Type: Process Essays
Sample donated: Julie Ellis
Last updated: May 20, 2019
There are many necessary historically precedent perspectives of gun control in the United States, stemming in part from its colonial history, revolutionary roots, frontier expansion, and in majority, the Second Amendment, stating: “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” (Background of the Issue – Gun Control – ProCon.org). In colonial history, according to historian Saul Cornell, states passed some of the first gun control laws, beginning with Kentucky’s law to “curb the practice of carrying concealed weapons in 1813” (Saul Cornell and Nathan DeDino).
With regards to revolutionary roots, British colonists brought their English distrust of heavy militant domination with them to the Americas; they saw power concentrated in the hands of the government as a threat to civil liberties, thus integrated the tradition of the citizen-soldier into their colonial charters. Apropos of frontier expansion, the early days of European settlement along the Atlantic coast was essential to American growth, using guns in order to conquer beyond. With this in mind, gun control laws stem from interpretation of the second amendment. The changes in gun control laws is essential to the current increase in unnecessary mass shootings. The evolution of accessibility for guns starts in 1934 with President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the “New Deal for Crime.
” With this, it allows for a restrictive $200 tax on the manufacture or sale of machine guns and shotguns, these sales were then to be recorded in a national registry. Later, Roosevelt won approval for the National Firearms Act of 1938 which requires the licensing of interstate gun dealers, who must record their sales: these prohibit sales to individuals under indictment or convicted of crimes of violence. 30 years later, stemming from the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr., President Lyndon B Johnson renewed the fight for gun control with the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and the Gun Control Act of 1968. These newly passed regulations prohibited all convicted felons, drug users and the mentally ill from buying guns; raises the age to purchase handguns from a federally licensed dealer to 21, expands the licensing requirements to more gun dealers and requires more detailed record-keeping.
Congress passed the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986. The law limits the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms from inspecting gun dealers more than once a year, and follow-up inspections only if many violations were found. Moreover, an amendment was also passed banning civilian ownership of machine guns manufactured after May 19, 1986: not affecting any guns made beforehand. The law specifically forbid the government from creating a national registry of gun ownership. In 1993, The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act mandates background checks of gun buyers in order to prevent sales to people prohibited under the 1968 legislation. Checks would eventually occur through a new system, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), maintained by the FBI. But records of such checks cannot be preserved because federal law prohibits the creation of a national registry of gun ownership. To add, sales by unlicensed private sellers who are not engaged in gun dealing as a primary business can’t be checked under federal law, but some select states do require them.
In 1994, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act created a 10-year federal ban on the manufacture of new semi-automatic assault weapons; the act also bans large-capacity ammunition magazines, limiting them to 10 rounds. In 2004, when this ban is lifted, is not renewed and all efforts to do so were denied. Unfortunately, in 2003, the NRA passed the Tiahrt Amendment that prohibits law enforcement to publicly release data showing where criminals bought their firearms.
In 2008, the Supreme Court in the District of Columbia v. Heller holds that Americans have an individual right under the Second Amendment to have firearms for “traditionally lawful purposes, such as self defense,” ultimately voiding the previous law that banned handguns. In 2012, 18 years after the Brady law is passed, the number of sales of firearms reached nearly a million. President Obama was said to vow to impose new limits on guns and ammunition because of the Newtown, Connecticut shooting (History of Gun-control Legislation).Current Complexity: Gun politics is an area of American politics that is defined primarily by the actions of two groups: gun control and gun rights activists. These groups often disagree on the interpretation of laws and court cases, as well as the effects of gun control on crime and public safety.
Conservatives tend to oppose gun control. In their opinion, the Second Amendment provides the right for citizens to keep and bear guns to defend themselves. They believe that there are “too many gun control laws and additional laws will not lower gun crime rates,” (Hawkins, Marcus). They argue that the reason the general public has limited and prohibited ownership of semi-automatic and machine guns as a “misguided attempt to protect the public.
” This being said, the complaints that Congress was too “overbearing” in regards to the Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Gun Control Act of 1968 being passed. Along with other contributing factors, these complaints made by the Conservatives was thus one the turning point for the rather lenient policies passed from that moment on. They believe that what is needed for policy reform is the enforcement of current laws, that the gun control laws do not prevent criminals from obtaining guns.
Thus, more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens means less crime. On the other hand, liberal views have it that gun control is necessary in order to maintain a more perfect union. They generally interpret the Second Amendment as it does not give citizens the right to bear arms, rather a well-regulated militia. Liberals agree that gun control laws such as background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are common sense. They agree that the Conservative approach to gun “control” is faulty; that after every slaughter there is a new opening to capitalize on hope that the public will give government license to do what has been previously rejected (Goodwin, Michael).
That being said, it could be seen that Liberals are waiting on the gun control laws in light of gun sales reaching a new capita and even Obama’s word to begin the process of imposing new limits on guns and ammunition. Their policy reform follows that individuals do not need guns for protection, and that it is the role of local and federal government to protect the people with law enforcement and the militaries. Likewise, additional gun control laws are crucial to stop gun violence and limit the ability of criminals to obtain guns. Thus, more guns mean more violence. In a political perspective, the gun control debate mandates that liberals will oppose guns and conservatives believe it to be necessary in forming a perfect union (Chemerinsky, Erwin). In a social context, those who are in favor of gun control often develop negative attitudes towards firearms because of their behavioral effects, such as increases in aggression, or via the availability heuristic by absorbing an abundance of statistical data which shows gun control as a potential reducer of violent behavior (Umberger, Arron). In light to the Charleston church shooting, along with many more, it is common to see that religious groups are divided on gun control, but agree that guns have no place in church (Service, Lauren Markoe| Religion News). According to a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute conducted in partnership with Religion News Service, more than three-quarters of respondents (76 percent) said concealed weapons should not be allowed in houses of worship, compared to 20 percent who disagreed.
