Gun Control In The United States
In the United States, gun control is a varying facet which may vary state by state, and firearms are generally put into several groups, which are handguns, shotguns, and rifles. There are also semi-automatic firearms as well. In a 2008 survey of several different countries, the United States has an 88% of firearm ownership, having 88 people out of 100 owning guns. Likewise, the United States as also the dominant nation in the survey which had the most gun related homicides per every 100,000, with more than six times the amount in Canada and forty-five the amount in the United Kingdom. Many would consider this due to the issue of gun control in America.
The laws, on a federal scale, make the minimum standards for the regulation of firearms, and like previously mentioned, many states have a varying set of laws regarding gun control on their own scale. Some states are laxer about gun control, like Alaska or Kansas. States like Maryland, however, have stricter laws, where there have been constitutional provisions which do not grant the people the unquestioned right to own guns. In Maryland, firearms are regulated and citizens may actually only own guns which were made after the year 1985 and are also on the list of approved guns on their state roster. Maryland, like other states, have passed laws which prohibit certain firearms or detachable objects like magazines for firearms.
In many states, there are laws which pertain to a person’s right to have a concealed weapon on their person. A person must have a concealed weapons permit, and for many states, citizens only may be registered to do so. In states like Alaska, Alabama, Ohio, Vermont and Arkansas, only citizens are able to apply for concealed carry permits. Some states, however will issue to both residents and nonresidents, like Nevada, Texas, Utah, Georgia and Florida. Some states will only consider doing so, and do not have an obligation to grant the person the permit. These states may include New York, California and Delaware.
Gun control in the United States is discussed on two different levels; federally and state-wide. For the United States, the federal government may decide certain aspects to gun control and gun laws, and the rest of the decisions and calls are made to be in control of the states. Some states have more severe and strict laws considering gun ownership and use, while others have lax and very basic laws, some even left up to federal decision and little more. Like many nations in the world, gun control and gun laws remain a complex and extremely important and often discussed concept in society.
Argument Against Gun Control Essay
The United States Constitution was constructed from a set of rules, also known as amendments, which were written with the great intention of securing the basic rights of all United States citizens and as such, it serves as an outline for the laws of the land by dictating the powers of the people and what is acceptable under the watch of the United States government. These rights are considered a privilege afforded to the people and should be exercised as indicated within the document.
The history behind the induction of the second amendment began in the nineteenth century when in the summer of 1787, the Framers (included US Presidents) conspired with one another to write the articles of the United States Constitution during the constitutional convention. Fifty-five men drafted this document which serves as the blueprint of the United States government today. The motivation to construct and devise such a plan was created in order to give American citizens the absolute rights to proper enjoyment over their own lives. This point is further illustrated in an article written by Max Farrand entitled “The Framing of the Constitution of the United States”. In it, Farrand starts off his book by stating “Thirteen British colonies had asserted and established their independence because they declared the form of government under which they had been living was destructive of their “unalienable rights” of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (Farrand, 1913, p. 1) Therefore, the notion of freedom as a nation is detailed within an absolute vital document written over 200 years ago and which is very much closely followed today.
One right in particular is the right to own and operate a firearm. For instance, the second amendment gives us the right to bear arms and states verbatim, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” (U.S. Constitution) Due to the terms agreed upon by our forefathers, we have the right to protect ourselves and our families by use of a firearm against threat which can endanger a life. Firearms are responsible for more than 31,000 deaths and an estimated 74,000 nonfatal injuries among US residents each year, most of which are violence related. (Siegel, Ross & King, 2013, p. 1)
Over the past several decades, there has been much debate over whether the use of firearms have been within the standards of the written law due to countless tragedies which have been tied to the use of handguns. Many believe that these occurrences could have been prevented if the United States government had revisited and imposed additional restrictions on the nations gun bearing population by way of recommending effective ways to combat gun use and introduce innovative approaches towards the severity of gun activity.
With that being said, it remains transparent that gun control is an issue which has had a vast negative effect on our society as a whole and as a result, an evaluation of the second amendment should be conducted and the meaning for the right of the people to keep and bear arms must be reassessed to benefit all.
