Handguns can be easily concealed, so they are the weapon of choice for people who choose to use them for self-defense. Unfortunately, they are also the weapon of choice for criminals. Since handguns are easy for criminals to steal, handguns are readily available on the black market; this makes handguns an attractive choice for criminals. The majority of crimes involving firearms are committed with the use of a handgun; this is a serious problem in America today. Although most would agree that something must be done, no one seems to have the answer at this point. Some gun control supporters believe that completely banning handguns is the best way to protect citizens. However, banning handguns fails to protect people because the laws are ineffective, banning handguns prevents people from an effective means of self-defense, and the laws do not solve the real problem, which is the gun owner.
Simply banning handguns all together is ineffective, and that is the first reason why banning handguns is not an effective way to protect citizens. There are several cities that have employed handgun bans in the past, and the results were not promising. On September 24, 1976, Washington, D.C. placed a ban on all handguns; the ban was later overturned on June 26, 2008. Under the regulations of this law, no one other than a police officer was permitted to own a handgun. Authors Agresti and Smith (2010) state that “during the years in which the D.C. handgun ban and trigger lock law were in effect, the Washington, D.C. murder rate averaged 73% higher than it was at the outset of the law, while the U.S. murder rate averaged 11% lower.” Clearly, banning handguns in D.C. did not reduce the amount of murders and crimes that were committed, and the number of murders actually increased drastically. Gun control supporters would argue this information by saying that the statistics are misleading, and that it is necessary to consider other factors such as the changing of times as well as the rise of drug and gang violence. They may have a point, but as Washington, D.C.’s murder rate increased by 73%, the rest of the United States as a whole experienced an 11% decrease in murders (Agresti & Smith, 2010). This is difficult for them to explain. A second illustration of the ineffectiveness of banning handguns is that of Chicago, Illinois. In 1982, Chicago passed a ban on all handguns, except for those that were pre-registered with the police department prior to the ban. Author David Peterson (2010) describes the situation in Chicago, during the ban:
The percentage of murders committed with handguns in Chicago varied between roughly 40 percent and 55 percent each year during the pre-ban period of 1965-1981. In recent years, while the handgun ban was in place, the percentage committed with handguns has consistently been 70 percent or more.
In regards to the Chicago case, Agresti and Smith (2010) state that “in 2005, 96% of the firearm murder victims were killed with handguns.”Chicago overturned this law in June of 2010. Once again we see how ineffective handgun bans are. These laws made it illegal to own handguns, but that did not stop murders from happening nor did it protect people in any way.
Handgun bans fail to protect people, and in fact, may put people in greater danger because they prevent people from using handguns as an effective means of self-defense. When an individual is responsible and trained properly, handguns are easily the most effective form of self-defense, and a handgun ban takes this option away from them. John Stossel (2008), who is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, as well as a journalist and reporter for Fox News Channel, explains that laws against guns are really laws against self-defense, and mandatory gun-free zones are in actuality free crime zones. Handgun bans will not stop criminals from acquiring guns; they will, however, prevent a law abiding citizen from buying a gun for self-defense. While he may be a little extreme in stating that laws against guns are laws against self-defense, he does make a good point. Banning handguns leaves citizens with less self-defense options. When people are stripped of the most effective form of self-defense, they are vulnerable, and this is a serious problem. Stossel (2008) is right about gun bans preventing law abiding citizens from using guns in self-defense, and this gives the advantage to the criminal. A law abiding citizen will not break the law and own a handgun if they are banned, but a criminal will. If an individual desires to rob a bank or murder someone, he or she is not going to be worried about breaking a gun ordinance. Handgun bans remove an extremely valuable self-defense method from citizens, which leaves them even more vulnerable. It is possible that in banning handguns we are missing the real point.
Another reason why handgun bans fail to protect people is because they do not deal with the real issue. The real issue behind handgun crimes and violence is not the handgun itself, but rather the owner of the gun. According to surveys, as of 2010, there were roughly 300 million firearms owned by citizens in the United States. Of those 300 million, approximately 100 million were handguns, and 67% of those gun owners said they had guns for self- defense, 66% said they used their guns for hunting, and 41% for target shooting (Agresti & Smith, 2010). During the year 2008, approximately 436,000 violent crimes were committed by an assailant who was visibly carrying a gun (Agresti & Smith, 2010). A study conducted during the year 2000 showed that U.S. citizens use guns to defend themselves roughly 989,983 times a year (Agresti & Smith, 2010). These statistics show several different uses for guns, and that guns can be used for negative or positive reasons. It is the operator of the handgun who determines whether it will be used as recreation, such as target shooting and hunting or as a murder weapon or as self-defense. It is sad to see the way society views handguns as an awful epidemic, but laws banning handguns are missing the point. Laws cannot make the decision of how the handgun will be used for the owner of a handgun. It still comes down to the person holding the gun, and that is something a ban cannot change.
Most people understand that something is wrong, and that turning a blind eye to the violence involving handguns is not the answer, but neither is banning them. Handgun bans are ineffective, they prevent a citizen from the most effective means of self- defense, and they do not solve the real problem, which is the person who owns the gun. It comes down to responsibility. Each person who chooses to own a handgun must be personally responsible for the ways the gun is used. The government is responsible to protect its citizens; no one has the perfect answer for the handgun violence problem, but the one certain thing is that banning handguns is not the answer.