The United States of America is one of the regimes with less restriction in the world with respect to regulation of accessibility to guns thanks to the Constitution which anchors arm-bearing right to citizens. The link between accessibility of guns to the public and proliferation of violence is not straightforward. However, what is clearly evident is that regulation of guns and their availability for purposes of committing crimes are an interlinked and interwoven phenomena. The accessibility of guns to African Americans has always been an issue for a long time. Earlier laws were enacted with a single objective of stripping the African-American people and immigrants of the legal power to own guns. In the recent past, however, African American males in urban areas have been accessing assault rifles with considerable ease. The impact of such access to those of the low social and economic status is the object of this study. This paper will grapple with the subject in several segments. In the first segment, I shall seek to examine the historical background of assault rifles in the United States of America. Next will be an examination of the deaths that have been caused by the use of rifles in the recent past. I shall then seek to review whether the accessibility of guns to the African-American of the lower-economic strata is responsible for the increase in crime. This paper will then do a review of the findings of the research accompanied by a discussion of the findings with a view to unraveling the impasse.
This paper makes the case that the African American males engage more in property crimes in an effort to escape the harsh economic conditions. High poverty levels among the blacks’ community and the large inequality gap between them and the whites have been a contributory factor. The absence of equal opportunities, between whites and blacks led to the blacks searching for alternative means of survival and chase the ever elusive American dream. This perhaps attests to Robert Merton’s strain theory in which he advances the argument that the inability to succeed in legal ways often drives others into extra-legal means-crime. It should be appreciated that some criminals are rational beings who participate in crime for purely economic gains. Many African American males fall in this category. Nonetheless,this may not be necessarily the case since the violence is now worse than in the time of the Great Depression. This could possibly point to other factors like declining moral standards and erosion of religious influence which are charged with instilling responsible living. The African American community account for approximately 13 per centum of the whole American population. However, despite having a small population they account for more than half of homicide victims. The figures at the Bureau of Statistic indicate that 279,384 African Americans have been victims of murder from 1976 to 2011. It is worth noting that in more than 90% of these cases, an African American has been a victim and aggressor. It is these statistics that have excited scholars and researchers of repute including criminologists into delving into research in an attempt to unearth the causes of such violence. These crimes are prevalent in urban areas. Several theories have been put forward to explain the causes of violence. Access to gun, especially assault rifles has been on a steady rise in recent years. Gun stores are now not only found in major cities, but also in small towns. Proponents of gun control and regulation hold the view that such accessibility especially to urban African American of low social economic status is a gamble with the security of the citizenry. They peg their argument on the high rate of fatal gun violence figures as available at research institutions, to argue that strict regulation is a necessity. However, studies indicate that most of crimes and violence committed by use of assault rifles are those acquired through illegal means. If anything, a man not bent on committing a crime will not do so, because they own a firearm.
The literature review confines itself to the study of African American males and focus on access of assault rifles to them and the resultant effects of such access. As such, the research is limited to a small sample of the population. The research also makes the assumption that there are consequences whether positive or negative in the relationship between access to assault rifles and lower social economic urban African- American males.
The access of rifles to the public dates back to the 16th Century when the country was inhabited mainly by explorers and settlers who depended on hunting for food. As such, learning how to shoot using a rifle became a necessity. As a direct result of the Revolutionary War, the Second Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1791, thereby legitimizing gun holding. The National Rifle Association, a most powerful non-governmental organization was formed in a bid to promote rifle shooting. The association was against gun control and sought to protect personal firearm rights and sponsor education programs on firearm safety. However, in the 1930’s, in response to gun violence, legislation was passed restricting the use of guns. Among them were the National Firearms Act and the Federal Firearms Act that banned the use of machine guns and imposed taxes on their sales. It is against this background that the use of rifles initiated. It is also the recommendation of this study that stricter gun regulations that are being mulled over and advanced by different groups are not the cure to the problem. In fact this is a move that only shifts the focus from the real causes.
A case study of two countries is illustrative in this respect. Switzerland, a country with one of the highest gun ownership rate, registered a comparatively low homicide rate this supports the view that the mere accessibility of guns does not necessitate violent crime. Another nation that has been studied, in connection with the American gun problem is Mexico. Four years following the end of the American ban on assault weapons in 2004, around 60,000 guns seized in Mexico was traced to the United States. Almost 2,684 additional homicides occurred during the period. What does this portend? Poor and weak institutions like those existent in Mexico coupled with increased accessibility of assault rifles leads to a proliferation of violence. This is based on the fact that even with the presence of strict regulation, violence will still be occasioned. An analogy scenario is in the abuse of narcotic drugs despite being banned. With the ban in place, people still smuggle the drugs and abuse to a big extent. It is therefore likely to be the case with the rifles where criminals will obtain the guns illegally and attend violence on others. The challenge posed by these banned guns is even greater than in the absence of regulation. In the event guns sales are banned and one acquires a gun illegally and commits a crime, it then becomes onerous for the authorities to tell who about the owner since they can neither reference the gun to the purchaser, nor where it was bought. In retrospect, an interesting observation comes to the fore; most of the crimes are committed using unregistered guns. The upshot of banning the use of guns could therefore be counterproductive in that it could fuel an increase of unregistered guns and consequently, crime. Focus needs to shift from the guns as the source of crime to the irresponsible gun wielders who should take the blame. People who have grown up and been taught about guns have been seen to be responsible. The solution could lie in focusing on mental health and assessing the motives that cause the criminals to engage in crime. This should be a precursor to any enactment envisaged.
