Stronger Gun Control is Necessary to Diminish Gun Violence and Ensure the Harmless Use of Guns
Violence is a complex phenomenon which is facilitated by different circumstances; thus, it would be impossible to pin the blame on a single cause. Nonetheless, the outcome of any violent incident is highly dependent on the weapons involved. This is because the scale of harm caused with a weapon such as a gun is beyond the damage that would be caused without it. Death is imminent whenever a firearm is involved since the individuals who are mostly engaged in confrontations tend to be too blinded by feelings to exercise constraint. In the United States, there have been numerous debates on gun possession and control, and nowadays 40 percent of households have at least one firearm at home. The country is ranked as the most heavily armed among the developed nations with two to ten times higher homicide rates compared to others. This follows the fact that Americans own more than 200 million firearms and 640,000 crimes are committed using guns each year. To make the matter worse, illegal gun markets have increased thereby granting criminals and mentally unstable individuals access to firearms. In this respect, the rate of violence and death in the United States is devastating as many felons own illegal guns. There is a great need for a strict gun control policy to reduce violence and prevent abusive use of firearms.
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Relevance of the Study
The necessity to implement a stricter gun control in the United States is driven by the recent unfortunate event that happened during a country music festival in Vegas on the 1st of October, 2017. It involved a mass shooting as a result of which 59 individuals were killed and 527 people severely injured. The tragic event was termed as the deadliest in the modern history where a deranged person with possession of firearms opened fire to a crowd of more than 22,000 people. Thousands of rounds of ammunition as well as 19 weapons and explosives were found at the shooter’s home and 23 guns in his hotel rooms (Times, The New York 2017). A similar incident occurred in June 2016, when there was a mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando that resulted in 49 individuals dead and 58 people injured. The authorities found no motive for the shooter to carry out such an act and he had no connection to any terrorist group whatsoever. As a result, it is evident that the person was mentally unstable, but the important question remains how a psychologically unstable person could have gained access to 23 weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. It is high time that the United States developed a stricter gun control policy to reduce gun violence and prevent the abusive use of guns.
Secondary research, involving the information gathered by various scholars, and information related to the gun control debate will be used to evaluate the necessity of a stricter gun control strategy to reduce gun violence and ensure there will be no abusive use of firearms. This will include books and peer-reviewed articles that can shed more light on the weight of the predicament at hand. The purpose of secondary research in the analysis will systematize and give direction to the discoveries as it will be guided by the primary goal of the study. Besides, the validity of the research findings will be guaranteed by a comparison of the results of various studies on the importance of gun control. Government institutions will also be used to point out different laws governing multiple states in regard to gun control. Arguments for and against a tight gun control policy will be analyzed and interpreted in relation to the main statement and hypothesis of the research.
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RESEARCH FINDINGS AND ANALYSIS
Social Arguments against Gun Control Policies
Gun control is a vast topic that has attracted numerous studies with the aim of settling the deadlocked debate concerning gun control in the United States. Nonetheless, the basis of all arguments can be tuned down to individual s’ attitude to guns. In regard to social context and culture, frequent exposure of individuals to firearms may influence their psychological perception of weapons (DeGrazia and Hunt 2016:20). This is based on the fact that individuals will tend to accept weapons as a part of their lives thereby holding a firearm in a high regard and having positive attitude toward it. In this context, people are against gun control policies as they considered it as a tradition and a necessity in their lives. They have been brought up in communities filled with violence and that have a culture that has widely accepted personal ownership of firearms for centuries. As such, gun control is unreasonable for these individuals as they perceive it as a direct infringement of their rights.
Subsequently, others are against gun control policies since they view it as an extension of their human power. More precisely and according to DeGrazia and Hunt, they use guns as a means of personal protection termed by many as self-defense, due to the fact that the rate of violence in the United States is very high (2016:20). Their point is further facilitated by the fact that if gun control policies are to be implemented, criminal will always find illegal means of getting firearms from illicit markets. Thus, it would only be fair to allow the regular citizens to own firearms. Last but not the least, others base their arguments against gun control policies on the fact that guns are not the problem, people are. This is driven and promoted by the slogan that guns do not kill people; it is people who kill people. In this respect, they tend to redirect the focus away from the arms to people learning how to manage and safely handle their firearms.
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The Social Thoughts promoting Gun Control Policies
On the other hand, individuals who support gun control policies in the United States base their arguments on the fact that Americans should not be allowed to own guns for their protection. This is because ownership of firearms does not make the community a safe place but instead makes it more dangerous. They believe that continued gun ownership would have no restrictions on whether guns get into the hands of criminals, individuals with psychological problems and terrorists among others (Kendall 2016:203). As a result, ownership of guns tends to aggravate the rate of violence, including assaults, robbery and homicide among others. This can be reflected in the rise of the rate of crimes committed using guns and the number of suicides that involve firearms each year in the United States. Thus, it is evident that guns are more likely to harm household members rather than protecting them from violence and criminals. They should be adequately monitored to reduce the number of violent crimes and homicides.
