US Gun Control Policies Must Be Strengthened
- The Issue
Many would not easily forget the Aurora shooting incident in July, which happened upon the premier night of one of the highly anticipated movies of 2012, the Dark Knight Rises. The movie is noted as the final installment to Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of the iconic superhero that fights in the midst of shadows against criminals such as the Joker, Catwoman and Bane. The suspect, James Holmes, had been noted to have dressed himself as the infamous “Joker” considered as Batman’s arch-nemesis. The suspect had been reported to have used several high caliber pistols to shoot movie goers randomly; which he purchased legally a few months before the shooting incident. Similar incidents had already occurred throughout the United States and while many have argued and stressed the nation already has gun control laws to regulate buyers and distributors of guns throughout the country, it is visible that there is a need to revise these gun control laws due to the increasing incidents of shooting incidents in the country for the past few years.
- Timeline/Background of the Study
According to Wilson (2007) there are at least 200 million firearms in circulation in the US alone and McLaughlin (2012) indicated that prior to the Aurora shootout last July, there are at least 123,000 licensed firearms dealers in the US with 47,000 casualties due to gunshot. These numbers signals that there is indeed a problem with the country’s gun control policies, especially with the high profile cases that showcase how gunmen easily got their guns despite these policies in place. From Columbine in 2000 to the Aurora shootout in 2012, it is visible that the arguments of gun control policies in the country only caused debates whenever events such as the two noted shootings occur. It could not be speculated that while there are indeed laws since the beginning of year 2000 regarding gun control, there are still opportunities for young or mentally-challenged shooters to attain their ammunition despite these stringent laws.
- Significance of the Study/ Implications
The necessity to review gun control laws in the country is significant considering the high casualties reported to be caused by gun shootouts and shootings throughout the country. While there are indeed gun control policies implemented in the nation since the early years, it is undeniable that the statistics reveal the necessity to impose stronger laws regarding gun control and in turn, reduce the casualties and risks involving gun users throughout the US. The cases in Columbine, and in Aurora showcases that although the policies are indeed in place to ensure that it would not be easy to purchase guns without the proper documentation; there are still opportunities for people to purchase them without much scrutiny in the part of the gun distributors. If the US remains to be stagnant and unresponsive in the threat imposed by gun users who may use these guns for violence, it is likely that Columbine, Virginia and Aurora would not be the last cases wherein innocent lives would be extinguished because of a suspect maniacally shooting around with a gun. In this day and age, having strict and fully enforced gun laws would lessen the casualties caused by gun shots and at the same time, ensure guns would not be purchased by suspected criminals.
- Gun Control in the US
- Currently Active Laws on Gun Control
According to Krouse (2012), the US currently has two major federal statutes to regulate and monitor possession of firearms in the country: the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968. The NFA was originally designed to make several types of firearms, which are labeled lethal, to be difficult to procure. The law also regulates firearms that can be concealed on a person and includes taxes for manufacturing and distribution. The GCA, on the other hand, gives power to the United States federal, state and local law enforcement bodies to reduce crime and violence. It also places federal restrictions on domestic commerce of small firearms and ammunition, requiring manufacturers and distributors to be licensed. Stringent requirements must also be passed by anyone wishing to have a gun to ensure they would not use the firearm for any type of crime or violence. Provisions are also placed when it comes to firearm trading, transfers, and even carrying due to the risk of illegal transactions. Additional federal policies are also enforced by the country to ensure the compliance of all gun users and distributors such as the Gun Trafficking and Straw Purchases Policy and the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act .
- Major Arguments on Gun Control in the US
While there are indeed laws already active to ensure gun control monitoring, regulation, and law-enforcement in the country, it is undeniable that many still see that the US federal government would need to revise these laws. According to Cochran, Mayer, Carr, Cayer, and McKenzie (2011) and Wilson (2007) supporters of stronger gun control policies point out that many of the murder cases reported in the country have been the result of gun shot in various vital parts of the body. Some would even note that many would find guns easier to use and kill as the person would only need to pull the trigger and victim would either bleed to death or die instantly. Supporters of gun control policies have also stressed that guns are the weapon of choice because it enables criminals to remove possible resistance from their intended victims from a distance. In comparison to a knife wherein a user could be disarmed in close proximity, a gun could be shot from a far distance, enabling easy escape. In addition to this, they also believe that some homicide cases are not premeditated and only committed in the spur of the moment or the argument. Someone can easily find someone dead in the end of an argument or misunderstanding, especially if the suspect is sober and with a gun. Supporters of gun control also make notes that if gun controls are strengthened throughout the country, murders and homicide cases would reduce. Several states have already implemented strict gun control laws and yet there are 2.8 murders per 100,000 of its population. In the case of Texas, there are 5.6 murder cases per 100,000 of its population. With this in mind, supporters of gun control stress that it is essential to strengthen gun control to eliminate the possibility of risks and casualties . Connolly (2011) noted that it is possible that America’s laws on gun control would not change due to the nature of gun control enforcement in the country. While many are indeed supportive over ban on several lethal weapons such as assault and military rifles, they point out that with the National Rifle Association in power, it would make it impossible to gun control policies to occur. With this in mind, it is essential to create stronger gun control policies not only to impose a ban to these weapons, but also to eliminate the risks of guns to the public .
