Gun Control in the US





Gun Control in the US

Many people in the country were in shock as news reports of the Sandy Hooks Elementary School shooting in Connecticut reached them. They watched as reporters covered the killings of twenty-eight people, who included schoolchildren and teachers. There was immediate protest immediately after the news, and people called for greater control of guns and other weapons. Despite the public sentiments, senate failed to pass a motion that had proposed the idea of conducting more background checks before issuing guns and a ban on semi-automatic weapons (Masters 1). In 2007, thirty-three students and teachers died in Virginia because of another mass shooting. In 2008, the court ruled against the law in Washington DC banning handguns. It also struck down laws that required people with handguns to keep them locked and disassembled (Masters 2). The decisions by the senate and the court came some time after the nation had witnessed mass shootings. In many ways, the decisions represent the reluctance of a fraction of the authority to enact gun control laws. Many people seem to realize the effect of gun ownership whenever there is mass shooting. They fail to realize that more people die from gun related violence each year than those who die from mass shooting. There is a need to enact gun control measures in the country as this will go towards reducing the level of gun violence   

Many people continue to lose their lives because of gun related violence. The nation loses productive members of the society who could have made a positive contribution, and many families continue to mourn the loss of their loved ones because of the actions of a few people. Records from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show that there were 11, 101 firearm-related homicides and 467, 300 nonfatal firearm crimes in 2011. In 2011, 8% of all violence committed involved the use of a firearm. More than 60% of homicides from 1993 to 2011 involved the use of a firearm, and the most commonly used weapon was a handgun (Planty and Truman 1). These statistics represent a grim and depressing image of the country. They show the extent to which people have used and misused the freedom they have of gun ownership. They also represent the society’s reluctance to confront the issue of gun violence by reforming the current gun policies.

The main intention of the National Firearms Act was to make it harder for people to buy and own guns by imposing taxes on the weapons. The Gun Control Act established in 1968 requires any person dealing with the manufacture, sale, or import of firearms to obtain federal license. Under this act, it is illegal to sell firearms through mail-order. The act was amended in 1993, to allow for background checks for all people who want to obtain a gun but are not licensed (Krouse 8-9). Federal law prohibits people with mental problems and those addicted to different controlled substances, felons, illegal aliens and fugitives, people convicted for domestic violence, those who have been dishonorably discharged from the military, and those who have renounced their citizenship from possessing firearms (Krouse 10). It sets the minimum age of gun ownership at 18, although only people who are 21 years old or older can buy handguns from dealers who have a federal license.

Many people continue to argue against gun control, citing that it is their fundamental right to own a gun. In a democracy such as the US, people are more concerned about their rights, and they oppose any government measures that will control them or deny them their rights. Thus, the issue of gun control becomes more of a legal right than a moral issue concerning the right thing to do. The current federal laws concerning gun ownership ban different groups of people from possessing firearms. Opponents of gun control assert that it would be futile to ban weapons because people would still find a way of getting them despite the legislation. They claim that people not only own guns for recreational purposes such as hunting, but they also need the guns for self-defense. They are of the opinion that gun ownership lowers the incidences of crime since people can use the weapons to defend themselves and protect their property (Krouse 3). Proponents of less gun control argue that murders and other types of violent crimes have fallen over the years. They attribute this fall to the increased rates of gun ownership.

The issue of gun related homicide is more a question of people’s personality, beliefs and characters. The problem lies with people and not with gun ownership. People are responsible for killing others and a person who is determined to kill will find a way of doing so irrespective of the laws in place. The US has the highest gun ownership rates, and it is the country with the most firearms per capita. It is also the country with the highest homicide rates involving firearms among the most developed countries (Masters 2). However, this does not mean that high gun ownership results to high homicide rates. Norway has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the world, although there are strict gun laws. However, it has exceptionally low rates of gun related homicides. In 2011, a man killed seventy-seven people in the country using a combination of guns and bombs. The police in Norway do not carry guns, and they could have responded earlier and prevented further killings (Masters 7). The sole incident in Norway shows that having strict gun control laws does not necessarily lead to low homicide rates.

Those who oppose gun control laws fail the full impact of gun ownership. Their support of gun ownership because it leads to less crime is not well founded. Other factors such as increased law enforcement and more involvement by the community to reduce crime through community policing could have led to the reduction in crime over the years. Research indicates that less than 1% of the victims of nonfatal violent crimes used a firearm for self-defense. This falsifies the claim that many people own guns for self-defense. Gun ownership has negative effects. Statistics from the National Vital Statistics Reports indicate that suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the country. In 2009, more than 18, 000 people committed suicide using a firearm. This represents 59.8% of the people who died from firearm injuries that year (Kochanek 11). This could not have happened if these people did not have a firearm in the first place. Statistics from other countries indicate that there is a problem in America concerning gun control. Many countries have strict gun control laws, and this has helped in curbing crime involving gun use.

 In 1996, Australia experienced one of the worst mass shootings when a man killed thirty-five people and left twenty-three others suffering gun inflicted injuries using a semi automatic rifle. This caused a public outcry about the need to have gun control reforms, and unlike in the US, the government moved quickly to establish strict gun control laws. The federal government worked together with opposition parties, territories and the states to change the country’s gun laws. According to the new law, no civilian was allowed to own semiautomatic long guns or pump-action shotguns. People who owned firearms had to show genuine reason for doing so, and they could not claim self-defense. In addition, people cannot buy guns through the internet or mail, and all guns have to be registered. The country offered amnesties for those with guns, and this resulted to the surrender of one million guns. Since then, the country has not reported any mass murders involving firearms and the number of gun related deaths have decreased (Chapman and Alpers 770-771).

