History of Gun-Control Legislation

On February 14, 2018 a gunman opened fire on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida. Seventeen people were killed, while an additional seventeen were injured from the gunfire (Gonzalez). This shooting has sparked the most intense gun control debate since the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012.

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The recent debates have prompted senators, legislators, activists, and congressmen to propose new bills in hope to reduce gun violence in America. Gun control has been an extremely controversial topic for the past two decades, yet no measures have been taken that have had significant impact. Lawmakers have been attempting to come up with necessary solutions for this national epidemic. In fact, numerous ideas have been put forward in attempt to reduce the problem (Sarlin). Of those primary proposals being considered, only a select few will help make the difference America needs while still upholding the people’s second amendment.

Changes in gun laws are necessary for one reason: shootings. As of December 6, there have been 13,539 recorded shootings that resulted in fatality in 2018 alone Gun Violence Archive. An additional 26,149 people have been injured by a firearm during the same time period Gun Violence Archive. These numbers will continue to increase until preventative action is taken. Gun-related crimes and homicides in the United States are significantly higher than those of any other high-income country. A study was conducted in 2010 examining homicide rates in America in comparison with other high-income countries (Grinshteyn). The study found that homicides by guns are 25.2 times higher, while the overall firearm death rate in the US is ten times higher than any other high-income country in the world (Grinshteyn). Since 2010, gun violence has continued to grow into a national epidemic. Reforms need to be made regarding gun laws in order to keep this problem from becoming unstoppable.

The second amendment is what constituted and protects our right as an American to purchase and possess a firearm. It reads: 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 (Strasser). As gun violence in the US proceeds, and new laws are being put in place in attempt to protect American citizens, the second amendment needs to be upheld at all costs. It is what gives the law-abiding people of the United States the ability to protect themselves from whatever form of evil that strikes against them.

One of the primary proposals the US Congress has been considering to put in action is the federal ban of bump stocks. A bump stock is a modification that can be added to an assault rifle in order to produce gunfire which resembles that of a fully automatic weapon (Vitkovskaya). This is what allowed the Las Vegas shooter the ability to fire an estimate of ninety rounds in less than a minute (Raphelson). Any sportsman knows that this attachment is never necessary for neither hunting nor recreational shooting. It solely allows criminals and mass shooters a simple way to wreak an immense amount of havoc on selected groups of people. The 1934 National Firearms Act imposes regulation on dangerous weapons as well as fully automatic machine guns (McCarthy). Previously, a ruling was made to regulate bump stocks under that same 1934 Firearms Act, but Donald Trump intends to ban them all together (McCarthy). Getting rid of these dangerous and unnecessary attachments all together could very well be what it takes to lessen the intensity of mass shootings.

Another proposal being contemplated by officials on Capitol Hill is modifying and expanding the background check system (Sarlin). Currently, there is a background check system which shows retailers whether or not an individual is eligible to purchase a firearm, but there are flaws in this system. According to Benjy Sarlin from NBC News, this bill aims to correct failures in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that allowed the shooter who killed 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, to legally buy a gun despite a domestic violence conviction in the Air Force. The modification of the point-of-purchase background check system would ensure that every individuals criminal record would show up as they attempt to buy a gun.

Another improvement this modification could entail is reforming the health care systems so that mental health records would also be visible for someone intending to purchase a firearm (Swanson). Studies show that roughly sixty percent of the gunmen involved in 185 mass shootings had previously been diagnosed with or shown symptoms of some form of a serious mental illness (Chen). Similar studies have shown that an individual with a serious mental health problem are 3.6 times more likely to engage in violent behaviors (Chen). As shown, mental health has played a significant role in the devastating mass shootings that have occurred in the United States. Keeping guns out of the hands of individuals with either a dangerous criminal record, or a serious mental illness, would play a significant role in minimizing the amount of mass shootings that occur in America.

A third idea being considered in attempt to resolve the gun violence issue is assault weapons being nationally banned (McCarthy). This modification would not have nearly as much effect as many would assume for a variety of reasons. If this law would be put into action, it would eliminate the sale of certain military-style semi-automatic rifles, such as AR-15’s, as well as any magazine that can hold more than ten rounds (). Mike Dunham, a Stanford Education Graduate, authored an article regarding the potential ban of assault weapons. He uncovered statistics which revealed that rifles of any kind (not just assault) were involved in 248 killings in 2014, while handguns were involved in 5,562 (Dunham). Additionally, this ban had already been enacted from 1994 until 2004 (Plumer). Researchers studied the effects that this ban had on gun violence the year it began, the year it expired, as well as seven years after it had ended. In 1994, the first year with the ban, there were 17,527 firearm homicides, while In 2004 when it had expired, there were 11,101 (Roman). In 2011, seven years after the ban had been eliminated, there were 11,101 murders with a gun (Roman). Thus, statistics show there was no measurable effect on gun-related homicides without assault weapons being legal.

Gun control activists as well as certain legislators are also proposing the increase of age required to buy a legal rifle or shotgun (Sarlin). Currently, you must be eighteen years of age to buy a rifle or shotgun, but it’s suggested to raise the age to twenty-one.

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