|Type of paper:||Research paper|
|Categories:||Gun control Gun violence|
Firearms possession in the United States is sanctioned in its constitution's second amendment. This is the legal basis that gives firearm owners a legal basis not only to carry but also stockpile sophisticated and modern assault weapons (Cook 53). The second amendment provides that an armed and properly regulated militia is necessary for safeguarding a free state's security. The amendment further states that the right of the people to bear shall not be infringed upon (Cornel Law www.law.cornell.edu). Nevertheless, in the last few decades, several mass shootings incidents have encouraged people to challenge the amendment through calls to repeal it (Cook 53-54).
In the second amendment's place, gun control advocates call for the introduction of stringent regulatory laws to control access to guns (Clayton 34; Luca, Malhotra, and Piloquin 3-5). This divide has precipitated into one of America's most contentious political issues. Gun control advocates are especially divided between a faction that calls for complete absolution of the second amendment. The other faction admits the importance of the amendment and only calls for controlled restriction of access to guns by criminals. As such, with each mass shooting in recent US history often evokes a wide array of emotive policy responses. Nevertheless, gun advocates, led by the National Rifle Association (NRA), remain adamant that the second amendment is enough legislation on guns within the US constitution (Black 213).
The gun lobby has remained adamant with the second amendment. They have managed not only strong in the face of continued emotive calls for the replacement of the amendment but have become stronger in their position. As such, new thinking is required to ensure that sensible gun control laws are introduced without necessarily revoking the second amendment. As such, the shift should be focused much deeper underlying factors other than the second amendment (Levitt 165-170). This paper explores how gun control can be implemented without necessarily attracting controversy targeting to excise or revise the second amendment.
The Second Amendment has its grounds in the experiences of the framers of the American constitution under British colonists. The subjugation that the framers experienced under the armies of Britain disinclined them to professional armies. They deliberately avoided the formation of a professional army, contending that armed citizens were preferable to professional armies. The Second amendment was therefore intended to empower the militia system by protecting citizens' rights to bear arms (Clayton, 88).
The wording of the Second Amendment has lent it to controversy. Some people had argued that the Second Amendment only applied before the United States had a professional army. This interpretation, however, is based on a liberal understanding of the Second Amendment. In 1939, in the U.S. v. Miller case the supreme court ruled that the constitution does protect and the right to bear arms for all individual US citizens. In 2007, in Parker V. District of Columbia, the Court further repealed a ban on handguns in Washington D. C. because it impeded one's rights to own firearms contrary to the Second Amendment (Cook, 33).
In recent decades, the Second Amendment has come under increasing criticism by gun control advocates, who assert that guns are the cause of the conspicuously high murder rates in America. Numerous mass shootings in the recent past have contributed to increased gun control activism. Most recently, the massacre of more than fifty people in a concert in Las Vegas has rekindled the polarizing debate. Many states have also now brought forward proposals for gun control.
Gun Violence in the United States
The United States gun violence rate is the highest in any developed country. Yearly, the US registers at least 30,000 deaths as a result of gun violence (including suicides). America also has the largest amount of registered guns with more than 283 million guns in American civilian hands. This translates to a per capita gun ownership of 8.2 guns (Burnett & Clayton 36). These two sets of facts have been used to back the claim that high rate of gun homicides are a result of this high rate of gun ownership. According to Luca, Malhotra, and Piloquin (4) mass shootings especially attract a lot of attention from the public. This is peculiar since out of the 30,000 gun-related fatalities per year in the country; mass shootings only account for only about 0.13 percent of this figure. 56 percent of gun deaths are suicides, 40 percent homicides, 4 percent of accidents. However, gun homicide is predominantly prevalent among gangs in the process of felony commission. In 1980, homicides from guns involving gangs were about 70 percent. In 1993, this had risen to 95 percent. However, as shown by Levitt (183) crime rates fell drastically throughout the 1990s to 2001. By 2008, the figure had reduced to about 92 percent. As such, gun-related fatalities are mostly committed by gangs and not caused by law-abiding firearm owners.
Gun crimes do not always result in fatalities. A majority gun crime in non-fatal. For instance, in 1994 1.3 million such incidents were reported. By 2008, the figure had drastically by over 70 percent to 331,618 reported incidents. When compared to other countries, the US has the highest gun-related homicides in the OECD countries. This is commonly thought as a result of the abnormal number of guns in individual citizens hands in the USA (Luca, Malhotra & Piloquin 5).
Nevertheless, correlation does not imply causation. The fact that the United States has both the highest ownership rate of guns and the largest gun homicide rate does not prove that the former causes the latter. The hypothesis that a causal relationship exists between gun ownership and gun homicides is the result of a simplistic interpretation of statistics.
