other nations in homicides because more Americans own handguns than any other people. A direct link exists between the number of handguns and the incidence of homicide and suicide.

In the 1980's, international attention was focused on the U.S. gun culture: a society in which death may come suddenly and violently. The wounding of President Reagan and his press secretary, James Brady by a mentally unstable young man who obtained a handgun easily made citizens realize how important the gun control issue is. The issue came to public attention after an incident in which Bernard Goetz shot four young black men he believed were going to rob him on a New York subway. The Bernard Goetz case, however, is only the tip of the iceberg. In 2002, the Washington sniper committed a series of five fatal shootings within a 15hours period in Montgomery County, Maryland, a northern suburb of Washington metropolitan area. In addition, deaths by gunshots in the U.S. far exceeded other nations.

Women's locket, it reads, "Your mother just surprised two burglars who didn't like surprises." It ends by asking, "Who cares?"

The advertisements present the idea that they are not advocating the ownership of guns, demanding the right for those who wish to exercise it. The actual point is clear. The message to women is that they are always vulnerable except when they are armed. The message to men is that they may not be doing all they can to protect their families. The advertisements also suggest that if an unarmed person is attacked, the attacker will be babied by the media, law and political system. Armed, at least you have a chance.

According to Henslin, there are two opposing viewpoints on gun control exist, extremes that illustrate why it is difficult to establish social policy for the prevention of violence. Proponents of gun control argue that because most murders are crimes of passion, emotional outbursts would be less lethal if guns were not easily accessible. They claim we could reduce the U.S murder rate by registering all guns and licensing gun owners. They consider gun ownership a custom that has "no redeeming social value."

Opponents of gun control argue that gun ownership is a constitutional right and that Americans need more guns, not less. They argue that if all law-abiding citizens had guns, few killers would break into homes and of those who did, many wouldn't survive to do it again. They say that those who argue that guns are the problem are mistaken. They point out that Americans have more guns now than ever before, and rates of murder and rape have dropped. (Henslin, 2008)

American Psychiatric Foundation discusses a new proposed legislation that would prevent those who are deemed mentally ill, people such as the Virginia Tech shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, from purchasing firearms. It is believed, that if enacted at the time of the Virginia Tech shooting, this new proposed legislation would have prohibited Seung-Hui from purchasing his guns, thus, no such massacre on the Tech campus would have ever occurred.

The author, Rich Daly, goes on to say that such proposal may, in fact, not be necessary. Those who are mentally ill account for a minimal amount of gun violence. Gun ownership, gang membership, and drug represent the real cause. Also, laws singling out the "deranged" will only further distance them from normal people and increase the negative perception they receive.

Authorizing up to $1.3 billion in state grants, the new legislation is sponsored by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), and intends to prevent the purchasing of guns by those who are considered mentally ill. Also prevented from buying a gun are those who involuntarily place themselves into a psychiatric hospital - it should be noted that McCarthy's husband was killed by a mentally ill gunman.

Paul Appelbaum, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and chair of APA's Council on Psychiatry and Law, has said that a complete Virginia background check, one that looked for involuntary psychiatric care prior to the gun sales to the Tech shooter and the reporting of his outpatient care by state officials might have aided in the prevention in purchasing his weapons. Regardless of backgrounds checks, however, other avenues still, would have, and do, exist for gunmen to purchase weapons. Private sales and gun-shows, both of which are unregulated by the background-check system are prime examples of such a scenario. Despite much anticipation and excitement over the law, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other supporters have expressed disappointment concerning the law's timing; they were disappointed that the legislation did not advance until after the Virginia Tech shootings last April. Schumer was quoted as saying, "Had it become law earlier, it may well have saved the lives of 32 students who were killed at Virginia Tech by another mentally ill gunman." Contrary to popular belief, the Virginia Tech shooter, had, in fact, received a court order to undergo outpatient mental health treatment. His name, however, was never entered into the National Instant Criminal Background



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