Gun control

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Not to be confused with international restrictions on weapons, called Arms control.

Gun controls are laws or policies that regulate the manufacture, sale, transfer, possession, modification, or use of firearms. They vary greatly around the world. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom, have very strict limits on gun possession while others, like the United States, have, compared to most industrial democracies, relatively few and weak restrictions (although policies vary from state to state).

Proponents of gun control generally argue the dangers of widespread gun ownership. Opponents argue that gun control does not reduce gun-related injuries, murder, or suicide, and some argue that certain regulations may violate individual liberties.

Regulation of civilian firearms

Barring a few exceptions,[a] most countries in the world allow civilians to purchase firearms subject to certain restrictions.[2] Allowed civilian firearms vary from country to country, but may include: revolvers and self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines, assault rifles, sub-machine guns and light machine guns.[3] A 2011 survey of 28 countries over five continents[b] found that a major distinction between different national regimes of firearm regulation is whether civilian gun ownership is seen as a right or a privilege.[6] The study concluded that both the United States and Yemen were distinct from the other countries surveyed in viewing firearm ownership as a basic right of civilians and in having more permissive regimes of civilian gun ownership.[6] In the remaining countries included in the sample, civilian firearm ownership is considered a privilege and the legislation governing possession of firearms is correspondingly more restrictive.[6]

Studies, debate, and opinions

High rates of gun mortality and injury are often cited as a primary impetus for gun control policies.[7][page needed] The question of whether gun control policies increase, decrease or have no effect on rates of gun violence turns out to be a difficult question. While a variety of disparate data sources on rates of firearm-related injuries and deaths, firearms markets, and the relationships between rates of gun ownership and violence exist, found that while some strong conclusions are warranted from current research, the state of our knowledge is generally poor.[8] Despite the potential for improved research design, the National Research Council review concludes that the gaps in our knowledge on the efficacy of gun control policies are due primarily to inadequate data and not to weak research methods. The result of the scarcity of relevant data is that gun control is one of the most fraught topics in American politics[9] and scholars remain deadlocked on a variety of issues.[9]

The first cross-national overall comparison of deaths caused by guns was published in 1998,[10] and found substantial variation. The possible factors leading to variation in gun violence among different countries was not assessed. A 2004 review by the National Research Council concluded that, "higher rates of household firearms ownership are associated with higher rates of gun suicide, that illegal diversions from legitimate commerce are important sources of crime guns and guns used in suicide, that firearms are used defensively many times per day, and that some types of targeted police interventions may effectively lower gun crime and violence."[11]

A number of studies have examined the correlation between rates of gun ownership and gun-related, as well as overall, homicide and suicide rates internationally.[12] Martin Killias, in a 1993 study covering 21 countries, found that there were significant correlations between gun ownership and gun-related suicide and homicide rates. There was also a significant though lesser correlation between gun ownership and total homicide rates[c][12] A later study published by Killias et al. in 2001,[13] based on a larger sample of countries found "very strong correlations between the presence of guns in the home and suicide committed with a gun, rates of gun-related homicide involving female victims, and gun-related assault." The authors suggest that the correlation between the presence of guns in the home and suicide and homicide of females is best explained as causal, i.e. the presence of guns is the cause of the mortality and not the reverse. The study found no correlation for similar crimes against men, total rates of assault or for robbery, however, the authors note that the relationship between availability of guns and male homicide is complex, and the data may be affected by wars, organized crime, street crime and crime rates among various countries. They also note that, "the absence of significant correlations between gun ownership and total homicide, assault, or suicide rates...[leaves] open the question of possible substitution effects." (In other words, other means could have been substituted for firearms used in the commission of homicide or suicide.)

