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The 2007 Virginia Tech shooting killed 32. The Orlando nightclub shooting last year killed 49. The 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School killed 27 first graders, all younger than six years old. Since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, not a year has passed without a mass shooting. Yet little has been done to restrict the sale of the very weapons used for these senseless murders.
Gun Control, at least in America, focuses on the sale, possession, as well as use of firearms and the ammunition that these firearms use. State-level laws are considerably different from federal laws and are independent of federal laws. State-level laws also differ significantly in form, content, as well as level of restriction. In a vast majority of cases, state laws are less restrictive than federal gun control laws. The Supreme Court famously ruled in McDonald vs. Chicago that the right of the Second Amendment to possess and bear firearms for self-defense in a citizen’s house goes against state governments and their political subdivisions.
How it works
Virginia Tech, Pulse Nightclub, and Sandy Hook Elementary all involved semi-automatic weapons, resulting in the deaths of innocent citizens. Columbine was the one the first as well as one of the deadliest school shootings. There have been many gun control laws throughout the United State’s history, but no new laws have been enacted, at least at the federal level. The laws that were passed under President Roosevelt are still in effect to this day; it appears a 200-dollar tax is not much of a deterrent for many gun buyers. American laws are very outdated. It is time these laws are updated to 21st-century standards. Many states are raising the minimum age to buy a gun to 21 years of age. Many states are also banning bump stocks, most notably Massachusetts and New Jersey. Following a string of recent shootings, mainly at schools, the citizens are angrier than ever and are demanding action. Polls suggest a record level of support for gun control. The current debate centers around the Second Amendment, most notably the Right to Bear Arms. Stricter handgun control laws and licensing are necessary in order to save lives.
“Gun Control” is a tremendously broad term that refers to all kinds of restrictions on what types of arms can be sold as well as purchased in the United States. What citizens can possess guns, where guns need to be stored, how guns are to be carried, does a seller have to check a buyer, as well as if the buyer and the seller have to report gun sales to the federal government. The term is also used for limits on ammunition and the maximum magazine size allowed or ever-advancing technology, which nowadays allows guns to fire only when in the hands of the owner. In the past few years, gun control debates have centered primarily on background checks for gun buyers, if firearms can be carried in public, and whether or not to allow the use of assault rifles by citizens. Gun control started in the United States in 1791 following the ratification of the Bill of Rights. The creators of the American Constitution included the Second Amendment, “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” (Gunpolicy). In 1934 the first federal gun control legislation was enacted, The National Firearms Act, one small aspect of President Roosevelt’s New Deal for Crime. In 1993 the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was enacted by the federal government (Agresti). The legislation was named after White House Secretary James Brady, who was disabled during an attempted assassination of then-President Ronald Reagan. In 2005 President George W. Bush passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act which prevented gun manufacturers from being so much as even mentioned in lawsuits from victims of gun violence. There has been no new legislation passed at the federal level since 2005. In that time, there have been even more mass shootings involving even more deaths. One can presume that if this issue is left unresolved, it will only continue to worsen. Stricter handgun control laws and licensing are necessary in order to save lives.
The results of effective gun control can be seen in nations such as Switzerland and Finland. These nations require licenses and some of the toughest background checks that can be found in the modern world, “That include mental and criminal records, among other restrictions and requirements” (Gunpolicy.org). Switzerland experiences one of the highest gun ownership rates, with 45.7 guns per every 100 people. Switzerland also experienced one of the lowest gun violence rates, with 3.29 deaths per every 100,000 people. The United States also has a very high gun ownership rate, with virtually no gun laws, and guns are much more readily available. Many experts have looked into the issue of gun violence in America, ‘We analyzed the relationship between homicide and gun availability using data from 26 developed countries from the early 1990s. We found that across developed countries, where guns are more available, there are more homicides’ (Lisa Hepburn and David Hemenway). Homicide rates in the United States are about a quarter time higher than in other first-world nations. Most of all, the people who were killed by firearms were slaughtered in the United States. Gun control laws such as common sense gun reform could reduce the number of all gun-related deaths.
Many gun owners support “Common Sense Gun Control, which includes background checks, bans on assault rifles, and bans on high-capacity magazines” (Colorado Pols). Up to “97% of American voters and 97% of gun owners support universal background checks. 67% support a nationwide ban on assault weapons, and 83% support mandatory waiting periods for gun purchases” (Quinnipiac University). Nearly half of all gun sales in the United States go undocumented; this is an issue commonly regarded as the gun show loophole. After tragic shootings in the United States in the last few years, many Americans have become more open to gun control. Many citizens are in favor of assault weapon bans as well as high-capacity magazine bans. Steps have been taken in recent months to take guns away from the mentally ill and to ban gun ownership from those on the no-fly list. However, this is only being done in a few states. Many see this apparent inaction by the federal government as far too little and are demanding they do something. Many hunters, surprisingly enough, support common sense gun control, “As a hunter and someone who has owned guns since I was a young boy, I believe that common sense gun legislation makes us all safer. Background checks prevent criminals and other dangerous people from getting guns” (Colorado Pols). Background checks are very practical and have a lot of support. I am not saying that all guns should be revoked from everyone, but rather that there have to be some restrictions on the ownership of devices that have the potential to kill.
