Gun control debate has elicited several opinions with some supporting gun control policies while others encouraging status quo to remain. Additionally, United States gun control is the most controversial compared to other developed countries’ policies such as the UK. The controversy arises in America because gun possession is constitutionally protected while mass shootings continue to occur in the US such as the 2016 shooting of 49 people in Orlando nightclub. Such murders are leaving the involved parties such as the Congress to wonder the kinds of guns that should be available to the public, who to allow to buy the guns, where to carry them, when is legal for one to shoot, and whether gun restriction makes United States safer.
The history of the gun control debate can be traced back to the 1960s when gun rights became a national issue. Since then, the debate has led to emergence of lobbying campaigns, congressional confrontations, and public demonstrations. One can attribute the controversy to the US constitution whereby the Second Amendment allows for a well regulate Militia, which it terms necessary to the security of a free state, thus right of the people to keep and bear Arms should not be violated. The interpretation of the Second Amendment separates those for and against the regulation as they term the move as infringement on their personal liberties. In reference to history, during the early days of 1960s, the African Americans, both free and slaves had no permission to own guns, including those who did not guarantee loyalty to the country. In 1972, law required all eligible white men to own guns and enroll in citizen militia. After the assassination of John Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr, black panthers and radicals led calls to allow African Americans own guns. These calls led to the emergence of National Rifle Association, mainly as a political force, which based its argument on the Second Amendment. Since then, major legislations on gun control have emerged such as the banning of machine gun sales in 1986, establishment of background check system in 1990s, and 2008 Supreme Court ruling that the Second Amendment protected individual’s right to own a firearm for self-defense. The confusions in the gun regulations has made many state laws on gun control to remain as a patchwork, with some engaging in expansion of the gun rights while others continue to restrict.
According to Gallup polling, 60 percent of the Americans support strict gun laws with 5 percent in support of less strict ones, and 33 percent believe that the laws should remain as they are. According to Senator Feinsten, a Democrat, sale, and possession of bump stocks that allow semiautomatic weapons fire like machine, should be outlawed. Senator cites mass shooting that necessitates strict gun control such as the Orlando, Las Vegas, and Sandy Hook. In support of gun control is Senator Orrin Hatch, who support background checks in response to Nevada mass shooting. Even leaders who opposed gun control before due to their view on Second Amendment such as Senator John Cornyn now believe gun control through checks will prevent criminals and domestic abusers from obtaining firearms. However, some Republicans and Democrats are always hesitant on gun laws whereby they support control policies such as the mentally ill and individuals in the government watch list should be blocked from accessing or buying guns. However, on whether to create stricter gun laws, the Republicans oppose the direction while Democrats are in support. The Republicans cite issues such as mental health to be the problem not the guns. For example, President Trump during a trip to Asia said that mental health led to the Texas shooting and refused to relate the case to guns problem in America. For him, the shooting illustrated mental health problem, not a gun situation. The President also proposed for the arming of teachers but people such as Senator Chris Murphy are totally opposed to guns. According to Murphy, the idea of arming teachers has no basis in reality. Although he is a supporter of the Second Amendment, he is of opinion that the government need to carry out extensive background checks and strict laws on gun sales to prevent cases such as the massacre of children at a school in Sandy Hook. Murphy believes that changing of gun laws is important in prevention of another gun related tragedies. The former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also supports gun control for he believes that gun violence is an issue affecting every community and people coming together may keep guns out of the hands of dangerous persons. He stated that during the support of Moms Demand Action group, which pushed for the banning of guns from its café in Starbucks. According to the Mayor, better access to crime data related to crimes is essential in an effort to fix weak gun laws, which have continued to allow criminals and dangerous individuals to access guns very easily. His ideas are in line with Manchin-Toomey amendment proposed by Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey. Although the amendment fell six votes short, it required background checks on all commercial gun sales. Today, the President and the congress seem disinterested on gun control issues due to political interests. They cite that mental illness kills not the gun, which makes them support policies on restricting access of guns for the mentally ill.
Apart from leaders in support of gun owning, lobby groups have also come up, in defense for firearms ownership. One such group is Gun Owners of America (GOA) formed in 1975. It supports gun owning due to its right as informed by the Second Amendment. According to the GOA board, Americans need their gun rights back, which make it defend local gun clubs from closure by the anti-gun authorities, especially in California because of its founder Senator Richardson. Members believe that owning guns is their freedom and authorities should not take their rights for granted by banning guns. Other lobby groups such as the Moms Demand Action, National Rifle Association, and Coalition Stop Gun Violence are in support of strict gun control. The Coalition Stop Gun Violence is a non-profit organization advocating for gun control and reduction of gun violence through education and creation of laws that restrict gun sales. The Moms Demand Action also advocate for gun control by proposing that people be restricted from entering into cafes with guns. The National Rifle Association, founded in 1871, opposes control of firearms for doing so is infringing the Second Amendment and threat to individual liberty (Kumaresan et al. 13). According to the group, gun control cannot prevent violence but carrying of guns by bystanders or victims may prevent tragedies of mass shooting, for guns give them a chance of defending themselves.
