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The Issue of Gun Control in the US

For decades, the issue of gun control remains burning in the US. It is immensely challenging to find a universal solution to this problem because the attitudes to it are polar. Nonetheless, it is still possible to deprive the wrong people of access to guns. The present essay discusses the ways how to ensure that a person who purchases a firearm would not harm others for no reason. The debates on gun control could be observed in the clash between the Republican and Democratic parties. More precisely, the former opposes gun control and supports the Second Amendment of the American Constitution that provides people a right to bear arms for self-defense (Miller 286; Burton 351; Honeycutt and Davis 1; Church and Davis 1). The latter, on the contrary, act in favor of the restriction of gun control and believe that ordinary people should not be allowed to keep weapons (Newman and Hartman 1533; Fleming et al. 352; Yousaf 2794; Ryan 7). According to the survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, American citizens who identify themselves as democrats support gun restrictions (Schaeffer). Those respondents who characterize their political orientation as republican argue that society will benefit from less strict gun laws (Schaeffer). The opponents of gun control argue that the driving point for violence is not the permission to bear guns but education, income, mental health, and other factors. The argument of republicans has a logic behind it; however, such reasoning fails to solve the major problem – the number of deaths caused by shootings. More precisely, in 2020 in the US, approximately two shootings per day took the lives of more than 500 people and injured more than 2500 people (Budgar). As President Joe Biden puts it in one of his speeches, the current situation with gun control and violence in the US is an “international embarrassment” (Zurcher).

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The share of Americans who support gun control restrictions gradually increases (Haner et al. 65; Van Sparrentak 884; Oraka et al. 179; Kruis et al. 28; Smith 41; Colleen 878). However, the government cannot currently totally prohibit the use of arms by civil citizens because it will cause a massive social resonance (Wozniak 259; Miller 274; Wallace 267). Nevertheless, it is still possible to develop ways of preventing wrong people from purchasing arms. It is necessary to explain what kind of people are characterized as wrong. The first group includes people with such mental disorders as schizophrenia, paranoia, antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and sociopathy (Perrotta 043; Sedgwick et al. 1178; Wojciechowski 35; Mamidi and Gupta 29; Hauger et al. 2). The danger of mental health disorders is that people lose control over themselves and might unconsciously threaten others and hurt them (Metzl et al. 81; Harford 653; Thomson and Beauchaine 544; Marsden et al. 197; Wulandari 7). Such people are deprived of empathy and the ability for mentalization (Zsuliet 198; Felsenheimer et al. 1; Lakhani et al. 5; Velotti et al. 1084; Martin et al. 6). For example, a person with schizophrenia might not understand that a victim feels pain and could die if he or she cuts with a knife or shoots. Simultaneously, mental health issues remain highly stigmatized in modern society. Numerous scholars provide evidence that the potential danger of people with mental health disorders is the result of the stigma (Knoll & Annas 81; Pescosolido et al. 1714, 1742; Batastini et al. 675; Louden et al. 573, 576; Cavelti 1; Sheehan 3). Despite this, the imposition of additional mental health tests for people with mental disorders does not mean that all such people should be viewed as dangerous. People who show no signs of propensity to violence will be allowed to keep guns. Even if only one mentally ill person out of 20 will be identified as dangerous and will be deprived of the right to bear arms, this will save the lives of hundreds of American citizens. The second group of wrong people includes those who have a history of imprisonment for a violent crime. Currently, at the federal level, “felons, fugitives, people who use illegal drugs,” illegal immigrants, and those who committed domestic violence or alcohol-related severe crime are not allowed to possess guns (Gailey 156; Siegel and Boine 4; Philpott‐Jones 7; Mapua 18). This prohibition means such people could purchase guns from licensed dealers under no circumstances. Undoubtedly, this will stop only one part of the criminals because another part will try to buy guns from unlicensed dealers. People who move in criminal circles know where to get what they need. From this, it could be inferred that the wrong people could be deprived of guns through the fight against illegal arms trading at local, federal, and international levels. Every state has different firearm control laws, and some of them are weaker than others. For instance, these laws are weak in Mississippi, Louisiana, Wyoming, Missouri, and Alabama (Choi et al. 2141; 2142). States with strict firearm regulations suffer from ineffective policies of other states because this is how criminals in such states as New York get guns (Braga et al. 597). To cease illegal gun trafficking, Crifasi et al. suggest introducing “private transfer background check laws (CBC)” (241). The authors also believe that “laws requiring prospective handgun purchasers to obtain a license (PTP), those focusing on firearm trafficking, and state regulation of firearm dealers” will also bring positive results (Crifasi et al. 241).

Additionally, Koper et al. propose “restricting or mandating design changes in particular types of firearms that are considered to be especially dangerous and/or attractive for criminal use” (313). The primary assumption of Koper et al. is that design restrictions will make it difficult for criminals to use guns and, hence, they will stop purchasing them. Lawmakers should fully understand how criminals buy guns illegally to find ways to impede the functioning of this system. Federal laws also prohibit selling firearms to customers without conducting a background sale first. However, in American legislation, there is a gap known as the Charleston Loophole that enables purchasers to get their guns after three working days even if the background check has not been completed yet (Barry 582). To close this gap, governments need to restrict the duration of background checking. At the same time, the problem with the black market for guns remains because a background check could only be conducted when a firearm is purchased from licensed dealers (Vernick et al. 98). Hence, improvements in the sphere of gun control are impossible without a comprehensive approach. To conclude, one of the most effective ways of protecting people’s lives is to ensure that people who purchase guns are qualified enough and would not use them to hurt and kill others. The first measure is to conduct additional tests on people who are or were diagnosed with mental health disorders. The second way is to fight the black market for firearms. The third measure is to close the existing loophole that makes it easier to receive guns. These measures’ effectiveness could be multiplied if they are implemented together.

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