On the other hand, supporters of gun rights point out a few reasons as to why gun control must not be imposed in the country, let alone strengthen it. First and foremost, some Americans play hunting games for recreation. With hunting a traditional sport practiced since the early foundations of the nation, banning gun use and imposing restrictions may affect these traditions, especially in rural America. The second reason identified by supporters of gun rights is the fact that some Americans would need a gun to ensure protection. These people would include those from high-crime neighborhoods, people who travel late at night, and for those who have high death threats or security risks. It is crucial for these people to be allowed to use a gun to ensure their safety considering that the law enforcers themselves can no longer be trusted to protect citizens from any serious crime. It is with this believe which forces a few to purchase guns to protect not only themselves but also their families. The argument also stresses that if criminals know that people keep their guns at home and are proficient in using these guns, it is likely they would leave the family alone. It is also noted that gun violence would decrease if many armed citizens would counteract the threats caused by criminals themselves with their gun proficiency . Denning (2008), Shally-Jensen (2010), Barak (2007), and Connolly (2011) even stressed that gun rights is valid under the Second Amendment. Under the Second Amendment, anyone has the right to possess firearms individually. While supporters of gun control policies argue that the Second Amendment notes the provision to create peacekeeping forces, the supporters of gun rights notes that it is a right of the people to have arms. The biggest supporter of gun rights is the National Rifle Association, which denotes the Second Amendment as a means to create a “Well-regulated militia” that points to armed populace and not just the Army or National Guard. The NRA had already championed in several policies on gun rights, especially gun safety for shooting enthusiast .
In the case of the Republicans and the Democrats in their position regarding gun control policies, Carter (2012), Spitzer (2009), and Bruce and Wilcox (1998) noted that both parties support gun regulation. Upon the passing of the Gun Control Act of 1968, it did not receive heavy opposition from any party and had ensured its passing. Nonetheless, by the 1990s, both parties slowly placed their positions on gun control . Republicans opposed any form of gun control, while the Democrats favor these gun control laws. In light of the Columbine case, gun regulations were supported by the Democrats and the Republicans opposed its passing .
- Events highlighting the importance of gun control
The issue of gun control in the US had already sparked in several occasions which called for officials to act upon the strengthening of gun control to stop gun related violence. The first known gun-related violence in the US that called for the beginning of gun control reform is the Columbine High School shooting in April 20, 1999. According to Lamb (2008) and Toppo (2009), the shooting was caused by 18 year old Eric Harris and 17 year old Dylan Klebold, shooting 12 students in Columbine High School and a teacher. After killing their unsuspected victims, both Harris and Klebold killed themselves. Their plans were considered destructive as investigators noted that both Harris and Klebold planned the attack in various forms for a year; which included blowing up the school and killing 500 people. The Columbine case is considered the deadliest school shooting in the US history . Following Columbine’s record is the 2007 Virginia Tech Shooting, which killed 33 people. According to CBS News (2009) and Hauser (2007) Korean student Cho Seung-Hui walked into Virginia Tech’s dormitories and killed 32 people and killed himself soon after. It is noted that Columbine and Virginia Tech’s cases highlights the need to enforce gun control policies throughout the country as these rampages are killing innocent lives .
