From an ethical point of view, most people and ethical theories would tend to be in line with the argument that minimal mass shooting and fewer gun-related fatalities would be accepted. The challenge arises when the debate on how to achieve that goal is tabled. The real problem in debating the issue of gun control is uncontrollable rhetoric. At any time or form the subject of gun control, we get highly contested arguments from the opponents and the proponents. In spite of the fact that there are few entities holding the extreme views on gun control, it is virtually impossible to hold an actual conclusive discussion about the matter. The problem with such extremists is that none of them points out in totality that guns should be eliminated or that they can be registered and used in ways that improve protection. Therefore, this paper takes a critical examination on the issues surrounding gun control and rights with evidence-based research data and as slight fallacious logic as possible. This is achieved by exploring issues surrounding gun control such as academic knowledge, active citizenship, and the arguments for and against gun control.
The principles of critical thinking are widely applied in the debate about gun control and ethics because ethics covers moral subjects that are often triggered by self-interest. In addition, when the subject of ethics is mentioned, we tend to think about issues that different entities agree or disagree such as gun rights and control. However, ethics goes beyond opinions. Unquestionably, we all have intuitions about various ethical issues; that is, everything from the freedom of speech through gun control to the privacy issues on the Internet or social media platforms. However, while such opinions and intuitions are often significant and vital to understanding of one selves as good and rational beings, disparity in opinions of such subjects can cause conflict. Consequently, such conflicts can cause complications in our private lives, as well as complicate the environment for teams and institution to operate seamlessly. However, as outlined in the sections that follow, not all opinions regarding gun control are equally supported. Some opinions and arguments are factual mistakes while others are outcomes or faulty reasoning. In other words, arguments are based on premises, which may be true but invalid or valid but untrue. Similar dimension applies to opinions. In spite of the fact that all citizens are similarly worthy of respect, not all ethical perspectives are well founded in legitimate and factual arguments.
Guns make it easier for awful things to happen, but they also make it easier for owners to protect themselves. Active citizenship is a term often used at local level to point to citizens who become actively engaged in the interactions and affairs of their communities tackling problems and bringing or resisting unwanted change (Dalton, 2008). In this context, active citizens are those who develop knowledge, skills and understanding to be able to make informed decisions regarding gun control in their communities with the aim of improving the quality of life. At national level, active citizenships can entail moving from voting to being involved in campaigning lobbying groups. A general set of dispositions and values can be associated with active democratic citizenship. This includes courage to defend a viewpoint, openness, tolerance, respect for democracy, justice and rule of law, as well as the willingness to listen, collaborate and stand up for others (Dalton, 2008). Given that academicians review and build on previous knowledge to generate new knowledge in any field of study, it emerges that there are multiple theoretical perspectives in any contentious topic area. In other words, academic knowledge presents both similar and competitive perspectives in any topic area either local or global. In addition, each perspective has its strengths and weaknesses. To have a clear understanding of the underlying subject, it is important to review various perspectives about gun control.
Carters Gun Control in the United States: A Reference Handbook helps citizens, academics and policymakers to understand a decade of academic research on the contentious subject of gun control (Carter, 2006). The central theme of Cook, Braga & Moores discussion is gun ownership and control. The authors noted that a relevant value dispute and empirical reservations regarding gun control policies in the United States warrants caution in recommending the public or the government. Therefore, it is important for policy makers and elected representatives to explore the alternative gun control efforts in the process of developing more effective in interventions. In Gun Control by Cook, Braga, & Moore, the authors contented that confident solutions about effective intervention can be achieved by experimenting the alternative approaches (Cook, Braga, & Moore, 2011). Gun Rights and Responsibilities by Kevin explores the foundation of the Second Amendment from a historical background of gun rights in England to the rationale behind the Second Amendment and the contentious responsibilities that accompany gun rights. The core of this historical context is the National Firearms Act Gun Control of 1968. Kevin extends his argument by exploring the Brady Handgun violence Prevention Act and other critical court decisions such as McDonald v. City of Chicago and Columbia v. Heller. As noted by Helmke in the cited Cato Institute book forum, gun rights come with responsibilities, and unlike rights that are clear-cut in the Constitution, responsibilities are controversial, hence, critical thinking should take precedence (Cato Institute, 2010). This is in agreement with Burger & Warren (2004), Lio, Melzer, & Reeses (2008) publication that gun rights come with responsibilities that have a moral and constitutional orientation. The constitutionality of gun control in the United States is debatable. At any time, the subject of gun control is mentioned, the Second Amendment is inevitably brought up (Carter, 2006; Kevin, 2012; Lio, Melzer, & Reese, 2008). From this end, most reactions seem to claim that any form of gun control is a violation of this right. However, there are several viewpoints to argue that this is not always the case. There are limitations to gun rights granted in the Second Amendment. Despite the fact that there may be some disputes about the limitations of gun rights and how they are implemented, it is evident that they are aimed at the social wellbeing in aspects such as reducing violence and protecting others (Burger & Warren, 2004). The freedom of speech provided in the First Amendment, comes with limitations for common good. Similarly, Cook, Braga & Moore (2011) stress that gun rights must be limited to ensure that there is sanity in our communities. This analogy implies that it is unconstitutional to ban guns totally, but there are exceptions on people allow possess guns, and the types of guns they are allowed to own. Analogous to the First Amendment, it is clear that these limitations are intended to protect the society and limit violence, and viewpoint that should gain consensus.
