“The Status of Gun Control in the United States,” Sarah Marcum (2015) — Inquiry 3


Writer’s Reflection:

In writing Inquiry III, I imagined that I was writing to the President of the United States, Barack Obama. I imagined I was writing this letter about gun control and gun rights to him because he’s the leader of our country, and the highest authority. I figured if I could convince the President of our country, all other authority under him would fall into place, and I would have no trouble convincing anyone else of my viewpoint. He also has a lot more influence than I do (me being an eighteen year-old college student, he being the President of the United States), so I felt that he could make more of a difference in this issue than I could. After all, whose opinion would the public take more seriously?

I’m trying to convince him that, while gun control has a decent foundation right now, there needs to be a better balance between gun control and gun rights. This is due to my personal beliefs, which include believing that we should be able to have concealed carry in more public places. I addressed this viewpoint by backing it up with statistics, which can’t be biased because they’re facts. The way they’re portrayed could be biased towards one viewpoint or the other, but the information itself in the statistic is accurate.

For example, I took a closer look at some of the worst mass shootings in the history of the United States, where they occurred, and whether or not concealed carry is/was legal in that location. This information could have been taken either way, but I addressed it to indicate that some of these shootings could have been prevented if concealed carry had been legal there.


Dear President Obama,

Gun control is, and has been, an issue for quite some time in our country. There have been a lot of arguments, but not many solutions. One side of the argument, those that advocate gun control, insists that there must be strict laws regarding firearms, or even more extreme, a complete ban on civilian firearms. On the contrary, those citizens of the United States that believe in no restrictions whatsoever on gun rights call for less stringent gun laws. As you can see, there is a clear division between these two viewpoints, and lines have been drawn in the sand with no one willing to budge. Personally, I tend to drift more towards the side calling for more gun rights, but I consider myself to be somewhere in the middle of this perpetual debate.

While many people calling for more gun control laws and measures focus on the negative statistics about guns, the positive effects of gun usage are often overlooked. For instance, every year in the United States, guns are used eighty times more often to protect a life (self-defense) than to take one (this includes homicides, accidents, and suicides) (“A Factual Look at Guns in America”). As children, we are taught that guns are dangerous, and that they can easily hurt us (which is true). However, rarely are we taught that early in life that those very same firearms could also be used to protect ourselves from harm, or those that wish to harm us. 200,000 women use guns to protect themselves from sexual abuse every year, and three out of five criminals say they wouldn’t mess with an armed victim (“A Factual Look”). Even just possessing a gun can be beneficial to you in a time of need – no shots need to be fired most of the time. In fact, when a firearm is used for self-defense, 91.1% of the time not a single shot is fired (Smith).

The effect of guns on society is also often viewed as completely negative or completely positive, with no in-between. However, if you look at the fact that guns can deter crime, yet also be a part of the cause, the net impact of guns on society is really closer to zero. The two sides cancel each other out. Furthermore, ordinary citizens don’t usually commit crimes, especially violent ones, as most people involved with life-threatening violence have a criminal record and past problems with the justice system (Kates and Moody). Studies into the correlation between the amount of guns in different countries and murder rates have shown no relationship. This is most likely due to the fact that guns are not used singularly for self-defense and crime – they’re also used for hunting, among other things. For example, Norway has the highest proportion of gun ownership to citizens in Western Europe, yet also has the lowest murder rate in the area (Kates and Moody). Saying that guns cause crime just isn’t true, and is like saying that insulin causes diabetes purely because many diabetics use it. I also believe that more crime leads to more guns, not the inverse; many people purchase guns to protect themselves from crime (like my brother, for example). Strict laws on gun control also aren’t a guarantee that gun violence will decrease; Britain has some of the most stringent gun control laws in the world, yet it would still be fairly easy to acquire a gun illegally, and Britain is the most violent country in the European Union (Kates and Moody; “A Factual Look at Guns in America”).

Another common source of support for gun control advocates is the fact that there have been 146 mass shootings (defined as incidents in which four or more people are killed) since 2006, in which more than 900 people have died (Kepple, Loehrke, Hoyer, and Overberg). However, after taking a closer look at the twelve deadliest shootings in U.S. history and after assessing Ohio’s state laws (which are almost exactly the same for every state in the United States) on where concealed carry is not permitted (Wilson), an important relationship came to light.

Of the twelve deadliest shootings since 2006, eight have occurred in public areas where the concealed carry of firearms is prohibited – college campuses, schools, and governmental facilities (Wilson). This includes the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012, Virginia Tech in April 2007, University of Texas in August 1966, a post office in Oklahoma during August of 1986, the shooting of Columbine High School in April 1999, a center for immigration services located in New York in April 2009, a soldier processing center in Fort Hood, Texas during November of 2009, and a Navy Yard complex in September 2013 (Deadliest U.S. Shootings). Taking a closer, more in-depth look at the remaining four incidents, I discovered that one incident, in a Luby’s Cafeteria located in Killeen, Texas, occurred where the state law, at the time, prohibited concealed carry in “public places” as well (Luby’s Shooting). So, overall, out of the twelve most deadly mass shootings in U.S. history, nine occurred where concealed carry was prohibited.

To me, this information indicates that the ban on concealed carry weapons and abilities isn’t working. Guns can be (and are) banned in so many different places and locations, yet 75% of the twelve deadliest shootings in the United States happened in places where concealed carry weapons are prohibited. I, personally, feel that this is due in part to the fact that potential criminals/shooters are aware of the fact that no one around them will be armed, and use this information to their advantage – they know their victims will have no means of self-defense. Once again, I would like to draw attention to the statistic that three out of five criminals say they would not attack someone they thought would be armed as well (A Factual Look).