Among OECD countries, Japan and the United Kingdom have the strictest gun laws. Correspondingly, both also have low gun homicide rates compared to the United States. In fact, homicide rates in the two countries are almost non-existent. Overall, the US has ten times more firearm deaths compared to other high-income countries. This statistic captures all causes of firearm-related fatalities such as including suicide, homicides, and accidents. As gun-related fatalities have been declining in other countries, they're always on the rise in the United States. However, America's gun problem is much more complicated than that. That is, while less gun ownership correlates with low homicide rates, this is not always the case. For instance, Switzerland and Finland both have half as many guns per capita (UNDP, www.unodc.org) as the United States but much lower homicide rates. For example, Switzerland has been reported to have a gun homicide rate of 0.52 for every 100,000 people, compared with 3.2 people per 100,000 for the United States (Cook 38). Secondly, countries like Chile and Mexico, which have less than a third the number of per capita guns of the United States, have disproportionately high gun homicide rates. As such, the US gun problem cannot be fully attributed to its disproportionately large number of gun ownership among individual citizens. This problem is also exercabated by the truth that violence in the US is also relatively higher compared to other countries with the OECD.
Besides, crime and violence are far from being equally distributed in America. It is prevalent in some regions and sections of the population than others. For instance, racially, black communities are disproportionately represented in the number of people arrested for violent crimes. While African Americans only account for only 12.7 percent of the population, 38.7 percent of offenders arrested for violent crimes in 2011 (Burnett & Cramer 23). Across the socio-economic spectrum, neighborhoods deemed to be low-income neighborhoods also had the bulk of violent gun-related crime than neighborhoods deemed to be of middle or high income. This heralds that there's more to gun violence other than the collective number of guns in the country relative to other countries.
The Historical Failure of Gun Control regulation in the United States
America has experimented with various pieces of gun-control regulation in the past few decades. Without exception, all these policies have failed to demonstrate efficacy. In the 1980's, the state of Illinois enacted several laws that effectively outlawed the possession of handguns. Residents were denied licenses for handguns that had been bought after 1982 (Cramer 88). In spite of this legislation, the state of Illinois remains one of the most gun-violent states in the United States. Specifically, Chicago had the highest murder rate of any American city in 2011, with more than 500 murders (UNODP, www.unodp.org).
Similarly, the District of Columbia passed laws banning handguns in 1976. The state now has the lowest gun ownership rate of any state in America. Conspicuously, it had the highest murder rate in 2010: 21.8 murders per 100,000 people (UNODP, www.unodp.org). Like the banning of handguns, laws requiring waiting periods have proved ineffective at curtailing gun violence. Dean Black & Sylvester Nagin carried out a study on American cities with populations greater than 100,000 and found that waiting periods had no discernible effect on gun violence rates (209-219).
The observation that states and cities with prohibitive gun control regulations have higher rates of gun violence, than states without gun control is consistent with scholarly research on gun control policies. In their study, Brent Wanner and John C. Moorhouse found null evidence for efficiency of gun control regulation. They hypothesized that gun control has little or no influence on the decisions of criminals regarding obtaining firearms (188-203). Whereas law-abiding citizens will generally comply with state regulations, criminals are not hindered by regulations.
Moreover, disarming law-abiding citizens removes some of the risk that criminals face. A criminal in an unarmed environment has less cause for caution. Such criminals will, therefore, turn to more confrontational crimes such as robbery with violence- secure in the knowledge that their victims will almost certainly be unarmed. This explains why there are more homicides in states that have restrictions against concealed weapons than those that have no such restrictions. Brent and Moorhouse also hypothesized that the inefficacy of gun control partly lies in the fact that gun control principally aims to regulate the transactions involving licensed gun dealers and qualified buyers. However, there are already more than 283 million firearms in America (Moorhouse & Warner 195-201). These weapons are available to criminals for use and are not retrospectively subject to any new regulations that are introduced.
Gun control legislation has far failed to resolve America's gun violence problems. Perhaps, gun control legislation should be crafted with efficiency in mind rather than a tool for scoring political points for the liberal side in the American political divide. Instead, legislation on guns should instead focus on reigning on criminals who; as aforementioned, commit most gun-related crimes (Kang www.futurelearn.com). Nevertheless, it is also imperative to ensure that guns already in individual citizens' hands are not misused. Additionally, like all human problems, gun-related violent crime is a complex problem that is insolvable without deliberate assessment, analysis, and subsequent formulation of effective measures.
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