Another known case in which the US gun control policies are put into question is when 24 year old James Holmes shot almost 70 people inside a jam packed theater for the movie premiere of the movie “The Dark Knight Rises” in July 2012. According to the report done by McLaughlin (2012) and Martinez (2012) Holmes used an assault rifle, a shotgun and a pair of Glock pistols and shot moviegoers randomly, and somewhat in an insane phase as survivors claimed Holmes called himself “The Joker”. Twelve people were killed by Holmes, with some having several random shots throughout their body. According to the investigations done by the Aurora Police, Holmes purchased all of the guns he used in the shootout through local shops and used the internet to purchase 6,000 rounds of ammo 60 days before his attack. According to Police Chief Dan Oates, the ammo and weapons he possessed were all legal due to Holmes’ clean record. Before Holmes’ attack, McLaughlin noted that the attitudes of Americans over gun control laws were positive, although they believed that stricter gun laws would not easily put into perspective due to the conflicting sentiments on how these laws would be enforced. With Columbine still fresh in the minds of many, many parents of the Columbine killings noted that gun control must be imposed to prevent people from repeating what happened in Aurora and Columbine. Since the incident, there are at least 123,000 licensed firearms deals in the US and almost 47,000 people were killed due to gunshot (McLaughlin, 2012). Several groups have already called for the strengthening of gun control policies in the country after this event. The Brady Campaign, the largest citizen organization fighting for the prevention of gun violence, stressed that it is important to push the American officials to start working their way to stricter policies on gun control. For members in the Congress, they remain divided even with the Aurora incident occurring and revealing the need to refurbish the country’s gun-control laws. For the Democrats, they admit that gun control reform would be difficult since the Congress is divided. It is also notable that the National Rifle Association would ensure that states would not support any gun control reform proposal by pushing for the Second Amendment .
- Future of Gun Control
In light of the Aurora shooting tragedy in July, the fate of US gun control would be determined with the policies to be imposed by the Obama administration. In the election campaigns before the November 2012 polls, as reported by Cohen (2012), Devi (2012) and Gabbatt (2012), both President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney did not express notable laws that would prevent similar attacks such as the Columbine and Aurora shootings. In the case of President Obama, he is supporting the reinstallation of manufacturing bans for semi-automatic weapons for civilian use, which had been expired eight years ago. However, he noted on his campaign that the congress is unable to resolve the issue regarding this ban, thus Obama’s call to seek stricter and better enforcement of existing laws. In the case of Romney, he believes that there is no need for new gun control laws since additional laws would not make the violence go away . He, however, stressed that it is crucial to prevent deranged and mentally incapacitated people to carry out these attacks. Both candidates have condemned the slaughter in Aurora, and remained silent as to how measures could be ensured to prevent gun violence to increase in the country, fearing it may affect their overall status in the elections .
After Obama claiming victory in the November 2012, many have noted that the future of gun control in the US remains positive as Obama had issued several policies for stronger gun control not just in the US but also globally. Charbonneau (2012) noted that just hours after his victory, President Obama had backed the UN committee’s call to renew the international treaty to regulate the $70 billion arms trade around the globe. While the treaty would not influence domestic gun sales and ownership in the United States, it would regulate exported guns that could enter the country . In the domestic aspect, Obama’s re-election had made gun sales soar in the fear of Obama’s gun control campaigns. According to Allen (2012) and Smith (2012), gun owners have started stocking up their guns and ammunition in the fear that Obama would introduce strong policies to regulate guns sold in the country. While Obama has yet to get a gun control policy bypass the Republicans in the congress, gun owners have expressed fear that Obama may find a means to limit the right to bear arms to eliminate the threat of gun violence in the country . Gun owners also note that with Obama back in office, it is plausible that tighter regulations would be enforced for firearms that could be classified as assault-type weapons, similar to the one used by James Holmes in the Aurora shooting . With Obama’s second term still on its first few months, it is likely that the US may find itself under stricter gun policies with Aurora fresh in the minds of many.
- Statement of the Problem
It is undeniable that guns and violence work hand in hand to cause chaos, but also casualties that have been deprived to live or continue in their dreams. The US, although a powerful country in its right, had been marred with several gun shooting incidents that had taken the lives of many innocent victims as well as the scrutiny of various groups imposing the government to create powerful laws that would strengthen gun control monitoring and distribution within states to prevent any misuse of guns and cause chaos. In this end, the major question that has to be address when it comes to the US gun control policies is “should US gun control policies be strengthened? “ To answer this question, the discussion would revolve into four subtopics which would cover the following: the major arguments regarding gun control, the events showcasing the need for gun control, the currently active laws and policies regarding gun control in the 21st century and future of gun control in the United States.
