This paper is an insight to the heavily-debated issue of gun control in the United States, breaking down the arguments of Gun Control Activists and Gun Rights Activists. A brief history of the guns and gun controls are included to provide sufficient awareness to the historical background attached to the issue. Significant gun control laws in the United States and significant effects to the execution of the law are also included to give the observed experiences and events correlated to the implementation and enforcement of the laws.
Significant historical events are also part of the discussion to also provide insights in the strengths and weaknesses, plus the positive and negative effects on the levels of gun control in the same period. Most discussions in the paper focus on both the Pros and Cons of gun control, as per experiences and instances, and the various arguments of activist groups in the topic of gun control. Both the voices of the Gun Rights Advocates and the Gun Control Advocates were explained to utmost capabilities. Finally, a conclusion was created after both the pros and cons were laid down.
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The conclusion included the views and opinion of the writer, as well as some humble suggestion coming from a student and resident of the United States. The Pros and Cons of Gun Control To start off with this paper some definition of terms specifically used in any gun control policy is needed. A gun, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is a piece of ordnance, weapon, armament commonly with a high muzzle velocity and a flat trajectory, (can also be) a small or portable firearm that throws a projectile.
The term “gun” was derived from the Middle English word gonne or gunne which referred to a small handheld cannon from the 14th century (“Gun”, n. d. ). There is a variety of use for the term gun, as ranging from homemade bullet-firing machines, handguns, machine guns, rifles, artillery and others. The most common weapons referred to as a gun are the handguns, machine guns and rifles. With the introduction of the gunpowder by the Chinese dating back to the 13th century, inventors all around the world (but most especially in Europe plus of course China) rally to create weapons for worldwide exploration and colonization.
The Arquebus was the first in the scene of the guns dating as far back as the late 14th century, as used by the soldiers of Ming dynasty against Mongols. Compared to the traditional long bow, it had a much greater punch and a better firing rate but slipped in the accuracy division. Nevertheless, with continued changes to the technology, the gun out maneuvered the long bow as the long range weapon of choice by any army (McNab, 2004). As the technology continued to evolve, so did the guns.
From the simpler designs of the Arquebus, the musket and others, it evolved to the guns known to the present. Ranging from highly compact guns, to very long range weapons, the gun have come a long way to be what it is now (McNab, 2004). But with the mass production of the weapon, and the decline in the war would mean the demand for the guns will come from a new source. Households now own millions of guns, sometimes having more than one gun, thus the need for regulation. The simple mentioning of the word can bring terror to a person, rage to some, and enthusiasm from others.
As a very common weapon anywhere in the world, and given the wide variety of types, designs and functions of the gun, it also has a diversified use. It can range from hunting, tactical shooting, security purposes, and even evil deeds. Guns from its earliest of forms have taken an unimaginable number of lives, to both humans and animals. But since accessibility to guns vary from one place to the next, gun control laws were created to help control and track the seemingly countless supply of guns all around the world (Halbrook, 1994). Gun Statistics in the United States
The United States, known worldwide as a leader in firearms production, produces firearms by the millions each year. Remington Company leads the race in firearms sold, more specially in rifles for a time now, tallying more than 5 million rifles sold over a decade. Smith & Wesson Company are not too far behind with at least 4 million firearms sold over the same period. The “Ring of Fire” (ROF), an association of US firearm manufacturers who creates low-priced guns, also surpassed the one million firearms sold in a decade (Spitzer, 2007).
Needless to say, there are still hundreds of companies to be mentioned that add to the yearly tally of guns sold in the millions. The US also has a gun ownership of 60 million while the number of firearms owned by civilian’s ranges from 256 million to about 300 million, getting the US to the top spot of firearms owned (Matsuo, 2003). Since the Clinton Crime Bill of 1994 that requires reporting of lost, stolen or missing guns, the number of report reached more than 1.
4 million, only less than 40% of which are returned, thus giving a high volume of guns to be used by terrorists and criminals (Cook & Ludwig, 2002). Currently speaking, the United States holds the tally for the most number of gun related incident to kids than any other industrialized nation. In 2002, more than 3000 children and teens died through gunfire, summing up to 8 children and teens everyday killed, 4 people every hour tallying up to more than 80 gun-related deaths each day (Horwitz, 2009).
