Gun control has escalated to a thorny issue in the United States. Presidential discussions have focused mostly on the issues of gun massacres and mass shootings. Historical statistics of gun violence shift this issue to the top list of political issues that the US government has to address. Since president Obama has ascended to power, cases of gun-related violence have tremendously increased. America experienced 16,272 homicides in 2008, 9484 of which involved firearm making up 58% of total homicides. Over the past five years, guns have been used in nearly 50% of all suicides committed in the US.
Recent mass shootings and school shootings make gun control an even more urgent political issue. In 2015 alone, the United States recorded 372 mass shootings claiming the lives of 475 people. In the same year, 64 school shootings were recorded. The most recent incident is the 2016 Orlando Massacre where 49 people have been killed by an armed man shooting indiscriminately at an entertainment event. A close comparison indicates that firearms accounted for about 60% of all murders in the US, 18% in Australia and 10% in the UK.
Gun violence is largely associated with the proliferation and accessibility of guns to private citizens. The number of privately owned guns in the United States equals approximately 270 million. Gun ownership rate in the US is 88.8 firearms for a sample of 100 people. According to this data, 45% of American households own guns and 30% of US adults own a firearm. It is estimated that 16 million guns enter US market annually accounting for 34,000 deaths. When these statistics are compared to other nations, the US emerges as the worlds most gun-saturated country. Though most of the shootings bear a racial and/or religious character, they depict a nation abundant in guns, which results in too many deaths.
Approaches to Understanding Gun Control
The culture of gun ownership and control can be understood from the perspective of revolutionary roots and nations colonial history. Further, the Second Amendment of the US constitution gives people the right to own and keep arms and respective attributes promoting regulated arms ownership as a necessity of a free state. The issue of a gun control has both proponents and opponents. The proponents of a greater gun control argue that the Second Amendment aims at reducing gun violence, and that the new gun restriction is supported by a majority of Americans. On the other hand, the opponents of a greater gun control argue that the Second Amendment secures the right of people to own guns for self-defense against the actions of crime.
The Second Amendment is an Unlimited Right to Own a Gun
Proponents of gun control argue that gun control laws are older than the Second Amendment. In support of their argument, they cite examples of the laws that have been passed back in the colonial period such as the criminalization of guns transfer to slaves, Catholics and Native Americans. Ancient laws also mandated troops to gather and conduct door to door surveys to identify the number of guns owned. In their opinion, the Second Amendment does not secure unlimited rights to own a gun. Accordingly, the law does not explicitly allow keeping and carrying any weapon in any manner or purpose. Therefore, the prohibition of firearms possession by mentally ill, felons and others should stand. The public should also be prohibited from carrying guns in certain places like government buildings and schools. In addition, nothing prevents the law from imposing terms and conditions on the commercial sale of firearms. The Second Amendment does not protect the right to carry concealed firearms. Instead, it rather upholds the law that requires a permitting process. If licensed firearm owners should carry concealed firearms, they should provide a good cause for it.
Greater Gun Control Would Minimise Gun Deaths
Guns cause the highest number of deaths by homicide surpassing chronic diseases such as hypertension and liver disease. Emergency rooms in the United States receive about twenty people daily suffering gunshot wounds. Continuous legalisation of firearm purchase is projected to increase the risk of gun deaths. There is an increasing need for the implementation of federal background checks and gun identification requirements. These policies have the potential to reduce gun deaths by 80%.
Greater Gun Control Will Reduce Domestic Abuse and Stalking
Easy access to guns possession has increased cases of domestic violence against women. The risk of a murder increases to 500% during a domestic dispute if a gun is accessible. About 6,450 women were murdered by their partners using a gun between 2001 and 2013. This number surpasses the 5,360 US soldiers murdered during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It is 11 times more likely that US women will become victims of gun homicide than their counterparts in other high-income countries. Among all mass shootings registered in the US, 55% involve domestic violence. 41 US states do not seize owned guns from convicted domestic abusers. Moreover, convicted misdemeanour stalkers are not forced to surrender their guns. Most women murdered by partners have a history of having survived a murder attempt after being stalked at least in the previous year.
The Use of Guns for Self-Defense is Rare
The main purpose of giving the public the right to own a gun is self-defense. However, the use of guns for this purpose is insignificant. In the last ten years, only 0.8% of victims used a firearm to protect themselves from a firearm used against them. Only 250 justifiable homicides were recorded in 2015 where private citizens used firearms to kill felons. In the same year, the ratio of a criminal homicide to a justifiable homicide was 36:1. Clearly, the guns are used more for criminal activities than self-defense.
