The topic of gun violence and gun control is something that will not go away with ease. The importance of this issue is that not all Americans are supportive of strict gun control as being a beneficial alternative to controlling violence. It is important to examine the issues and theories of the impact of this issue through the writings and reports of experts of gun control and violence.
Gun laws have been a hot topic for centuries. We hear about them most when a president is running for election or when a tragic event has occurred such as a mass school shooting or a police officer being murdered. These incidents include the Sandy Hook Massacre, the assassinations of President John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr and The Columbine Shooting. When these events occur, most people are frightened and either want to purchase more guns for protection or want to prevent people from being armed at all. Either way, the people of the United States all have the same goal, and that is to make America a safer place for everyone.
What are the benefits of having strict gun control laws? There have been many debates about which route would be more of a success. If everyone owned and carried a gun, would public shootings be less common? If no one legally owned a gun, would less violent crimes be committed? Or would guns be move to the illegal black market? Continue reading and I will provide proven facts as to what needs to be done so Americans can be safe again.
Do you know the process of purchasing a gun in the United States? Are guns easily obtainable? Roanoke Firearms owner John Markell told the New York Time’s that in Virginia, you could buy a semi-automatic gun “in 15 minutes.” Roanoke Firearms is the store where Seung-Hui Cho — who killed 32 in a shooting spree on Virginia Tech’s campus — bought a Glock after passing two background checks. It took a reporter from the Philly Inquirer 7 minutes to buy an AR-15, the semi-automatic gun used in many of the US’ deadliest mass shootings. The Huffington Post reported, in Orlando, buying the AR-15 took just 38 minutes. This occurred only two days after the shooting spree that killed 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. (Taylor & Hanbury, Business Insider, 2018) Creating a mandatory wait time or “cooling off” period before being able to purchase a gun will help prevent angry and impulsive actions. This also provides officials sufficient time to properly perform a background check and/or mental condition.
A study completed by researchers at Northeastern University and Harvard University estimated that 22 percent of gun sales occur without a background check under the current system. This is mind-boggling and unacceptable. Under federal law, background checks on dealer sales must be conducted using the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. (Clair, National Public, 2018) Most states that require background checks on gun sales by unlicensed sellers also use NICS, but some do not. If an FBI background check takes longer than three days, the gun sale is approved by default. (Gifford’s Law Center) This is how Dylan Roof, the killer of nine people at a church in South Carolina in 2015, was able to buy a gun despite having a police record that included drug possession. (Brown, Perez, Lemon, CNN, 2015)
Gun laws vary significantly based on the state. Eight states, including California and Rhode Island, impose waiting periods for the purchase of some or all firearms. But, in states with less regulation, such as Nevada or Virginia, purchases are straightforward and speedy operations. (Taylor & Hanbury, Business Insider, 2018) This is because the NRA defeated the Brady Act that was originally proposed in 1987. By 1998, the NRA was able to win an important admission: the final form of the enactment gave that the five-day waiting period for handgun sales would be replaced by an instant computerized background check that involved no waiting periods. (Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, Wikipedia, 2018) A few states have stricter regulation for certain types of firearms, such as assault rifles or ambush rifles, but in states with less gun regulation, quick firing weapons are treated similarly to any other firearm purchase. (Mak, 2018) As Gardiner said, “It’s shocking that a 19-year-old can’t buy a beer, and can’t buy a handgun, but can buy an AR-15 under federal law.” This operation is insane and needs to be altered.
Controversy continues over which classes of people, such as convicted felons, people with severe or violent mental illness, and people on the federal no-fly list, should be excluded from the purchase of firearms. The federal government and the state are currently struggling to find the balance between public safety and violation of personal rights.
In response to public demand, numerous states have adopted a categorical approach to gun ownership and the mentally ill. These laws categorically restrict firearm possession and purchase rights for people with mental illness. Some state legislators suggest that this measure is actually the least burdensome to gun rights as it creates stricter laws without changing general gun laws as they apply to most people.
A number of states have also passed laws for family members worried about someone going through a mental health crisis that gives them the ability to report that to local police and possibly take someone’s firearms away temporarily. These are known as Red Flag Laws.
Red flag laws, also named extreme risk protection order laws, allow a judge to issue an order that enables law enforcement to take away guns from individuals deemed a risk to themselves or others. Since the Parkland shooting, at least two-dozen states have considered enacting similar laws in their states. Right now, only five states—Connecticut, Washington, Indiana, California, and Oregon—have red flag laws, most of them put into place after tragedy struck. With a red flag law, they could take the evidence to a judge and seek immediate action rather than go through the more difficult process of committing someone or prosecuting them for a crime.
Several states have also strengthened laws in regards to domestic violence, even in the states where you wouldn’t expect gun control to pass. Louisiana, for example, is among the states that have passed laws to prevent people convicted of domestic abuse from carrying a concealed weapon. But in other states, legislators have liberalized gun laws. They pushed to allow guns in places where they’d been prohibited for a long time, such as schools and on college campuses. Those provisions became law in Tennessee and Texas and many argue that they endanger students and professors.