Legislation and the United States Supreme court system have been in debate for quite some time over the issue of gun control. There have been various loopholes and laws being challenged by groups which are both against and for the use of firearms. Whether the second amendment has been taken out of context is a topic of discussion with has had little resolution. By far, the hope will always be to find common ground in this meeting of the minds so that as a nation, we no longer have to live through the battles of gun violence and hear about the effect it has on innocent bystanders. “Ordinary forms of gun control such as licensing laws, bans on concealed carry, and prohibitions on particular types of weapons are, by contrast, attempts to regulate the right rather than eliminate it and are routinely upheld. So long as a gun control measure is not a total ban on the right to bear arms, the courts will consider it a mere regulation of the night.” (Winkler, 2007, p. 717)
Consequently, the government must take greater responsibility to control who is given access to firearms due to public safety measures, prevention of violent crimes and misuse.
Before delving into these touchy subjects, there are six ethical points to touch upon with relation to gun control which is of importance since the debate is on each end of the issue. It is fair to accept that there will always be opposing sides with respect to gun control and groups who will depict the pros and cons of the second amendment, therefore, it is important to know the difference between all parties involved. However, it is equally important that privileges are not being abused or mismanaged rather used for the greater good.
First and foremost, libertarianism and fundamental rights are two sets of individual groups who are all for the use of firearms. These groups believe in the second amendment and the ability to protect oneself as well as the rights of loved ones against imposed threat. To further illustrate, the attitude of someone who is pro-gun is detailed in the article, “An ethical analysis of the 2nd amendment: The right to pack heat at work”, as it states “the contention is that criminals will more carefully think about committing crimes if they know that potential victims might be armed.” (Martin, 2014, p. 10) In addition, these groups concern themselves with protecting their assets and strongly believe that state law and the second amendment defend their right to do so. With that being said, there is statistical evidence which supports the idea that firearms are in the best interest of the people and that a trend in possession of firearms is equal to less crime. In Kates and Moody, “Testing the more guns equals more murder thesis”, “The homicide rate for 2010 was roughly 32% lower than the rate in 1946. And year by year in the 2000’s, American murder rates remained nearly the same or dropped—notwithstanding that each of these years saw the addition of four to five million new guns to the total gunstock.” (Kates & Moody, 2011, p. 1446)
Gun Control Research Paper
The creation of the Bill of Rights in 1791 sparked the beginning of the gun control debate. There are essentially two sides of history centered around this debate; one side argues for gun rights and the other side argues for gun control. “Gun rights” refers to the right to keep and bear arms, whereas “gun control” refers to the policies and laws that are enacted to regulate the manufacture, sale, possession, and use of firearms. America owns more guns than any other nation, therefore it is not surprising that America has the highest death rate due to gun violence in the world (Horsley, "Guns In America, By The Numbers."). This alarming fact supports the idea that stricter laws need to be enacted in the United States. This ongoing conflict is deeply rooted in American history, and endless speculation has proved this conflict to be of interest for all U.S. citizens.. However, the turmoil created by both views is unlikely to cease in the near future.
The danger that comes with guns demonstrates that stricter gun laws need to be enacted in the United States. This paper will explore the alternative interpretations of the Second Amendment and its role in American history. Next, the reality of homicide as it relates to gun control will be considered. Finally, the positive and negative effects of gun-control policies will be scrutinized. The recent shootings at Newtown, CT and Orlando, FL have indicated the urgent need for stricter regulation that will make it more difficult for citizens to possess a firearm.
In December of 1971, the Bill of Rights in the Constitution announced the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The aspect of this amendment that needs to be emphasized is ‘well regulated.’ These two words give modern day politics a context for which it was written. It is important to realize that different time periods mean different political atmospheres. In the eighteenth century, the Founding Father’s fear was a large federal government. The idea of a union of sovereign states was new and potentially dangerous. Though the fear of state militias was relevant in the eighteenth century, this fear is unnecessary today. The mention of a militia suggests a military force from a civil population. This clarifies that the Second Amendment is predicated on groups, not individuals. The reason this amendment centers on groups is because at this point in history, the threat of a standing army was extremely prevalent. The notion of a militia points to a citizen’s army of self-defense that was under governmental authority. Shay’s Rebellion exemplifies what a militia was intended to be used for. Shay’s Rebellion was a 1786-1787 uprising in Western Massachusetts that occurred prior to the construction of the Constitution. This rebellion, however, would not have enjoyed constitutional protection. The Framers would have most likely viewed this as an armed mob, which as mentioned before, is decided to be very different than a well regulated militia, which would be under constitutional protection. This rebellion also demonstrated the danger guns and armed groups acting without governmental authority could pose. Therefore, the Framers decided it was necessary to differentiate between an armed mob and a militia. In the Founder’s view, if you do not have regulation, you have anarchy. Only second to tyranny, anarchy was the reality they feared most. The contemporary understanding has become radically different. Allowing this prevalence of weapons and guns to go unregulated has lead to a gun violence epidemic that has spread from cities such as Boston, MA; New York, NY; and Orlando, FL. Overall, every right is apt to reasonable regulation, including gun rights. (Cornell, “The Second Amendment Permits Reasonable Regulations on Gun Ownership.”)
