Advanced Essay #4 The Cause of Gun Violence

While writing this piece, I started off on Militarization. From militarization, I found some sources and tried to create a pro-militarization argument, but it kept getting back to guns. After having a conference with Mr. Block, I narrowed my focus from the general militarization to Police Militarization, and guns v. violence in America. This was also stopping me from finishing the piece; and I submitted the annotated bibliography late. I needed a resolution. I found that mental health was an important aspect in the gun rights argument, so with Mr. Block's advice, I made an argument that more effort should be put toward mental health institutions to prevent crime. I kept argument of arming police forces because I found that it ties into my essay very well. I really enjoyed writing this piece, and hope you enjoy reading it just as much! Please note that the Essential Question I used was the following: "In what different ways is militarism engrained in our society?"

The Cause of Gun Violence

In this modern age, there is much discussion on the place of weapons in society. Some argue that the display and usage of powerful weapons may be detrimental, due to appearance of these weapons in the hands of police officers, and civilians alike. It is reflected in many studies that the presence, or usage of civilian firearms do not have a direct correlation to increased violence, sometimes even leading to reduced violence. Even in the most restricted states, many crimes occur with legally-bought firearms. When examining these cases more deeply, a trend is revealed: mentally-ill perpetrators. In order to better protect against these attacks, arming police forces with military weaponry and vehicles would only benefit society. While some may argue that gun bans or such are beneficial, these proposals would only limit the Second Amendment, while crime continues. The only true way for society to reduce crime would be to improve access to treatment for mentally-ill individuals, and improve the armament of our police forces.
First, allowing law-abiding citizens to own and use firearms does not create violence. The areas where there are more guns may even have less rates of crime and violence. In a Harvard University study, the following data were shown “...violent crime did not increase with increased gun ownership nor did it decline in periods in which gun ownership was lower.” This quote clearly shows that guns, in have not caused an increase or decrease in violence. The key words “violent crime did not increase with increased gun ownership” make the point that areas with higher gun ownership typically do not have more violence than those with lower gun ownership. In fact, areas with more restrictive policies toward gun ownership seem to have more violence. This is shown by data from research in European countries. In Russia, gun ownership is at a rate of 4000 guns per 100,000 people. The number of murders in Russia are 20.54 per 100,000 people. While these numbers may seem small, this is very large compared to, say Macedonia. 16,000 individuals in Macedonia, out of 100,000, own guns. The murder rate in Macedonia 2.31 per 100,000 people. This data shows that a more militarized society, one with more weapons, is safer than one with less weapons. When using both statements in conjunction, one can come to the realization that more guns may actually equal less crime.
After a heist in North Hollywood, California, there has been an influx of military-grade weapons to the police forces. On February 28, 1997, when police responded to the terror attacks, they were met with a group of two heavily armed criminals. It is now know that “They were dressed in black coveralls and ski masks. They were bulked up by 40 pounds of body armor and carried select-fire Kalashnikov rifles, handguns, an HK-91, and fully auto AR-15.” This type of armament was not expected by police, who were armed with standard issue, 9mm caliber pistols and light Kevlar vests. It is important to note that select-fire means that a weapon can fire in both semi- and fully- automatic. This is critical because all firearms sold to civilians are limited to semi-automatic only, meaning that they had been converted by the attackers.
When the police responded, they were unable to contain the threat, and twelve officers and eight civilians were wounded by the robbers. As quoted “At that time, patrol cops' basic armament consisted of semi-automatic pistols and 12-gauge shotguns. While this wasn't the first time patrol officers had been outgunned by professional criminals, patrol officers had never before been engaged in such a protracted, high-intensity firefight.” This further makes it clear that militarization (usage of military gear) of the police forces would have been beneficial in stopping the attackers. When considering the proposed, military-grade weapons that would have been given to the police, the first weapon-system that comes to mind is the AR-15, or M16 variant. This is a 5.56mm rifle platform that can defeat body armor when paired with the correct ammunition. In order to defeat the bank robbers, police actually used AR15 rifles from a nearby gun store, eventually containing the threat. When we consider the benefits of having such a weapon system, it is clear that militarization allows society to be further protected by the police, and gives the police an ability to prevent attacks from happening.