In 1787, when the Constitution was first ratified, the creators of it intended to protect the right of militias to own guns, not the right of citizens. Former Supreme Court Justice John Stevens in the District of Columbia. vs. Heller discovered, “The Framer’s single-minded focus in crafting the constitutional guarantee ‘to keep and bear arms’ was on the military use of firearms, which they viewed in the context of service in state militias’ (US Supreme Court). Hence why the framers of the Constitution included the phrase “a well-regulated militia.” Many historians who have reviewed the Constitution have found no notes stating that individual citizens have a right to bear arms. This is apparent in all drafts, including when the Constitution was being drafted, discussed, and ratified. The United States Supreme Court has declined to rule in favor of the right of individuals to bear arms on four separate occasions between 1876 to 1939. All law articles on the Second Amendment from 1888 to 1960 found that an individual right to bear arms is not guaranteed.
Guns present in a home can turn a conflict into a violent situation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) found that arguments like “Romantic triangles, fights fueled by controlled substances, and arguments over money. Resulted in 1,962 gun deaths” (Susan). In many cases, weapons used in arguments are the ones that are closest to the aggressor. Many guns are used due to something small but escalate into something much more deadly, ‘Gun-inflicted deaths ensue from impromptu arguments and fights; in the US, two-thirds of the 7,900 deaths in 1981 involving arguments and brawls were caused by guns’ (Susan). A common misconception about guns is that they offer protection and ensure the safety of a home and its inhabitants. Guns kept in homes are often associated with an increased risk of homicide.
The Second Amendment of the US Constitution protects individual gun ownership. It includes one very controversial section, ‘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 Constitution of the United States: A Transcription.) Gun ownership is an American right older than the country itself and is protected by the Second Amendment. Many gun owners feel guns infringe on their American right to keep and bear arms. Justice Antonin Scalia, in the 2008 District of Columbia. vs. Heller, the American Supreme Court discovered that ‘The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home’ (DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER.) While the Constitution does state that owning a gun is a right, it was written at a much different time in America. America was at war with the British. The Constitution showed that they needed the help of their citizens to win the war. While I am not a proponent of banning all weapons, some weapons should be removed from citizens’ hands as they are not necessary for average citizens to own. Also, background checks should be revised so they apply to everyone, no matter the circumstances. A simple background check is by far the easiest gun control legislation to add as hardly anyone seems to object to it, and it would keep guns out of criminals and the mentally-challenged citizens’ hands. With the seemingly endless school shootings, some action is necessary to stop these pointless deaths. Also, have you ever seen someone or heard of someone using a weapon to stop an aggressor? In 2010, “There were 230 justifiable homicides in which a private citizen used a firearm to kill a felon, compared to 8,275 criminal gun homicides” (Gunpolicy.org). It is extremely rare if it happens at all; more guns are simply not the solution to this very complex issue. It is high time legislators considered someone besides themselves and protected the lives of society’s most vulnerable children.
Guns do have a place in America, thanks to the Second Amendment. Americans feel they have the right to protect themselves as well as their families. Those who oppose gun control do so because guns give them a sense of security. They assume that because they own a gun, they can deter any criminal as well as promote their feeling of security. Those who support gun control see gun violence escalating in America and feel America’s very loose gun laws are the center of the issue. From school shootings to high-profile murders, the constant ease of access to guns has made gun violence an issue for Congress, the President, as well as the American public. With stores such as Walmart selling assault rifles, among other weapons (until very recently), there is very little in terms of restriction for guns in American laws. This is in stark contrast to other nations such as Japan and Australia (who famously banned all weapons following a mass shooting), who have tough gun laws. These laws have been shown to reduce gun-related crimes. Although the United States does believe in the right to bear arms, American legislators, as well as the public, need to realize the need for reform when it comes to gun ownership. It is daunting to know that America possesses nearly half of the world’s guns. The United States does not makeup even half of the world’s population. It is a stark statistic: those who will graduate high school in 2019 have spent every year of their life with mass murders committed by firearms. Schools, once viewed as safe havens, now require metal detectors and lockdowns. American legislators need to assess the gun violence epidemic and increase gun control while also maintaining the Second Amendment if Americans ever want to see the end of school shootings.
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