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Gun Control in the United States
Once in a while, the name of a person or location in the United States becomes infamous due to a good or bad reason. In the case of incidences related to gun control or weapon policies, sudden infamy is relatable to most incidents. Little known schools such as Sandy Hook, an elementary school in Connecticut, and common citizens such as George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, have become sadly notorious and sparked debates on the revision of gun policies and gun control in the United States. Such occurrences have triggered debates on the tightening of gun control polices to ensure that firearms do not transfer into the hands of criminals, and, thus, a number of incidences of gun related violence in the Unites States will reduce. However, it is important to note that gun violence is a result of firearms use by the wrong individuals but not of the mere possession of guns which can be beneficial. Nonetheless, gun policies need to be revised in order to control gun usage in the United States and reduce the needless loss of lives arising from misuse of legally acquired firearms.
GENERAL OVWERVIEW OF THE SITUATION IN AMERICA
Despite having almost 20,000 gun control polices, the United States possesses the largest number of gun violence related incidences in the world. Interestingly, national focus on gun control always heightens after occurrences of mass shootings, which only cover a small percentage of annual American gun-related deaths. Not surprisingly, most frequently gun violence occurs in America’s poorest and most segregated localities. Consequently, African Americans, who form a little over 15% of the population of these neighborhoods, represent over three quarters of gun victims. Despite such a sad statistic, according to Lopez, the number of individuals who are against gun control consider gun ownership a right and an important aspect of American culture. The United States, which is home to less than 5 percent of the world’s population, has approximately 50 percent of the world’s privately-owned guns. The United States also ranks number one in the distribution of guns per capita. Additionally, the United States also currently has the highest number of homicide rates attributed to gun violence among the most developed countries in the world.
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The gun control problem is one of the most debatable issues in American politics. Every mass shooting, which is termed as the indiscriminate killing of more than four individuals, fuels the antagonism between both divides of the gun control dispute. Supporters of stringent gun regulations rightfully fear for their safety in a nation where there is an approximate number of eighty-eight firearms for at least every one hundred people. These statistics are based on the 2011 Small Arms Survey. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which was founded in 1974, states that approximately 115, 000 civilians are shot each year in the United States (“Key Gun Violence Statistics”). These gun-related violence incidents are not limited to mass shootings and also include homicides, robberies, accidents, suicides, injuries, or deaths arising when law enforcement officials are performing their duties and suicide attempts (Schuster).
GUN CONTROL POLICIES IN THE UNITED STATES
Guns in the United States are controlled by a number of policies and regulations. Firstly, gun possession requires an individual to have attained a certain minimum age. Spitzer states that the Gun Control Act of 1968 which controls the distribution of firearms at the national level, demands that citizens and other legitimate residents must have attained at least 18 years of age to purchase any firearm apart from hand guns and ammunition. The handguns themselves can only be purchased by individuals aged 21 years and older. However, officials at both the state or county level have the power to impose higher age restrictions but not lower the federal minimum age (47). Secondly, there are policies in place that ensure that fugitives, people who are considered to be a threat to society, and patients who have been unwillingly confined to mental institutions are not permitted to purchase firearms. Additionally, such policies are applied to individuals who have had prior criminal convictions, including prison sentences or misdemeanor sentences exceeding one year. Federal legislations also prohibit the sale of firearms to individuals who have been convicted of the unlawful use and possession of controlled substances. Other restrictions apply to people who have restraining orders, non-citizens, or individuals with temporary residence permits, illegal immigrants, military personnel who have been dishonorably discharged and individuals who have renounced their citizenship (Schuster).
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Thirdly, Spitzer states gun possession is controlled in the United States at the federal level. However, laws pertaining to whether firearms can be carried in public are made and implemented by the state or local institutions. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a branch of the Department of Justice, is tasked with implementing the 1968 Gun Control Act. The bureau is also in charge of controlling the required criteria for allotting licenses to gun vendors (21). Fourthly, the sale of firearms is controlled by the issuance of a Federal Firearms License. Like potential firearm owners, prospective dealers must be at least 21 years of age in order to obtain a Federal Firearms License. As with firearm owners, potential dealers must meet the same benchmarks concerning their history of previous convictions and mental status. The online purchase of firearms requires the merchandise to be shipped to a duly registered firearm dealer who has to perform the standard background checks before delivering the gun to its rightful owner (Spitzer 15).
Finally, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, which is an amendment to the 1968 Gun Control Act, requires legal firearm dealers to conduct a background check on prospective firearm buyers (Schuster). Potential buyers are required to fill in a federal form known as the ATF 4473; it checks for any previous convictions or any other criteria that might disqualify an individual from owning a firearm. Dealers collaborate with FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System or a combination of the FBI and the state agency information to conduct comprehensive background investigations on potential buyers. Some states such as California require applicants to pass an additional written exam and attend a gun safety class to qualify for the purchase of gun permits (Schuster).
The debate over gun control in the United States has dragged on over the years, motivated by a string of mass killings by gunmen in public settings (Spitzer 15). In addition to increasing rates of homicides, the US frequently experiences different types of gun-related violence such as robberies, kidnappings, or hijackings. Notably, the killing of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 triggered a national debate on gun laws and requests by the Obama administration to regulate the obtainability of military-style firearms (Masters). Unfortunately, conciliatory legislation that would have outlawed semi-automatic assault firearms and extended background inspections was blocked by legislators in the Senate in 2013 despite the fact that the motion enjoyed extensive public support (Masters).