Additionally, given the fact that four of the twelve shootings listed above (33%) happened at schools/universities, I also feel that teachers should be permitted to have a firearm in their classrooms (in a locked cabinet hidden from all students, of course). This would pertain to all teachers; high schools, elementary schools, colleges, etc. Naturally, there would need to be strict restrictions and requirements in order for this to be safe and effective. Every teacher/faculty member that desired to possess a gun in their classroom would be required to go through a rigorous background check every two years, a mental and physical health screening every year, and a refresher/training course on how to safely operate firearms every three years (or any other periodic increments deemed appropriate and necessary). This would ensure that the teachers know how to use the firearms safely, effectively, and that they can be trusted to use the firearm only in extreme and dangerous situations, and to preserve the safety of their students. There would also need to be restrictions on the kind of firearm permitted and amount of ammunition allowed on hand. I would (personally) suggest that handguns be the only weapons permitted, in order to still be able to effectively stop an assailant (without risking the safety of the students any further). As to the amount of ammunition needed, I feel that no more than two clips’ worth of rounds would be necessary. This amount would be enough to stop an attacker without being excessive.

I also feel that, in order to further protect the safety of students and staff at educational facilities, self-defense classes as an elective, or an assembly required for all students and faculty to attend, should be provided. This way, those teachers unable to keep a firearm in their room can still do their best to defend themselves from a shooter, if need be. This would also provide the students with a direct way to defend themselves against an attacker, and could also be applied to other situations. For example, my high school hosted a mandatory assembly for the entire student body and staff my junior year very soon after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. The assembly covered what to do in an emergency situation, and we were taught “ALICE” training, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. This training covered what to do in the instance of a shooter infiltrating our school building, and the process we should follow. The website also covers what courses of action are recommended for different age groups of students. For instance, the website for ALICE recommends that younger children be taught to remain quiet for as long as possible, then evacuate when the path is clear (ALICE Training Institute). My high school, however, was taught to latch onto the attacker’s arms and legs when they entered the room, dragging them to the floor with our dead weight and wrestling the weapon away from them. This method also included potentially barricading the door using pieces of furniture (filing cabinets, desks, etc.), and using anything and everything available as a weapon (scissors, pens, chairs, etc.).

On one hand, I believe that concealed carry should be allowed in most locations in the United States. However, I also hold that civilians should not be allowed to carry weapons in certain other locations upon their person. For example, I still believe that there is no need for concealed carry weapons in an airport, as the shooter/perpetrator could then board any flight (or even hijack an aircraft) and travel to any location in the world, and may never be caught. In other words, I believe that we need to have more freedom in that respect, but we also need to look out for the safety of the masses as a whole.

However, I do feel that the process of legally acquiring guns could use some work. For example, the qualifications for possessing a concealed carry permit vary state to state, some being more stringent than others. In Ohio, you must be twenty-one, submit to a fingerprint scan, background check, and mental complacency check (Ohio CCW Application Checklist). However, in some states, you can’t get your CCW license if you have ever had a court-issued restraining order (Devi), and I believe that this qualification should be spread to apply in all states of the U.S. Additionally, I personally believe that you should not legally be allowed to carry a gun if you have ever had (or currently have) a mental illness (at least within the prior five years).

I actually have a personal connection related to these two qualifications. My uncle’s ex-wife has attempted suicide twice (her children finding her both times), has been in physical altercations with her two oldest children, has threatened my cousin on more than one occasion, has a history of mental illness in her family, and has had to have a restraining order placed on her by my uncle. It, quite frankly, terrifies me that she can legally own a gun. It makes me afraid for my uncle and cousins’ safety, because I fear that she may attempt suicide again someday. But this time, I’m afraid she’ll try to take my cousins with her.

In conclusion, I believe that we have a decent foundation of gun rights and gun control. I do, however, think that it needs some work. The process of obtaining a firearm needs to be stricter, but firearms could save lives if they were potentially allowed in more public locations. These are both things that could be gradually changed over time, and I believe that they would most likely have a large (positive) effect on the amount of gun violence in the country.


Sarah Marcum


Works Cited

“A Factual Look at Guns in America.” American Gun Facts. Vici Media, n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2014. <http://americangunfacts.com>.

“ALICE Training Institute.” ALICE Training Institute. ALICE Training Institute, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2014. <http://www.alicetraining.com/>.

“Deadliest U.S. Shootings.” The Washington Post. The Washington Post, 23 Sept. 2013. Web. 26 Oct. 2014. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/nation/deadliest-us-shootings/>.

Devi, Sharmila. “Researchers Call for Reform of US Gun Policies.” World Report 380 (2012): 1545. The Lancet. Elsevier Science, 3 Nov. 2012. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. <http://journals.ohiolink.edu/ejc/article.cgi?issn=01406736&issue=v380i9853&article=1545_rcfrougcp>.

Kepple, Kevin A., Janet Loehrke, Megan Hoyer, and Paul Overberg. “Mass Shootings Toll Exceeds 900 In past Seven Years.” USA Today. Gannett, 2 Dec. 2013. Web. 26 Oct. 2014. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/02/21/mass-shootings-domestic-violence-nra/1937041/>.

“Luby’s Shooting.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia, 8 Oct. 2014. Web. 26 Oct. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luby’s_shooting>.

“Ohio CCW Application Checklist.” Buckeye Firearms Association. Midnet Media, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2014. <http://www.buckeyefirearms.org/ohio-ccw-application-checklist>.

Wilson, Walt. “State of Ohio’s Concealed Carry Law.” Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Office. Tuscarawas County, n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2014. <http://sheriff.co.tuscarawas.oh.us/conceal-carry.html>.

Smith, Guy. “Guns and Crime Prevention.” Gun Facts. Gun Facts, n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2014. <http://www.gunfacts.info/gun-control-myths/guns-and-crime-prevention/>.