The Harvard Injury Control Research Center, part of the Harvard School of Public Health, found that "The rate of gun homicide, and the total homicide rate was significantly correlated with levels of gun ownership", and that this also held across high-income nations and across states. The study also said that "Cross-sectional studies like ours do not provide information about causality." [14][15][16][17][18]

However, a number of scholars have also reported that the rate of gun availability is associated with less gun violence. These include Don Kates, John Lott, Joyce Malcolm, Gary Mauser, David Mustard, and Gary Kleck. For example, a 2002 review of international gun control policies and gun ownership rates as these relate to crime rates by Kates and Mauser,[19] published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy (a student run journal devoted to conservative and libertarian legal scholarship[20]) argues that, "International evidence and comparisons have long been offered as proof of the mantra that more guns mean more deaths and that fewer guns, therefore, mean fewer deaths. Unfortunately, such discussions are all too often been [sic] afflicted by misconceptions and factual error and focus on comparisons that are unrepresentative." Kates and Mauser point out in Europe, there is no correlation whatsoever between gun ownership rates and homicide rates (see table "European Gun Ownership and Murder Rates"). Joyce Malcolm reviewed the subject of crime rates and homicides in England[21] and found that, "data on firearms ownership by constabulary area" show "a negative correlation...[that is], where firearms are most dense violent crime rates are lowest, and where guns are least dense violent crime rates are highest."

Economist John Lott, in his book More Guns, Less Crime, provides data showing that laws allowing law-abiding citizens to carry a gun legally in public may cause reductions in crime because potential criminals do not know who might be carrying a firearm. The data for Lott's analysis came from the FBI's crime statistics for all 3,054 U.S. counties.[22]

Some have argued that gun ownership has no effect on violent crime. Kleck analyzed the impact of 18 major types of gun control laws on every major type of violent crime or violence (including suicide), and found that gun laws generally had no significant effect on violent crime rates or suicide rates.[23]

Studies by Arthur Kellermann and Matthew Miller found that keeping a gun in the home was associated with an increased risk of suicide.[24] Other studies, however, found no association between gun ownership and suicide.[25][26][27][28]

A comprehensive review of published studies of gun control, released in November 2004 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was unable to determine any statistically significant effect resulting from such laws, although the authors suggest that further study may provide more conclusive information. In 2010, Lott provides a comprehensive survey of research on concealed carry laws in the 3rd edition of More Guns, Less Crime. About 2/3rds of the peer-reviewed studies by economists and criminologists find that concealed handgun laws reduce violent crime and 1/3rd show no effect.[22] An updated review was published in the University of Maryland Law Review and it showed similar results.[29]


Japan of the Shogunate

In 1607 Japan began a process of eliminating firearms from the island kingdom.[30] This occurred within a nation that had in the previous century made firearms a critical part of its warmaking.[31] From the beginning firearms roused serious opposition within Japan because they practically eliminated the single combats by which samurai could win glory.[30] The samurai's distaste for firearms was so great the vast majority of the users of the firearms in the civil wars and invasion of Korea were commoners.[32] This increased their offensiveness to the samurai—they were being killed by their social inferiors. The population of samurai was large, as much as ten percent of the population, compared to an estimated one percent of nobility in feudal Europe. Once the civil wars and invasions were over the pressure from the samurai class to eliminate firearms was irresistible.

In 1607 Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu centralized all firearm production at two centers. He created a commissioner of firearms to license all firearm orders. In practice only government orders were licensed and these dwindled to nothing in the course of the 17th century. Eventually the gunmakers turned to making swords, and firearms were essentially eliminated from use.[30]

United States

Beginning in the early 20th century, various laws have been enacted to regulate firearms. In 1927, Congress passed a law prohibiting mailing concealable firearms. In 1934, The National Firearms Act was passed which regulated only fully automatic firearms. Later, Congress enacted The Federal Firearms Act of 1938 which placed the first limitations on selling other firearms. It required sellers to make records of persons purchasing firearms and payment of an annual license fee of $1. The Gun Control Act of 1968 expanded the Federal Firearms Act regarding the licenses of firearm sellers and created limits on who was eligible to purchase a firearm, considering criminal background, mental stability, citizenship, and drug abuse.[33] The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 required background checks on firearm sales by licensed dealers. This was quickly followed by Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. This enacted a 10-year ban on the production of some assault-style weapons.[34]