The advocates of gun control present numerous arguments to assert their viewpoint that the government to reduce violence should restrict the availability of guns. One of the arguments is that more guns in circulation translate to crime that is more violent. This is in distinction to Lotts (2013) contention that more guns result in fewer crimes. The other pro-gun control argument is that owning a gun increases the owners risk of being killed (Cato Institute, 2010). Carter (2006), and Crooker (2003) asserted that keeping guns out the reach of criminal prevents violent crimes. Lott & Whitleys (2001) rational compliment this by theorizing that removing guns from the hands of criminals reduces crimes. On the contrary, the National Rifle Association criticizes pro-gun control viewpoints and offers alternative suggestions for reducing gun-related crime and violence. Central to NRAs proposals is that guns do not kill, only people kill (Kevin, 2012). Therefore, if more people own and carry guns for protection, there would be less violent crimes. This point of view is in line with the theme of More Guns, Less Crime by Lott. The opponents of gun control also argue that gun control laws are unconstitutional subject to the fact that they violate the Second Amendments right of American citizens to keep and bear arms. Kevin (2012) dissects this argument by asserting that guns come with responsibility, and active citizens should ensure that they carry their constitutional duties by being law-abiding citizens. In other words, just like the restrictions to the freedom of speech enshrined in the First Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms as provides by the Second Amendment must be restricted for a common good. NRA and other gun rights advocates propose alternatives to gun control. For example, it is generally argued among the proponents of gun rights that mandatory and stricter sense for people who commit gun-related crimes will produce significant reductions in crime (Carter, 2006; Cook, Braga, & Moore, 2011; Kevin, 2012). In addition, they contend that such an initiative requires less sacrifice by gun owners than gun control regulations.
The cited multimedia is a book forum that was held in June 17, 2010 in Wintergaden. The forum featured John R. Lott, the author of More Guns, Less Crimes with comments from Paul Helmke, the President, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Jeff Snyder, author and Attorney, Nation of Cowards: Essays on the Ethics of Gun Control (Cato Institute, 2010). Tim Lynch, the director of Cato Institute, Project on Criminal Justice moderated the book forum. The presented book forum from Cato Institute is relevant to this discourse because the institute is a public policy research policy entity dedicated to principles of limited government, individual liberty and free markets. In the 1998 publication of More Gun, Less Crime, Lott drew both praise and criticism about the topic. More than ten years later, the book continued to play a critical role in the continuing debates over gun-control laws. John R. Lotts More Guns, Less Crime relied on comprehensive data analysis of right-to-carry laws and crimes statistics. The book challenges the general perceptions about the connection of crime, guns and violence. In its present edition, Lott considered supplementary 10 years of statistical data including provocative analysis of the impact of gun bans in Washington, DC and Chicago (Cato Institute, 2010; Lott, 2013). Lott (2013) asserted that this additional data compliments his central assertion that more guns mean less crime. As a wide-ranging discussion of guns, public safety and self-defense, the multimedia supplements the academic research on gun control given that it presents multiple perspectives on the topic. The most notable point is that the panelists generally accept that guns should be banned or removed from criminals and people who are likely to commit crime because of mental instability and drug abuse (Cato Institute, 2010). From this end, Paul Helmke noted that information technology played a critical role in carrying out background checks during the process of registering guns. The criminal justice system distributed databases store critical information about American citizens, hence, minimizing the time and cost of archiving, searching and retrieving data. As highlighted by Helmke, competing academic claims adds content to the debate, but the audience and policy makers should critically examine the presented statistical data to create effective policies. For example, he notes that there is no permits for concealed guns but crimes are low. This is in contention to Lotts argument that more guns leads to less crime. However, Helmke asserts that it is critical for people to figure out causation factors when focusing on policy aspects if gun control (Cato Institute, 2010). Jeff Snyder added academic knowledge on the debate by highlighting that there is a correlation between the increase in gun-related violence and the gradual degradation of ethics and morals. This is in line with other publications that pointed out that the surge in mass shootings has nothing to do with guns, which have been accessible in the United States for decades (Crooker, 2003; McClurg, 1992).
