Crime is inevitable, and its history dates back to the beginning of creation. American culture is a “cops and robbers” society, and firearms play an important role in American history and continues to play a defining role in shaping American values. Similarly, the media implies guns influence crime and violence. However, speculation and much debate suggest that the government is impartial to the laws of gun control. Stringent laws mandate the regulation of gun distribution, examination, and utilization in this country. In this paper, the author will discuss the magnitude of gun control regulation – its implementation; and the impact it has on American culture and values. For the sake of argument, guns are not criminals, people who use guns are; and rigid gun control statutes is America’s intervention to prevent firearms from being abused.
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.” According to The Right to Bear Arms (1999), the Supreme Court defines the Second Amendment as giving states the right to maintain a militia separate from a federally controlled army. It does not recognize an unconditional right for an individual to own firearms, nor has any lower court so ruled.. In 2008 for the first time in history guns were favorable to individuals who carry them. In the case of the District of Columbia v. Heller, the majority found the provision in the D.C. law requiring licenses for guns carried only in the home to be unconstitutional. Under the statute, handguns stored in the home require disassembly, or with a trigger lock be disabled. The court ruled that the storage procedures violated a handgun owners’ Second Amendment rights because such a stored gun is not functional. The case marked the first time in decades that a case interpreting the Second Amendment was heard, and the decision maintained the high court’s long-held position that the Second Amendment grants individuals the right to keep and bear arms (Brown, 2008).
In an attempt to regulate gun control the Commerce Clause of the Constitution empowers states and the federal government to: (1) deny certain individuals, (convicted felons and the mentally incompetent) the right to own firearms; (2) require licenses and make owners pass a firearms safety examination; (3) make illegal the possession and transfer of certain firearms; and (4) require registration for certain classes of firearms (The Right to Bear Arms, 1999).
In addition to the Commerce Clause, there are multiple gun control acts throughout American history. The National Firearms Act of 1934, still in effect today, passed to hinder acquirement of certain dangerous weapons, including machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. The Federal Firearms Act of 1938 mandated federal licensing of firearms dealers; regulated firearm transportation across state lines by dealers; outlawed the transportation of stolen guns with the manufacturer’s mark eradicated or changed; and outlawed firearms from being sent to fugitives, indicted defendants, or convicted felons. The Gun Control Act of 1968 contained far-reaching requirements, pertaining to licensing, sales, buyer requirements, and the introduction of non-sporting guns. Finally in 1986, the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act passed, amending the 1968 law. The 1986 Gun Control Act imposed some new restrictions and extended prior ones, but in some instances it eased requirements of the 1968 law. The 1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act banned machine guns made after 19 May 1986 from sale (The Right to Bear Arms, 1999).
In 1990 the Crime Control Act bans the manufacturing, and importing of semiautomatic assault weapons in the U.S., and “Gun-free school zones” carry specific penalties for violations. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1994 imposes a five-day waiting period on the purchase of a handgun and requires that local law enforcement agencies conduct background checks on purchasers of handguns. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 banned sale, manufacture, introduction, or possession of a number of specific types of assault weapons. In 1997, the Supreme Court, in the case of Printz v. United States, declares the background check requirement of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act unconstitutional. It was not until 1998 that permanent provisions of the Brady Act went into effect. Gun dealers are required to initiate a pre-sale criminal background check of all gun buyers through the newly created National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) computer system. Lawsuits filed in cities such as New Orleans, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco against firearm manufacturers and gun dealers sought to recover the medical and legal costs of violent crimes committed with guns. So far, the courts have not been favorable to the claims made by these cities. Gun manufacturers and gun rights groups continue to counter the lawsuits
Gun control organizations such as the Violence Policy Center (VPC) and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (previously known as Handgun Control, Inc.) have backed several proposals to further restrict the ownership and use of firearms. The VPC supports passage of a Firearms Safety and Consumer Protection Act that would end the exemption of firearms from federal health and safety regulations. Under such legislation, the secretary of the treasury gives the authority to regulate the design, manufacture, and distribution of firearms and ammunition (Gun Control, 2003).
With the many gun control acts in place one may inquire how guns continue to get into the hands of criminals. Gun control when examined on a political level, does an exceptional job in crime intervention. Nonetheless, like with all laws, American citizens choose to follow or ignore the law. For example, recently a television show aired a distraught husband taking a vengeful approach with mourning the loss of his wife. The husband in a vengeful rage went to the hospital and began to fire on surgical and hospital staff, blaming them for the death of his wife. In addition, the husband mentioned how easy it was to purchase his 9mm pistol at a superstore. Although, this story is fiction, it correlates with many American news stories. Following gun control protocols (i.e. licensure requirements, criminal background checks, etc.) most Americans are capable of purchasing a firearm; however, what they choose to do with the gun is what threatens our communities. In combination with penal codes, and judiciary laws, individuals and families receive justice against criminals who abuse the law.
