The shooting and mass carnage at Umpqua Community College, in rural Oregon, has once again opened the debate in the United States on the role of weapons and if citizens should be allowed to carry personal arms, such as handguns. There is no question that the United States is divided on the issue of gun control. The issue stems from the 2nd Amendment to the US constitution. The amendment reads as follows: A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. In reality no one knows exactly what this sentence means. There are those who believe that its original intention was to permit state governments to maintain militias. Others have interpreted it to mean that it permits the individual citizen the right to own a gun. Both interpretations can be debated. What has become clear is that the right to posses a gun control speaks to the heart of the domestic safety and security issues in the United States.
For those who believe that the US needs a national policy of gun control, they point to the fact that guns have one purpose and one purpose alone, the taking of a life, be that the life of an animal or other human being. The extreme argument goes that no one needs a gun and that allowing free access to guns only permits deranged people to posses the instrument through which they can harm or murder innocent victims. Gun control advocates also point to the fact that in heated arguments, having easy access to a gun may result in a non-reversible tragedy and that it is much easer to take the life of another human being with a gun rather than with other weapons such as a knife.
For those who oppose gun control, they point out that the criminalization of guns will not prevent them but only assure that law-abiding citizens are now helpless. They note that schools, gun free zones, are often targeted and wonder if deranged minds or criminals know that schools are open targets. They also point to the fact that US cities that have gun control such as Chicago, or Washington, DC have a much higher murder rate despite (or because of) their tight gun control laws. They also point to the fact that the media picks and chooses which incidents become newsworthy based on political rather than moral or scientific needs.
Many look to the Australian model. Australia instituted total gun control in the late 1990s. There is no doubt that both murder by guns and suicide by guns rates fell. On the other hand advocates tend not to mention that the Australian buy-back program for guns was mandatory.
I personally have vacillated. On the other hand, it is clear that fewer guns ought to make a city safer. On the other hand, a single woman (or man) may feel s/he needs protection especially in rural areas where the police are few and far between. Part of the problem then is that in such a large and diverse country as the US simple answers tend to reflect simple minds arguments can be made for both sides and which way the US will go may take a long time to decide.