In a popular conservative-based interest group, the National Rifle Association, their goal is to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis,” (About the NRA). Opponents of gun control tend to point to other factors to explain America’s unusual gun violence: mental illness, for example. Jonathan Metzl, a mental health expert at Vanderbilt University, says that this is just not the case.
People with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims, not perpetrators, of violence.Proposal: The United States has a problem with gun violence. The US sees many more mass shootings than any other developed country, with regards to population.
Mass shootings have been increasing at an exponential rate; before 2011 they happened 6 months apart on average, but since then, there has been one every 2 months. However, gun violence is not limited to solely mass shootings. Gun deaths compared to other causes such as AIDS, drugs, wars, and terrorism, is still much higher. These problems all root from the amount of guns that Americans own and how easy it is to access them. The US has by far the highest number of privately owned guns in the world.
Estimated in 2007, the number of civilian-owned firearms in the US was 88.8 guns per 100 people, meaning there was almost one privately owned gun per American and more than one per American adult. Compared to other countries, it is relatively easy to obtain a gun in the US. Other developed countries such as the Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, and Denmark, require a license to purchase a gun, which is then recorded in an official registry, and to get that license people must give reason for purchase, and in most countries, there is required safety tests and safe storage. However, none of these 10 countries has a law that maintains the right to bear arms. There is an obvious correlation between America’s high gun violence rate and lack of safety precautions, compared to the other country’s lack of the right to bear arms and their low gun violence rate. High gun ownership rates do not reduce gun deaths, but rather tend to coincide with increases in gun deaths. The more guns in a country, the more gun deaths.
There needs to be a policy reform that keeps guns away from potential mass shooters (Lopez, German).This being said, there are several policy reforms that need to be enacted to act as a preventative measure from further deaths. Firstly, The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, which limits inspections of gun dealers to once a year, needs to be adjusted. This adjustment should be changed to as many visits as often as necessary; just as health inspectors visit institutions (Pelletz, Brittany). This law was created under false pretensions from the Conservative party because laws were “too overbearing.” Another adjustment to be made regards the amendment that passed banning civilian ownership of machine guns manufactured after May 19, 1986: not affecting any guns made beforehand.
It should continue to be banned, however several things need to happen: restricting the easy ability for individuals to create machine guns through clips and that the guns made before 1986 should be withdrawn. Although checks would eventually occur through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, records of such checks cannot be preserved because federal law prohibits the creation of a national registry of gun ownership. To add, The NICS also lacks millions of cases, making it an unreliable source for gun dealers (Devlin Barrett, Sandhya Somashekhar, Alex Horton). There must be an update to this registry that allows all records to be maintained regularly and is accessible to all gun dealers. Definitely not last, sales by unlicensed private sellers who are not engaged in gun dealing as a primary business can’t be checked under federal law. This is an easy outlet for dealers to avoid checks, making guns more accessible to the public. Not to mention, the Tiahrt Amendment prohibits law enforcement to publicly release data showing where criminals bought their firearms. This is an easy way for under-the-table dealers to avoid giving background checks, thus permitting any individual to get a gun.
Another adjustment lays with the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, that created a 10-year federal ban on the manufacture of new semi-automatic assault weapons; the act also bans large-capacity ammunition magazines, limiting them to 10 rounds. The law does not apply to weapons that were already in legal possession, and there are easy ways to adapt new weapons to avoid the prohibitions. In 2004, when this ban is lifted, is not renewed and all efforts to do so were denied. This ban needs to be reenacted, as there is no logical reason for any person to need large-capacity ammunition rounds and semi-automatic rounds. Moreover, the Supreme Court in the District of Columbia v. Heller holds that Americans have an individual right under the Second Amendment to have firearms for “traditionally lawful purposes, such as self defense,” ultimately voiding the previous law that banned handguns. This being said, in 2012, 18 years after the Brady law is passed, the number of sales of firearms reached nearly a million.
The Brady law has to be reversed. To sum up, the policy reform would require the following: frequent inspections of gun dealerships, banning all machine guns, the legal loopholes that let people get machine guns, a reliable national registry, strict background checks, a strict process to obtaining a gun, safety precautions, and a limit to the amount of ammunition rounds. Though this is a high amount of necessary changes, they must be made in order to prevent more gun violence. America is experiencing a volatile time, with much that we hold dear and sacred in precarious turmoil. Our very foundation has developed cracks. It’s imperative that leaders emerge; those educated with a significant and broad understanding of our political, social and democratic systems…and how they might be changing.That being said, there are several faults in this reform. Self-defense is a necessity for humans.
Guns could be needed for that reason, perhaps with a shotgun that do not require large ammunition rounds. This would mean that semi-automatic weapons would still be banned if looking at the self defense argument. More, it is unreasonable to recall all guns that slipped under the radar with the bans that did not affect models before that given time.
However, it would be beneficial to continue to ban all semi-automatic, fully-automatic, and machine guns. Lastly, one of the arguably biggest downfall in policy reform for gun control is that although some Americans tend to support control measures, that does not mean that this translates into law. According to a Pew Research survey conducted in March 2013, 83% of all adults surveyed (and 79% of gun-owners; 86% of people living with a gun-owner; and 74% of conservative NRA households) approve of background checks for private and gun show sales. The entire basis of this gun-control reform would require laws to be enacted. Congress has not already made certain changes because of the fundamental flaws that makes it incredibly difficult to pass laws.
It is necessary for Congress to take a step in preventing hundreds of thousands innocent deaths.