Recently, there have been many debates going on in the news that are focusing on firearms, and firearm control. These debates have led to many American citizens questioning the laws revolving around gun control, and the amendment to the constitution allowing the right to bear arms. Since many people are unsure of how exactly laws pertaining to firearms work, it is crucially important that gun control is discussed. This paper will focus on gun control, the history of gun control, reasons for firearm prohibition, and so on. Gun control is a touchy topic that many people in the United States are uncertain about.
Typically, firearms can be sorted into three categories. The first of these categories is handguns. The hand gun is the most commonly owned gun in the United States and most people are referring to hand guns when the are talking about “guns”. The next category is rifles. The third and final category is shotguns. Rifles and shotguns are usually considered “long guns”. Currently, 45% of households have a firearm of some sort. Of these 70-80 million people, 45 million people own a handgun. 67% of the people who own a firearm claim to own it for protection use. 6% of the owners claim to own it for target shooting, and 41% use their gun for hunting. There is a large group of people who are not allowed to own a firearm. These people include anyone who has been convicted of a crime, a fugitive, someone who misuses a controlled substance, anyone who has been ruled “mentally defective”, anyone who has been admitted to a mental institution, illegal aliens, dishonorably discharged members of the military, anyone who has renounced their US citizenship, anyone who has been convicted of a misdemeanor in domestic violence, and people subject to certain restraining orders.
There are therefore, many reasons to stop many Americans from owing a gun. Though it is not federal law for background checks to be distributed when a person purchases a firearm, the seller is subject to punishment if they had even the slightest hunch that the person they sold the firearm to fell into one of the categories that are aforementioned (Agresti and Smith, 2010). Firearm control and gun rights have been an issue since the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791.
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This amendment stated, “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”. Then, in 1837, the state of Georgia tried to pass a law that banned handguns. This law was quickly ruled unconstitutional and discarded. Later on that century, in 1865, several southern states adopted “black codes” which forbid all black persons from possessing firearms. These laws were adopted because of a reaction to emancipation. In 1871, the NRA, the National Rifle Association was formed.
It had goals of improving American’s marksmanship in preparation for any type of war (Longley, 1999). Then, in the 1900’s, more and more regulations began to come out. In 1927, congress passed a law that banned the mailing of concealable weapons. At this time, people could buy guns from catalogs, magazines, and pretty much anywhere they looked. This law slowed the distribution down quite a bit. A few years later, in 1934, the National Firearms Act of 1934 started regulating fully automatic firearms such as sub-machine guns.
Four years later, in 1938, the Federal Firearms Act of 1938 placed the very first limitations on selling ordinary firearms. It created a law that made people who wished to sell firearms obtain licenses to do so. This cost them an annual fee of $1. They were also required to create records of every person they sold a gun to (Longley, 1999). In 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. This created uproar with gun control since Kennedy was assassinated by gun fire, as well as the man who was believed to have killed him.
It is no wonder that in 1968 the Gun Control Act of 1968 was enacted. It was created in order to keep firearms away from people who were believed to be incapable of properly using one. This Act puts even more restrictions on selling guns, and for the first time, the list of people who were allowed to buy a gun became smaller (Langley, 1999). Though this act did not completely satisfy what President Lyndon B. Johnson had hoped for, this act contained the most significant restrictions on firearms since the 1930’s. (Eakins, 2004). Since there were ow so many restrictions on the buying and selling of firearms, in 1972, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms was created, and its mission was to catch anyone who went against the federal firearms laws previously mentioned (Langley, 1999). In 1986, multiple laws were enacted. The Armed Career Criminal Acts was passed and increased penalties for people who illegally possessed firearms. Then, after noticing how many laws were now restricting gun rights, the Firearms Owners Protection Act lessened some of the restrictions of gun and ammunition sales.
The last law instated pertaining to guns was the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act. This law intelligently banned possession of “cop killer” bullets, which are bullets capable of penetrating bulletproof clothing. In 1989, California banned the possession of semi-automatic assault weapons after a brutal massacre of five children in Stockton, CA on a playground. Following this school shooting, the Crime Control Act of 1990 created gun-free school zones, and banned manufacturing and importing of semi-automatic assault weapons in the United States.