Impact of Academic Knowledge on Social and Institutional Elements of Local and Global Communities
Before we discuss the impact of academic knowledge on institutional and social elements of both local and global communities, it is vital to have a clear picture of the aspects of academic knowledge in a broader context. In its organic and fundamental level, academic knowledge is the set of facts or information subsequent to collective academic inquiry and is widely accepted by academics or researchers in educational institutions. Typically, academic knowledge is acquired through books, journals and classroom instructions. On the other hand, informal knowledge is that which ordinary people apply to make sense out of their daily lives. Other forms of knowledge include personal, commonsense and certain forms of religious knowledge. Unlike the informal knowledge, scientific or academic knowledge is used by experts, scientists or scholars to understand the environment around, explain how things operate, and suggest how they can be improved. The outstanding feature is that academic knowledge involves evidence or proof when claims are made. Further, information is detailed and specific in academic knowledge. Considering the most contentious and controversial topic of gun control, academic knowledge would be used to examine the underlying problem, and use either qualitative or quantitative data to formulate accepted policies regarding the issue for the betterment of the society. This implies that besides the political and economic elements of our communities, academic knowledge has a social orientation. Academic knowledge is generated through primary research, in which researchers collect raw data, analyze and reach conclusions. In this end, the researchers interact with other academicians and members of the community through experiments, observations and interviews. Research is critical because it contributes theoretical knowledge on a topic. For example, Lott (2013) aggregated data on guns and crimes for over ten years to contribute on the topic of gun control as presented in his book titled, More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws. Crookers Gun Control and Gun Rights contributes to the understanding that the rift between gun rights and control advocates is not only intellectual or philosophical, but also cultural (Crooker, 2003). Therefore, it is important to include the historical aspect of the issue to critically argue on either side of the debate for a common good. As new evidence emerges from research, theory develops. Similarly, our perspectives on social and institutional elements also change. Given that academicians review and build on previous knowledge to generate new knowledge in any field of study, it emerges that there are multiple theoretical perspectives in any contentious topic area (Carter, 2006; Lott, 2013). In other words, academic knowledge presents both similar and competitive perspectives in any topic area either local or global. In addition, each perspective has its strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, these perspectives entail the local and global aspects of the topic area subject to the fact that people are migrating to the global village. Academic study and policy formulation are complimentary activities. As researchers concentrate in endless pursuit of information and understanding of the prevailing problems, policymakers take action (Lio, Melzer, & Reese., 2008). In other words, the human ecological approach can be used to organize information systematically. In addition, arguments regarding gun control can be supported by empirical results from various disciplines researching crime and criminality. The policy relevance of academic research is critical in local and global communities. Theoretical fragmentation in criminology has contributed to fragmented, shortsighted and ineffective polices related to gun control. Without a broad consideration of the causes of gun related crime, elected representatives and active citizens will continue to transfer the center of gun control efforts back and forth from personal level to community level as the political pendulum swings. This unpredictable approach induces the belief that the problem of gun related crimes is intractable (Burger & Warren, 2004). Such a belief leads to extreme crime control measures, which threaten constitutional rights.
The nature of academic knowledge is also changing in the sense observations, experiments and other methods of data collection are not limited to local institutions. Globalization had increased cultural diversity and minimized the geographical distances between cultures, civilization and communities. For instance, the issue of guns and surrounding them are global issued, and this justifies cross-borders studies meant to develop solutions to the problems regarding guns. For example, researchers in the U.S. and the UK may collaborate and study the relationship between technology and disorder following similar incidences, that is, London riots in 2011 and the most recent Ferguson, Missouri riots. Notably, the riots followed protests after Mark Duggan in London, and Michael Brown in Ferguson were shot dead by police in their locality (BBC, 2011; Lowery, Leonnig, & Berman, 2014). The outcome of such a study would be used to generate theoretical perspectives or solution regarding, crime, gun control and racism. It follows that academic knowledge has a great impact on social and institutional aspects of the local and global communities.
Principles of Active Citizenship
As of this writing, there was no a universally accepted standard model or definition of what an active citizen. However, there is a consensus that refers to the involvement or voluntary contribution of citizens in public affairs. Active citizenship involves everyone at local, national and international levels. Strong and health entities welcome democracy and diversity in values, lifestyles and cultural expression. Accountability, trust and transparency help to maximize participation in the democratic decision-making process. Successful societies depend on collaboration with citizens, unions, businesses, elected representatives and the civil society. To contribute to the development of the nation, citizens should be provided with an opportunity to develop leadership skills, entrepreneurship, fellowship and social responsibility necessary to create a positive change. In other words, active citizenship is for everyone including the government, the media, organizations, unions and businesses (Kevin, 2012). Active citizenship is about how people engage with others and collaborate to create a set of shared values for better society. Therefore, active citizenship is the voluntary capacity of citizens or communities collaborating or working through elected representatives to exercise social, political or economic power in pursuit of common goals. The fabric of the current society was developed by the initiatives of the volunteer movement in community groups, political parties, trade unions, education sport, health and non-governmental organizations. Much of the reforms surrounding the gun control issues today were initiated by voluntary entities. In Cato Institute book forum, Lott noted that various changes in the government and society recognized the apparent need for active participation in social issues such as gun control and gun rights (Cato Institute, 2010).
