When questions regarding gun control are broached in current politics, handguns like the pistol usually are at the forefront of this discussion.
Commonly used by law enforcement officials, pistols are heralded by gun enthusiasts as the most moral of all firearms. Gun control proponents, however, claim pistols have the strong potential to increase rather than reduce violent crimes.
Handguns have played a large role in history since their invention in the 15th century.
Dueling pistols replaced swords as men vied for honor. Since they are small, easy to conceal, quicker to draw and meant to be shot with one hand, law enforcement officers use pistols as their weapon of choice.
There are a variety of pistols including single-shot, semiautomatic and machine pistols. Each type performs a different function and some handguns are known to operate on both ends of the law, as a peacekeeper and peace breaker.
A Derringer pistol, for example, is a single-shot, muzzle-loading pistol created in the 1800s. Easily concealed in a stocking or purse, the use of this pistol by women has been greatly exaggerated by Hollywood. Though it has a higher stopping power than most guns in its category, this type of pistol is rarely used anymore.
Glock pistols, on the other hand, have become the pistol of choice for law enforcement officers in the Austrian, Norwegian, Belgium and Dutch armies, as well as countless police task forces. According to Glock sales reports, more than 2.5
million Glock pistols are sold in more than 100 countries worldwide.
As the first type of gun to become popular, air pistols had an advantage over flintlock pistols; they could be fired in adverse weather conditions. As opposed to muzzle-loading guns, air pistols can be shot in rapid succession without a flash or dark puff of smoke. However, air pistols more than six foot-pounds generally are considered firearms and, as such, are restricted in areas including New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia.
There are a wide variety of pistol accessories, including pistol grips and pistol holsters. Pistol grips create a no-slip surface around the main handle of the gun, permitting it to aim more steadily in an officer’s hands. Pistol holsters, which usually are made from sturdy materials like leather, keep the gun poised at a hunter or officer’s side. Holsters allow the gun to be readily available should the need arise.
With nearly 50 percent of U.S. households containing guns, gun safety is a hot topic. In 1997, approximately 691,000 violent crimes were committed with the use of a firearm, according to the United States Department of Justice. Of these crimes, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation reports 10,369 were murders.
However, the Los Angeles Times reported that Americans use firearms to defend themselves from criminals at least 764,000 times per year.
As these facts and figures duel on Congressional floors, handguns like the pistol can look forward to continued discussions on its use and abuse.
Glock. 20 Dec. 2006.
Gun Control. 30 March 2002. Just Facts. 20 Dec. 2006.
Grips 4 Guns. 20 Dec. 2006.
Pistol. 2006. Wikipedia. 20 Dec. 2006. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pistol>