Public policy refers to the government’s attempt to address a public concern by establishing laws, regulations, decisions or actions that attempt to shed light on the issue at hand. Public issues may range from education, foreign policy, health and social welfare. The process of formulating public policy includes agenda setting, formulation of options and implementation. It is important for regular citizens to be aware and in understanding of public issues because of the policies immediate impact on the citizen’s daily life. Perhaps a clear example is the debate on gun ownership that requires that every American must face some rigid background checks, and stricter policies regarding gun usage for hunting and self-defense. A clear understanding of the issue would buffer citizens from manipulation by the politicians.
Advocates of gun control make the argument that unregulated buying and selling of guns increase gun crimes. The anti- gun group offer scathing attacks to the National Rifle Association use loopholes found in the United States law to allow gun lovers to purchase guns at will. However, the anti gun advocates reason that forty-percent of all gun sales occur at gun shows, internet or through informal sales. Under such circumstances, gun buyers are not subjected to stringent background checks. Most of the gun control activities evoke the rampant shootings that have occurred in the United States particularly the Colorado shootings, the Arizona shootings and others (Media Watchdog Website, 2012).
In our class lecture, documented on the PowerPoint MPA 582, session 2, our instructor reasoned that social capital and public participation as the pinnacle of American civilization. Conceivably, one of the strongest arguments presented was thus public participation was strong ingredient of a society embedded on the idea of reciprocity, inclusiveness, diversity, and mutual obligation as key ingredients required for success in a participatory democracy. The ability of trust amongst citizens is an explanation for their actions of demanding accountability from elected officials, desire for progress of the established state, and the understanding that participation in elections, demonstrations, and writing letters to politicians accrues from the desire for general welfare of the society. Whereas such thinking was ubiquitous in the early days of American experiment until 1990s, the diminishing interests in public affairs has resulted into lack of accountability on the part of government, increasing partisanship in congress, and a general feeling of disillusionment in the society. Because of this reasons, extremism in party politics has become an outlet for the people to express their anger. Gun control legislations has not escaped the same path.
Before engaging further on the need for gun ownership and the opinion aspects behind it, it is important to gather all the facts regarding gun ownership. It is of great importance to sideline oneself from the usual media bickering over the use of guns for self-defense. Civic engagement requires access to solid information. While the media plays a critical role in the act of decimation of information to the public. It is reasonable to argue that the American media has lost its special place as the champion of independent and free media.
The question is: Should the news media strive to be objective and independent of partisan politics? Is this possible? There is considerable level of bias that distorts the meaning of the role of the media as being a watchdog to the public. For many of the channels, news and current affairs are tuned so that events, characters, and controversies are interpreted in a way that supports certain bases such as liberals or conservatives. The motives of the leading channels are primary to make money by solidifying the bases of the support. Fox News will give a hopeful analysis of the presidential elections to make sure that conservatives get a feel good and a realistic chance of winning the election. MSNBC will cover up events that make the liberals look bad. Fox plays the role of a watchdog to the extreme when the liberals are in power and so does the liberal media when the conservatives are in control. What results from this fiasco is the confusion on the part of the viewer and the apparent lack of information for the public. In the end, the absence of credible and independent journalism creates a situation where the official sources are lost and the extremists and biased opinions skewed to the taste of sympathizers take center stage as official news sources. This is damaging to the concept of free space. It becomes self-preservation of the freedom of speech and not the watchdog of the public. The American media has become bedrock of liars and moneymaking organizations with little or no interest of the public. This is an insult to the very idea of freedom of speech (Senevirtane, 2012). Based on this information, it is of most importance to understand that while media freedom is critical to the success of democracy, it is perhaps not the best place for championing for civic engagement. Allow me to go down on the specifics of the case.
Facts about Gun Ownership in the United States
Hepburn et all (2004) argued on the article US Gun-Stock: Results from 2004 National Firearms Survey that based on analysis of about 2750 households adults in the United States, 38 percent of which 45 percent were males and 11 percent were females, reported a owning atheist one firearm. Amongst the gun owners, 48 percent own more than four guns, 64 percent of the gun owners have at least one hand gun. Because of this report, it was understood that gun ownership in the United States is pervasive and is increasing every year. As such, allowing the masses to make decisions based on the information from the media is for the most part, a step in the wrong direction.