A pair of cases decided by the US Supreme Court in 2008 and 2010 held that municipal handgun bans were unconstitutional. In District of Columbia v. Heller the Court held in a 5-4 decision that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution applies to Federal enclaves and protects an individual's right, as opposed to a collective right of the state militia, to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, thereby invalidating the handgun restrictions in place in Washington, D.C.[35] McDonald v. Chicago clarified that the decision in Heller also applied to individual states, invalidating both an explicit handgun ban in Oak Park, Illinois, and a de facto ban in Chicago.[36]

Some gun rights advocates argue that banning or regulating gun ownership makes tyranny more likely.[37]

United Kingdom

In Britain, the private ownership of most handguns was banned in 1997 following a gun massacre at a school in Dunblane and a 1987 gun massacre in Hungerford in which the combined deaths were 35 and injured 30. In 2005/6 the number of homicides by firearm in England and Wales (population 53.3 million) was 50, a reduction of 36 per cent on the year before and lower than at any time since 1998/9, one year following the ban. In 2007, the number of deaths in Britain from firearms was 51.[38] In 2008 the number of deaths was 42, a 20-year low, with vast parts of the country recording no homicides, suicides or accidental deaths from firearms.[38]


In response to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, Australian state and territory parliaments enacted gun laws, developed from the report of the 1988 National Committee on Violence,[39] that tightened requirements for licensing, registration, and safe storage of firearms, and banned civilian possession of all semi-automatic rifles and all semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns, under the National Firearms Agreement (NFA),[40] and from 1 October 1996 to 30 September 1997 through a gun buy-back scheme, 660,959 guns were surrendered.[41][42]

The 2002 Monash University shooting prompted state and territory parliaments to tighten probation and attendance requirements for sporting target shooters and limit the caliber and mandate a minimum barrel length for semi-automatic pistols and revolvers. Competitive target shooters were paid compensation for their pistols if they agreed to give up the sport for five years.[43][44]

In 2002, Mouzos and Reuter concluded that after the 1996–97 gun buy-back, though suicide rates did not fall, a long-term trend toward less use of guns in suicide continued; while a modest long-term decline in homicide continued, homicides due to firearms declined sharply; and while other violent crime, such as armed robbery, continued to rise, there were fewer instances involving guns.[45]

Ozanne-Smith and colleagues (2004) noted that "dramatic reductions in overall firearm related deaths and particularly suicides by firearms were achieved in the context of the implementation of strong regulatory reform,"[41] and Chapman and colleagues (2006) found that "Australia's 1996 gun law reforms were followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings, and accelerated declines in firearm deaths..."[46]

In 2007, Baker and McPhedran argued that, taking historical trends into account, "firearm suicide was the only parameter the NFA may have influenced, although societal factors could also have influenced observed changes."[47] David Hemenway responded in 2009 that Baker and McPhedran, both "from the pro-gun lobby,"[d] designed their study to find nothing; that they used only the 1979–96 period to establish a trend when data for every year from 1915 were available and extrapolated the data arithmetically rather than the usual logarithmically so as to produce their desired results, and Hemenway points out that "11 gun massacres occurred in Australia in the decade before the NFA, resulting in more than 100 deaths, in the decade following (and up to the present), there were no gun massacres."[49]

See also


  1. ^ Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, and Taiwan (Republic of China) prohibit civilian ownership of firearms in almost all instances. Eritrea and Somalia also prohibit civilian possession of firearms as part of their implementation of the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms. In the Solomon Islands civilian firearm ownership is restricted to members of the Regional Assistance Mission.[1]
  2. ^ The survey, carried out by the Small Arms Survey included 28 countries (42 jurisdictions in total). The countries included in the sample were:
    • Africa: Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda;
    • Americas: Belize, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, United States, Venezuela;
    • Asia: India, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Singapore, Turkey, Yemen;
    • Europe: Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Russian Federation, Switzerland, United Kingdom;
    • Oceania: Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea.[4]

      The study states that 'while the sample is diverse and balanced, it may not be representative of the systems in place in countries outside the sample'.[5]

