To kick off this project we spent around two months easing into and consuming political and rhetorical discourse. We watched many different clips and read various articles, followed by discussing things that we found in them, what their bias was, and roughly where on the political spectrum the argument lied. Once we had a clear understanding of these things we moved on to actually researching and producing things like these. The key at this point was to find an issue that had binary opposition, in other words, a topic that has both yes and no sides. We began by looking into issues that we connected to or felt drawn to, I chose the topic of gun control. I began by writing my initial feelings on the issue in my first essay, then proceeded to research both sides and wrote an essay for each. Through this process we received critique and some found it helpful to discuss their topics with peers, as I did when I had a hard time. We finished by reflecting on our journey throughout this project in a final piece of writing. We also created visual pieces to entice community members to come engage in conversations with us at our exhibition. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the exhibition but I added an element to further my experience. I interviewed a peer of mine who had an experience a few years ago which gave him a strong relationship with this topic, strongly for gun control. You can see all of the aforementioned pieces below on this post.
A photograph I took and used as my visual to show that guns are tools, rather that how they are commonly seen, as weapons.
My name is Oakley Felker. Usually people assume that I was named after the sunglass and gear company, or they just say that it's very original, that they’ve never heard it before; this is usually followed by asking how I got it. My grandfather had brought it up to my parents based off of Annie Oakley. Annie Oakley was probably the most notable female sharpshooter in America. She first became famous for her shooting when she was just 15 years old and joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show to make money that her family desperately needed. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was a traveling western shooting show that travelled the United States, as well as many other countries across the world, in the late 1800s. Now that you have some background, I am sure you are beginning to understand where I come from.
The Second Amendment is something that my family values strongly. Everyone in my family knows how to shoot a gun. We all respect them and know when and when not to use them. We go to gun shows and admire the craftsmanship that goes into them and the art that firearms are. For the past four years or so, my brother has been competing in shooting competitions through 4H. All of the competitors have a respect for their guns and how they are intended to be used. Luckily, my family is encourages me to form my own opinions on topics, rather than just follow how they say it is. I have become somewhere in the middle of the two sides over my years of shooting. I would say that I understand both sides of the issue and am open to learning more about each perspective.I have noticed that I am like this with just about every multi sided argument that I come in contact with, I want to hear both sides before I make a decision about my personal views on the subject.
Yes, guns were originally made to be used as weapon in war, but that’s not the intended reason for civilian use, as we are not participating in battle daily. They were also used in the early days to be tools for hunting; to this day they still are, but it's not as much out of necessity as it once was, considering that most people have everything they could ever need at their fingertips. So what are firearms used for today? Usually people own them for self defense. This is a concept that I have a hard time believing because I have never been in a situation where I would have needed a gun to protect myself. I know that this is mainly because of where I have lived all my life, Durango is not particularly a place where many people confront others in private areas. I have also learned how to avoid situations where I would need to defend myself with a gun. People also frequently use guns for hunting and sport. These are things that I have learned to appreciate and value.
Many people feel that their rights are being taken away with gun restrictions changing ever so slightly and the new things that are being proposed every day. I understand the growing concerns because no one that has guns wants them to be taken away. What I think that many people do not realize is that gun owners are not being directly targeted. Most of the time, the government wants certain guns, not all of them. Certain people are targeted, which really is too bad and I think that this separates our nation even more. When it comes to restrictions on getting guns at gunshows, safety precautions need to be in place for sure. A potential criminal could go to a gunshow and get a gun which they intend to use as a weapon. Currently, there aren’t many restrictions at gun shows to keep guns from getting into the wrong hands. Of course, it is hard to keep the “wrong” people from getting guns when we try not to discriminate against people and make assumptions based on their skin color, heritage, how they dress, where or how they were raised. I can’t imagine how horrible and targeted one must feel when they are classified like this and when they are told that they are a criminal just for this. On the other side, I understand that people with certain backgrounds are more likely to do certain things. For example, I am a white teenage girl living in America, others could probably assume that because of any or all of these characteristics, I will probably complain when I am taking a shower and the water gets cold.
I think that this is a very controversial topic which is hard for me to speak on because I do see and understand the two sides. It is also hard to speak on something that my family feels so strongly about. I am both concerned for or liberty, our second amendment rights, as well as the safety of my family, friends, and myself. I know that things need to be changed, it is just hard for us to decide how. Many people in America are very one sided on the topic of gun control.