Research conducted by Hemenway, Solnick & Deborah (1995) Firearms and Community Feeling of Safety, argued that data from national random digit surveys that were conducted courtesy of HICRC argued Americans would feel less safe if members of the community increasingly acquire guns. Most women would feel less safe if they have a history of violence, particularly if a gun was used. Americans in the range of 3 to 1 feel less safe, according to this study with increasing gun ownership. Using epidemiological theory, the gun survey shows an increasing trend where there is a “false positive” that heightens the use of guns for self defense. Particularly prevalent, is the perception that events of gun usage for robbery, homicide, or events of that nature are commonplace and that the use of guns for self-defense thus becomes mandatory. However, research shows that such explanation is null and void as the argument on self defense is both illogical and exploits the premise of bandwagon effect.
Data conducted by the national random digital-dial surveys conducted by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center indicated that judges from criminal cases who read self reported self defense cases rated majority of the cases as illegal because they assumed that the respondent had a permit to own a gun and the action was the event was reported honestly from the perspective of the user.
In an attempt to make an argument for gun control, Obama Administration, through Secretary of State John Kerry signed the United Arms Trade Treaty. The treaty includes amongst others a proposition for stiffer controls on gun ownership across the world. The point is the reduction in gun violence. The National Rifle association, a powerful anti gun control lobby group opposes the law. They argue that the treaty violates the American constitution particularly the second amendment.
In another development, on October 29th, the Senate judiciary committee held a hearing that was chaired by Sen. Dick Durbien titled “Stand Your Ground Laws”. Present in the hearing included the mother of Tryvonne Martin, the Florida teenager who lost his life as a result of the laws of stand your ground. The teenager was shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch. The overwhelming argument was that stand your ground rules allowed prejudiced people to get away with murder. However, defenders of Stand Your Ground rules cited self defense as an alienable right of American citizens.
Let’s Take this Debate Where it Belongs
The idea of gun ownership in America might be said to originate to the second amendment of the United States constitution. The second amendment reads that “a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”. The argument here is that while the people have a right to bear arms, the state also has a right for regulation. Unlawful uses of guns, psychos that go on shooting sprees with licensed guns, and hunters that use the gun for the sake of it, are clearly breaching what the constitution clearly outlines in the second amendment. Without regulation, gun ownership secedes into the argument of masculinity as sociologist would put it. The premise of this belief is on the idea of supremacy. An ideal man has to be in charge of other men and other women, As such a man has to exercise control over other men by manipulating them, beating them up and humiliating them. The supremacy of men over other men and women is best demonstrated in the classic American Western movies. The hero is the man who beat up the bad guy with his gun or physical prowess. This man is also a darling of many women. Without regulations, gun o ownership could easily come down to this understanding.
Peter Levine, the Director of CIRCLE and Research Director of the Tisch College of Citizenship and expert at Civic Engagement and Democracy reform in the United States conducted a study called “Gun Violence and Public Opinion on Gun Control among America’s Young People”. The data yielded surprising results. Amongst white youth, (18-29) had a history of carrying a gun or know someone who did. Comparatively, less than one percent of black youths had this experience. Still, Latino and Black youths consider the gun control as important for own security. If given a chance to decide between protecting the rights of gun owners, three out of one would agree to gun control. On the contrary, majority of the white youths would argue for gun owner’s rights. Black and Latin youths argue for the ban on assault weapons. Half of white youths hold the same opinion. Black youths and Latino youths have of the argument that there should be more police presence in public places and malls. The argument here is that the choice for most of the minority kids is between more armed guards or more guns.
Angela Valdez writes that the issue of gun control occupies a singular position in the United States politics. “On this subject, the same left and liberal advocates who might lobby in the name of free speech for the right to burn the flag or the freedom not say the pledge of alliance may oppose the freedom of individuals to own guns” (p.16). The romantic association with gun spurns from the history of the United States. With the firearms that helped Americans to form a new country. The gun thus becomes a symbol of liberty, American Revolution, and self reliance.