Likewise Kendall (2016:205) focuses on the fact that guns are deadly as compared to other types of weapons. This is due to the fact that guns can make a dangerous situation worse in a variety of ways. For instance, what might start as a typical family argument may end up in a situation with fatal consequences in regard to one or many individuals involved in the argument. People do not think clearly when filled with strong emotions and can cause more harm if they own a gun compared to other types of weapons. As a result, the author supports the implementation of gun control policies that would deter Americans from owning guns. Another point that fuels the author’s support of gun policies is the fact that ownership of firearms encourages formation of gangs thus leading to an increase in violence within various communities. The author also views the purchase of a gun as a direct death sentence for criminals who would have otherwise undergone trial and therapy sessions to change their lives. No offender deserves to be shot on sight for offenses such as trespassing or shoplifting without a fair trial and a chance to become a responsible person of the community.
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Comparison of Access to Guns in the United States and other Countries
Despite the opposing views and opinions on gun control policies, the necessity of stricter gun control policies to reduce violence can be well outlined through a comparison of access to guns in the United States and other countries. In the United States, guns are readily available to the public since firearms are legal and are openly sold in arms shopping centers. In regard to licensing and registration, in 35 states there are no legal requirements for gun registration (Carter 2012:59). Only one state, Massachusetts, has both licensing and registration for all guns. The police can assess whether individuals are stable and capable of owning a firearm. Moreover, according to Carter (2012:51), 32 states in the United States require no background checks when a handgun is purchased from a gun show or a private seller. Thus, while buying a handgun from a dealer, 23 states require only a federal background check as the qualification for the purchase. In regard to AK-47, police officers have no practical way of identifying how many guns are in the streets since 43 states do not require license or registration for such assault weapons. With such an easy access to firearms, it would be impossible for the government to reduce gun violence and prevent abusive use of guns.
Australia has been dealing with firearms since the first European settlement in 1788. Nonetheless, the country experienced a massive shooting tragedy in 1996 where 35 people were killed and 23 were injured. As a result, the government introduced a series of gun laws, including the 1996 Firearms Act, to cub and control access to guns (Squires 2015:289). According to the National Firearms Agreement, any individual willing to own a firearm must have a genuine reason for it. This rule applies even to members of a shooting club, hunters or private security professionals; they all must provide a substantial proof before being allowed to own a firearm. Likewise, all the individuals who wish to own a gun must go through a thorough background check where a person’s suitability to own a firearm is assessed. According to Squires, there is also a 30 day waiting period to obtain a license, and a person who obtains a firearm must undergo a firearm safety training course to guarantee he/ she has a basic familiarity with that firearm. All guns are also registered using a unique serial number (2015:290). As a result of major gun control policies in Australia, there have been no mass shootings, and the rate of gun-related homicides and suicides has decreased significantly as presented in the figure below.
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In regard to the United Kingdom, the Firearms Act 1968 makes it unlawful to possess, purchase, or acquire a firearm or ammunition. However, there are exemptions to the law as long as citizens who wish to own a gun obtain a certificate. Any person who wants to possess a firearm or a short rifle must submit an application to the chief officer of their region. They must present a good reason for the need to own a weapon which is carefully investigated by the officer (Eakin 2014). There different certificates for short guns and firearms and they should be obtained independently. Applicants who wish to own a gun must also pass through medical evaluations to determine whether they are psychologically stable. Their medical history, including signs of drug abuse and/or personality disorder, is analyzed by a certified healthcare provider to make sure it corresponds to the requirements of social services. Besides, in order to obtain the certificate to own a firearm or a short gun an applicant must guarantee that he/she will ensure that the weapons are always secure and away from any individual who may be dangerous to themselves and/or the public. Moreover, Eakin outlines that the certificate is only valid for five years and must be renewed prior to expiry (2014). Due to such strict regulations, there are very few cases of gun violence and firearm-related suicides in the United Kingdom. Thus, it is clear that stricter gun control policies must be implemented in the United States to reduce gun violence.
