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Sample Essay: The Gun And The Selfie

The following essay was sent in by a prospective GAMSAT student. Although it is easy to read and understand, it lacks one key element which prevents it from being a perfect GAMSAT essay. See if you can figure out what that is.

 

“Man accidentally kills himself posing with a gun for a Facebook selfie.”

– USA newspaper, 2014

“Firearms are lethal weapons and their use and distribution needs to be strictly regulated in all countries.”

The use of firearms and their accessibility to the general public is a controversial issue. The recent news of a man who accidentally shot himself with a gun while posing for a ‘selfie’, highlights the need for strict regulation of these lethal weapons. While pro-gun activists argue that individuals have the right to own guns to protect themselves and their families, the fact remains that guns are lethal weapons which should only be available to trained military personnel in combat.

The recent news of a man’s accidental death while posing for a photograph with a gun emphasises the importance of the gun control issue. Information regarding the man’s training or licensing to own and use a firearm is unclear, however, this does not change the fact that he died because of the gun. This tragic incident highlights just how dangerous guns are, and supports the notion that firearms should only be used in military combat, not in the hands of civilians.

In Australia, guns are tightly regulated, and only people with training and licenses are allowed to use firearms in controlled situations, such as shooting ranges. Even higher levels of training are required for police and other security personnel to be allowed to carry firearms. This strict policy means that gun related violence and crime is kept to a minimum. Crime rates in Australia, such as murder and violence, are not any higher because guns are not available for personal protection, as they are in the United States of America (USA); in fact, they remain lower per capita than the USA.

The USA has an entirely different view on guns. Citizens are able to purchase firearms for personal use and protection, with very minimal regulation. Pro-gun activists firmly believe that people have the right to protect themselves, their homes and their families with whatever means possible, and current gun laws in the USA support this. However, incidents such as the recent accidental gun-related death of a man are by no means isolated, and further, gun-related crime and violence is at an all-time high in the USA. By removing the freedom of gun use within the USA, crime rates and accidental deaths will decrease – this is proven by the laws and regulations already in place in countries such as Australia.

Guns are lethal weapons and should only be provided to military and police with the strictest of training. Although citizens should be allowed to protect themselves and their families, these weapons are too dangerous to be placed in the hands of civilians. The USA needs to impose stricter laws to ensure the safety of its people, such as those laws already in place and proven to work in countries such as Australia.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————

Sentence Structure – Good
Spelling, Grammar – Good
Clarity of Expression – Good
Understanding the Quote – Good  (Though admittedly it was a bit of an easy one)
Depth of thoughtPoor

The main issue with this essay is lack of critical thought.

It’s quite repetitive too. The essay would seem to be operating on the old debating adage of ‘Tell them what you’re going to say, say it, then tell them what you said’. This is unnecessary on the GAMSAT. You only have 30 minutes, and that time should not be spent re-writing something you’ve already said. It just looks to the examiner like you are trying to fill space on the page for lack of things to say.

  • …the fact remains that guns are lethal weapons which should only be available to trained military personnel in combat.
  • This tragic incident highlights just how dangerous guns are, and supports the notion that firearms should only be used in military combat, not in the hands of civilians.
  • Guns are lethal weapons and should only be provided to military and police with the strictest of training.
  • In Australia…

The third paragraph is the first one in which the writer begins to develop reasoning behind their argument. Unfortunately the argument presented lacks critical depth.

By removing the freedom of gun use within the USA, crime rates and accidental deaths will decrease – this is proven by the laws and regulations already in place in countries such as Australia.

It is naive to suggest that something might be so easily ‘proven’. The writer gives to much sway to the power of their single argument in the essay.

Given the widespread ownership of guns in the USA, outlawing them would be akin to a late prohibition. The USA tried to do this with alcohol in the past and it was found to be impossible. Prohibition also does little to stop the flow of illegal drugs in and out of the country. Yes, violent crime rates are lower in countries with strict gun control, but getting to that stage is not so simple. (Prohibition is not something you necessarily need to know about, this is just an example of a critical argument.)

I would also add that one man shooting himself in the head does not validate the use of guns by the military or police. This story thinly suggests that civilians should not possess guns, but says nothing about whether or not the security forces should hold them.

Another easy opportunity for critical expression arises in response to the pro-gun activists who are referenced twice:

While pro-gun activists argue that individuals have the right to own guns to protect themselves and their families, the fact remains that guns are lethal weapons which should only be available to trained military personnel in combat.

There is no fact here, only opinion. Instead of a valiant expression of opinion, the writer would get more marks for attempting to critically undermine this pro-gun argument. Here is an example of how that might be done:

The claim that guns are needed for personal protection is a fallacy – guns are offensive, not defensive, weapons. Bringing a gun into any conflict endangers life. Shooting at, or threatening to shoot someone does not prevent them from shooting you. It encourages it. If an unarmed burglar enters a family home and one of the family members confronts him with a gun, that is an aggressive action. If the family wanted to protect themselves they would lock themselves in their rooms, call the police and wait until the burglar had left. An armed confrontation is not a well thought-out attempt to protect their own lives, but an aggressive manoeuvre designed to minimise the loss of valued property. In rare cases the presence of a gun might actually save the bearer’s life, but not without endangering the life of another citizen.

 

One more note on GAMSAT critical thinking: Don’t be afraid to pick the given quote apart.

This headline can hardly be asssumed to contain the full story. It may be far more complicated. The man may have been on prescription drugs. Perhaps it was a bad mix of anti-psychotics, alcohol and gun ownership that caused his death. Perhaps he had a UTI, and the prescribed drugs gave him peripheral nerve damage which resulted in a twitchy trigger finger. Leaving out specific information is all a newspaper needs to do to spin a story into a more entertaining or agenda-serving format.

Question EVERYTHING, and your critical skills will automatically improve over time.