Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Columbine, and Virginia Tech are some of the cities that have witnessed mass shootings attributed to poor gun control measures. Every time an incidence of mass shooting arises, Americans take different positions regarding gun ownership (Fox & DeLateur, 2014). Some citizens demand the enactment of stringent gun laws while others question the rationale for civilians to own guns when there are law enforcement agents that are mandated with guaranteeing public safety.
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Nevertheless, these debates subside after some time, until the next incident happens. The United States is the only developed country with the highest cases of gun violence. A study conducted by the American Journal of Medicine found that “Americans are 25 times more likely to die from gun homicide than people in other wealthy countries” (Fox & DeLateur, 2014, p. 129). The United States can take numerous measures to curb gun violence. However, the strategies adopted must not infringe on people’s rights. It is imperative to note that gun ownership is protected by the constitution. Many states have enacted gun control rules. Nevertheless, they have not managed to reduce cases of gun violence. A time has come for the United States to look for federal solutions to this problem.
Ineffective gun control measures pose a significant risk to public safety in the United States. Cases of firearm-related injuries and murders are common across the country. In the United States, it is believed that at least 88 people die due to gun-related crimes every day (Jones & Stone, 2015). The majority of the citizens concur that gun violence has become a major problem in the United States. Jones and Stone (2015) claim that debates regarding gun control are increasingly dominating the national discourse. Despite Americans saying that there is a need to take measures to curb gun violence, they do not seem to agree on what actually should be done.
Efforts to enact laws to prevent gun violence have proved futile because of the ideological stalemate that they trigger (Jones & Stone, 2015). Americans have divergent opinions about the importance and usefulness of guns. Individuals who own firearms consider guns as essential for sports, hunting, and self-protection. On the other hand, pro-gun control activists view firearms as dangerous and naturally destructive hazards. Jones and Stone (2015) say that these divergent views make it hard for the United States to pass laws that cater to the needs of all Americans. It underlines the reason many anti-gun control campaigners regard all attempts to regulate firearm ownership as unconstitutional.
Before coming up with a proposal for efficient gun control, it is imperative to evaluate the existing legislation to understand its weaknesses. The current laws that regulate gun ownership have yielded poor results, particularly at the state level. Lanza (2014) claims that one of the policies that control gun usage allows a firearm holder to stand his/her ground if threatened. Such a statute permits the use of lethal force at any slight provocation.
Lanza (2014) argues, “This law thereby encourages citizens to escalate confrontations to a deadly point by removing legal repercussions against an individual shooting to kill” (p. 903). It implies that any person who feels that their life is in “danger” can use their gun without possible prosecution. Lanza (2014) reveals that policies that allow gun owners to retaliate contribute to 8% of homicides in the United States. Even though the media give importance to cases of deliberate mass shootings, it is imperative to note that only a small percentage of homicides are due to calculated and systematic planning.
State laws that control the use of firearms have proved to be ineffective in curbing gun violence. Lanza (2014) posits, “Comparing the crime rate of Chicago to the strength of Illinois gun restrictions exemplifies the failures of restrictive state-level gun control” (p. 904). In Chicago, the rate of homicides associated with guns has increased by 40% (Lanza, 2014). Last year, over 2800 people were shot dead in Chicago (Kleck, 2017).
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The rate of gun violence in Chicago remains high despite Illinois State enacting stringent gun control policies. Discrepancies in in-state gun control laws allow people to smuggle firearms from states with limited restrictions to firearm purchases. For instance, the majority of the firearms used to commit crimes and murders in Chicago are purchased in Indiana. The state of Indiana does not require approved gun selling companies to conduct a background check on their clients before selling them firearms. Despite Illinois having broad in-state firearm policies, it cannot prevent the smuggling of guns from states with flexible laws. Therefore, there is a need to formulate federal policies that will regulate the purchase and use of guns across all states.
Pro-gun control activists have proposed numerous measures that can be used to curb gun violence. Some campaigners suggest that states should restrict gun ownership as they do with driving cars. Most states have laws that prohibit teenagers from driving cars.
The enactment of stringent transport regulations has significantly reduced the rate of car fatalities. Proponents of gun control say that states should make the process of buying firearms as strict as possible to ensure that criminals do not own guns. Kleck (2017) argues that it is easier for Americans to buy guns than it is to secure a driving license. It is imperative to note that states like Illinois have enacted severe laws that regulate gun ownership. Nevertheless, such laws have not prevented criminals from buying guns from other states and sneaking them into Illinois. All states operate independently. Thus, it is hard to ensure that they all come up with consistent policies on gun control.
Some activists advocate the involvement of doctors in the fight against gun violence. They argue that physicians can help to enlighten families on firearm safety. Research shows that most kids aged three can shoot a gun (Kleck, 2017). Kleck (2017) alleges that at least 75% of school-going children know how to fire a weapon. The American Academy of Pediatricians encourages their staff to talk about guns when dealing with three-year-old kids. However, such a measure cannot be effective because not all states allow doctors to discuss firearms with their patients. For instance, states like Montana, Florida, Missouri, and Minnesota forbid doctors from discussing firearms with their patients.
The war against gun violence requires the implementation of federal laws that accommodate the differences in gun cultures of all states. The federal government should establish consistent national policies that regulate the sale and ownership of various types of firearms. Such standards will help to avert inter-state firearm trafficking and ease control of guns used predominantly in rural areas such as Texas.