Alternatives to Controlling Firearm Use Apart from Legislations
One of the ways in which firearm use can be controlled in the United States is the establishment of a gun safety culture. Compulsory training, ensuring the safe storage of guns, and mandatory checkups by local federal authorities to ensure the proper handling of firearms and the mental state of their owners can help greatly in establishing the proper use and handling of firearms (McCarthy). Ensuring increased access to mental health treatment in line with the Affordable Care Act is another factor that can assist in controlling firearm use due to the fact that mental health services countrywide have drastically reduced in the face of rising firearm ownership. Such policy will help individuals to receive much needed healthcare since most incidences of gun violence have been traced to mental instability on the part of the perpetrators. Based on the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, reducing the amount of violence that children are exposed to can reduce the culture of violence in the American society. The report stated that children are being exposed to violence increasingly, and the document had recommendations on how they can be shielded from violence at a tender age. The need for gun control arises from increasing incidences rate of gun violence in America; educating children on such issues and shielding them from violence promotes a culture of peace and tolerance. Such individuals are capable of handling stressful situations and are in control of their emotions. Such approach would make them responsible citizens who could be entrusted with not abusing privileges like the ability to possess a firearm (Lopez).
According to the Prevention Institute, sourcing for comprehensive solutions in conjunction with government agencies such as the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health administration (Gun Violence Must Stop). This cooperation can be beneficial in creating ways of ensuring gun control based on activities that are happening for real as opposed to untested theories. Once a set of recommendations has been developed by both teams, they should be implemented in accordance with created policies and actions.
Another solution that can be used to support gun control measures in the United States is ensuring that the communities we reside in are much safer. This can be done through the nationwide planning and implementation of inclusive violence prevention programs in the society. These programs should include prevention, intervention, implementation, reintegration and re-entry plans. Such approach can play an important role not only in preventing general crimes and misdemeanors, but also in alleviating shootings, killings, and gun-related violence in the long run. The implementation of the Youth Promise Act will enable Americans to make their communities safer by providing the necessary resources to establish such programs (Prevention Institute).
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Finally, the restoration of the Centre for Disease Control’s freedom to study the issue of gun related violence and provide science-based direction on how to address the issue of gun control is another method to end the cycle of violence and perform informed measures on the problem. Unfortunately, as the nation’s leading public health organization, the CDC is now prevented from making suggestions on practical methods to end gun violence and ensure firearm control (Gun Violence Must Stop).
WHY GUN CONTROL POLICIES AND MEASURES HAVE FAILED
Gun control measures in the United States have failed due to a number of reasons. These include the fact that proposed measures were blocked because of political partisanship, the national mythology linked to guns, and the powerful gun lobby. Thousands of guns are already in the hands of many civilians, yet surprising is the fact that mass shootings embody only a small percentage of gun-related deaths in the United States (Gregg 74).
Another interesting aspect is that the United States could adopt comprehensive gun control measures if the general public was more confident in it. Such opinion was surmised by Barrack Obama in 2014 when he stated that “If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change.” This scenario is real because over 74% of firearm owners believe that owning a gun is their democratic right and a fundamental aspect of their freedom. On the other hand, according to Pew Research, 54% of gunowners believe that the ease with which individuals can legally purchase firearms contributes a greatly to violence. If dissenting voices formed a large majority of individuals who wanted radical changes in ensuring that effective gun control measures are implemented, sweeping changes will be realized with regard to gun control measures (McCarthy).
McCarthy further states that another setback in terms of implementing effective gun control measures in the United States is the inability to decide on steps to be taken to control the distribution and use of weapons. The concentration on a novel military-style firearm ban may draw attention away from an impending ban on high-capacity magazines, which might possibly be the best measure to regulate the heavy toll of mass shootings’ deaths. Researchers also call for more investment in threat assessment and intervention programs.
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With regards to the American gun mythology, possession, and use, of weaponry, firearms have always been glorified in American folklore and modern- day ideologies. In addition, American history is littered with incidences of gun use: from Native American genocide to the taming of the western wilderness, the American nation was built on the power of the gun. Therefore, it would be difficult to put in measures control gun use in a society that believes in the power of the weapon (McCarthy).
WHY GUN CONTROL MEASURES NEED TO BE ENACTED
If gun control measures are not enacted, the rates of gun related violence are set to climb. The absence of effective gun control needs to stop being attributed to the Bill of Rights or the interest of various political players. Americans need to face the grim reality that gun control needs to be implemented in order to stem the rising incidences of misdemeanors brought about by the fact that it is easy to acquire firearms in the US (Collier 84).
Due to a great number of the gun-related crimes’ victims, America has to set new policies related to firearms ownership restrictions. Still, trying to implement effective gun control measures in a society which came into being on the power of the gun is proving to be difficult. The reason is the fact that the nation is divided on the most effective measures that need to be taken to implement effective gun policies. The public also seems to be split on deciding whether gun control measures need to be implemented at all. This is in addition to the negative influence of political partisanship, the national mythology linked to guns, the powerful gun lobby, and the fact that there are thousands of guns that are already in the hands of many civilians. Despite a number of rules and regulations that control the sale and purchase of firearms, gun violence is still on the rise. However, a couple of non-legislative measures can be taken to ensure that gun control measures are implemented. These include ensuring the safety of communities, shielding children from violence and educating them on the issue at a tender age, involving government agencies in the development of comprehensive solutions, and conducting mandatory trainings on handling forearms and their safe storage. Safeguarding the mental health of all individuals is another measure that can be taken to avoid cases of armed individuals running berserk and harming innocent civilians. In case the government ignore the present situation related to the gun control, the consequences may be dreadful for the nation as the whole.