In 1994, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 banned all sales, manufacturing, importation, and possession of quite a few types of assault weapons (Langley, 1999). Also in 1994, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was passed. This act requires all federally licensed firearm dealers to carry out background checks on gun buyers to monitor people who could be potentially dangerous. This law is named on behalf of James Brady who was shot and severely injured in 1981 when there was an assassination attempt on President Ronald Regan.
James Brady was President Regan’s Press Secretary (Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 1997). In 1997, the Supreme Court declares the background check requirement of the Brady Violence prevention Act unconstitutional. This verdict came from the case of Printz v. United States. Printz’s case held because he argues that the congressional action was “compelling state officers to execute federal laws”. The law was ruled unconstitutional (Liechty, 1998). In 1998, an amendment was proposed that would require gun dealers to have trigger locks on every handgun sold in the United States.
This amendment was defeated in the senate, but the senate did approve an amendment that required trigger locks to be available by all gun dealers. They also created federal grants for gun safety and education programs (Langley, 1999). In the same year of 1998, states began to file suit against gun makers, firearms trade associations, and gun dealers, claiming that they should be paid for the costs attributed to gun-related violence. Also in that year, a 14 year old boy was killed by another boy with a Berretta handgun, and the family filed a negligence suit against Berretta. This suit was dismissed by the California jury.
In 1999, the senate passed a bill requiring a trigger lock on all new guns, and a longer waiting period and more background check requirements for those people wishing to buy a gun at a gun show (Langley, 1999). Gun ownership and use has caused much turmoil throughout the history of the United States. Since the second amendment to the constitution is open to interpretation by all Americans, including those Americans at the state and federal level, it is not entirely clear what the future of gun control may hold. It seems that the court is constantly unsure of where they stand on the second amendment, and rightfully so.
With each new entering person comes a new perspective on the way the amendment should be interpreted. Justice Antonin Scalia, of the Supreme Court stated that the constitution does not permit “the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home”. But earlier that century, the Court had declared “We cannot say that the second amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear arms”. While some in the court believe that the second amendment is pertaining only to military purposes, others argue that there is no specification of this in the amendment itself (Altman, 2008).
In Princeton, NJ, a Gallup poll taken prior to the shootings at an immigrant center in Binghamton showed that in 2007, only 29% of Americans believed that possessions of handguns by citizens should be banned in the United States. However, after these shootings, 49% of Americans were found to want the laws covering the sale of firearms to be made stricter than currently (Saad, 2009). These interesting findings show how tragedy can affect people. This also creates a problem because world events are constantly changing opinions of Americans.
If a person has been directly affected negatively by an event that involved a gun, their opinion on gun control may be entirely different from a person who spends their free time in a gun range shooting at targets. Therefore, this fifty percent division between Americans is a tough tie to break because politicians must constantly try to decide between freedom and public safety, both of which are regarded as highly important to American citizens. Another interesting aspect of gun control is its racist roots. Before the civil rights movements, many Americans had been taught to hold themselves superior to “people of color”.
Due to this immense racism, gun control was more relaxed when it came to shootings. In fact, in 1751, the French Black Code required Louisiana colonists to stop any black persons who had any sort of weapon. If they refused to stop, the colonists had permission, and were even commanded to “shoot to kill”. Therefore, southern Americans were taught from early on that they were to use their guns to fight for “justice”. Nowadays, Louisiana is one of the states with very strict gun ownership laws, most likely due to the past laws that were so prominent in the area (Cramer, 1993).
In 2008, there was a court case that forced the Supreme Court to help classify the second amendment. This was the District of Columbia v. Heller case. In 1975, a District of Columbia law banned the possession of handguns within Washington D. C. Six residents challenged the law, and though it was initially dismissed, it was upheld 2-1 in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in 2007 (Head, 2012). This helped classify the second amendment when the Supreme Court decided that “the second amendment guarantees an individuals right to ‘bear arms’, and that, not only hunting rifles, but handguns, are included in the definition of ‘arms’”.