People under 25 are responsible for an excessive amount of America’s gun violence. According to data collected by the FBI, nearly 50 percent of all gun homicides are committed by people younger than 25. Most of those perpetrators are 18 to 24. Mass shooters are often young, too. What common theme runs through the high-profile mass shootings in Charleston, S.C.; Aurora, Colo.; and Tucson? All of the killers were under the age of 25, and all of them had purchased their guns legally.
The first state to execute an anti-machine gun law was West Virginia in 1925. Numerous states enacted anti-machine gun laws in 1927, which was a year where a united national effort unfolded to regulate these weapons. In all, at least 28 states enacted anti-machine gun laws during this time. In Texas law, machine guns are defined as those from which more than five bullets were automatically discharged from a magazine by a single functioning of the firing device.
After a series of high-profile mass shootings, President Bill Clinton signed the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which controlled certain features on semi-automatic pistols, rifles and shotguns. It expired in 2004 and the odds of it being passed again in Congress are unknown. The use of an AR-15 rifle in Parkland and Sandy Hook and other major attacks, have continued to prompt calls for new restrictions. (Federal Assault Weapons Ban, Wikipedia, 2018)
There are concerns with gun control challengers, that the criminal who wants a gun can obtain one illegally, and that leaves the average law-abiding citizen helpless and defenseless. Evidently, there is a lot of debate between pro gun control citizens and pro gun supporters. Many pro gun supporters believe “guns do not kill people, people do.” Or “If they don’t use a gun, they’ll use something else such as a hammer, knife, or bomb.” As this may be true, a quick, single gun shot can and will most likely result in death where as a hammer or knife would need to be in close range and multiple strikes would need to be attempted. Also, it is more difficult to preform mass casualties with a hammer or knife. Pro gun owners need to know that the changes that need to be imposed will not conflict with the second amendment and their right to protect themselves. There just needs to be stricter laws about how firearms are obtained.
Countless citizens believe that all of the gun issues in America are based on mental illness. While it may be true that certain disorders suggest people are more prone to violence or aggression, many people who suffer from mental disorders are not dangerous. Studies have actually suggested that people with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crimes. (Wajert, 2017) Also, for some reason, addiction is not recognized as a disorder that would qualify as a “mental illness,” but people with substance abuse issues are more likely to commit violent acts. There is also insufficient reliable evidence to suggest that mental health professionals can accurately predict an individual’s proneness to gun violence without additional methods beyond their traditional approaches. Hence, mental health professionals are not always accurate when diagnosing patients, and are similarly limited in their ability to predict future dangerousness.
Another rebuttal that is often used is “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” While this can be true, it is unfortunately a statistically rare event. (Brezenoff, Ten Arguments Against Gun Control, 2018) Not to mention that if the “bad guy” didn’t have access to firearms, “a good guy with a gun” wouldn’t be needed in the first place. (Lopez, Good Guy with Gun Not Enough, 2017)
Did you know that for every criminal killed in self-defense, there are dozens more murders? This is another set of statistics that hinders on the “good guy with a gun” theory: It’s way more likely in America that someone will shoot and kill another person in the course of committing a crime than will do so in self-defense. Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post ran through the evidence. He looked at how many gun homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings there were in comparison to justifiable homicides based on the FBI’s 2012 data. His findings were for every justifiable gun homicide; there were 34 criminal gun homicides, 78 gun suicides, and two accidental gun deaths. (Lopez. Good Guy with Gun Not Enough. 2017)
“What we need to do is keep out illegal immigrants and Muslim terrorists.” This is an easy one to explain, but for some reason, a very hard one for many to accept. According to many studies, one completed by the Cato Institute, shows that immigrants are less likely than citizens to commit violent crimes. U.S.-born men are incarcerated at a rate of more than two-and-a-half times greater than that of foreign-born men, according to a study by the Public Policy Institute of California.
Comprehensive background checks, lifting the minimum age to purchase and creating red flag laws are all ways to increase the federal requirements for purchasing handguns in the U.S. Even creating an assault weapons ban would greatly benefit the safety of U.S. citizens. Laws in different areas of the country vary remarkably, and the enforcement is fluctuating. This is why the country as a whole should stand together and have a federally enforced rules and regulations rather than state by state. On the very popular social media platform of Twitter, a student from the Parkland Shooting, Sarah Chadwick, demanded attention in light of President Trump’s tweet offering prayers after the horrific event. His tweet read “No child, teacher or anyone should ever feel unsafe in an American school.” Her response was “my friends and teachers were shot. Multiple of my classmates are dead. Do something instead of sending prayers. Prayers won’t fix this. But Gun Control will prevent it from happening again.” (Ebbs, ABC News, 2018) This was a bold statement for a 17-year-old girl to make, but she’s right. We need to take action for change to occur.
As previously stated, gun violence and gun control is something that will not go away easily. There are far too many debates around the topic and not enough unity. Make your community a safer place to live not only for yourself but for your family, friends and loved ones by donating to gun-control organizations, by reaching out to elected officials and making your voice heard. Volunteering with groups leading the difficult fight, joining a local gun reform group and pressuring politicians to stop taking money from the NRA are all other great options as well. Speaking up and taking action will make a difference.