Gun Control Legislations in the United States The US constitution in 1787 enshrined the right of Americans to keep and bear arms specifically in its Second Amendment as ‘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. ’ (Halbrook, 2008). In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted the National Firearms Act mostly because of the lawlessness plus the rise of the gangsters during the widespread prohibition of liquors.
It targeted the elimination of automatic weapons such as machine guns popularized by the gangsters, most specially the ‘Tommy gun’. Also, the act deters other firearms such as the shotguns, rifles, and other concealed weapons by slapping gun manufacturers and gun sales with tax equivalent of more than $2500 today. The next major gun law is the Federal Firearms Act which was directed to the interstate sale or shipping of guns through foreign commerce channels. This was a rigorous threat to national security as before the Act, anyone could buy weapons without license or even records of any sort.
The Federal Firearms Act required all those involved in selling firearms to acquire a Federal Firearms License from the Secretary of Commerce plus required them to record the names and addresses of everyone whom they sold guns to. People convicted of crimes such as murder, homicide, assault and the like are prohibited from buying guns as for security purposes. One of the most infamous gun-related events in US history is the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (JFK). Lee Harvey Oswald who assassinated JFK with a mail-order gun showed a great problem in gun control back then, hence the need for a major revision in the federal gun laws.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 was also driven by the ensuing assassinations of Martin Luther King and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, the younger brother of JFK (Douglass, 2008). Prohibitions of gun control were then expanded and were then detailed. More dealers were required to obtain license requirement and record keeping of their gun sales required to be more detailed. The sale of firearms then prohibited more people – convicted felons (with some exceptions), those found to be mentally incapable and incompetent, drug users, and among others.
Sales of handgun through state lines were restricted, as well as the sale of rifles and shotguns. Oswald’s gun which was mail-ordered was a key loophole in the prevailing gun control laws (Douglass, 2008). After the Gun Control Act of 1968, there was a ban on mail order sales of rifles and shotguns. The Gun Control Act of 1968 was purposely passed to provide support in the Federal, State and local levels in combatting crime and violence while protecting the right of any law-abiding citizen whom respect and follow the lawful acquisition, possession or use of firearms.
Firearms, as defined by this Act, means any weapon design or can be readily be converted to expel a projectile with an explosive, the frame of those weapon, silencers or mufflers and destructive devices such as bombs, grenade, mine, missile and among them (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives , 2005). Four years later, 1972, a part of the Department of Treasury, the then Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division of the Internal Revenue service replaced their supervision of tax with their mandate over gun control.
It became the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms known by the letters ATF. The ATF is responsible for the enforcement of Federal firearms laws, arsons and bombings, illegal trafficking of alcohol and tobacco. It is responsible for the licensing, and provisioning of the gun sales of interstate commerce (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 2005). Came the next Act on gun control, the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act provide protection for law enforcers as to protect them from armor-piercing ammunition or cop killer bullets.
The Act illegalizes the manufacturing or importation of armor penetrating rounds that could be hazardous to the Law Enforcers in their task of protecting the people. And by 1990, the Crime Control Act was formulated to outlaw the creation of illegal automatic weapons by the use of legally imported parts, plus the establishment of drug-free and gun-free school zones directed to protect the children and teens from violence in the vicinity of schools (Spitzer, 2007).
Along came the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act that imposes a five-day waiting period as well developing a more powerful National Instant Criminal Background Check System or more popularly known as NICS which is managed by the FBI. The waiting period was for the background check and giving delay before a licensed gun seller, dealer, importer or manufacturer can give a handgun to an unlicensed individual. During the same year, the ban of assault weapons was banned for civilian use. It was the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that banned semi-automatic assault weapons plus large-capacity ammunition feeding magazines.
From this point up to the present, several States slowly adapted the provisions of these laws but varies from one State to the next (Korwin & Kopel, 2008). The Pros of Gun Control Given the overwhelming statistics of gun-related incidents in the United States, the current gun control policies and bills are to be questioned if it suffices the sheer number of gun owners and guns. One provision of the Brady Bill that requires the rigorous background check of an individual buying a gun is a positive effort to prevent unauthorized and unqualified individuals from buying a firearm.