According to statistics almost every American know a gun violence victim with black people likelihood of knowing someone who die of gun violence standing at 99 percent, 85 percent for whites, and 60% for the Hispanics. The rise in numbers is because 54 percent of gun owners do not store their guns safely. This has made gun violence in America an epidemic whereby there is almost one shooting per day. Additionally, statistics show that one child dies in every 48 hours due to accidental gunshot. Mass shootings has also risen every year with Aurora and Sandy Hook in 2012, Fort Hoof in 2009 and 2014, Charleston in 2015, the Orlando shooting of 2016, and this year alone, 2018, there has been over 100 mass shootings across the United States. This can be due to 23 school shootings in 2018, which is an average of more than one school a week. The above worrying statics has led to division regarding gun control with some supporting while others disapproving strict gun control policies.
Those against gun control measures cite that the Second Amendment give them the right to access guns of any kind in order to fight against tyranny. They explain that mass deaths will not actually end with gun control as even heart disease kills more Americans compared to guns. Some argue that it is not the gun that kills but the one pulling the trigger (Fleming 10). According to leftists, opposing gun control, guns is a way of empowering the oppressed as advocated by the Black Panthers who supported owning of guns for self-defense. According to a leftist, William Gillis, gun control means disarming the oppressed classes. They believe that mass shootings cannot occur if the government is doing its security work properly. Therefore, the government should not force people to abandon their guns due to the incompetence. Others cite that the state should not have the monopoly on violence because the same enforcers also kill more people in a year than the mass shooters. Militias state that guns protect them from federal government harassment and the Constitution, through the Second Amendment advocates against tyranny, and therefore, gun ownership, to those opposing gun control, is a symbol of freedom. Ben believes that successful gun control legislations cannot be witnessed in America as it has been in Australia or Canada because doing so will interfere with the Second Amendment. Maher, an associate politics professor at Drexel University is of opinion that gun control is not the solution to violence because even if one is unable to commit suicide by a gun, he or she will find another way to commit suicide. Citing people like former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and President Trump, “when somebody has an intent to do incredible damage, they are going to find a way to do it.” This illustrates their opposition to gun control for people will engage in killings even without guns because they already have intent to do harm. The leaders illustrate that people with good mental health cannot go about shooting innocent people (Schulman 34). Therefore, people may choose variety of means to accomplish their dirty plans, which means that gun control measures cannot prevent mass killings. There are those terming gun free zone sign as catalyst for mass shooting, thus urging for total elimination of control. This is because mass shooters can seek out the soft targets to carry out their crimes and places where guns are not allowed can be a perfect spot. Therefore, in such sense, gun control in form of gun free zones facilitates gun violence by exposing the law –abiding citizens. According to Richard Rowe, guns are means of self-defense that help one defend him or herself. It is a right protected by the Constitution, which means that owning means that may be used against you is a right in the Second Amendment. Further, statistics on gun ownership are unreliable and unavailable, that makes it difficult to know the legal and illegal possessed gun. In addition, if there are individuals intending to do harm, either they have a gun already or can get it with ease. This necessitates owning a gun because the bad people already own one.
US President Donald Trump believes shooting has little to do with US gun laws, citing lack of proper security measures and mental health. However, those in support of strict gun controls may take his arguments as wrong because US is leading in manslaughter or murder involving firearms among the developed nations. For example, in 2016 alone, over 11,000 people met their death through a firearm (Fleming 14). Those opposing total gun control refer to Second Amendment, which states that the right to bear Arms shall not be infringed. However, they ignore the other clause of the amendment that calls for well-organized militia. Therefore, if one is not well-organized, he or she should not be allowed to own a gun. The above statements illustrate that even the conservatives believe in some control. Those against gun control cite that control is only necessary to mentally ill, felons, children, or terrorists. However, going with their argument on infringing rights as illustrated by the Second Amendment, all above people should be allowed to carry guns to avoid infringing their right to bear arms, but this is not the case. Everybody, including leftists believes that some level of gun control such as assault weapons ban and background checks. Therefore, every American agrees that gun controls, even those proposed by Senator Feinsten, do not violate the Second Amendment. Those arguing that banning of guns will not work need to check statistics that show country with strict gun controls have less firearm related cases. Additionally, statistics, as cited by Ronald Regan, prove that drying up or making assault weapons less in the communities makes them less accessible to criminals, which in long term help in the reduction of gun violence (Spitzer 20). Others say that gun control will not work because people will find other ways to kill such as knives or cars. However, they ignore the fact that guns make it easier to kill people compared to use of knives. Self-defense is another reason given to those opposing gun control. According to them, the only way to stop criminals is by arming citizens with guns to protect themselves. However, this is not the case as FBI indicated that in 2014 almost eight times as many people died by guns due to arguments compared to those died during self-defense situations. Statistics also indicate that guns are used ten times more to commit crime than to stop a crime (Lott 45). People carrying guns are about four times more likely to be shot compared to those without guns. The above explanation clearly shows that guns makes situations more dangerous, the reason why America needs to exercise strict gun control.
Conclusively, although those against gun control measures cite Second Amendment infringement, self-defense, exposure due to free zones, and people with intent will still do it even with knives or cars, they agree with those supporting control that gun control is necessary. Those against only allow total control among the mentally ill and criminals. They also support background checks and banning of assault weapons, this time ignoring the Second Amendment. Therefore, gun control in America is a necessity if the country is genuinely committed to eliminate mass shootings of innocent civilians.