Face Off: Should handguns be banned in America?

Each week, two of our teenagers will debate a hot topic. This week ...


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Helen Wong Ling-oi, 13, St Stephen's Girls' College (Affirmative)

Deadly gun incidents are common in the United States. But the recent spate of mass shootings has shocked the country and the world. Almost every day, people are dying because of Americans' easy access to firearms. Usually the killing is well-planned, but in one recent case, a toddler left alone in his parents' car at a petrol station found a gun on the front seat and shot himself in the face. According to momlogic.com, more than 500 children die annually from similar accidents.

American citizens' right to carry arms results in an enormous loss of life, and grief and suffering for survivors and loved ones of victims. US police say more than 70 per cent of murders there are caused by handguns. These weapons should be outlawed to prevent hundreds of unnecessary deaths. Only the police should carry handguns.

The majority of murder victims know their killer. Some people kill out of jealousy, some kill out of hatred. And children have died while playing with guns.

According to the BBC, the crime rate in the US has almost doubled in recent years, and is predicted to rise amid economic gloom and high unemployment. People unhappy with their life and the government could try to release their frustration with guns in public places and schools. There have been dozens of school shootings in the US over the past few years. In the most recent tragedy, 26 people - mostly children - were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut. Such shootings rarely happen in countries where handguns are banned.

America's "gun culture" is also making its children immune to violence. There is a real danger that when they grow up, they'll try to solve problems by using guns which are easily available.

"Many mass shootings are motivated by revenge or envy," says American Tony Farrenkopf, who has created psychological profiles of mass shooters. "That's why many take place at a school or a workplace, where shooters felt rejected. These shootings are likely to have negative effects on children's mental wellbeing."

The facts show clearly that a complete ban on handguns is logical - and urgent. In America, violence is out of control. Guns are the major cause. They should all be banned - the sooner, the better.

Tara Lee Bo-yi, 17, Diocesan Girls' School (Negative)

According to the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed". This allows Americans to protect themselves during dangerous situations such as burglaries. This is especially important for those who live in rural areas where police take a long time to arrive at the scene of a crime.

Also, America is a democratic country. If a majority of people believe that they have a right to carry firearms, then so be it. It's the government's duty to safeguard that right, and people are unlikely to give it up easily.

A handgun ban is not feasible. According to the Small Arms Survey published in 2011, the total number of guns held by US citizens is estimated at 270 million. So, even if the government bans people from buying new guns, it would take a great amount of time and resources to remove the weapons already in circulation. Besides, such a ban won't be effective. It would result in a black market, where people, including criminals, would be able to buy guns illegally.

The only option for America is to introduce tighter gun controls. For example, background checks on buyers could be enforced. Under such legislation, they would have to show that they have no criminal record, or a history of drug or alcohol abuse, and they are mentally healthy.

America could also close loopholes such as the so-called gun-show exemption. At such shows, citizens are allowed to buy or sell guns without any kind of supervision.

Gun security laws should also be revised. Adam Lanza, who killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month, stole his mother's guns to commit the crime. Stricter gun storage laws may keep weapons out of the hands of people who are not eligible for a licence, thereby preventing similar incidents.

The US should not ban handguns, but it could impose restrictions so that people would feel safe as they go about their daily lives.