Another example of this is the San Bernardino terrorist attacks that occurred recently. The police response was only four minutes, but 14 civilians were killed. Interestingly, the terrorists were armed with semi-automatic AR-15 rifles, similar to what the North Hollywood shooters used. Over 380 rounds were fired by police, though only 76 were fired by the shooters. The whole ordeal lasted four hours. The terrorists illegally acquired the guns from their neighbor, and modified them. There is a magazine capacity restriction in California, though the terrorists used illegal high capacity ones. They attempted to modify one rifle to fully automatic, and were found with dozens of IED’s and bomb-making materials. They were revealed to have radical beliefs, even aligning with those of mentally ill. Although the terrorists were able to inflict much harm, this was before police had arrived. When forces responded, equipped with military gear, they were quickly able to contain the threat. If the police hadn’t been armed with such weapons, a North Hollywood scenario could have repeated.
Instead of focusing political goals, and funding on restricting the right of the Second Amendment, there should be a focus on mental health in society. In almost all cases, a shooter is often one with a condition that allows them to commit these acts of violence. A case study that explains this is that of Isla Vista, in California. Elliot Rodger shot and stabbed those near the University of California campus, and ended up murdering six. Two key factors to assess in this situation are: 1) gun restrictions, and 2) Affected public health state. This state is defined as the ability for an individual with a mental illness to receive treatment, and prolonged administration of drugs to those with such illness.
California is a state with very restrictive gun legislation. Specific types of firearms restricted include semi-automatic rifles with ‘military-style’ features, including flash hiders, high capacity magazines, and pistol-grips among other things. This is stated California codes §12280, §12285, and §32310 respectively. In order to assess the rating of California from the anti-gun perspective, it received first place, as least friendly to criminals. Along with specific restrictions presented in the codes, it is shown that California is indeed a very restricted state in terms of gun laws. Along with this, California has an ‘F’ rating for affected public health rate. This is defined as a lack of inpatient commitment to treatment, lack of outpatient commitment to treatment, availability of emergency evaluation, and finally, use of laws to prevent crime. As quoted from the Treatment Advocacy Center, “17 states earned a cumulative grade of “D” or “F” for the quality of their laws.” This quote clarifies that the general affected-public health state is low in California, yet also in the rest of the United States.
When one examines this evidence, there is a clear correlation. In this case, California has a very restrictive gun policy, yet a very poor rating for affected-public health rate. Under California's Code Section 5150, as quoted “…a person, as a result of a mental health disorder, [who] is a danger to others, or to himself or herself [a professional may take] the person into custody for a period of up to 72 hours for assessment, evaluation, and crisis intervention, or placement for evaluation and treatment in a facility.” For this law to be applicable to an individual, they must be “a danger to others or to himself.” When determining if Rodgers was a threat, of aforementioned type, they recorded polite and courteous behavior, thus not regarding him as a threat. This behavior prevented police from either searching him for weapons, or detaining him. Due to the prevention of police actions by the law in California, Rodgers was able to open fire on a campus and murder six people.
When looking more detailed at Rodgers, it is shown that the restrictive gun laws did not prevent him from committing murder. Rodgers had passed the Federal Background Check, many other requirements, and legally purchased 3 firearms. In a state with such restrictive laws, it seems incredible that such an act could have occurred. This elucidates the fact that if society puts efforts into restricting firearms, there will generally be no benefit. Instead of preventing crime, millions of law abiding citizens would be restricted their Second Amendment right to self-defense, and yet: mentally ill individuals could still commit acts of terror. This shows that a focus on mental health would be a way to prevent shooting, and crime in general.
Therefore, while some may argue that weapons are detrimental to society, it is clearly not so. In fact, it is shown in countless studies that firearms do not cause violence. Although some may point to appearance of our police forces as an argument, this military gear ensures safety. In many gun-restricted states, crimes occur with firearms, and places where many own firearms tend to have less violence. The perpetrators of mass shootings, and crime in general tend to be mentally-ill. These individuals commit violence even though firearms are heavily regulated. The lack of mental health treatment in these cases is shown to be a direct cause of violence. The only correct way for civilization to reduce crime would be to improve access to treatment for mentally-ill individuals, and to improve the armament of our police forces.

Works Cited

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