An extensive review is available and so is the number of previous works done on the subject. Reports indicate that the rate of death is high in areas inhabited mainly by African Americans. These deaths they posit are of mostly male adults between the ages of 18 and 30. The rates of violent crimes leading to death have been high in black neighborhoods since earlier 1950s. Young African American males join gangs at a tender age. These gangs maintain a bitter rivalry with other gangs. Assault rifles come in handy when a gang wants to ‘teach a lesson’ a rivalry gang. Drug wars have also ameliorated the proliferation of assault rifles. This has been possible by virtue of the fact that sellers and buyers of such products want to protect themselves. The resulting impact is that assault rifles have been a tool for attack and revenge.
The Second Amendment to the Constitution states that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. American citizens thus have access to lethal weapons than any other country in the world sanctioned by law. Restrictive policies of accessibility to guns are for the sole aim of averting access of these lethal weapons to criminals. Therefore, criminals or persons with criminal history, persons with unsound mind and drug abusers are prevented by law from accessing guns. There are suggestions that access to guns should be allowed for a significant purpose and not merely as a constitutional right. However, this would require an amendment of the Constitution. Due to the nature of these weapons, they have been used as ideal tools for robbery with violence. Criminals use them to intimidate and assault any person trying to abort their missions. However, others argue that every American citizen should be entitled to own a gun as long as they meet the constitutional threshold. They argue that guns inclusive of assault guns are the most efficient, effective and safest way for a person to defend oneself and their property. Approximately 2.5 million Americans use guns to protect themselves, their property and their families. It is argued that for every life lost, 65 lives are protected. The presence of assault rifles has had a direct impact in the increase of levels of crimes in poor urban areas. In areas where the majority of the population is of African American descent, these assault rifles are owned and possessed by the male gender. It is only in rare cases one would find an African American woman who owns a gun. These weapons are bought with the intention of protecting oneself. However, because of economic hardships and social stratification, young adult males get incited by fellow peers and gang leaders to use them to nibble at the perceived wealthy folks.
In response to the hypothetical questions posed in this paper and which formed the subject of this study, it is the answer that access to rifles has contributed to crime among African-Americans. Of course, this has merely contributed but it cannot be said to be the source of crime. Rather, other factors contribute to assault rifle violence. In answer to the second question, it is the finding of this study that African-Americans do not buy assault rifles with the sole intent of harming others. Rather, they acquire rifles for self-defense and the crimes are in most cases an attendant effect.
The patterns and prevalence of criminal activities using assault rifles and other guns informed the theme of this study. The research sought to find out the direct and impact of lower social-economic African American having access to assault rifles. Huge volumes of literature review analyzed indicate that there is a negative impact of ease access to guns by low class African American males. This is attributable to their lack of the requisite knowledge on the intent of the law to allow such access. The net effect has been increased levels of insecurity and property crime. It is vital for the government in conjunction with all the requisite stakeholders to ensure that such areas are regularly policed. Another solution would be to put measures in place to attaining economic equality between the whites and the blacks.
With the benefit of hindsight provided by this paper, it is the contention that future research into the continued increase in gun violence in the recent past is required, the economic imbalance notwithstanding. Equally vital is the role of religion, family and governmental regulation on rifles and their impact on rifle violence.
Blakemorea, J., & Blakemoreb, G. M. (2010). African American Street Gangs: A Quest for Identity. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 203-223.
Bruce, K. P., & Kawachib, I. (2009). Social capital, income inequality, and firearm violent crime. Social Science and Medicine, 1-13.
Fagan, J. (2010). The Social Organization of Drug Use and Drug Dealing Among Urban Gangs. Journal of Criminology, 13-14.
Harries , K., & Powell, A. (2010). Juvenile Gun Crime and Social Stress. Urban Geography Journal, 45-63.
Krivo, L. J., & Petterson, R. G. (2012). Extremely Disadvantaged Neighborhoods and Urban Crime. Social Forces, 619-648.
Meyers, M. (2007). African American women and violence: gender, race, and class in the news. Critical Studies in Media Communication Journal, 95-118.
O'Keefeab , M., & Sela, A. (2009). An Examination of the Effects of Race/Ethnicity and Social Class on Adolescents' Exposure to Violence. Journal of Social Science Research.
Robinson, P. L., & Boscardin, J. (2009). The Effect of Urban Street Gang Densities on Small Area Homicide Incidence in a Large Metropolitan County, 1994–2002. Journal of Urban Health, 1-13.