Gun rights activists in Texas, where it’s legal to carry guns openly in most public places

Johnny Hanson/©Houston Chronicle

Does the U.S. Need Tougher Gun-Control Laws?

Last month, a gunman opened fire in the baggage claim of the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The shooter was later identified as an Army veteran who had sought help for mental illness. He killed five people.

The deadly shooting reignited a long-standing debate about firearms in the United States. The U.S. has more guns—and gun deaths—than any other developed country. 

As firearms have become more powerful and mass shootings fill the news, arguments over gun laws have grown more heated.

Some people say that we need stricter laws to limit the kinds of guns that are legal to own and make it harder for criminals to get weapons. These kinds of restrictions are known as gun control

Opponents of such measures say that most gun-control laws violate the “right to bear arms” that the Framers laid out in the Second Amendment to the Constitution. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that this amendment protects a  person’s right to keep a loaded firearm for self-defense.  

Congress hasn’t passed major gun-control legislation in two decades. President Donald Trump has said he would oppose any new gun-control measures. He favors expanding gun owners’ rights.

Does the U.S. need tougher gun-control laws? Two experts weigh in.

YES

We lose more than 36,000 Americans to gun violence every year in this country. That’s an average of 99 gun deaths a day. These tragedies range from accidents and suicides to horrific mass shootings like the one at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, last June.   

No other democracy in the world experiences this level of gun violence. That’s because other free nations have tough gun laws to deal with this problem. 

It’s estimated that Americans own more than 300 million guns. Guns certainly do not cause crime, but the fact that they are so easily available does make crimes more deadly. Simply put, when more people have guns, the odds go up that those guns will be used. 

We lose more than 36,000 Americans to gun violence every year.

We’re all tired of reading stories about shooters who passed background checks and legally purchased firearms despite histories of violent behavior, severe mental illness, and substance abuse. And that’s when background checks are required. A new survey found that 22 percent of gun owners recently bought a firearm through a private sale. Such sales do not require a background check and are legal in more than 30 states. That gives dangerous people a free pass to arm themselves.

We need tougher gun laws across the board, but a logical place to start is with the enactment of a federal law requiring background checks on all gun sales. Those checks should also be strengthened to block all those with a history of violence. 

The United States is known for accomplishing extraordinary things. Never let anyone tell you that we can’t save the lives we’re losing to gun violence. We can, and we must.

—Ladd Everitt
Director, One Pulse for America (a gun violence prevention group)

NO

On July 24, 2014, a doctor used his concealed handgun to disable a gunman who had begun firing in a hospital in Darby, Pennsylvania. One hospital worker had been killed. Police said that if the doctor had not been armed, many more innocent people would have died.  

As for the gunman, not only did he ignore the hospital’s “no weapons” policy, he had both a mental and a criminal record that disqualified him from possessing firearms under federal law. 

And that is precisely the problem: Gun control has consistently failed to keep bad guys from getting firearms. Gun-control advocates claim that we just need tougher laws. But with thousands of pages of failed gun laws already on the books, it’s highly unrealistic to think that enacting more restrictions will work any better.  

People are using guns to save a life more often than to take a life.

In 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined dozens of gun and ammunition bans, waiting periods, and background checks. After analyzing all these restrictions, the CDC concluded that the “evidence was insufficient to determine the effectiveness of any of these [gun-control] laws.” 

The CDC examined the issue again in 2013 and reported that there are between 500,000 and 

3 million annual cases of guns being used for self-defense. This means that people are using guns to save a life 16 to 100 times more often than to take a life.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled on the “right to keep and bear arms,” which is protected by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. The Court correctly noted that this right “belongs to all Americans.” We should reject additional restrictions on this important right.

—Erich Pratt
Executive Director, Gun Owners of America

CORE QUESTION: What evidence does each writer use to support his claim? Who do you think makes the stronger argument? Why?

What do you think?
Does the U.S. need tougher gun-control laws?
Please make a selection. Sorry! You have reached the vote limit of 100 votes. Sorry! You have reached the vote limit of 500 votes.
Thank you for voting!
Voting has ended. See final results below.
Results
What does your class think?
Does the U.S. need tougher gun-control laws?
Sorry, please make sure that the total number of votes is between 1-40. Sorry! You have reached the vote limit of 200 votes. Please vote for at least one
Thank you for voting!
Voting has ended. See final results below.
Results
Back to top
Read Aloud