Japan has strict laws concerning gun ownership, and this has contributed to its low homicide rates. Very few people own guns in the country, as the country has made it illegal to own firearms. The only firearms allowed are shotguns and air guns. The country also allows guns for the sake of research purposes, competition, or industrial purposes. People intending to own a gun have to comply with the established rules. They have to receive training on how to use a gun, pass drug tests, undergo and pass mental tests, and pass a written test. In addition, the authorities have to conduct a thorough background check. The gun owners have to show how they will store the weapons, and the authorities have to inspect the weapons annually. These measures have gone towards reducing gun ownership in the country (Masters Par.8).

The mass shootings that have happened in the country have involved young people. In 1999, two teenagers with semiautomatic firearms went on a shooting spree in Denver high school, which resulted to the death of fifteen people, including a teacher and the shooters. The teenagers were seventeen and eighteen years old. In 2007, a 23-year-old student killed 32 people and injured others, before killing himself, in Virginia Tech Campus. A 28-year-old man killed ten people before killing himself in Alabama in 2009. The dead were members of his family, and they included his grandparents, aunt, uncle and his mother. In 2012, a 24 year old opened fire in a full movie theater in Aurora. He killed 12 people and wounded many more (CNN). The man who killed children and teachers in Connecticut was only 20 years old.

It has become easier for young people to acquire firearms legally. One of the teenagers involved in the Denver shooting was not eligible for gun ownership. Stricter gun control measures would have ensured that the teenagers would not be able to acquire those weapons. The mass killings show that people are not only interested in gun ownership for self-defense purposes, but they also acquire weapons for recreational purposes such as hunting. Some people have a hidden agenda for wanting to acquire weapons. More people continue to lose their lives because of gang related crimes. Despite some semblance of laws concerning gun controls, many people have found ways of acquiring guns illegally. Some states have enacted gun control measures that are more severe than the federal laws (Kochanek 4). However, the courts continue to strike down such laws, as is the case in Washington DC, making the efforts of individual states futile.

The concept of gun ownership as a fundamental right in a democracy is a contradiction. People in democratic societies are proud of their freedom. They enjoy the privilege of less state control and more personal freedom. Yet as more people own guns, many more continue living in fear. They do not know when a person will decide to shoot others, and they have to take measures to prevent such incidences. Increased violence in schools has led to a tightening of the school rules as school administrators and local authorities try to ensure that they do not experience any violence. Students have to go through searches, and they cannot carry some items to school because they could be harmful to others. Rosencrantz notes “fear as the sole determinant of our actions is often shortsighted and often leaves to impulsive rather than thoughtful outcomes (29).” He further adds that people do not increase the freedom they have for the sake of security. The measures that people are taking to protect themselves and to enhance their security have resulted in increased fear. There is increased security in many institutions today. People have to be more careful of their actions and words. This has not led to progress in liberty and neither has it contributed to democracy.

In their claim for less gun control, supporters assert that guns do not kill people, but people kill people. However, they fail to add that a high number of homicides are gun related. In addition, they fail to recognize the mental capabilities of the people involved in gun violence. Some of the people involved in gun violence usually have psychological problems. Some of them feel victimized, which may happen because of reasons such as child abuse or bullying. They develop a paranoia that causes them to act the way they do. Some of them suffer emotionally, and they see themselves as powerless victims of their circumstances (Rosencrantz cclx). If such people did not have a way to get and use guns, then they would not result to violence. They would seek other ways of dealing with their problems. Therefore, there is a need to enact strict laws concerning gun ownership

People are exceptionally vocal on issues concerning gun control whenever there is a mass shooting. When such a situation happens, the people call for the legislators to enact strict gun control laws that will make it harder for people to own guns. However, legislators often fail to pass such legislation, and this has made it easier for people to acquire guns under the current laws. Many countries have enacted strict gun control rules, which have reduced homicide rates although there are high rates of gun ownership in these countries. The US should consider gun ownership reforms, which will not only make it hard for people to own guns, but will ensure that those who own guns are responsible and that they will not use the guns for the wrong purposes.



Works Cited

Chapman, Simon and Philip Alpers. “Gun-Related Deaths: How Australia Stepped Off “The American Path”.” Annals of Internal Medicine 158.10 (2013): 770-771.

CNN. Timeline: Worst Mass Shootings in U.S. 20 July 2013. Web. 15 Aug. 2013

Kochanek, D. Kenneth. “Deaths: Final Data for 2009.” National Vital Statistics Reports 60.3 (2011): 1-117. Web. 15 Aug. 2013

Krouse, J. William. Gun Control Legislation: CRS report for Congress. Collingdale: DIANE Publishing, 2012

Masters, Jonathan. U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparisons. Council on Foreign Relations. 15 July 2013. Web. 15 Aug. 2013

Planty, Michael and Jennifer L. Truman. Firearm Violence, 1993-2011. Bureau of Justice Statistics. May 2013. Web. 15 Aug. 2013

Rosencrantz, Lawrence. America Adrift: Restoring the Promise of Our Democracy. Lawrence Rosencrantz, 2011. Print

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