The opponents of gun control in the United States argue on the basis of individualistic tradition of the United States as well as the nation’s political philosophy. According to this principle, the individual has a right for protection of his belief, values and property. The primary right of the individual is at the center of the reluctance of the United States to completely argue for regulation. In recent years, mass shootings in Colorado, Boston, Arizona, St. Louis as well as other cities has regenerated the debate on gun control. Grass root organizations, civil right activists are putting increasing pressure on the need for more regulation. Although the issue of gun control is predominantly policy oriented, both democrats and Republicans have used the gun control debate as publicity stints to win elections. According to the center for responsive politics, opponents of gun control contributed more than $43 million between the years 1999-2000 (Valdez, 2009).
According to existing laws, the United States federal government attempt to reduce gun violence by restricting civilians from owning certain high risk military weapons and semi-automatic rifles. Similarly, certain groups are prohibited from owning guns such. These groups include felons, children, and humans and individuals with mental problems. The law also requires intensive background checks on people that own firearms. Advocates of gun control posit that the debate on gun control will be saved if the government makes it super difficult for people to own guns. They also argue for waiting periods on gun purchases for the function of background checks, and psychological tests. The advocate’s presents statistics that demonstrate the increasing number of people dying from gun related violence.
Jeremy Hall, in the book General Principles of Criminal Law documents some of the most important aspect of criminology. In page 5, he writes about the seven basic principles of criminal law that include: 1) Men’s area 2) act effort 3) the concurrence (fusion) of act and harm 4) harm 5) Causation 6) punishment 7) legality. The principles can be allocated to the conceptions of law, crime, and punishment. The combined meaning of the principle can be stated in a single generalization that states “the harm of the forbidden in a penal law must be imputed by any normal adult male who voluntarily commits it with the criminal intent, and such a person must be subjected to the legality prescribed punishment” (p.5). In criminal studies, the idea is to present an escape from this generalization. Perhaps the most important aspect of the basic criminal law is the legality of the law. In American criminal justice system, the legality of law is defined by the existence of the law forbidding the criminal act before the individual commits the crime. An offensive or harmful behavior is not criminal unless the law prohibited it before the offense was committed. In the U.S constitution, the idea of “ex post facto” alludes to the fact that crimes committed before the existence of legal laws forbidding the very act are not subject to the law (Cole & Smith, 2005). Case cases such as the one on Zimmerman vs. the State of Florida flopped on the grounds of the absence of a clearly defined law that could incriminate the suspect. It is such case that continues to propel the government to make laws that would bring order to gun violence in the United States.
Finally, security management as field also should redefine itself to cope up with the changing times. Instead of the single mindset approach, practitioners would be better off if they embraced the multidisciplinary paradigm has taken. Security managers are thus more helpful if they are well rounded, flexible, and aware of the need to be dynamic with the market demand. With the changing nature of the field of security and its threats, public management has become an international career with global expectations, there is the need to be prepared for challenges that are not only American but also global. These challenges range from local gun shooting to terrorist attacks, climatic disasters, tsunamis amongst others.
References for gun ownership
Hepburn, Lisa; Miller, Matthew; Azrael, Deborah; Hemenway, David. The US gun stock: Results from the 2004 national firearms survey. Injury Prevention. 2007 13:15-19.
Hemenway, David; Richardson, Elizabeth. Characteristics of automatic or semi-automatic firearm ownership. American Journal of Public Health. 1997; 87:286-88.
Hemenway, David; Solnick, Sara J; Azrael, Deborah R. Firearms and community feelings of safety. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. 1995; 86:121-132.
Hemenway, David; Richardson, Elizabeth. Characteristics of automatic or semi-automatic firearm ownership. American Journal of Public Health. 1997; 87:286-88.
Senevirtane, K. (2012). Crumbling of the Fourth Estate. Retrieved on October 16th, 2012. http://cyberjournalist.org.in/estate.html
Media Watchdog Website. ( 2012) The Media. Retrieved October 15th 2012, http://www.newswatch.org/
Trend David. The Myth of Media Violence: A Critical Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007. Print.
Shanahan, James, and Michael Morgan. Television and Its Viewers: Cultivation Theory and Research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Print.