Gun control refers to policies or laws that govern the making, vending, transference, ownership, alteration, or usage of firearms. Most of these rules are formulated to regulate crime or lower hazardous effects of violence. Rules regarding gun control vary widely around the globe. Some nations have stringent limitations concerning gun control while others have relatively lax regulations. Those for gun control usually argue that the great ownership of firearms enhances the danger of gun violence. Those against these rules contend that gun rights do not have any impact on the rates of crime, but instead infringes on individual freedoms. However, there ought to be tougher gun control measures.
History of gun control
Contemporary efforts at gun control began about a century ago under the prompting of two types of phenomena connected to the call for more limits on gun laws; assassinations and crime (Spitzer 2). These two impelled the State of New York to decree the Sullivan law in the year 1911. During the 1920s to the initial 1930s, proscription and the increase in gangster related violence were a surprise and an outrage to the country (Spitzer 3).These occurrences coupled with failed efforts to assassinate the just elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the first set of modern national gun laws. During the 1960s, increasing urban chaos, blowout of crime and the fruitful assassination of Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy, a presidential aspirant set up new national gun control measures. Between the 1980s and initial 1990s, increased criminality, and dreadful mass shootings, yet again gave rise to a new round of gun control measures. However, in the early 1980s, and 2000s, the government acted in a manner that was not expected by actually decreasing gun controls, in one case, issuing special legislations safeguards for the gun industry (Lieberman).
Nevertheless, efforts at gun control stretch back to the establishment of the nation. When European settlers first came to America, they had their firearms and went on to enforce a series of gun control measures. They first did this in the colonies, and then at the state level. These laws stipulated who could own guns and who could not, at what time the arms could be carried and how such weapons could be used. Some laws made it mandatory that people own and carry their guns to put them in a position to share protection (Vizzard 881). In the 19th century, local regulations limiting the carrying and use of arms were decreed when local governments came in place. Interesting to note was that the implementation of these rules led to the setting up of some local communities. Contrary to the opinion, gun control brought more sanity to the "Wild West" compared to what weapons achieved.
The juncture of gun controls, use, and history in America reveal the private and public intersection. There are various reasons Americans have used guns, but one of the main reasons back then was because they needed to safeguard the colonies against the Indians, European armies and the fight against the British (Federal Gun Legislation Timeline). During the beginning of the American nation, America did not have the ability to pay for standing armies. Moreover, they could not trust them. The last resort became the citizen militia, who though disorganized and inept, managed to keep the country together.
Issues and Controversies in Gun Control
The 20th of April 1999 was a sad day for America. Two estranged teenagers equipped with a cache of firearms went to their institution, Denver high school and opened indiscriminate fire. At the end of the shooting spree, fourteen students, as well as the shooters, and a teacher died. Twenty-one people were wounded. The coverage of the bloodbath was conveyed live throughout the nation by the satellite trucks, and cameras posted outside the beleaguered institution (Goss 3). The periods between 1992 and 2001 saw about 336000 Americans lose their lives because of being shot, and approximately 5.4 million hurt or threatened by people wielding guns. Most of these deaths occurred at the end of what was labeled as one of the worst eras of gun violence, lasting between 1988 and 1994. At the time, the yearly rate of fatality got to 15 deaths in 100000 people. Moreover, the rate at which Americans die from firearms has been found to be much higher than those of other industrialized nations (Doss 4). Another interesting fact is that a third of the United States' heads of state, since the Civil War have been slain or received threats by and from gunmen. Even in the late 1990s when the general rates of gun violence were dropping, the USA saw some incidents where shooters run amok, totaling to the passing of 139 individuals, inclusive of students, and injury of a minimum of approximately 188 others.
The United States has been cited as having relatively lax gun laws compared to other industrialized nations. The regulation of firearms is slack, and guns are easily bought in the country than in other Western nations. Above all, the regulation of guns in America is less restrictive because of five main factors. The legislations focus more on punishing mishandling instead of managing access. The extensive acquisition of arms is thought of casually, with restrictions focusing on denying access to the groups posing risks, instead of limiting availability to those at risk of being attacked. Gun control has been devolved, leading to a scenario where the regulations diverge across jurisdictions (Doss 5). The rules mostly pay attention to guns sold via the primary vendors, with few controlling those sold informally. Finally, the laws have been prone to political compromise, as they have some loopholes that can be taken advantage of by advocates of gun rights and control (Rosen). The biggest success achieved by modern firearm regulation attempts was the Brady Law, which was legislated in 1993. The enactment established a mandatory criminal background check on a partial category of those wishing to buy guns. The United States ought to have stricter gun laws. It is unimaginable that even after one-third of the presidents has been assassinated, nothing assertive has been done to put tighter reins with regards to gun control. It is sad that even after the massacres that are slowly becoming part of the daily news, not much is being done to monitor the acquisition of firearms. Opponents of gun control claim that it infringes on individual rights. But they are blind to the fact that when these guns fall into the hands of wrong individuals, disaster is bound to happen. All that has happened in the country, in both the distant and recent pasts should be a wakeup call for the citizens and the leaders of this nation to call for tighter regulations on guns.
A study was conducted on Twitter to evaluate the reactions regarding gun control by Mark Tremayne and Milad Minooie. The results showed that anti-gun control messages accounted for about half of the sentiments shared on the hashtag, gun control, with the pro-gun control views accounting for about a third of the population sampled, with the remaining opinions being classified as neutral (Minooie & Tremayne). However, this proportion of pro-gun-control messages vs. anti-gun control messages did not remain consistent over the period of the study. Anti-gun sentiments usually dominate most of the conversation on Twitter with pro-gun opinions increasing with the occurrences of incidents of mass shootings. On the days bearing significant news on shooting incidences, pro-gun control sentiments represented about half of the conversations with the rest being either against anti-gun control or impartial. However, during the periods between these major events, voices against gun control took a forefront, with pro-gun control voices accounting for less than a third of the views. It is clear that most of the Americans, based on this and other studies are anti-gun control. Nonetheless, in the wake of mass shootings, these opinions seem to change for most of them. It seems it is only after tragedies that most of them come to the conclusion that limiting legislations need to be put in place. The public need to be educated on what gun control entails as there may be some misconceptions regarding its contents. Im of the opinion that there is a need for some laws that limit the acquisition of guns by groups that may pose threats to the wider public such as those with criminal records and the mentally unstable. Moreover, those that are vulnerable to attacks by these aggressive minorities should have relatively easy access to firearms, provided they can handle them. Twitter can also be an important platform for discussion regarding gun control to be held. Although anti-gun control sentiments rule the social media in times of relative peace, the same space can be used to rally for pro-gun control notions during these times, so that these sentiments do not seem as if their a only reactionary to the prevailing circumstances. These discussions need be sustained and ongoing so that they can gain the necessary traction going forward.
Many people bear arms because of the fear of being pounced on by strangers. According to Tom Jacobs, for women, this fear is compounded by the availability of guns. A study conducted by two researchers for the "Violence and Gender" Journal evaluated the link between possession of firearms and homicides involving shootings. Although the relationship was not particularly notable for men, there were marked levels of gun-associated killings of women in states where the ownership of guns was high. Although the study did not include why this phenomenon occurred, researchers focused on the use of guns in domestic disagreements, "noting that someone attacked 88 percent of American women killed by gun violence between 1982 and 2013 they knew" (Jacobs). Based on these findings, decreasing the ownership of guns would consequently curb the lethal gun down of women by their partners or families. Most women are vulnerable to attacks. In light of this, Gun laws need to be tighter for the groups or individuals posing risks to others, specifically those that are close to them. Although it may be foolhardy to write off guns completely because of domestic violence, keeping in mind that in the absence of firearms, other weapons could be used, it is worthwhile to consider that limiting access could help reduce the cases of gun violence in domestic disputes. A number of other measures can also be taken to help reduce these cases of domestic violence such as voluntary counselling and punishment for violent spouses and self-defense classes for the women who are at risk of being attacked.
Following a series of fatal murders at a college in Oregon, a church in South Carolina and a Colorado clinic, a member of the Missouri House of Representatives, Stacey Newman decided to kick off a proposal that would obligate those buying guns to be subjected to a 72- hour waiting period (Johnson). She further went on to cite that public apathy enabled the National Rifle Association (NRA) to stand in the way of national legislation. The dispensation of this bill is that "gun buyers will be required to tour an emergency room between 10 pm and 6 am. During weekends, when firearm victims are present, and meet with at least two families affected by gun violence, as well as two individuals officiated as the funerals of minors who were shot dead (Johnson 28). Although the bill is a long shot, it nevertheless elicited uproar in the public sphere with most individuals across the country calling out the inaction of their elected representatives. Although the stipulations of the bill are over the top, the actions of Stacey Newman are agreeable. There are important points which she makes in her bill. One of the things that may dissuade anti-gun control proponents from their hardline positions might be for them to actually experience or see first-hand, the harmful and devastating injuries that guns may inflict on human lives. Some of these anti-gun control sentiments are made from a point of misinformation or ignorance and for this to be set straight, the individual should see for themselves what the lax gun laws have caused so far. Additionally, the debate on gun control need not be dictated by the fatal outcomes of weak firearm rules (Khimm). The elected representatives need to take proactive steps even though it remains a thorny issue. Activities geared towards achieving gun control should be consistent so that they can be acted on by a government which lacks motivation towards gun control.