The Second Amendment Protects Individual Gun Ownership
Opponents of the gun control base their argument on the fact that the Second Amendment gives people the right to own guns. They argue that gun ownership is an ancient American tradition and a greater gun control will infringe the rights provided by the Second Amendment. According to the opponents, gun ownership and use is an individual right in the lawful purposes of self-defense. This group of people believes that the right to bear and own a gun is a fundamental right like the freedom of speech and religion constituted in the Bill of Rights.
Gun Ownership Minimises as Opposed to Escalating Crime
This argument is based on a survey done in the states, which restrict the carrying of concealed weapons and those without the restrictions. It was found that the states with restrictions recorded higher gun-related killings. A survey conducted across the past 100 years also indicates that gun ownership increased by 200% in the 20th century but murder rates showed a downward trend. About 59% of American citizens believe that carrying a gun protects them from victimisation. The proponents argue that criminals fear retaliation when they know that the victim owns a gun.
Increased Gun Control Denies People a Sense of Safety
Analysis conducted by the National Rifle Association (NRA) indicates that guns help people in self-defense cases about 2.5 million times annually. The ratio of police to people is low and they cannot protect every citizen at all times. Accordingly, increased gun control will complicate peoples abilities to protect themselves, family and property. Gun laws will deny law-abiding citizens the right to self-defense against violent criminals. According to the vice president of NRA, a good guy owning a gun stops a bad guy owning a gun. Confessions of convicted felons that they avoided committing a crime if they knew the target was armed underpin the right to gun ownership. A survey conducted on gun owners indicated that 80% felt safer with a gun.
Increased Gun Control Will Not Deter Breaking of Laws
Increased gun violence is not caused by the absence of gun laws. About 68% of the mass shootings registered in the US are done using legally acquired guns. Gun control will only confiscate guns from the law-abiding citizens leaving a high concentration of guns in the hands of criminals. In spite of Chicago banning gun shops and assault weapons in 2014, the state recorded 2,090 shooting victims and 350 murders. Even strict gun laws do not prevent purchases of guns outside the state.
Background Checks Are Invasive to Peoples Privacy
Gun control involves actions such as micro-stamping and background checks, which will entail creation of government databases to document the gun owners personal information. Such information includes criminal records, mental health history and address, which can be accessed by unintended people and used for unintended purposes. These actions infringe peoples rights to own and carry guns without fear of government surveillance.
Gun laws aim at minimising the number of guns in the hands of people. Gun control might reduce the frequency of crimes. However, the initiative might not achieve much in preventing Aurora-style shootings. Most perpetrators of mass shootings have a clear criminal record. Banning privately owned firearms will not prevent people from acquiring guns. The United States are saturated with guns and an individual can easily acquire a gun from another state. Even people with a criminal record can acquire a gun from the black market. Legal restrictions on the access to guns cannot deter a person determined to kill people.
One of the solutions to the consequences of the gun ownership is to impose a tax on bullets. Such policy will divert the attention of people from the fact that government wants to dispossess the citizens of their guns. Certain bullets should be taxed to about 10,000%. Moreover, this policy will limit the public from accessing dangerous bullets. The assumption behind this policy is that heavy taxation will make bullets extremely expensive for an individual to use many of them, which will prevent mass shootings. Further, an enactment should be created for shooting ranges to ensure that the bullets do not leave their premises. This policy will not make the purchase of bullets expensive for the intentions of self-defense, but it will deter mass shooters from accumulating stockpiles of ammunition.
The second solution is to make a mandatory requirement for gun owners to have a liability insurance. The first step in this process is to establish a central gun registry and a licensing organ. Law enforcement agencies would track any gun in the country and bring the owner to responsibility for illegal actions attached to the gun. Such policy will require the government to sponsor gun safety training programs and offer incentives to the insurers to perform credible checks on gun owners.
Gun control is a thorny issue that is expected to become a significant campaign in the 2016 presidential elections. However, a discussion about guns should not be ignored because of its adverse impact on a society. Although solutions to the killings are limited, public conversation about the gun culture may yield positive results. The power of the gun lobby should also be enhanced. Therefore, people can develop a deeper understanding of our ability to change the situation for the better.