  3. ^ The present study, based on a sample of eighteen countries, confirms the results of previous work based on the 14 countries surveyed during the first International Crime Survey. Substantial correlations were found between gun ownership and gun-related as well as total suicide and homicide rates. Widespread gun ownership has not been found to reduce the likelihood of fatal events committed with other means. Thus, people do not turn to knives and other potentially lethal instruments less often when more guns are available, but more guns usually means more victims of suicide and homicide.[12]
  4. ^ J. Baker, Research and Policy Unit, Sporting Shooters Association of Australia; S. McPhedran, Australia and International Coalition for Women in Shooting and Hunting.[48]


  1. ^ Parker 2011, p. 62 n. 1
  2. ^ Parker 2011, p. 1
  3. ^ "Small Arms Survey: Definitions". Small Arms Survey. April 15, 2013. Retrieved February 10, 2014. 
  4. ^ Parker 2011, p. 2
  5. ^ Parker 2011, p. 62 n. 4
  6. ^ a b c Parker 2011, p. 36
  7. ^ National Research Council 2005.
  8. ^ National Research Council 2005, p. 3,6.
  9. ^ a b Branas 2009.
  10. ^ Krug, Powell & Dahlberg 1998.
  11. ^ National Research Council 2005, p. 2.
  12. ^ a b c Killias 1993.
  13. ^ Killias, van Kesteren & Rindlisbacher 2001.
  14. ^ "Homicide"
  15. ^ Hemenway & Miller 2000.
  16. ^ Miller, Azrael & Hemenway 2002.
  17. ^ Hepburn & Hemenway 2004.
  18. ^ Miller, Azrael & Hemenway 2007.
  19. ^ Kates & Mauser 2002.
  20. ^ "Harvard Law School: Journals and Publications". Retrieved 14 January 2013. 
  21. ^ Malcolm 2002.
  22. ^ a b Lott 2010, p. 50-122.
  23. ^ Kleck & Patterson 1993.
  24. ^ Kellermann 1992.
  25. ^ Miller 1978.
  26. ^ Bukstein 1993.
  27. ^ Beautrais, Joyce & Mulder 1996.
  28. ^ Conwell 2002.
  29. ^ Lott 2012.
  30. ^ a b c Dyer 2010, p. 208.
  31. ^ Perrin 1980, p. 25.
  32. ^ Perrin 1980, p. 27.
  33. ^
  34. ^ "History of Gun Ownership Laws", EBSCO Publishing (2013).
  35. ^ Barnes, Robert (2008-06-27). "Justices Reject D.C. Ban On Handgun Ownership". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-02-19. "The Supreme Court ... decided for the first time in the nation's history that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual's right to own a gun for self-defense." 
  36. ^ Mears, Bill (June 28, 2009). "Court rules for gun rights, strikes down Chicago handgun ban". CNN. 
  37. ^ Cook, Philip and Goss, Kristin. Guns in America: What Everyone Needs to Know, p. 31 (Oxford University Press, 2014)
  38. ^ a b "Britain records 18% fall in gun deaths". The Independent. Retrieved December 25, 2012
  39. ^ Duncan Chappell. "PREVENTION OF VIOLENT CRIME: THE WORK OF THE NATIONAL COMMITTEE ON VIOLENCE". Archived from the original on 2007-06-15. 
  40. ^ Australian National Firearms Agreement
  41. ^ a b Ozanne-Smith 2004.
  42. ^ "The Gun Buy-Back Scheme". Commonwealth of Australia. 1997. ISBN 0-644-39080-8. ISSN 1036-7632. Archived from the original on 2009-07-04. 
  43. ^ Governor General of Australia. "Assent of Acts". Archived from the original on 29 August 2007. Retrieved 19 April 2007. 
  44. ^ Hudson, Phillip (30 June 2003). "Prices set in handgun crackdown". The Age. Retrieved 19 April 2007. 
  45. ^ Reuter & Mouzos 2003.
  46. ^ Chapman 2006.
  47. ^ Baker & McPhedran 2006.
  48. ^ Baker & McPhedran 2006, p. 1.
  49. ^ Hemenway 2009.


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