The Impact of Active Citizenship on Gun Control
Citizenship is a status of an individual recognized by the Constitution, which bestows on him or her rights and duties of citizenship. These include the right to work, live and practice democratic right through voting in the country. Citizens are also subject to constitutional duties such as paying taxes and following laws. Barriers to active citizenship in the future include new work patterns, time, changing values and choices and new leisure patterns. As of this writing, the nature of volunteering or active participation in the community activities was changing drastically. Cynicism and lack of confidence in consultative and democratic structures make individuals feel that they are not given attention (McClurg, 1992). There is a sense of discomfort regarding the ever-changing economic conditions, which has a direct impact on active citizenship and the well-being of the community. It is from these observations that new ways or consultative structures need to be developed to support, attract and recognize the role of active citizens. Individuals should join an activity or a group that is working to improve the community by tackling national or global issues such as gun control and environmental protection. Businesses will continue to support voluntary activities or community projects meant to address the gun control issue. Contemporary businesses will develop more formal corporate social responsibility programs and allow their staff to join various movements with shared national values. The media will continue to promote awareness of social issues and community activities by giving citizens greater local and national coverage. In addition, the advancement in information technology and the improved internet accessibility will enable the media to explore innovative easy of connecting communities on matter of national interest. In the same context, the government is projected to promote active citizenship and collaborate with active citizens. In summary, the institutions of democracy, the state, the markets or the civil society as a whole can operate in a sustainable way through the practice of civic virtues and active participation of citizens in the community.
In many societies around the globe, public dissatisfaction with the government efforts in addressing the rising gun related crime and violence have been bundled with the public tolerance of suppressive strategies to crime control by law enforcement agencies (Lio, Melzer, & Reese., 2008). In extreme scenarios, people resort to self-help measures. The public discontent with the failure of law enforcement agencies to curb the level of crimes has resulted in high public patronage of security organs and establishment of entities that challenge pressurize the functionality of the state. Citizens have devised measures to improve safety in their homes with the introduction of gated streets, CCTV cameras and high-walled fences and burglar alarm systems. In addition, patronage of private security businesses by investors is growing. The improvement of community policing, an approach that is considered as a key development in policing, focuses on decentralization, prevention, community involvement and community responsiveness. The active citizenship aspect of community policing takes various dimensions from community advisory to neighborhood watch to auxiliary police force. Community policing or auxiliary officers are individuals whose training and duties are close to the police. Their activities blur the gap between the police and civilians. With the proliferation of handheld devices and improved internet access, active citizens will improve community policing in the sense that the communication barrier between civilian and the police will be addressed. Proactive arrests linked notification from auxiliary officers in gun-crime hot spots will substantially reduce gun crimes. With the growing popularity of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Google Hangouts, it is projected that more citizens will participate in marches, protests or peacefully demonstrations whenever word is spread on the viral social media platforms. This is in line with the observation that more and more people are moving to the global village characterized by globalization.
Academic research and policy formulation regarding gun control and crimes are complimentary activities. As researchers concentrate in an endless pursuit of information and understanding of the prevailing problems, policymakers take action. It is clearly in the interest of academics, average citizen and policy makers to reduce gun related violence in the United States. Active citizenship is a form or literacy in the sense that it involves critical thinking, developing knowledge, understanding, coming in touch with the activities of the community. Active citizens are not necessarily good citizens in the sense that are bound by rule and behave in a certain way. For instance, an active citizen may challenge the existing rules and structures although they should stay within the general bound of democratic processes and shun away from violence. A heated debate emanates between those who believe in strictly controlling guns and those oppose gun regulation. On one dimension, some advocates of gun control wish to see the government regulate gun manufacturers, sellers and owners to a situation that no citizens carry guns. The gun control advocates want to limit the availability and accessibility to guns. On the other hand, the National Rights Association (NRA) as an advocate of gun rights asserts that the provisions of the Second Amendment guarantee each American citizen a right to own arms. As of consequence, the NRA opposes all attempts to regulate the manufacture, distribution and sale of guns in the United States. Gun right lobbyists favor tough rules and sentence for criminals who use guns. In summary, taking guns away from criminals and people likely to commit a crime is a promising approach. Active citizenship is highly recommended because its components such as community are policing and proactive arrest will substantially reduce crimes.