Laws in Different states of America
An analysis of laws implemented in different states of America can also shed more light on the necessity for stricter gun control policies to reduce gun violence and ensure the rate of firearm-related homicides and suicides doesn’t increase. For instance, 44 states require no background checks when an individual decides to purchase a shotgun or a rifle from a private seller (Hurka 2017:61). This is a significant loophole in gun control as there is no way of ensuring that gun owners are mentally stable thus, it is impossible to guarantee the safety of other people who are in their close proximity. Stricter gun control policies can guarantee that criminals and psychologically unstable individuals do not have access to firearms. Even though the federal law imposes the minimum age for possession of a gun (age 18), seven states have no legal minimum age for a child buying firearms from a private seller and 18 states have no minimum age for possession of these firearms (Hurka 2017:61). This is devastating as minors are exposed to lethal weapons and get used to using them while growing up.
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In this regard, gun violence is most apparent in these states, including the formation of different gangs and demarcation of unlawful territories in the communities. Furthermore, only four states have a “one-gun-a-month” law: Maryland, California, Virginia and South Carolina. The other 46 states have no limitations on ownership of multiple guns (Lott 2013:56). This is a significant problem in the attempt to control and prevent illegal firearm trafficking and deter criminals from buying numerous handguns among other assault weapons. As a result, there is no predetermined way to avoid mass shooting and firearms-related crimes before they happen. Besides, there is no uniformity in the state laws in regard to gun laws; thus, some state laws may be undermined by more permissive laws implemented in the neighboring states. Thus, it presents enough evidence to implement a stronger gun control policy to reduce gun violence and ensure the rate of firearm-related homicides and suicides decreases.
The Adverse Effects of Guns
Moreover, the adverse effects of weapons can also be crucial to the need for stronger gun controls in the United States. Guns have been widely associated with increased rates of violence in various communities (Gabor 2016:40). To be more precise, they have been used as the most common means of committing suicides and homicides in the United States regardless of an individual’s race, gender, age or educational level. Most of these violent events are impulsive and in most cases are directed by stress and anger. The availability of a gun in a household tends to escalate the adverse effects of a damage that can be caused by it as compared to homes with no guns. Members of various communities live in constant fear of being attacked and this can have an adverse social, emotional, and physical impact on future generations. In this respect, there is a great need for a strong gun control policy to mitigate these effects.
Moreover, apart from being related to death and violence, guns harm health of gunshot survivors or make people experience loss of loved one killed during such terrible events (Gabor 2016:60). The individuals are bound to endure a psychological trauma and grief as a consequence of the adverse gun effects. As such, different facilities such as rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and trauma centers become overwhelmed by victims of shootings. The health care costs related to treatment of such individuals are enormous since most patients are uninsured. According to Gabor, other victims of firearms-related violence require long-term therapy as they become physically disabled (2016:75). The government, private individuals, and insurance companies have to direct funds towards catering to long-term treatment of these victims. Additionally, the use of guns increases the expenses of the police to acquire equipment to counter gun assaults and court fees on firearms-related cases. All these funds, necessary to deal with the adverse effects of guns, are obtained from the taxpayers. Thus, weapons have the capability of imposing economic constraints on the government, thereby increasing the need for stronger gun control policies.
Connection of the Findings to the Structural-Functional Sociological Theory
The findings conform to the sociological theory of structural functionalism. Society is acknowledged as a complex and interconnected system where various parts work together to achieve a predetermined outcome. Based on ideas of Emile Durkheim, it is crucial for a society to uphold internal stability to overcome the challenges it may encounter and survive over time. The balance can be realized when different segments of the society are bounded by various relational constructs that function together for the benefit of the whole. In the same respect, all 50 states of America should work together to achieve interdependence and endure the challenge of gun violence and ensure firearms are not used to harm people. Strong gun control policies should be adopted to seal all the loopholes that make it easy for criminals and mentally unstable individuals to obtain guns thereby jeopardizing the safety of American citizens. Gun control can only be effective if all the states work together to eradicate gun violence.
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To conclude, the need for a stronger gun control policy to reduce gun violence and ensure safe use of guns in the United States has been adequately addressed in the essay. The research was facilitated by a recent mass shooting in Vegas as a result of which 59 individuals died and 527 people were injured. A secondary analysis was used to evaluate the necessity for a stronger gun control in America. Arguments of individuals who were against strict gun control policies were based on positive attitude to guns and the need for personal protection. Nonetheless, it was observed that unregulated possession of firearms causes more harm to such people rather than protecting them. A comparison of access to guns in the United States and other countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom that have strict gun control regulations proved that a stricter gun control policy could help protect American citizens from violence and reduce the rate of firearm-related homicides and suicides. Likewise, weak gun control laws in different states of America have also pointed out the need for strict gun control policies. This has been observed through the state laws that contain loopholes that allow criminals and mentally unstable individuals to own firearms. The adverse effects of guns on the society have further reinforced the need for a strict gun control policy in the United States.