The Second Amendment is a strong justification for gun control advocates. However, the opposing argument of gun rights has also used the Second Amendment as a reason for unregulated gun ownership. Gun rights proponents view gun control policies as an attack on the Second Amendment.
Supreme Court decisions such as the case of Printz vs U.S. support the view that citizens have a fundamental right to own firearms for the purpose of self defense against violence or tyranny. This court decision centered around the Brady Handgun Prevention Act, or the Brady Bill. The Brady Bill was passed in 1993 and required local chief law enforcement officers to perform background checks. These background checks were to be performed in prospective handgun purchasers, until the Attorney General establishes a federal system for this purpose. County Sheriff Printz challenged whether this bill was constitutional on behalf of the local chief law enforcement officers in Montana and Arizona. Using the Necessary and Proper Clause of Article 1 of the Constitution, Congress tried to enact this form of regulation. The District Court found this bill to be unconstitutional, therefore strengthening the gun rights argument. The Court argued that state legislatures are not subject to federal direction, capitalizing on the fact that the Brady Bill could not require local chief law enforcement officers to perform these tasks. Background checks typically involve a look into a person’s employment, credit, and criminal history for security reasons. Therefore, state legislatures did not have to enforce these checks and citizens could own firearms as a right. (“Printz v. United States.”)
According to Scott Vogel, author of A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control of America, modern gun rights ideology seems to be rooted in two main arguments. The first is that gun ownership is a God-given right. Gun rights activists believe that owning a firearm is a right that each individual can exercise, according to his or her own conscience. This enforces the statement that people are the problems, not guns. Again, no regulation exemplifies anarchy, or “a state of disorder due to absence or nonrecognition of authority.” The second most common justification of gun rights is self defense. This can be traced back to slavery in American history. In the early stages of our country, judges in the South thought that every white man should have a gun because they were in constant fear of a slave insurrection. (Cornell, “The Second Amendment Permits Reasonable Regulations on Gun Ownership.”)
While the Second Amendment can help determine the prevalence of guns in our society, the actual results of the United State’s lack of regulation can be seen in all corners of our country. From horrifying mass shootings to suicide, guns only encourage homicidal behavior and violence. Therefore, we must now explore the arguments centered around gun violence.
According to the Centers for Disease Control in 2011, approximately 30,000 people die each year through homicides, suicides, and accidents in the United States at the hand of a gun. Moreover, almost a third of gun deaths are the result of suicide. (Lanza et al., “The Effect of Firearm Restrictions on gun-related homicides across US States.”) As previously stated, advocates for gun rights argue that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. However, this has been refuted. On December 14th, 2012, hours before the shooting at Newtown, Connecticut, a deranged Chinese man walked into an elementary school and indiscriminately attacked everyone around him, hitting 22 children using a knife. The use of a knife is significant because if a gun would have been used, the children in the school could have been killed and not just injured. Effective gun control laws in China prevented this man from obtaining a gun. Undoubtedly, a gun would have inflicted much more damage. Ultimately, this event demonstrates that guns can make killings easier. Sociologist Ding Xueliang told CNN, “The huge difference between this case and the U.S. is not the suspect, nor the situation, but the simple fact he did not have an effective weapon.” The United States has the highest rate of gun ownership, with 88.8 guns per 100 people. Therefore is it unsurprising that in 2011, handguns killed 10,728 people in the U.S., compared to 52 people in Canada, 48 in Japan, 34 in Switzerland, and 8 in Great Britain. The U.S. has been noted to be one of the most lax countries in the industrialized world when it comes to gun control. (Griesmann, “Guns Do Kill People.”)