McGinty, Wolfson, Sell, and Webster (2016) posit, “An approach that regulates firearms based on technical properties of the gun is also well within constitutional boundaries, easing the concerns of many gun-owners about the constitutionality of federal gun control legislation” (p. 12). The Supreme Court, in the DC vs. Heller case, concluded that even though the constitution legalizes gun ownership, this right does not cover all types of weapons (Kleck, 2017). The federal government should implement standards that control the ownership of firearms based on their weapon instrumentality. This proposal recommends three ranks of firearms that must be controlled using distinct laws.
The first rank of firearms would comprise of guns with limited to no practical weapon instrumentality. They include pump-action long-guns and single-shot bolt-action long-guns (McGinty et al., 2016). These types of guns are difficult to conceal. Therefore, they are not preferred by many criminals. Additionally, they take a long to reload. Hence, they are not commonly used in mass shootings.
The low weapon instrumentality attributed to shotguns and rifles explains why these firearms are rarely used in criminal violence. Pederson, Hall, Foster, and Coates (2015) allege that even though many Americans own manual action long-guns, the weapons are rarely used to commit crimes. Apart from their low weapon instrumentality, long guns have significant value in gun cultures. Most people use these guns to protect their property, hunt and exterminate both big and small animals that pose danger to crops and livestock. Since these firearms are not used for the mass shooting and are useful in different gun cultures, their purchase would not require rigorous background checks. People with no criminal record can be allowed to buy guns.
The second rank of guns would constitute firearms with high weapon instrumentality. The federal government would require imposing strict rules to control the sale and use of such guns. They include all types of handguns and semi-automatic long-guns. These weapons can fire many rounds and do not require manual reloading. Pederson et al. (2015) attribute the weapon instrumentality of handguns to their size.
The firearms are small, thus they are easy to conceal. Studies show that 75% of gun-related murders involve shot-guns (Pederson et al., 2015). Anti-gun control activists argue that the ability to hide shot-guns makes them suitable for self-defense, especially when a person is not at home. Nevertheless, these weapons may be used recklessly in case of public confrontations. The low practical usefulness and high weapon instrumentality of semi-automatic guns underscores the need for imposing strict rules to regulate the use of these firearms. The federal government ought to endorse laws that require Americans to get a license before buying semi-automatic weapons.
Apart from meeting the necessary background and psychological checks, individuals wishing to purchase these weapons should undertake compulsory gun safety training. It would ensure that the bearers of these deadly weapons understand how to handle and keep them.
The last rank of firearms would comprise of guns with grave weapon instrumentality. These are firearms that have no significant value in different gun cultures and nearly no legal utilities. They include semi-automatic assault weapons, automatic weapons, and magazines that can hold more than 15 rounds. The prohibition of acquiring these firearms would not contravene the constitution. Raissian (2016) argues that the Supreme Court was categorical that the Second Amendment does not give criminals the right to own guns.
Instead, the law only allows the purchase of guns by law-abiding citizens. Moreover, outlawing these armaments and accessories would not be seen as a violation of people’s right to buy firearms. The federal government would have created adequate room for people to own guns that fall within the first and second ranks. Law-abiding citizens have no reason to purchase automatic weapons because they are intended for use on the battlefield. Research shows that 50% of gun owners cite self-protection as the primary reason that made them buy firearms (Spitzer, 2014). On the other hand, 32% of people who own guns claim that they bought them for hunting (Spitzer, 2014).
These two reasons for owning a gun can be fulfilled by firearms with less weapon instrumentality. The federal government should establish countrywide gun control laws that consider the welfare of all Americans. The regulations should account for the interests of gun owners who are law-abiding citizens. The ownership of automatic artillery and large-capacity magazines serves no purpose in American gun cultures.
The discourse surrounding gun regulation fails to consider legal concerns and realities of gun cultures. The demand for states to enact strict gun control policies ignores the fact that it is hard for all states to pass consistent laws. Inconsistencies in firearms regulations would allow criminals to buy guns from states with loose policies. Additionally, those who advocate the involvement of doctors in the fight against gun violence do not acknowledge that many states prevent physicians from discussing firearms with patients. Formulation of national guidelines on the sale and use of firearms would help to minimize gun-related homicides across the United States.
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This proposal suggests the implementation of three regulatory policies that classify guns based on the degree of their weapon instrumentality. These national standards would ensure that the federal government does not deny law-abiding citizens the right to own guns. Moreover, they would prevent criminals from purchasing firearms with severe weapon instrumentality, therefore curbing cases of mass shooting and guaranteeing the security of American citizens.
Fox, J. A., & DeLateur, M. J. (2014). Mass shootings in America: Moving beyond Newton. Homicide Studies, 18(1), 125-145.
Jones, M. A., & Stone, G. W. (2015). The U.S. gun-control paradox: Gun buyer response to congressional gun-control initiatives. Journal of Business & Economics Research – Fourth Quarter, 13(4), 167-174.
Kleck, G. (2017). Targeting guns: Firearms and their control. New York, NY: Routledge.
Lanza, S. P. (2014). The effects of firearm restrictions on gun-related homicides across US states. Applied Economic Letters, 21(13), 902-905.
McGinty, E. E., Wolfson, J. A., Sell, T. K., & Webster, D. W. (2016). Common sense or gun control? Political communication and news media framing of firearm sale background checks after Newton. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, 41(1), 3-40.
Pederson, J., Hall, T. L., Foster, B., & Coates, J. E. (2015). Gun ownership and attitudes towards gun control in older adults: Re-examining self interest theory. American Journal of Social Science Research, 1(5), 273-281.
Raissian, K. M. (2016). Hold your fire: Did the 1996 Federal Gun Control Act expansion reduce domestic homicides? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 35(1), 67-93.
Spitzer, R. J. (2014). Politics of gun control (6th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.