Gun control is one of the most heated and controversial debates in the U.S. The debate sharply divides proponents of gun control with opponents who cite the Second Amendment that guarantees citizens the “right to bear arms and protect themselves.” The proponents of gun control believe that more stringent gun control laws are necessary given the recent rise in gun-related crimes. gun shootings in schools, movies, concerts, and public spaces have increased and resulted in serious injuries and death. The availability of guns and lack of effective laws to regulate them has contributed to the increase in gun-related crime, thus it is imperative to institute more stringent control policies and laws to alleviate their dangerous effects.
There is significant concern over the high number of avoidable deaths and crimes committed using guns, necessitating stricter gun control laws. Recently, several mass shootings have occurred in schools, concerts, public gatherings, and theatres. Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, and Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church are a few of the mass shootings. At Sandy Hook, in 2012, Adam Lanza killed 20 students, six employees, and himself. 32 students and teachers lost their lives to a gunman in Virginia Tech in 2007. Lastly, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in 2018, 17 people lost their lives to a gunman even as a gunman killed nine people in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015 (Luca, Malhotra and Poliquin 3). Most of these deaths would not have occurred in the presence of stringent gun control laws.
The availability of guns and the weakness and loopholes in the current gun laws aid gun-related crimes. Research into gun availability in the U.S. shows that Americans possess about 393 million guns (Gramlich and Schaeffer n.p.). Of the U.S. population, 30 percent own a gun, while 11 percent live with someone who owns one (Gramlich and Schaeffer n.p.). The availability of guns means that any infractions between people could easily lead to a gun-related crime/incidence, at which death or injury could occur. Noteworthy is that having a gun at home increases the chances of suicide accidental gun-related injuries or death, as well as increased chances of murder, particularly of women. As such, policies to ensure the safe handling of these weapons should be instituted.
At the elementary level, gun control laws are fronted to provide checks and balances on who can access and buy guns, but they have gaps that allow preventable deaths. Currently, gun laws demand that gun vendors do background checks on prospective customers (Sen and Panjamapirom 346). The laws also restrict the type of guns and amount of ammunition that prospective customers can buy. The laws, nevertheless, have gaps. For instance, the ban on assault weapons enacted in 1994 and 2004 is weak thus it has little (if any) impact in preventing these weapons from being in circulation (Hemenway n.p.). The current gun laws have minimal efficacy given that they do not fully address gun issues and have a wide range of loopholes.
These loopholes include gaps in background checks due to outdated databases and they allow unfit individuals, such as those with criminal records, history of violence, and mental instability, to buy guns. For instance, while the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act passed in 1994 demands background checks for gun purchases, it does not require private arms dealers to conduct background checks on a potential client. Radcliffe Haughton took advantage of this loophole to acquire the gun he used to murder Zina Daniel of Brookfield, his ex-wife in 2012, from an online private arms seller (Kelly 3). He later used the gun to commit suicide after killing two other women and injuring four other women. As such, as long as gun laws are not amended to seal these loopholes, such incidences will continue to occur.
Evidence indicates that responsible handling of guns reduces their careless use. Stricter gun control laws existed in the Wild West era of the 1800s when towns banned the possession or public totting of firearms except for the sheriff (Kelly viii). In other towns, visitors left their guns with the local authority and repossessed them as they departed. During this time, there were fewer gun-related crimes in towns that implemented these strict rules, showing the practicality of the stringent gun control laws. It is the reality of such laws and the laxity in controlling the possession and carriage of firearms that has led to an increase in gun-related violence in recent times.
Most gun control opponents argue based on rights, personal freedom, and the need to defend themselves. The Second Amendment guarantees the rights of individuals to bear arms. Part of the Amendment reads “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.” For opponents of gun control, therefore, any laws that curtail this right are unconstitutional. Moreover, the opponents argue that the right as provided in the constitution is essential to their sense of freedom. They also believe that possession of a gun deters other gun-wielding criminals from committing any crime against them, knowing they are also armed.
While the opponents feel their arguments have credence, they fail on many fronts. Passed in 1791, the Second Amendment was meant to deal with the realities of the time. Democracy, political, social, and economic development today do not require a well-regulated militia as stated by the Second Amendment. Moreover, several state and federal law enforcement departments are charged with the responsibility of ensuring security and the rule of law and protect citizens’ sense of freedom. Research also indicates that the presence of guns not only increases the chances of gun-related violence but also escalates situations, leading to gun-related crimes (Wilkinson 62). The idea of safety with gun possession, therefore, is false and only works to dissuade gun owners from giving up their weapons. As such, the proper regulation of guns is imperative.
Guns are at the center of violence in America. Recent shootings that have caused deaths and injuries attest to the public danger that faces Americans due to the availability of guns. While many opponents of gun control cite rights, personal freedom, and self-defense as their need to possess guns, law enforcement systems and the escalation of situations in the presence of guns paint a contrary picture. There is a need for stringent gun control laws that will not only remove guns from citizen ownership but also make it difficult to access and purchase one for a safer nation.
Hemenway, David. “Off the Cuff: What Don’t We Know About the Cause of Gun Violence? Almost Everything.” Harvard Public Health Magazine, 2016. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/magazine/magazine_article/off-the-cuff-what-dont-we-know-about-the-causes-of-gun-violence-almost-everything/.
Kelly, R.obin, L. Kelly Report 2014: Gun Violence in America. Washington, DC: Office of Congresswoman Robin Kelly, 2014. https://robinkelly.house.gov/sites/robinkelly.house.gov/files/wysiwyg_uploaded/KellyReport_1.pdf
Luca, Michael, Malhotra, Deepak, and Poliquin, Christopher. The Impact of Mass Shootings on Gun Policy. Harvard Business School, 2019. https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/16-126_ce055015-fc1c-4a8c-9a8a-8a9361d808bb.pdf.
Sen, Bisakha and Panjamapirom, Anantachai. “State Background Checks for Gun Purchase and Firearm Deaths: An Exploratory Study.” Preventive Medicine, vol. 55, no.4, 2012, pp. 346-350. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743512003295.
Wilkinson, Deanna, L., and Fagan, Jeffrey. “The Role of Firearms in Violence “Scripts”: The Dynamics of Gun Events among Adolescent Males.” Law and Contemporary Problems, vol. 59, no. 1, 2016, pp. 55-89. https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3262&context=faculty_scholarship