The year of 1968 was also an important year for gun control. The Gun Control Act was fueled by the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy. The Gun Control Act meant stricter regulations; license requirements were expanded to include all dealers and a more detailed record keeping was expected of them. This act essentially defined those who were banned from possessing firearms. Handgun sales were restricted over state lines; the list of people who could not buy guns included those convicted of felonies(with exceptions), those found mentally ill, drug users, and more. Rifles and shotgun sales through the mail were also forbidden. The lack of security of mail order sales prior to this act is surprising. Previous to when this act was passed, consumers only had to sign a statement that they were over twenty-one years of age for a handgun. This act clearly supports the gun control movement by adding necessary restrictions on the sale of handguns and rifles. (Gettings, “Milestones in Federal Gun Control Legislation.”)
A key mass shooting that upholds the need for stricter gun laws to be enacted in the U.S. is the Orlando nightclub shooting in June of 2016. Fifty people were murdered and dozens more were left wounded. This traumatic event has been by far the deadliest in the past thirty-four years. As America grapples with this reality, we again ask ourselves what can be done to prevent these events. It goes without saying, but the Harvard Injury Control Research Center has confirmed the direct correlation between the number of guns and homicides. While the relationship between the number of guns and homicide is undeniable, gun rights supporters point out that correlation does not equal causation. For example, the reason for fewer homicides in certain states could be linked to the number of guns present in that state. The number of guns present in that state could be linked to the amount of people advocating for gun rights, which could be linked to the number of gun owners in that state. Therefore, the gun rights advocates argue that the relationship between gun control and violent crime is not as simple as gun control supporters say it is. (Ehrenfreund, “Orlando Shooting.”)
The National Rifle Association is of course a major gun rights group. The NRA’s president Wayne LaPierre insisted, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” This statement reinforces the justification of self-defense for ownership. Ultimately, the NRA argues that guns cannot be blamed for the final decision. The rights of one individual should not be hindered by another’s intent to cause harm on him/herself. (Lanza et al., “The Effect of Firearm Restrictions on Gun-related Homicides across U.S. States.”)
Finally, we must take a look at the past and present gun regulation policies in the United States. It is important to note that the goal of the following policies is not to impose on certain rights, but to simply reduce gun violence. The three most critical gun control policies put forth are universal background checks, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and a ban on certain assault weapons.
Background checks, like all other gun control policies, have always been controversial. A background check includes looking up criminal, commercial, and financial records of a person or organization. Gun control advocates argue on behalf of safety. Background checks do not only include the history of a buyer, but also at a person’s mental health. About 80% of the general public blames the mental illness of the shooter. This demonstrates the importance of background checks; if a mentally unstable person possesses a gun, the likelihood of a mass shooting only grows. This consensus has led to demands for tighter restrictions on the mentally ill for purchasing a firearm. Another case in which background checks are necessary is a person’s substance abuse record. Alcohol and drug abuse influence a person’s behavior greatly. Alcohol abuse is twice as strong of a predictor of violence as mental illness, whereas drug abuse increases likelihood of violence to three times as likely. These dramatic increases in chance indicate that background checks have the potential to prevent guns falling into the hands of those who should not be in possession of a lethal weapon. (Lindgren, “Forward: That Past and Future of Guns.”)
Another policy that has also been controversial is a ban on high-capacity magazines. A high-capacity magazine is a storage and feeding device that holds more than a certain number of rounds of ammunition. In several decades in the future, when this policy has decreased the circulation of high-capacity magazines, there is a strong potential for a decrease in mass murders. Among gun control advocates, a ban on high-capacity magazines is favored because this can reduce the number of shots available in the case of a mass shooting, therefore possible gun deaths. For example, the Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance that would forbid city residents from possessing handgun or rifle magazines that exceed 10 rounds of ammunition. This indicates the logic that most gun control advocates follow; more than 10 rounds of ammunition is unnecessary in self-defense. (Kopel, “The Costs and Consequences of Gun Control.”)