Conversations on guns and violence are essential in light of what has been going on around the country, but still these incidences should not be the ones driving this discourse. Keidan contends that when these conversations are framed as a two-sided query, with two options presented, they are bound to result in futile exchanges since the matter is politically sensitive. The current framework being referred to here is the gun control against gun rights. According to Janet Fitch, her documentary films seek to reframe this dominant outline to a wider debate regarding the prevention of gun violence and public health. Her film series "Guns, Grief & Grace in America" investigates some subjects including homicide, suicide, and mass shootings among other topics, "with a focus on the need for prevention strategies at the local state, and national level" (Keidan 48). These films could be the beginning of public discourse, and Fitch has been invited to several discussions about the films in various communities around the nation. These films can guide the audiences into offering their opinions on how the issue of gun control can be handled. Eventually, it results in conversations that are more constructive instead of people holding discussions over questions that can only lead to polarizing ends. The question of whether there need tougher gun control or not should be framed in a manner which will allow discussions and input from either side of the divide. In this way, those against this cause can be shown all the available facts and figures so that they can make their own decisions based on that, rather by having this idea imposed on them.
It is integral that citizens of the United States take a forefront in pushing their leaders towards reforms on gun control as the government can be quite slipshod on this matter. President Obama gave a directive in January 2013 to government agencies to either carry out or back research into the roots of gun violence and ways to which this phenomenon can be prevented (Kelderman). For the three years that have followed this directive, the monetary contribution to this cause by the federal agencies has been deplorable. Government agencies have been keeping off all inquiries into violence involving firearms since 1996, a time at which the Congress advised the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention against using any funds for such endeavors (Eichenwald). Moreover, groups involved in studies into public health have mostly eluded inquiries into firearm violence accordingly. Conversely, some nonprofit organizations supporting tougher laws for gun handling have been growing. Non-governmental bodies seem to be spearheading this fight for tough gun control measures. For some reason the government seems to have washed its hands clean off this matter, and in some cases even dissuading efforts in the form of inquiries into this phenomena of gun control. This is a very questionable move in light of the fact that top ranking government officials, including a number of presidents have fallen victim to gun violence. The citizens have been instead left with the responsibility to keep pushing the authorities to act, failure to which they will continue to allow the governments lackluster attitude towards gun-control.
As a consequence of the rampant shootings in public institutions, the state of Texas passed a campus carry law to allow "people who hold concealed-handgun licenses to carry their weapons into public university buildings" (Fernandes). The bill is long overdue, because based on the current and past events, students and faculty in schools remain one of the most vulnerable parties regarding gun violence. Even so, some controls and oversight need to be put in place to ensure that gun violence does not start from within institutions. This law may call for the need for specialized training for students, their lecturers and other university staff on how to handle firearms within institutions of learning. Two instructors from the University of Houston were asked their opinion on how these laws would affect how they teach in class. They both said that they had no plans to modify their curriculum because they did not feel the need. They also expressed their reservations, stating that the law might limit the freedom of teachers in class and endanger their lives (Fernandes). Although teachers are right on their reservations regarding the risks that the possession of firearms in class poses, they may be wrong with regards to not changing their curriculum. By them ignoring the fact that this law has been implemented, they do not alter the reality on the ground. They should not wish away the challenges that this bill comes with, but instead, play a part in ensuring that the implementation of this law is satisfied. It can only be beneficial to instruct the students and other members of the faculty on how to handle firearms. This will go a long way in preventing accidents inside the classroom, instead of staying mum on the matter in light of the changing circumstances.
One of the most salient issues in the gun debate is whether assault weapons should be outlawed or not. Proponents of its banning, point out that the last ban on assault weapons had the effect of saving more lives. In 2013, while proposing a ban on assault weapons, Senator Dianne Feinstein argued that the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban was effective at reducing crime and getting these military-style weapons off our streets (Assault Weapons). Supporters of this ban say that assault firearms are more dangerous than other kinds of guns, which can be appealing to those seeking to attack many people (Gun Control Reform). Limiting the availability of these weapons would, therefore, mean that the number of deaths in mass shootings would be lower. On the other hand, those opposing the ban on these weapons say that the proponents of the ban exaggerate the threat posed by the assault weapons (Assault Weapons). They additionally claim that the ban will be a breach of the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. In reality, deaths from other handguns are more than those caused by assault weapons (Schered). What the opponents of the ban cannot refute is that these weapons remain a ticking time bomb. It may be important to avert the risk that these weapons cause, instead of reacting after the damage of life has already been done. Semi-automatic weapons are more suited for military warfare as opposed to private defense. It is even absurd that one may seek a semi-automatic weapon for purposes of self-defense, it does not seem a practical enough reason. If the government is carrying out its mandate and responsibility of protecting its people, the most they would need for protection should be a hand gun, nothing more.
Gun control remains a thorny issue in the United States. It elicits polarizing positions whenever this issue comes up. The government has been slow in implementing stricter laws with regards to the acquisition and handling of firearms, giving the impression that they might be for the idea. However, if the past and current incidents involving gun violence are anything to go by, there is a need for tougher laws concerning gun control. Both the government and citizens need to work together to ensure that weapons do not fall into the hands of malicious people. This will be done by ensuring the rules on the acquisition and handling of guns are stricter.
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