Between 1966 and 2012, a study done by the journal of Violence and Victims reported there were 292 mass shootings worldwide; of these, nearly one-third took place in the United States (DiLascio). “The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines a ‘mass shooting’ as a shooting incident in which four or more people are wounded or killed” (DiLascio). Since the enactment of the Second Amendment, and up and through the current day, Americans have been asking themselves and one another: should the United States government constrict the laws on Gun Control? The government should begin to make strides to constrict the laws on gun control, by nationalizing laws, implementing foreign laws, and reforming background checks to make the United States a safer place.
I have chosen this topic due to a recent uproar among the citizens of the United States in response to the latest mass-shooting occurrences. Many government officials have begun to talk of reforming the gun control laws, either constricting or relaxing. Additionally, many students have begun to raise their voices about gun control after several mass school shootings occurring all around the world: some including Texas, Florida, Virginia, etc. The students of the schools are speaking out to government officials about their opinions on gun control. In comparison, these students are putting government officials in a situation that requires them to act upon the wishes of students. The mass pandemonium revolving around gun laws has caught the eyes of many individuals around the world, and has become a discussion of many Social Studies classrooms and political debates. Furthermore, I have chosen this topic to further educate myself about the current debate on the Second Amendment of the United States.
The entirety of the gun control deliberation revolves centrally around the Second Amendment of the United States. Written in 1791 the Second Amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” (Heston, Charlton, and Brady). In simpler terms, the Second Amendment, also known as the right to bear arms, pronounces the people of the United States have the right to possess firearms and to use them as necessary. Therefore, the government or any power cannot trespass upon the people’s right to possess firearms. To grasp an enhanced understanding of the firearm debate there are several definitions and acronyms needed. First, the ATF is an “Abbreviation for the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the government branch that regulates the possession and transfer of firearms” (DiLascio). The ATF is fighting for the safety and control of firearm transfers through background checks. A background check is “A report containing an individual’s public legal history, including criminal, financial, and mental health records” (DiLascio), used by gun-shops for transactions of firearms, to verify the credibility of buyers. Additionally, a GVRO better known as “a gun-violence restraining order,” revokes an individual’s firearms if they have committed particular crimes, or have become a danger to themselves or others. Furthermore, the distinction separating the several types of firearms is imperative for discussing gun control. A semiautomatic firearm is defined as, “A firearm that can fire repeatedly, but requires releasing and then pressing the trigger for each shot” (Dilascio). Conversely, a fully automatic firearm is, “A firearm that fires repeatedly while the trigger is pressed” (DiLascio). Moreover, a Handgun, “A firearm designed to be held and fired with one hand” (DiLascio) is most commonly used as concealed carry firearms. In addition, a straw-purchase involves “a criminal who cannot legally acquire a firearm has a friend or acquaintance with no such restriction buy the gun. Criminals also purchase guns from unlicensed street dealers who are criminals themselves” (Allen). Finally, a bump stock “makes semiautomatic weapons fire at a rate similar to automatic weapons, and of semiautomatic rifles” (DiLascio), is another significant subtopic in the debate over gun control.
The prime issue stirring the debate about gun control is the number of shootings that have recently occurred. Most importantly is the shooting in Las Vegas, by a lone gunman. In this shooting, Stephen Paddock, used several guns with bump stocks equipped, allowing him to kill forty-nine people in October 2017 (DiLascio). There are several other shootings that have occurred recently each of which having another reason to blame. Furthermore, throughout the last five years, many shootings have commenced in schools around the United States. Many students of the United States have begun to press out at the government and take action: petitioning, boycotting, and presenting themselves to the government in revolt. Additionally, the people owning guns legally all around the world have also become angered, due to the bans and restrictions placed on firearms. Groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) affiliate with those trying to protect firearm laws. This creates lots of controversy around the Gun Control discussion.
The debate about gun control began as early as 871 when “King Alfred of Saxon England’s laws gave every man the right to keep and bear arms but prohibit murder and other crimes” (Henderson 85). Several years after later Kings of England began to alter King Alfred’s laws to adapt to their respective years at rule. It was not until 1215, 344 years after the first enactment of firearms, that a king tried to disarm his citizens. After King John attempts to disarm his kingdom barons confront him, saying he has infringed on the Magna Carta; which allows citizens to bear arms (Henderson 85). Furthermore, in 1328, “Edward III issues the Statute of Northampton. It prohibits ‘persons great or small’ from carrying weapons in public, though it allows for defense of the home” (Henderson 86). This was the first law in which several individuals did not obey the throne. Even the courts did not completely submit to the laws; the magistrates only “applied it to only to those who used arms to ‘terrify the good people of the land’” (Henderson 86). Additionally, in 1689, the British Bill of Rights acted in disapproval of previous kings taking guns from individuals. The Bill stated, “‘the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions allowed by the law’” Moving forward, in 1776, the new American government created its own adaption of the Bill of Rights; including the Second Amendment: the right to bear arms (Henderson 89).
The Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights is a national law in which each individual and state is expected to follow. However, some states have begun to create their laws regarding firearm safety. For example, Governor of California, Jerry Brown, has enacted several new laws in the position of strengthening laws around gun safety. One of these laws induces the law of raising the legal age of purchasing shotgun and rifles to 18 – 21 years of age (McGreevy). Additionally, Governor Brown signed into order legislation that, “require(s) applicants for concealed gun permits to complete at least eight hours of gun safety training and demonstrate competency with a live-fire exam” (McGreevy). Regulations such as these allow for a constricted regulation upon gun control. Most importantly, Jerry Brown signed into action the Red-Flag Laws of California in which “which allows law enforcement to seize the firearms of people believed to be a danger to themselves or others” (Why ‘Red Flag Laws). This is by far the most significant gun law signed to date. These Red-Flag Laws will allow, “California became the first state to allow family members, as well as law enforcement, to seek firearms restraining orders” (Why ‘Red Flag Laws). This law is so imperative because newly discovered information shows that if Red-Flag Laws had been implemented nationally several mass-shootings would have been extinguished before they even sparked. On January 5, 2018, a close friend of Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland School District Shooter, made a phone call to the FBI. In this phone call for a “13-minute detailed report […] described in excruciating detail Cruz’s mental problems, his violent tendencies, and the concern that he would go ‘into a school and just [shoot] the place up’” (French). Had the Red-Flag Laws in which California has enacted been in place, in Florida, Nikolas Cruz’s firearms would have been confiscated from him. Henceforth, Mr. Cruz would have been examined by medical professionals and assessed in his mental disabilities. Cruz killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school; he was able to purchase his firearms because he, although having serious mental issues, had not partaken in crime and never been in contact with the state mental health system. The Red-Flag law is one of many examples in which constriction of gun control could benefit the United States of America as a nation rather than individual states.
Moreover, many other nations around the world, including Britain, Australia, and Switzerland, have implemented their own laws to restrict the possession of firearms. These nations have placed strict regulations on firearms which has led to decreases in mortality rates. Great Britain averages between 50 and 60 gun murders per year; conversely, in 2014 the United States had 8,124 firearm murders. The United States has approximately 160 times the amount of gun murders per year (Allen). The reason for Great Britain’s outstandingly low mortality rate is due to the firearms restrictions placed on its citizens. In 1988, Britain had its worst mass shooting in Hungerford. After this shooting, the British Government placed a ban nationwide on semiautomatic assault rifles (Allen). Additionally, the British government has placed rigorous restrictions on other types of firearms as well: “Handguns are prohibited without special permission from authorities” (Allen). As a result of the restraints on firearms, gun-related offences now consist of only 0.2 percent of crimes in the United Kingdom, considerably lower than that of America (Allen). In Australia, the prime minister John Howard took gun control to the most extreme point. A nationwide sweep of gun reform was ordered on Australia “after a decade of gun violence that saw more than one hundred victims of mass shootings in Australia, a lone gunman murdered thirty-five people and seriously wounded eighteen more at a tourist haven in Port Arthur, Tasmania” (Allen). Only 12 days after this shooting the Prime Minister ordered the collection of fully-automatic and shotgun type firearms. The government imposed a one-time tax on the citizens to buy the weapons from the owners. This seizing led to the destruction of 700,000 firearms from Australia. After the firearm buy back a study was conducted in 2012, by Andrew Leigh of Australian National University and Christine Neill of Wilfrid Laurier University. This study concluded, “that the buyback program dropped the firearm homicide rate by 59 percent and the firearm suicide rate by 65 percent” (Allen). Along with the ban and buy back the Prime Minister also banned all imports all semi-automatic and automatic weaponry into Australia (Allen). Conversely, some nations believe that restricting guns is the answer to stopping gun violence. The country of Switzerland has the fourth highest guns per capita in the world. This equates to between 2.3 million to 4.5 million firearms, the population if Switzerland is approximately 8 million people (Allen). The number of guns in Switzerland does not affect the amounts of homicides in a way it does America. In “Switzerland has less than one gun homicide per one hundred thousand people each year. This compares with five gun homicides per one hundred thousand in the United States” (Allen).
In addition, several states in the United States have varying statistics for the capita of gun in relation to the suicide rates. In “Montana, where two-thirds of households have firearms and where the gun suicide rate was 15.54 per 100,000 residents, more than twice the national rate of 7.1 (“Looser gun Laws”). However, in California, where there is severe gun controls bans, limits and restrictions; the gun suicide rate was 4.06 per 100,000 residents. In California, 27.2% of households possess firearms which is nearly 40% lower than that of Montana. This decrease in gun possession directly varies with the rate of suicides. Likewise, in New Jersey 17.2 % of households possess firearms, and there is a 1.97 per 100,000 suicide rate (“Looser gun Laws”). The American government could never follow completely in the steps of the Australian government (nationwide seize of weaponry) due to the infringement of the Second Amendment; however, implementing current laws to seize illegal firearms and dangerous firearms could lead to lower suicide rates nationwide.
