PIAC Gun Control Series: Reasons for Owning a Gun

By:  PIAC Editorial Board

Within this series, PIAC discussed the impact of guns on American life.  We have analyzed the variety of types of shooting victims, and the research still needed.  We have busted the myths around gun control.  Now, we explore the legitimate reasons for gun ownership.

Obviously, gun ownership is a divisive topic. To those who do not own guns, the reasoning behind ownership is a strange fog that obscures any chance of understanding the underlying beliefs.  Due to the emotional impact, mistrust, and misinformation surrounding guns, there is little opportunity to see through the fog. This post is dedicated to clearing the fog. Before we begin, bear in mind, these are legitimate reasons. You don’t have to like them (for example, hunting) to acknowledge that these reasons are permitted.

Protection

Without a doubt, people who own guns say they own them for protection. A recent Pew Research Center Study found that two thirds of gun owners purchased their guns to protect themselves.[1] But how legitimate is that argument?

In 2016, the National Sheriffs’ Association found that the average police response to an emergency call was 18 minutes.[2]  Response times can vary depending on many factors, but location is key. In fact, rural areas can face wait time double that of suburban and urban areas.[3]  In some cases, this number can reach 30 minutes.[4] Even in cities, response times can be alarmingly slow.[5]  Outdated 911 systems exacerbate the problem.[6]  Any number of statistics can illuminate why gun owners can feel that outside help will not come in time to keep them safe.

To illustrate the problems faced by rural households, a 2015 study found that EMS response times averaged seven minutes.[7] But, when the study controlled for rural households, the response time doubled to 14 minutes. Those same safety concerns can apply to women in fear of sexual crimes or domestic abuse.[8]  In 2016, over 95,000 rapes happened in the U.S. alone.[9]  More than 38 million women have experienced physical violence from an intimate partner.[10]  Both domestic abuse[11] and sexual crimes[12] have drastic physical and psychological effects.  While the numbers do not support guns helping, the desire to be protected from such common and disastrous threats is certainly reasonable.[13]

Hunting

Another reason raised in favor of gun ownership is hunting. Regardless of how you might personally feel about hunting, if it is lawful, permitted, and done safely – hunting is a legitimate reason to own a gun. Moreover, consider that hunting fulfills an important role in preventing animal overpopulation and to combat invasive species.

Consider, without hunting the white-tail deer and other animals would overrun their environment and cause an ecological disaster.[14]  In fact, as hunters dwindle, animal populations are exploding.[15]  There are a wide range of problems that arise when animals overpopulate their environment, including animal starvation and ecosystem imbalance.[16]

Additionally, combatting invasive species is one of the most important battles currently being fought that is almost never discussed. Invasive species from the boa constrictor in Florida[17] and the Asian carp[18] in the Mississippi River. Invasive species crowd out local flora and fauna, causing immeasurable ecological damage.

It can be argued that hunting doesn’t just help with overpopulation and invasive species control: it also teaches many important lessons about safety and responsibility. There is undeniable value in parents spending time with their children and making sure they understand the gravity of gun ownership and use. Many adults who hunt credit the time they spent with their parents learning how to use guns with making them responsible and careful people.

Further, many hunters consider themselves conservationists. Almost as a byproduct of the hunt, these men and women spend significant amounts of time in the wilderness. This often leads them to appreciate and respect the environment, both on a local and global level. As previously mentioned, sometimes invasive species can do considerable damage to local environments. Perhaps because they witness such things firsthand, hunters frequently to environmental organizations. And of course, fees collected from licensing and park permits generally go to improve the environment where they are purchased.[19]

Personal Freedom

The right to own a gun is something that many gun owners identify as essential, and it is tied closely to their understanding of freedom.[20] This right, embedded in the Bill of Rights, is unique in the world. In fact, only two other countries protect individual gun ownership in their constitutions: Mexico and Guatemala.[21] When viewed through this lens, it is understandable that many gun owners see the right to own a gun as inextricably linked to their freedom, even to their very identity as an American.

Often, when the 2nd Amendment is raised, advocates often cite the need to make a stand against tyrannical governments.  Opponents frequently roll their eyes at this argument, recognized the government excessively large military[22] and the fact that the 2nd Amendment was designed to give states the rights to form militias.[23]  The truth, it turns out is that armed gunmen have still shown the ability to stand up to government “tyranny,”[24] as was seen with the Nevada ranchers.[25]  While other factors may be involved,[26] this case demonstrate that armed protestors may still be able to stand up to the government within limits.

Although guns, even when used for self-defense, are more likely to harm innocents,[27] there are reasons in which there is some sense to gun ownership.  Whether it be for protection, freedom, beneficial hunting, or to take a stand, there are some valid points beneath the fog.  Much as gun control proponents wish to be heard by their opponents, gun advocates share the desire.  Any time strong control is proposed, it must be done with an understanding of these considerations.

[1] Pew Research Center

[2] https://www.sheriffs.org/content/embracing-technology-decrease-law-enforcement-response-time

[3] https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/rural-wait-times-for-ems-more-than-twice-that-for-urban-suburban-areas/447586/

[4] https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/rural-wait-times-for-ems-more-than-twice-that-for-urban-suburban-areas/447586/

[5] https://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2015/12/police-response-times

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-XlyB_QQYs

[7] https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/response-time-emergency-medical-services/

[8] https://www.gq.com/story/why-women-own-guns

[9] https://www.statista.com/statistics/191137/reported-forcible-rape-cases-in-the-usa-since-1990/

[10] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/23/domestic-violence-statistics_n_5959776.html

[11] http://www.joyfulheartfoundation.org/learn/domestic-violence/effects-domestic-violence

[12] http://www.joyfulheartfoundation.org/learn/sexual-assault-rape/effects-sexual-assault-and-rape

[13] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/men-murder-women-guns_us_57e14c0ce4b08cb14097f8b4

[14] http://www.newsweek.com/hunting-game-animals-wildlife-management-wild-boars-spanish-619229

[15] https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2015/01/31/lifestyle/call-arms-hunters-dwindle-animal-numbers-explode/#.WsWV-YjwY2w

[16] https://sciencing.com/effects-animal-overpopulation-8249633.html

[17] https://www.fort.usgs.gov/sites/giant-constrictor-snakes-florida-sizeable-research-challenge/giant-constrictor-snakes-florida

[18] https://www.nps.gov/miss/learn/nature/ascarpover.htm

[19] https://sciencing.com/hunting-affect-environment-11369486.html

[20] PRC, 74% say the right is essential

[21] http://www.businessinsider.com/2nd-amendment-countries-constitutional-right-bear-arms-2017-10

[22] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/04/the-irony-of-cliven-bundys-unconstitutional-stand/360587/

[23] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/quora/what-the-founding-fathers_b_10479314.html

[24] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/04/the-irony-of-cliven-bundys-unconstitutional-stand/360587/

[25] https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/cattle-battle-armed-protesters-join-fight-over-nevada-ranch-n79206

[26] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/30/dakota-access-pipeline-protest-north-dakota-oregon-militia-native-americans

[27] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/06/19/guns-in-america-for-every-criminal-killed-in-self-defense-34-innocent-people-die/?utm_term=.20454d16e258

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