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The politics of gun control in the United States is an ancient tradition that takes fresh twists and turns with each new age. The politics of gun policy are determined by two completely separate parties. On the one side, there are gun-rights advocates who propose and protect the unrestricted right to bear weapons, and on the other, there are gun safety activists who advocate for gun control legislation (Robertson and Williams).
In colonial and revolutionary America, firearms were initially used for hunting and general self-defense. People of color were not permitted to bear arms until the early 1900s. It was during the 1900s that laws were passed prohibiting the selling of firearms to particular groups of people including convicted felons. Federal and State Gun Laws changed in the 2000s when President George W. Bush gave immunity to civil liability for gun sellers for any crimes committed with firearms they sell (Gold 110-129). Some of the latest gun control measures were pioneered by President Barack Obama when he gave an executive order to expand background checks when issuing firearms as well as sealing the “gun show loophole.” (ProCon) The research as relayed through this essay discusses the arguments as presented by both sides of opposers and supporters of gun control but the researcher is a proponent of more gun control laws to eliminate gun violence in the United States.
Proponent and Opponent Arguments on Gun Control Laws
The Second Amendment
All arguments by opposers of gun control laws stem from the primary argument which states that the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States protects the rights of individuals to own guns for protection from local and foreign threats and that owning a firearm does not cause crime and instead deters crime (Spitzer 35). The compelling aspect of this argument is the fact that it is enshrined in the constitution stating that “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.” (Magoon 54-62). Therefore, more gun control laws are an infringement of the right to bear arms which are an old American tradition. The law has been cited in numerous gun violence cases across the U. S such as in District of Columbia et al. v. Heller where Justice Antonin Scalia, LLB, elaborated on the relevance of the Second Amendment in protecting gun rights (ProCon).
A careful consideration of the history of gun laws shows that restrictions to bear arms are not the only law concerning gun control that serves to infringe on the right to bear arms. Banning loaded guns in Boston and regulating the storage of gun powder in homes are examples of firearms control measures that are rarely cited by opposers of gun control which sheds doubt to the intent of protecting the particular right to carry a loaded weapon in public (Magoon 54-62). Apparently, the Second Amendment does not secure unlimited rights so that it acts as a scapegoat for anyone claiming to have their rights abused. According to Maggon, the second amendment alone should not prohibit more legislations, amendments, and laws to control gun rights. Proponents of gun controls are right to seek more gun control since as is the case in all other statutes, amendments are needed to enforce new policies and hiding behind the veil of a part of the constitution while disregarding the others is not convincing to oppose gun control.
The second point of divergence between opposers and proposers of gun control is gun violence. Guns are the 12th leading cause of death in the United States topping various diseases and different forms of accidents. Statistics by Magoon show that there were more than 400000 gun deaths in the United States. Every crime or incidence i.e. homicide, suicide and unintentional deaths involved deaths by private firearm bearers. The further statistic shows that the ease of legal purchase of firearms in correlated to high risk of violent deaths and a restriction in ease of procuring guns through the implementation of federal universal background checks would drastically reduce violent deaths by a projected 56.9 %. The fact that even children in America are more prone to die from gunfire than in any other developed country is more testament to the need to control procurement and storage laws for firearms (Magoon 70).
Opposers to the gun control measures argue that owning a firearm deters crime and not gun control laws. The argument is supported by a 2013 study which concluded that "bans on assault weapons did not significantly affect murder rates at the state level." The study also found that "states with restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons had higher gun-related deaths." (ProCon). The fault with the conclusion of the survey is that there is no provision where owning a firearm reduces violent deaths in any way. The fact is, having regulations that decrease the number of guns in the streets does not contribute to violence while owning a firearm may offer protection but at the same time cause death as a result of taking the law into one’s hands in the name of self-defense (Gold 2004).
High Amunition Rifles
High capacity rifles and ammunition such as magazines are often misused to carry out mass murders through terrorism. For example, a venue in the US city of Orlando was a victim of mass shootings by a terrorist who had procured heavy machine guns through legal means for self-defense. A study conducted by Mother Jones found that high-capacity rifles were used in at least half of the mass shootings between 1982 and 2012 (ProCon). The government could have avoided the menace had there been a proper regulation regarding the use of high power rifles and ammunitions. If the intent of owning a firearm is self-defence, one would argue that the need for high power rifles is overrated and it amounts to suspicious intent.
Opposers of gun control laws are of the opinion that it does not matter what kind of weapon one wishes to procure as long as the constitution protects their right to do so. They further claim that the police and other law enforcement cannot protect everyone on a 24-hour basis and the owning of a rifle reduces the work of law enforcement (Robertson and Williams). The fault with such a claim is the inability to avert the malicious use of guns other than the intended purpose as witnessed through deaths caused by terrorism and maniacs on the loose (Magoon 24).