This is further explained in a study done by Kellermann, Somes, Rivara, et al (1998). Their research suggests guns kept in homes are more likely to be involved in a fatal or nonfatal accidental shooting (four times more likely), criminal assault (seven times more likely), or suicide attempt (11 times more likely) than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense. In addition, in homes with a gun, the homicide of a household member is three times more likely to occur than in homes without a gun; the risk for suicide is nearly five times greater (Kellermann, Rivara, Rushforth, et al., 1993). We have all heard the story of the boy who finds his father’s gun and in a state of curiosity shoots his younger brother. When we hear stories of people who commit suicide in their homes, gunshots to the head tend to be the means. Furthermore, there is a strong correlations between domestic violence and the use of firearms. Situations and stories as these do not suggest guns ought to be banned from American society. According to the General Social Survey (2000) data indicated that in the last 27 years the percentage of households with firearms has declined from more than 45% to less than 33%, thus providing evidence for a decline of the gun culture and possibly a weakening of resistance to additional gun restrictions. Kellerman, Rivara, Rushford, et al. are not specific in their research. Neither is the General Social Survey. In examining gun control several factors ought to be considered. Most crime is committed in “at-risk” neighborhoods; most guns criminals use are bought on a black markets; moreover, maladjusted parenting styles, dysfunctional households, and mental illness will always negatively impact research conducted on gun use in America. Positive results suggests American citizens are educated on gun control, follow the law, and are proactive in safely handling and storing firearms (far from within the reach of children). Depending on a person’s attitude on guns, research will always suggest favorable implications (positive or negative).
Gun control is conducive to Americas fight against the war on crime. The belief that gun control prevents crimes is not favorable to historical facts. In the past, all or most American men had access to firearms and were proficient in their use. Yet historians argue most Americans, even on the frontier, did not own guns, nor were they familiar with their use and handling. The problem with guns in early America only erupted with a boom economy. Crime waves and media hysteria increases the interest in firearms and gun ownership. People are seduced by how guns are portrayed in the media. The man with biggest gun earns the most respect. The rapper who preaches shooting up his enemies is praised. Wealthy Americans identify guns as safeguards to prevent threats of harm, theft, assault, etc. The average middle class American wants to be the man with the biggest gun, the rapper, the rich guy. For some in an effort to achieve status, at times, firearms is the motivating tool.
According to the Christian Science Monitor (2010), The National Rifle Association and its supporters maintain that the Second Amendment is a fundamental right, like free speech, and it “shall not be infringed.” For years, they have steadily pushed against infringements – successfully pressuring Congress in 2004 not to renew the assault weapons ban, and convincing states to pass conceal-and-carry laws. Currently 48 states allow Americans citizens to carry weapons in public as long as they are not seen. Each state varies the law, yet the premise is that all citizens maintain a license/permit to carry concealed weapons. Despite aggressive efforts; however, the NRA has not been able to get very far in extending conceal-and-carry laws to America’s taverns and college campuses. The resistance from the states is reasonable and illustrates the case for gun regulation. Alcohol and lethal weapons such as guns pose too much of a danger to society when mixed, and they should not be. Police worry that if students arm themselves, law enforcement will not be able to tell the difference between students on a rampage or students trying to defend themselves. .
In conclusion, in terms of gun control, historical representation takes a dychotomic approach. Americans are either for or against guns. Although gun control makes a strict effort to restrict criminals, and/or certain citizens the right to bear arms, it does not prevent the inevitable. The media (movies, books, news, music, art, etc.) glamorizes guns and consequently, the need/want for guns is a staple in most American homes. Guns may never be outlawed or banned. However, America may begin to see rigorous laws continue to counteract other existing laws. America culture, at this time, has a fascination with firearms. People utilize guns in many forms: self-defense, carry-concealed, sportsmanship, law enforcement, etc. The gun itself is manufactured with a sole purpose in mind: to be fired. When examining the manufacturing and utilization of firearms gun control is proactive with ensuring safeguards are in place. Nevertheless, when guns are misused, and/or get into the hands of criminals, the gun gets a bad reputation. Nonetheless, it is important to remember, blame and fault lies within the individual not in an inanimate object.
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disarming citizens while the culture of violence thrives is a sociological experiment that none can afford or will allow. Los Angeles Times p. 7