Gun control in the United States, and around the globe, is a vital policy that must be enforced given the capacity of guns to kill in an instant and cause chaos and panic. In recent years, the United States had experienced several shooting incidents that had killed many innocent lives and revealed that the current gun policies in the country had not been able to thwart these shooters from attaining their weapons. On the one hand, each person has the right to possess a gun under the Second Amendment and gun control policies would not push through with the opposition from gun users and organizations. On the other hand, it is notable that having gun control policies would save many lives as guns would become strictly monitored. With Obama in office for the second time this year and the recent events that marred US history regarding gun control; it is likely that the US would see some changes in gun control policies to prevent more lives to be shed due to guns.
Given the recent events that had happened for the past few months in the United States regarding gun-related violence; it is crucial to implement stringent and stricter gun control policies as the casualties these violent shootings take are too much and America’s current gun control policies are not enough to control people who could purchase guns. While it is noted that it would be hard to pass reform and legislation with supporters of gun rights vetoing every move, the violence and incidents revolving guns rapidly increase each year. While admittedly many can argue it is a person’s right to have guns under the notion of self-defense and protection; not all take this pledge into account. Without a strong and strict enforcement and regulation on gun control use and production, it is likely that Columbine, Virginia Tech and Aurora would repeat itself and kill more innocent lives.
Allen, N. (2012, November 11). US guns sales soar after Barack Obama's re-election. Retrieved December 13, 2012, from The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9670585/US-guns-sales-soar-after-Barack-Obamas-re-election.html
Barak, G. (2007). Battleground: Criminal Justice. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
Bruce, J., & Wilcox, C. (1998). The Changing Politics of Gun Control. New York: Rowman and Littlefield.
Carter, G. L. (2012). Guns in American Society. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
CBS News. (2009, February 11). At least 33 killed in Va. Tech Massacre. Retrieved December 15, 2012, from CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-201_162-2686709.html
Charbonneau, L. (2012, November 7). After Obama win, US backs new U.N arms treaty talks. Retrieved December 14, 2012, from Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/07/us-arms-treaty-un-idUSBRE8A627J20121107
Cochran, C., Mayer, L., Carr, T. R., Cayer, J., & McKenzie, M. (2011). American Public Policy: An Introduction. Boston: Wadsworth.
Cohen, T. (2012, July 26). Candidates show little appetite for new gun control laws. Retrieved December 14, 2012, from CNN: Election Center 2012: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/26/politics/gun-control-debate/index.html
Connolly, K. (2011, January 11). Why America's gun laws won't change. Retrieved December 13, 2012, from BBC News: US and Canada: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12158148
Denning, B. (2008). In Defense of a "Thin" Second Amendment: Culture, The Constitution, and the Gun Control Debate. Albany Government Law Review, 1, 419-439.
Devi, S. (2012). Researchers call for reform of US gun control policies. The Lancet, 380(9853), 1545.
Gabbatt, A. (2012, July 26). Obama calls for US gun control laws to be tightened in wake of Aurora shooting. Retrieved December 14, 2012, from The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/26/obama-gun-control-laws-tightened
Hauser, C. (2007, April 17). Virginia Gunman Identified as a Student. Retrieved December 15, 2012, from New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/17/us/17virginia.html?ref=virginiapolytechnicinstituteandstateuniversity&_r=0
Krouse, W. (2012). Gun Control Legislation. Washington, D.C: US Congressional Research Service.
Lamb, G. (2008, April 17). Columbine High School. Retrieved December 15, 2012, from New York Times: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/c/columbine_high_school/index.html
McLaughlin, E. (2012, July 21). Movie Theater Shooting Prompts Gun Control Debate. Retrieved December 13, 2012, from ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/07/movie-theater-shooting-prompts-gun-control-debate/
Michael, M. (2012, July 22). Gun-control, gun-rights groups ready for renewed debate after Colorado shooting. Retrieved December 13, 2012, from CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/20/us/colorado-gun-control-debate/index.html
Shally-Jensen, M. (2010). Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Social Issues. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
Smith, A. (2012, November 9). Obama's re-election drives gun sales. Retrieved December 14, 2012, from CNN Money: http://money.cnn.com/2012/11/09/news/economy/gun-control-obama/index.html
Spitzer, R. (2009). Gun Control: A Documentary and Reference Guide. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Toppo, G. (2009, April 14). 10 years later, the real story behind Columbine. Retrieved December 15, 2012, from USA Today: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-04-13-columbine-myths_N.htm
Wilson, H. (2007). Guns, Gun Control, and Elections: The Politics and Policy of Firearms. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield.