|Type of paper:||Research paper|
|Categories:||Violence Gun control Gun violence Social issue|
This discourse primarily focuses on the views of John Rawls and Robert Nozick on the issue of gun control in the United States of America. Therefore, it is crucial to underscore some of their main philosophical stands that will offer direction to the general discussion of the topic, which is gun ownership in the United States of America. The theme majorly revolves around distributive justice, and Rawls and Nozick offer divergent views regarding this subject. Nozick advocates for the prioritization of individual rights. He avers that the government has no much role in deciding the number of holdings that a person would have as long as proper or legitimate means were used to acquire such property. Whether a person chooses to redistribute such holdings or elects to keep to themselves, it is none of the state's business to interfere since it is everyone's right to do whatever they want with their holdings. The state should instead protect those rights (Corlett 2). By contrast, Rawls seems to disagree with Nozick by invoking the Difference Principle when it comes to the distribution of holdings. He believes that justice is the moral fabric that holds the society intact. Therefore, a complete society is one where rights of persons are equally distributed across the spectrum notwithstanding their status, class, race or political affiliation (Corlett 42-44). Consequently, a discrepancy in the material holdings among society members contravenes the fundamental rights of people. Usually, the rich wield more powers compared to the poor. To achieve some form of uniformity, Rawls posits a fair distribution of holdings among people of all classes to gain distributive justice. Rawls justifies wealth only if such holdings benefit needy members of society. Contrary to that amounts to distributive injustice.
The debate over gun ownership has been subsisting for quite a long time, and it has escalated in the past twenty years. According to statistics released by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the year 2017 witnessed a total number of 40,000 deaths resulting from gun-related violence or suicide in the United States population (Pilkington). The above figure implies that out of every 100,000 people, 12 died of gun-related violence, mass shooting or suicide. The above number is a stark increase from the 2010 statistics whereby ten people out of 100,000 persons died from gun-related incidences. The statistics indicate a very high rise in death related to guns since the year 1996. In the year 2012, one bizarre incident occurred in Newtown, Connecticut, when a gun-wielding person attacked and shot dead twenty school children who were in class. Five years later, another mass shooting took place in Las Vegas whereby people lost lives, and others got injured when attending a music festival (Masters). The laxity of the United States in approaching the gun ownership issue is the cardinal reason for the increasing deaths as a result of gun violence.
Contrarily, industrial countries like Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany have low records of deaths resulting from gun violence. For instance, Jama Network revealed that only 0.2 deaths out of 100,000 people occurred as a result of gun violence in Japan. In the United Kingdom, only 0.3 deaths occurred, while 2.1 deaths occurred in Canada (Pilkington). Such a considerable difference raises concerns with regards to the gun ownership issues in the United States. From the above statistics, which underscore the high rate of gun violence in the United States, both Rawls and Nozick would disagree with the violence as it does not amount to liberty in this country (Corlett 322). In any case, the two philosophers advocate for the liberty of society members, which offers the general good. Killings and suicides resulting from gun violence do not augur well with their dogma of the prevalence of justice.
Many critics aver that the United States has established gun ownership laws whose effectiveness is almost zero since these laws have failed to curb the problem of mass shootings, among other gun-related crimes. The supreme law that regulates gun ownership in the United States lies in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which provides that a well-regulated militia, whose aim is to protect the Free State, requires people to possess the inherent right to own firearms (Masters). Another legislation regulating gun ownership in the United States is the Gun Control Act of 1968, which allows gun ownership but forbids certain groups of people, for example, those who have been convicted for criminal acts, people who are considered underage, mentally disturbed, and peoples who were dishonorably discharged from the United States military. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act is another law applied in the United States, which requires background checks to an unlicensed person to purchase a firearm from licensed dealers (Masters). From the above rules, there is no doubt that Nozick would be impressed by the American laws on gun violence, which majorly point towards individual holdings. These laws provide liberty to private persons to own guns for their benefit (Corlett 323). Contrary to that, Rawls does not agree with such laws since they do not apply equally across society. For instance, he would not like the provision that gun ownership only applies to licensed persons and those who meet the requirements of the Gun Control Act of 1968. He would instead see the entire society get allowed to possess guns or denied as a unit. Double standards do not foster justice and liberty.