The addition of legislation to constrict the circulation of firearms causes lots of controversy between firearm owners and those trying to take away firearms. Instead of adding laws, reforming previously decreed laws will reason additional safety precautions in America. Most importantly is the background check, implemented to regulate the sale of firearms to customers. Barack Obama, the fourty-fourth president of the United States, gave a speech to time magazine, upon the regulations of background checks and their purpose. He specified how any individual can legally purchase a firearm from any gun store, as long as they passed the government background check. However, the issue lies in the illegal sale of guns online. A felon or individual with bad intentions can buy the same gun as the latter; however, no background check is needed to buy the firearm. He pronounces how all individuals planning to buy firearms should have to pass the same standards, to eliminate the possibilities of misconducting individuals from possessing weapons (Allen). Several firearms around the world are sold illegally, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence: “An estimated 40% of all firearms transferred in the US are acquired from unlicensed sellers without a background check” (Allen). States are not required to share background checks only encouraged. If a mandatory background check is performed, due to an individual being deemed not mentally incompetent or put into a mental hospital, states are not required to share this information. If an individual were to have a mandatory background check completed, he could just travel to another state to purchase a firearm (“Why Red Flag”). Many individuals are in support of having stricter laws on background checks, according to a Quinnipiac University poll “97 percent of those polled supported universal background checks” (DiLascio). Likewise, in a Gallup Poll conducted in 2015, “86 percent of respondents favored universal background checks for all gun purchases in the United States” (Allen). There is great reasoning for the uproaring support for universal background checks, from 1999 to 2014 fifteen states that conducted universal background checks recorded an extremely low fatality rate of 7.98 per 100,000. This compares directly to the other 35 states not conducting background checks, in which the fatality rate was 12.23 per 100,000 (Allen). Additionally, those states with universal background checks experienced “38 percent fewer homicides of women shot by intimate partners and 53 percent fewer suicides by firearm” (Allen). National participation or universal background checks would lead to a great decrease in illegal firearm sales as well as a direct correlation with fatalities, homicides, and suicides.
After researching this issue extensively, I feel as if the best option for the gun control debate is a mix between restrictions and relaxing. Although not completely restricting the option to own and purchase firearms; the implementation of the Red Flag Laws, as seen in California, would lead to a tremendous reduction in suicides and murders. The Red Flag Laws allow those who have continuously obeyed the laws the government has placed on firearms, to retain their firearms whilst, taking the weaponry away from those who impend threats on others or themselves. Additionally, following in the footsteps of other countries and nations from around the world, a nationwide sweep of fully-automatic weaponry would lead to a dramatic decrease in fatalities nationwide. Finally, the nationwide spread of background checks upon all platforms of gun purchases would lead to a theatrical decrease in illegal purchases of firearms.
Throughout the process of writing the I-Search the most impactful portion was the research. During the research, I uncovered so many stories and accounts in which millions of lives had been impacted due to one person’s wrongdoing, and government’s mistake on allowing an individual like the latter to purchase firearms. From the process of writing this I-Search, I can write my next research paper knowing that I need to guide my research in a more direct path rather than miscellaneous discovering information. I felt that the pace of which I wrote the I-Search in would aid me in the writing of my next research paper. Finally, I have learned that I am well capable of writing a long research-based paper as long as I pace myself to complete the task in a timely matter, rather than pushing everything off to the last minute.
- Allen, John. Thinking Critically: Gun Control. Thinking Critically: Gun Control, 2018. SIRS Issues Researcher,https://sks.sirs.com.
- DiLascio, Tracey M. “Gun Control: Overview.” Points of View: Gun Control, Mar. 2018, p. 1. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pwh&AN=120815155&site=pov-live.
- French, David. “Gun-Violence Restraining Orders Can Save Lives: An underused tool to prevent mass shootings.” National Review, 19 Mar. 2018, p. 12+. Business Collection, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A530107102/GPS?u=holl83564&sid=GPS&xid=6379264f. Accessed 5 Nov. 2018.
- “Gov. Malloy Signs Legislation Banning Bump Stocks.” Connecticut state website, 18 May 2018, portal.ct.gov/Office-of-the-Governor/Press-Room/Press-Releases/2018/05-2018/Gov-Malloy-Signs-Legislation-Banning-Bump-Stocks-and-Other-Rate-of-Fire-Enhancements. Accessed 6 Dec. 2018.
- Henderson, Harry. Gun Control. New York, Facts On File, 2000.
- Heston, Charlton, and Sarah Brady. “The Second Amendment: A Closer Look.” American Legion Magazine, 2002, pp. 12+. SIRS Issues Researcher, https://sks.sirs.com.
- “Looser Gun Laws, More Fatalities.” Los Angeles Times, 04 Jun. 2018, pp. A.13. SIRS Issues Researcher,https://sks.sirs.com.
- McGreevy, Patrick. “Brown Signs several Gun Control Bills, Vetoes Others.” Los Angeles Times, 29 Sep. 2018, pp. B.1. SIRS Issues Researcher, https://sks.sirs.com.
- “Why ‘Red Flag Laws’ Are Gaining Bipartisan Support After Parkland.” Daily Intelligencer, 21 Feb. 2018. General OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A528320398/GPS?u=holl83564&sid=GPS&xid=8198ca3a. Accessed 2 Nov. 2018.