Most of the guns used by criminals initially enter the cycle through legal means before they are stolen or laundered through dubious means thus, citing major loophole to the current gun licensing procedures. According to a study by the Institute if Medicine as obtained by ProCon researchers of the topic ("Should More Gun Control Laws Be Enacted?"), 1.4 million guns were stolen in US homes during property crimes such as burglary and car theft in the period between 2005 and 2010. Most of the stolen weapons were used to commit crimes as analysis from police reports indicated (Robertson and Williams). The findings show that the licensing of firearms can act as a motivation for burglary and theft because while licensed owners may never use a gun to commit injustices, criminals can steal the weapons and use them to commit atrocities in the society. The National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun rights activists have sensationally claimed that licensing firearms does not prevent criminals from owning guns and commit crimes. Such a claim is only an excuse to advocate for the abolition of gun restrictions without offering a reason as to why free licensing can prevent such theft. In 2014, Chicago had 2,089 shooting victims 390 murders of which were murders despite the ban on gun shops, shooting ranges, high capacity magazines and assault weapons (ProCon).
Domestic Gun Violence
The proposers of more gun control laws are of the view that gun violence regulation can help to reduce cases of domestic violence, especially against women. Statistics by ProCon indicate that five women are murdered using a gun every day in the US. The risk of a murder happening in a domestic household during a confrontation increases by 500 % when there is a gun in the house, and between 2001 and 2012, more than 6000 women were killed using a firearm by an intimate partner (ProCon). Proper regulation of storage mechanisms that gun control activists advocate for can avert domestic violence and reduce the risk of murder during conflicts at homes. Cases of domestics abuse and criminal activity through legally obtained firearms only serve to indicate that guns are rarely used for self-defense, and instead, owner misuse them for personal gains (Gold 97-105).
Opponents of gun regulations opine that restrictions to keeping a firearm at home infringe upon the right to own guns for shooting and sports activities. Gun rights activists disregard the objective saving of life while activities that gun owners can through other means are prioritized by the NRA, proving further that gun laws should be implemented with the view to preserve life first. The need to keep firearms for hunting and sport is supported by the fact that “assault rifles” used for the said purposes are less powerful than other hunting weapons (Kaste).
Cost Implications of Gun Control
One of the major scoring points for the proposers of more gun control measures is the cost saving that can result from proper regulation of gun procurement, licensing, usage and storage. According to a survey conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) in 2010, the US government loses $5.5 billion in revenue due to gun violence. Further analysis of the statistics by ProCon shows that government uses a staggering $133 million for law enforcement and medical response to shooting injuries while $1.4 billion is used in Medicare and Medicaid costs, $4.7 billion in court costs and $180 million in mental health care for victims. Every US citizen accounts for $564 in gun violence. The selling point for the price statistic is that there is no revenue gained for allowing people to freely acquire firearms and walk with them on the street (Spitzer 237-250). The research findings of this paper compel one to support gun control activists because laws that restrict owning of firearms would reduce the cost tremendously and the saved value can be channeled towards law enforcement agencies for better protection and security. As it is, law enforcement keeps seeking additional funds for their operations and even advocate for measures to reduce guns on the streets since it affects their operations as well as raise their risk of losing lives on duty (Robertson and Williams).
Gun rights activists firmly believe that gun control laws give too much power to the government as the only defender of the public and will lead to tyranny in government amounting to political thugs (ProCon). However, most Americans including gun owners support common sense laws that enhance safety, background checks and effect bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The menace of gun violence has caused panic, and the population feels the need for regulations so that violent crimes can reduce.
The debate concerning gun control in the US has been compared to talking about race 40 years ago (Kaste). Gun control opponents and proponents have divided the country including the law enforcement as most officers support regulation while others vehemently oppose (Kaste). It is the findings of this research that the benefits of allowing gun control far outweigh the disadvantages and therefore conclude that gun control is necessary for the safety of members of the society as opposed to fulfilling the wishes of a few interest groups.
Gold, Susan Dudley. “Gun Control: Open For Debate.” 1st ed. Marshall Cavendish, 2004. Print.
Kaste, Martin. "Gun Debate Divides Nation's Police Officers, Too." National Public Radio. N.p.,2015. Web. 9 May 2017.
Magoon, Kekla. Gun Control Essential Viewpoints Series. 1st ed. ABDO, 2010. Print.
Robertson, Campbell, and Timothy Williams. "As States Expand Gun Rights, The PoliceObject." The New York Times. N.p., 2016. Web. 9 May 2017.
"Should More Gun Control Laws Be Enacted?". ProCon. N.p., 2016. Web. 9 May 2017.
Spitzer, Robert J. Gun Control: A Documentary and Reference Guide. 1st ed. GreenwoodPublishing Group, 2009. Print.
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