Several industrial democratic countries have laws on gun ownership. In Canada, for example, one has to wait for 28 days to purchase a firearm after licensing. Besides, gun owners are barred from carrying many magazines at a particular time. The gun ownership law also requires proper training before the acquisition of the license for gun ownership. In Australia, the National Agreement on Firearms bared licensing of ownership of automatic and semiautomatic firearms (Masters). As a legal requirement, any person seeking a license for a particular rifle must demonstrate why he or she needs the gun. The United Kingdom has the Fire Arms (Amendment) Act, which disallows licensed persons from owning automatic and semiautomatic assault rifles (Masters). From the perspective of Rawls, there is no doubt that he would laud such laws, which work towards promoting the general good of the society members as opposed to the individuals. Laws prohibiting ownership of automatic and semiautomatic assault weapons amounts to distributive justice since it denies the rich a chance if they may want to own such guns. Such a move makes society members equal. However, Nozick perceives such laws to be infringing the rights of individuals as the state seeks to interfere with the ownership of whichever firearm that the society members want to possess (Corlett 270-273).
The National Rifle Association (NRA) is a lobby group established in 1871 purposely for the protection of rifle owners as espoused in the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. This lobby group strives to maintain the status quo as far as gun ownership laws are concerned. However, it is factual that the National Rifle Association's interpretation of the Second Amendment is not correct since its members take it literary despite the many changes that have been witnessed in the gun ownership sector since 1871. Initially, the influence of the NRA was massive, but with the increased number of gun-related shootings in the country, a large segment of the public seems to shift their opinions towards the regulation of gun ownership. The United States government should actively participate in the debate on gun ownership, and it should not leave it to be a task for the NRA alone. The government, through its statistical findings, should participate in the debate to cause amendments to some laws on gun ownership. In any case, the Second Amendment is no longer sacrosanct since it needs some inevitable radical changes. Nozick would laud the NRA lobby group, which seeks to bar state interruption in the private ownership of guns by Americans. Not all Americans own guns, and therefore, Rawls would disagree with the lobby group, which strives to make a few individuals continue possessing firearms at the exclusion of the majority society members.
Rawls and Nozick on Gun Insurance
With the increased incidences of mass shootings and gun-related violence, various groups of people have elicited another debate, which points towards gun insurance. They claim that gun insurance will be a turning point towards achieving viable and practicable laws towards gun ownership and gun control. For instance, insurers will want to carry out background checks to ascertain the legitimacy of someone owning a gun. Besides, such an endeavor will see insurers deny license and insurance to people who have been proved to be mentally unstable. Weapons are equally dangerous just like cars, hence the need to insure them (Ferguson). Before, risks were distributed across all members of the public whereby those who did not own guns were equally liable. However, insuring arms will shift liability to the owners, and this move will see liability target the real culprits. The United States experiences many accidental gun injuries or deaths, and the only way to deal with such accidents is to offer insurance. This initiative will see the risks that come with gun ownership get mitigated through insurance since the liability will shift to the owners of these guns (Ferguson). The transfer of responsibility to the owner as opposed to the traditional approach, which entailed liability to all members of the public would resonate with the philosophical position of Rawls, especially on his belief in the difference principle. In Rawls' view, asking gun owners to insure their weapons amounts to fostering inequality in social and economic aspect. However, Rawls would laud such a disparity since it promotes the welfare of the least advantaged society members. People who have no guns, in this case, are the least advantaged, and the act of taking away liability from them in case of a gun accident promotes their welfare. Nozick would also laud the decision to insure guns since it does not take away the right of gun owners to possess their weapons, but it only requires them to take responsibility for the actions of their holding. Such a move amounts to justice, which is what Nozick advocates.
My Views on Gun Violence and Gun Ownership
I have read and watched some of the most bizarre occurrences related to mass shootings in this country. The 2012 reaction after a gunman shot 20 school children in Newtown, Connecticut was marred by sombre mood, especially from parents and stakeholders of the school. The other shooting that took place in Las Vegas when people were watching music festivals in 2017 witnessed painful responses from the public. Such occurrences highlight the adverse effects of gun violence. It leads to deaths and injuries that affect people in various ways. Therefore, I condemn gun violence since it deprives people their right to life. With regards to gun ownership, my stand is that civilians should not own guns, whether they are licensed or not. Weapons are dangerous tools that should be left to law enforcement officers and the military. When guns are left in the hands of the police, cases of gun violence will be limited. For instance, the number of guns in the society will decrease, and this means access to rifles by rogue society members will reduce.
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