The last focal policy in favor of gun control is a ban on assault weapons. Simply put, this ban restricts the ability to use certain types of firearms which are perceived to be a particular threat to public safety. The purpose of gun regulation is not just about safe storage and the misuse of firearms, but also about actually controlling what weapons are in circulation. (Cornell, “The Second Amendment Permits Reasonable Regulations on Gun Ownership.”)
As far as assault weapon bans are concerned, this policy was actually enacted as a law. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act became a law in 1994, which was a step forward for gun control advocates. This law banned the manufacture, possession, use, and import of nineteen types of assault weapons, including AK-47’s and Uzis. However, this law expired in 2004. Bernie Sanders, an advocate for the ban of assault weapons, argued, “No one needs an AK-47 to hunt.” An assault rifle is not needed for recreational sports or hunting, therefore the use of this rifle is unnecessary to our day-to-day lives. In order to keep firearms such as an AK-47 out of the hands of everyday citizens, new and tighter policies need to be enacted. (Griesmann, “Guns Do Kill People.”)
While the positive effects of these main three policies are evident, opposition in America is nonstop. Conversely, the opposing side sees these policies as overreach. For instance, background checks are opposed by gun rights proponents because the black market would grow. Under the active National Instant Criminal Background Check System, persons who are in the business of selling firearms must perform a criminal background check prior to any sale. Even if the actual sale is prohibited, the transfer of the gun cannot be regulated. Consider a twenty-five year old man or woman who buys a gun, he or she could give the gun to her brother when she is out of town or to a neighbor for protection. Background checks would be ineffective in such cases. (Kopel, “The Costs and Consequences of Gun Control.”)
A ban on high-capacity magazines means that the part of the firearm where the ammunition is stored would be limited to a certain number of rounds. In 1994, the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act was predicated on the idea that using firearms for recreational use is legitimate. However this act also states that other firearm use is not legitimate. Because this act does not specify limits on ammunition, other measure have been necessary. The term itself, “high-capacity magazine” has a legitimate meaning when referring to a magazine that extends beyond what is intended for the gun’s optimal operation. An example of a high-capacity magazine would be a handgun magazine that has 40 rounds. As opposed to gun control logic, gun rights advocates argue that 10 rounds of ammunition would not be sufficient in cases of self-defense. For example, if a victim is facing multiple attackers or faced with a threat behind a cover, the extra rounds can be crucial for the victim to survive. (Kopel, “The Costs and Consequences of Gun Control.”)
Gun rights proponents argue that a ban on assault weapons would also be an invasion of rights, because if a military invasion occurred, assault weapons would be citizen’s last line of defense. To gun rights advocates, banning assault weapons would make individuals powerless against a greater threat. The gun rights perspective believes that the term “assault weapons” is a political gimmick intended to stir public confusion. The confusion surrounding this policy concerns what type of guns can actually qualify as assault weapons. The types of guns that are banned are constantly being modified over time, but what remains consistent is that automatic firearms are not covered and that guns are not banned based on how fast they fire or how powerful they are. The definition of what weapons are banned are instead based on the name of a gun, or on whether a firearm has certain accessories or components. Most of the guns deemed assault weapons are semi-automatics. Gun rights supporters argue that this is not legitimate because the guns used in the ban are semi-automatics, which are less dangerous than automatic firearms. (Kopel, “The Costs and Consequences of Gun Control.”)
No one can doubt that guns are a large part of American culture. However, the question is whether a part of our culture should cost so many innocent lives. Every U.S. community has been affected by the reckless use of firearms, in the form of accidents, suicides, and homicides. Guns can be used as tools and for recreation, but are also potentially lethal. For a majority of rural America, guns are a part of day-to-day life. Though drastically different, the Republican and Democratic parties are equally American. However, both sides fail to realize that gun regulation is also equally American as gun ownership.Through examining both interpretations of the Second Amendment, assessing the relationship between violence and guns, and exploring two perspectives on gun control policies, it has become clear that gun regulation can serve the common good, rather than gun rights. The nature of gun-related crimes makes absolute prevention impossible, but that does not mean that policies that can decrease violence should be ignored. The bottom line is that guns affect everyone in some way; guns can be a weapon of self-defense in the right hands, but an instrument of destruction in the wrong hands. The ultimate goal is to find that middle ground in reaching the final goal of reducing gun violence. Though deeply rooted in American history, it is safe to say that this debate is long from over.