#14. Writing an Academic Essay (Part 6)
by Jayna Tokie Tanaka
The following is the completed essay described in the previous columns. In the U.S. this kind of essay is called a “term paper” when a university instructor requires a short research paper for a class. I believe my Japanese students would call it a “report.” In any case, writing these essays is an essential part of the education of undergraduate students in both the U.S. and Japan.
Guns, the Scourge of the United States
In the past few days, I have read not just one but two newspaper articles about two-year old children who have killed one-year old children in two different states in the United States. Although the fact that both incidents involved children of the same age may be unusual, the killing of children by other children is not unusual in the U.S. In fact, death by guns whether by suicide, murder, or accident is not unusual in most states. This is caused by Americans’ claim to have the right to own firearms under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. The federal system allows each state to regulate guns in its own way. This has resulted in more guns privately owned than in any other country in the world. This also means that the number of those killed and injured by these weapons is so large that it would be difficult to imagine by those who live in Japan, where that number is very close to zero. I believe that the private ownership of guns has become the scourge of the United States.
First of all, the various governments in the United States have so many different laws that it has become almost impossible to control the ownership of guns by private individuals. Below the federal level, there are state, county, and city governments, all of which may have different laws. Taking all of these laws into consideration, various organizations have rated states according to the stringency of their gun laws. Guns & Ammo is an online magazine published by the Outdoor Sportsman group that wants less control of privately owned firearms. According to the magazine, the states with the most lenient gun laws are Arizona, Alaska, Utah, and Kentucky, in that order. The states with the strictest laws are New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and California.(i) Another group, one that wants more rigorous gun laws, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has similar lists. The most lenient states are Kansas, Mississippi, Wyoming, Arizona, and Alaska, while the strictest are California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, and Massachusetts.(ii) Examples of these laws include laws on “open carry” and “assault weapons.” Open carry means that people can carry guns on their bodies where anyone can see them. In Arizona, the law allows this, while it is prohibited in California. Assault weapons are semi-automatic firearms, which fire a bullet each time the trigger is pulled. One “magazine,” the case which holds the bullets in a weapon may have from five to 30 bullets, depending on the size of the weapon. In Arizona, it is possible to buy and own these weapons, but their sale and ownership are prohibited in California. Although it has been shown that there is a relationship between strict gun laws and low death rates by guns, this does not seem to convince some states to change their gun laws. The lowest rates of gun-related deaths are in Hawaii, Maine, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. The death rate in Hawaii is 2.5 deaths per 100,000 people. The highest rate is 19.8 deaths per 100,000 people in Arizona, the state where it is easiest to own guns. Other states with high death rates are Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.(iii) Because the states of the United States (except Alaska and Hawaii) are contiguous, it is, of course, possible to carry guns across state borders without being stopped. It is even legal to pack these weapons in checked-in luggage on airplanes.
The second reason I believe guns have become a scourge is the number of firearms in private hands in the United States. Although the actual number is disputed because of the way guns are sold (over the Internet, at gun “fairs”), most sources say that there are about 300 million pieces of firearms in the U.S. The Washington Post has an estimate of 357 million weapons, taking into account various means of purchase, which is more than the total 317 million population of the U.S.(iv) According to CNN, the U.S. has two times the number of guns per person than the next country on the list, Yemen. The countries which follow on this list are Switzerland (where each male citizen must perform military duty and can keep his gun), Finland, Serbia, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.(v) The National Public Radio (a non-profit radio station in the U.S.) reports that 1 in 3 households have guns, and although this number is decreasing, the number of guns has increased, which means that each household has more guns. The average number of guns for each gun-owning household is 8. Rural states have higher gun ownership, and urban states have less. In Delaware and Rhode Island, only 6% of households own guns, while in Arkansas, West Virginia, and Wyoming, about 50% do. In addition to this, the frightening fact is that the production of guns is increasing. In 2013, gun makers produced 10.3 million guns, which was twice the number in 2009.(vi)
This huge number of guns has led to an unbelievable number of incidents in which guns have been used to kill and injure. The most shocking number is the number of mass shootings (in which four or more people were involved) which occurred in 2015. According to BBC News, there were 372 mass shooting in that year. 475 people were killed and 1,870 were wounded in these shootings.(vii) The second shocking fact is that the number of people killed by guns was almost the same as those killed by cars in 2013. More than 30,000 people were killed by guns and cars, respectively. These people died because 21,175 people successfully committed suicide and 11,208 people were successfully murdered. The other 505 deaths occurred in accidents involving guns.(viii)
In conclusion, the writer hopes that readers now understand why guns are creating havoc in the United States. The laws regulating guns vary from state to state, complicating efforts to control them. The actual number of guns in private hands is the highest in the world, making any area of the U.S. a very dangerous place. The mayhem caused by these guns is almost unbelievable because guns not only kill; they can also maim people for life. It seems to me that the only way to stop this is to restrict the use of firearms to the military, the police, and hunters as is done in many countries. However, I do not think this will happen in the near future.
i Wood, Keith. “Best States for Gun Owners 2015.” Guns and Ammo. 21 July 2015. Web.
ii Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence/Because Smart Gun Laws Save Lives. “2016 Gun Law State Scorecard.”
iii Isenstein, Libby. “The States With The Most Gun Laws See The Fewest Gun-Related Deaths.” The Atlantic. 28
August 2015. Web.
iv Ingraham, Christopher. “American gun ownership drops to lowest in nearly 40 years.” The Washington Post. 29
June 2016. Web.
v Sanchez, Ray. “Death and guns in the USA: The story in six graphs.” CNN News. 4 October 2015. Web.
vi Horsley, Scott. “Guns In America, By The Numbers.” NPR. 5 January 2016. Web.
vii BBC News. “Guns in the US: The statistics behind the violence.” 5 January 2016. Web.
viii Ingraham, Christopher. “This is what one year of gun deaths in America looks like.” The Washington Post. 2
October 2015. Web.
Jayna Tokie Tanaka（ジェイナ・トキエ・タナカ）