Safety, of course, is the most positive aspect in regulating gun ownership and where and how guns can be used. The number one purpose of owning a gun is for personal protection, but pro-gun control activists point out that there is a greater possibility of injuring one’s self or a loved than injuring an intruder. Thus, a tighter gun control policy will reasonably reduce the number of deaths through gun-related incidents (Tita, 2003). Household guns are usually handguns as they are small and easily concealable and are almost a third of all guns in the United States.
However, handguns account for more than 70% of all gun related incidents and murders. Again, a tighter gun control policy – not necessarily banning all guns, will be valuable in reducing the thousands of lives guns claim each year. An argument that any gun rights advocate would be using is that of the Second Amendment that exclaims “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.
” If taken one sided, and to the explanation and interpretation of gun rights advocates, this could mean that any law-abiding citizen who protects the rights of the people by bearing and keeping arms should not be infringed as it is necessary for the security of a Free State (Halbrook, 2008). But this notion, to the belief and interpretation of law makers and constitution experts, does not provide for individual Gun Rights. The Second Amendment cannot be taken to be used for addressing private gun ownership rights but for the collective rights of the people and the states to maintaining militias.
A group Americans for Gun Safety found out in their study that of the 22 national gun laws in the US, 20 are not properly if not totally enforced. Thus, there are more chances of gun crimes not to be prosecuted and be ignored such as gun theft and illegal gun trafficking. Even terrorists can have their hands on firearms in gun shows from unlicensed sellers who are not required to conduct background check or identification in buying guns. The supposed restrictions for purchasing guns, say a convicted felon, can buy directly from these sellers without the need for background checks (Cook & Ludwig, 2002).
One instance that shows how the under-regulation of many gun control laws put US residents in major risk is that of the 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre. A very gloomy event happened on the 16th of April that year, in a little more than two hours, 32 faculty and students of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University or Virginia Tech were killed by a student gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, a senior undergraduate student. There were two separate shootings first in West Ambler Johnston Hall where he killed 2 students, and in Norris Hall where he killed the other 30 faculty and students (Roy, 2009).
Cho was able to purchase his first gun, despite of his psychological problems since childhood. He legally acquired a . 22 caliber Walther P22 semi-automatic pistol after undergoing mandatory background checks. After a 30-day waiting period, Cho again was able to acquire a second handgun, a Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol on March 13. By presenting his U. S. permanent residency card and his driver’s permit proving he’s of legal age, he was able to pass both of the background checks by the two gun dealers.
Seeing the result of the weak gun control laws and most especially the loopholes found in the background check procedures by the gun dealers. With the troubling incident, the NICS was finally set into place. There was obviously a deficiency in the gun laws then, and it took killings and shootings before this was recognized (Tita, 2003). Question gun control activists ask the government and the people, will they wait for another massacre before recognizing the inadequacy of current gun restrictions? Gun control advocates suggests positive steps into these types of situations, refine the gun laws before anything grim happen once again.
Strict monitoring and checking should be done amongst those who manufacture firearms as well as those who own any kind of firearm. The declaration that constitutional barriers, far-reaching policies, as well as appropriate and major social costs are to be implemented will certainly enable law enforcers to keep an eye and check those individuals with illegitimate ownerships of firearms or transfers firearms unlawfully. In such way, institutions and individuals will be more honest and obedient in order to keep the interests of the society at a peaceful subsistence.
As a substitute for going against federal control, it is important for people to help in the empowerment of federal laws and policies that concentrate on keeping these dangerous firearms away and out of the hands of risky people. The opposite would only jeopardize the security of the whole society (Spitzer, 2007). Law-abiding citizens certainly would benefit from efficient gun control measures and it will also strengthen the constitutional rights of the people. There are advocates concerns about the prevalent ownership of firearms, and they support the idea that these ownerships should be forbidden to keep the crime rates from soaring.
But it is important to look at the bigger picture and recognize that the problem that is questioned is the person that pulls the trigger and not the gun alone (Tita, 2003). The threats of probable gangs and tyranny are being focused on. The solution is not to counteract their actions by having firearms accessible to deranged adults, children, and troubled individuals. The solution rather lies with the efficient and successful upholding of the law and assisting the law makers and enforcers in restraining illegal procurement of firearms.
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