The problem that Americans run into, deciphering the second amendment is why there is still so much controversy surrounding gun control today. Even though the right to bear arms for self defense is given in 31 states, it still doesn’t sit too well with the American public. Many see the right to bear arms as trying to fight violence with more violence. However, each individual state reserves the right to establish what level of control on guns they wish to have in their territory.
Some states, like California, South Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia have laws that limit how many guns are allowed to be purchased per month. California also was the first state to ban assault weapons, which are most weapons that are automatic. Other places where these bans are in effect are New Jersey, Hawaii, Connecticut, and Maryland. Since about 2004, the importance of gun control to Americans seems to be decreasing. In 2008, the percent of people who considered gun control to be an issue of importance dropped from 3% to 1% (News Batch, 2009).
However, now that the George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin case has been all over the news, the statistics of the importance of gun control will most likely change. This case examines two Floridians. Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, was gunned down by George Zimmerman, 28. While on the phone with 911, after reporting strange behavior of the victim, George Zimmerman got into a tussle with Martin, and against dispatcher advice, shot Martin. Zimmerman is claiming self-defense, and though Florida has “stand your ground laws” in place, the incident has raised quite a bit of controversy about gun control.
A “stand your ground law” is a law that makes it legal for people to use deadly force when they feel a reasonable threat of death or serious injury (CNN Wire Staff, 2012). The Trayvon Martin case is a case that will change the opinions of many people all over the United States. Gun control is a topic hat has divided America for many years. In March 2010, when Americans were asked if local governments should be able to pass laws banning handguns, 45% said they should have that power, 50% said they should not, and 5% answered that they were unsure.
This is almost an exact 50% division of the public. In fact, when it comes to banning handguns, there is even a division between men and women. Only 38% of men believe that laws should be passed banning handguns, while 51% of women believe that these laws should be passed. In April of 2008, 37% of all Americans thought that it was more important to protect gun rights than control gun ownership, but a whopping 58% of all Americans said that it was more important to control gun ownership. However, as time has progressed, this is no longer the case.
In April of 2009, the people who thought protecting gun rights was important increase to 45% and people who thought controlling gun ownership was more important dropped down to 49%. Then in 2010, the statistics changed even more. The percent of people for both categories was even, at 46% (Pew Research Center, 2010). Overall, gun control is an issue that will continue to haunt America. The history of gun control stretches back for year and years, and there are many different reasons for why guns have been both restricted, and uncontrolled.
The second amendment to the constitution left the American politicians with a very unclear idea of how firearms should be handled, and each type of person has their own individual interpretation of the amendment. Gun control had divided America right now the middle for years, and though many Americans believed that the issue is of low importance a few years ago, due to current events, the opinions of the importance of gun control are likely to morph and change. The future of gun control is unknown by most people, and even the experts believe that the way guns are controlled will be affected directly by nationwide events that occur daily.
Gun control is not a topic that can be taken lightly, and that is one of the biggest reasons why it has created so much controversy among Americans. America will always struggle with gun control ideals because no concrete rule was written within the constitution either banning it, or allowing it as a freedom. It is up to the current and future leaders of America to help the country understand what the founding fathers meant so many years ago when they were writing the constitution of the United States.
Agresti, J. D., & Smith, R. K. (2010, September 13). Gun control. Retrieved from http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp Altman, A. (2008, June 26). the future of gun control. Retrieved from http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1818325,00.html Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Traffic Stop: How the Brady Act InterruptsInterstate Gun Trafficking, Washington, DC: July 1997 CNN Wire Staff. (2012, April 23). Florida city comission rejects police chief'sresignation in trayvon martin case. Retrieved from http://articles.cnn.com/201204-23/justice/justice_florida-teen-shooting_1_chief-bill-lee-embattled-police-citycommission?_s=PM:JUSTICE Cramer, C. E.
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