Against Gun Control Argument:
Gun violence is a tragedy, and while some people believe that limiting access to guns will limit gun violence, gun control will only hurt responsible gun owners, as they have for decades. Mass shootings are an issue in our country and the fault typically falls on the weapon, but it really should fall on the offender. If one chooses to follow a criminal lifestyle, that’s their choice. There will always be people who choose to go down this path, regardless if guns are easily attainable or not. Removing guns from the equation will not end the epidemic of gun violence in our nation.
Since guns were first created, citizens’ rights to buy, sell, and possess firearms has changed historically. In 1968, the Gun Control Act was put into effect, meaning that guns could be taken away from owners without a legitimate reason. Gun owners were often accused of “intending” to use their firearm in violation of the law (Hardy). The Gun Control Act and many other historical and controversial motions have increased and decreased gun restrictions. It is not an exaggeration to say that this fight has been going on for years and it is not going to end anytime soon. The historical background of this issue shows why gun owners are so protective over their firearms. They have been taken away before and don’t need to be taken away ever again. Dave Hardy, writing for the NRA on the Firearm Owners Protection Act, mentioned that at one point “The courts had held that even if a gun owner was found not guilty of criminal charges, the prosecution could still forfeit his guns, or revoke his dealer’s license.” (Hardy). The system has been unfair for gun owners and that’s exactly they are reluctant to offer any leeway on this issue.
Gun control is not the solution for the gun violence that we are currently facing in our country. Unfortunate events like mass shootings lead to severe overreactions of the public, by gun control supporters especially. Jack Hunter, Senator Rand Paul’s media director, put it quite eloquently by saying, “The same thought of murdered children that would naturally lead people to support the death penalty has also led politicians, pundits, and other Americans to clamor for more gun restrictions. This happens every single time there is a public shooting that becomes a national tragedy” (Hunter). Many people decide that since something bad happened with a gun, the gun is at fault, not the person who made the poor decision. “Such laws do not in fact control guns. They simply disarm law-abiding citizens, while people bent on violence find firearms readily available”, wrote Hunter again for The American Conservative, referring to Thomas Sowell, another writer (Hunter). President Ronald Reagan once asserted, "You won't get gun control by disarming law-abiding citizens. There is only one way to get real gun control: Disarm the thugs and criminals, lock them up and if you don't actually throw away the key, lose it for a long time" (Kyle). Gun control just punishes the responsible gun owners; if a person really wants a firearm, they will find a way to obtain it, whether they are able to do so legally or not.
It is not the gun that is the problem, but rather the criminal’s own choice to use the gun as a weapon. For centuries, we have been able to use guns as the tools that they were intended to be. We have used them for sport, self defense, and livelihood. Tools are often misused as weapons. “I refuse to play the game of ‘assault weapon.’ That’s any weapon. It’s a hammer. It’s the machetes. In Rwanda ... 800,000 people … [were killed] with hammers.”, said Rep. Louis Gohmert in response to the Sandy Hook shooting (DeFilippis and Hughes). Just after the Orlando shooting, the Virginia Citizens Defense League leader, Philip Van Cleave told the public, “Blame the bad guy, not the tool he uses. If you don’t do that, you’re just wasting your time looking for a solution where none will ever be found.” (DeFilippis, Hughes). Guns are tools and if people choose to use them as a weapon, every other law-abiding citizen should not face consequences for that choice.
Creating more restrictions will not end the violence and tragedies and removing guns will not eliminate criminals. There will always be people who choose to use weapons and if one is taken away, they will just find another. After the 9/11 attacks, many bomb ingredients were made more difficult for citizens to acquire. Since the attack, guns have become much more common weapons in America.Taya Kyle, whose husband was shot and killed, wrote about her views about the freedoms Americans have with guns for CNN, “We have slipped into a land of government that has promised the moon, seldom delivered and driven us into a world of more laws, more government, and less freedom -- and none of that has stopped murder, pain and suffering” (Kyle). Whatever path the government takes to make our citizen safer only limits our freedoms and does little to change the violence that happens.
Not every shooting is the same, nor is the shooter or their methods. One solution will not solve all of the problems that our country faces when it comes to the war on guns. Let’s not waste our time banning guns and making laws more strict, when instead, we should be sentencing those who use guns as weapons as well as educating those who don’t see the value in firearms.
Pro gun control argument:
Gun control is a highly debated issue in today’s political discussion. Some feel that guns are too dangerous to be left unregulated, while others feel that owning a firearm is a fundamental right in the United States and any restriction is an infringement on that right. It is time for us to take action and enforce heavier restrictions on guns in our country; as well as regulating who has access to them. The damage has been done -countless mass shootings of innocent people, those of authority abusing their power, unstable citizens abusing their second amendment right- and we can only stop the wrongs from happening, rather than trying to correct those that have already happened. Allowing guns to circulate in America is only allowing gun violence to increase. We can no longer treat mass shootings as unfortunate, and inconvenient, events. We must treat them as the wakeup call that they are. It is time that we take action, America.
The number of guns currently circulating in America is quite unnecessary and only leads to more gun violence. The number of guns surpassed the number of American citizens at the end of the year in 2009. The number of guns owned by civilians at the beginning of 2016 was between 270 and 310 million (Alpers et al.). This is a gratuitously large number of firearms to be in the hands of the public. Research has shown that the rate of private gun ownership is increasing at a much faster rate than our population currently is. At the beginning of the year, the rate of ownership was approximately 102 guns for every 100 people, and this number is only increasing with time (Alpers, Rossetti, Salinas). With the growing number of guns, these weapons are more accessible than ever. The more guns there are in the U.S., the easier it becomes to get a hold of one, which can enable more gun violence to occur.
Countries around the world have increased their regulations on firearms, which has led to a drastic decrease in gun violence. In an article published in The Nation, the rate of gun-related homicides in the U.S. was compared to those of other countries, “Our rate of gun-related homicides dwarfs that of comparable nations.” (“We Need a Radical Movement”). This article supported this by comparing this rate in our country to others, “Six times Canada’s rate, 16 times Germany’s, and 21 times Australia’s” Other countries have been able to make a positive change in the amount of violence in their country, by increasing their restrictions on guns. Australia is a good example of a place that has made immense changes to their gun laws for the good of their country and the safety of their citizens. The changes were made 20 years ago, after a horrific mass shooting, and the effects were seen immediately; mass shootings have ceased and there has been a significant drop in suicide and homicide rates per year (Davey). According to a study by the University of Sydney and Macquarie University, mentioned in an article in The Guardian by Melissa Davey, “From 1979 to 1996, the average annual rate of total non-firearm suicide and homicide deaths was rising at 2.1% per year. Since then, the average annual rate of total non-firearm suicide and homicide deaths has been declining by 1.4%, with the researchers concluding there was no evidence of murderers moving to other methods, and that the same was true for suicide.”(Davey). Countries across the world have had incredible success with gun control policies and it is time that America follows suit.
Sandy Hook, Charlotte, Orlando, it seems that mass shootings are happening much more often today than in the past. These shootings are heartbreaking and bring with them feelings of sadness, pain, and anger. After a mass shooting, people against gun control feel the need to loosen gun laws in order to keep guns in circulation, but this just makes it easier for bad people to get their hands on guns, making shootings a more common occurrence. A study was done to see how liberal the and conservative sides of our governments reacted to mass shootings, “ While the researchers found no significant effect on the passage of new laws in Democratic-controlled legislatures, they found that in Republican-controlled ones, “a mass shooting increases the number of enacted laws that loosen gun restrictions by 75 percent ... our collective response to an epidemic of mass shootings has been to pass laws that further facilitate mass shootings” (“We Need a Radical Movement”). Loosening gun restrictions is not the correct way to reduce the number of mass shootings and the U.S. instead needs to take action and impose more gun control.
It is time that we take responsibility for our own actions, as well as those of our fellow citizens and make amends. Much stricter control on the circulation and availability of firearms is indeed the next step for the United States. The positive possibilities outweigh the reality that guns are and will always be used as weapons. The stricter laws and restrictions will help our country to become less violent and more united.
DeFilippis, Evan, and Devin Hughes. "Op-Ed 5 Arguments Against Gun Control - and Why They Are All Wrong." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 8 July 2016. Web. <http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-defilippis-hughes-gun-myths-debunked-20160708-snap-story.html>.
Alpers, Philip, Amélie Rossetti and Daniel Salinas. 2016. United States — Gun Facts, Figures and the Law. Sydney School of Public Health, The University of Sydney. GunPolicy.org, 7 November. <http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/united-states>
Davey, Melissa. "Australia's Gun Laws Stopped Mass Shootings and Reduced Homicides, Study Finds." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 22 June 2016. Web. <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/23/australias-gun-laws-stopped-mass-shootings-and-reduced-homicides-study-finds>.
Ingraham, Christopher. "There Are Now More Guns Than People in the United States." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 5 Oct. 2015. Web. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/10/05/guns-in-the-united-states-one-for-every-man-woman-and-child-and-then-some/>.
"We Need a Radical Movement for Gun Control." The Nation. The Nation, 12 July 2016. Web. (Editorial) <https://www.thenation.com/article/we-need-a-radical-movement/>.
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