How the American Society Has Instigated Stricter Gun Control Regulations in the USA
Over the years, there has been several advocacies for the introduction of stringent gun control measures in America by several human rights’ lobby groups. This is a fact highly publicized and supported by the current US administration. Despite the severity of the issue, the debate over gun control has waxed and warned with different political factions describing it as a violation of American rights to protect themselves and their loved once. An example of how bad the firearm situation has reached can be derived from Newtown, Connecticut where 20 schoolchildren were gunned down in an incident that set the tone for the introduction of new gun regulations with the Obama administration angling on the reduction of availability of military style weapons. This though was a move met with high resistance from the opposition party as well as high number of society members who continuously see gun control as violetion of their right. As politicians kept up the already heard and known discussion in October 2015, suspected 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer opened fire at the Umpqua Community College in southwestern Oregon killing ten individuals and injuring an estimated 15. In addition to this American born, Omar Saddiqui Mateen killed at least 50 civilians injuring a further 50 when he unloaded his weapon at a gay nightclub in Orlando on June of this year. From this text, it is clear that the issues surrounding mass shooting are gradually getting out of control with statistics showing that current rates of mass shootouts are three times the level experienced in the 1980s a period known for high violence. The community is currently at high risk of mass shooting with Schools and other social areas such as nightclubs reporting the highest number of shootouts either gang related or conducted by a single individual. The US has constantly for the better part of a decade and a half fought terrorism from outside sources; however, there is considerable amount of information and data suggesting that the most significant acts of terror in this current times is based within the country borders. It should be noted that over 95% of all gun violence in the US has been carried out by a US citizen with access to weaponry across the counter with the reason of protecting themselves. This paper represents a report showing the role played by the American society prompting for stringer and sterner gun control regulations to be developed and enforced in America.
The American society is well known to be driven by the constitution and in reference to the second amendment all Americans who are legally allowed to own a gun are allowed to carry one in places they deem dangerous to them in most cases this means having their fire arms on them at all times (Crooker, p.62). The society has always held this amendment close to its freedom values with most individuals claiming that it is their right to protect themselves and their families viewing gun control as a violation of the provisions allowed to them by the second amendment (Utter, p. 33). The US congress views the ownership and carrying of a firearm by an American citizen as the sustenance of the right to self-defense; freedom in form of resistance to any form of oppression; as well as the society obligation to act in defense of their nation in case the US faces an attack from its enemies (Finkelman, p.271). Due to this literature, it comes to no shock when most members of the society continuously fight all regulations that are placed on either owning or using their firearms. However, the current society has shown its negativity in maintaining law and order by increasingly losing lives of their own people through the use of weapons either accidentally or premeditatedly using guns on each other (Beck, p.25). The modern America has kept itself in danger when it comes to three primary issues surrounding firearms namely Accidental killings, mass shooting and increased gang activity which are all instigated by society members. The following literature represents these three issues separately showing how they have grown to cause the government and other concerned parties in introducing stringer gun control regulations; nonetheless, it is vital to understand what the term gun control means in this context.
Gun control regulations today
According to (Zimring, p.11)‘gun control’ is the general term that is used to represent the restrictions on any sort that are placed on the sale, acquisition, use and carrying of firearms by both civilians and law enforcement. In the US there are measures that regulate how firearms are sold, what kind of individuals are accepted legally to possess them, when as well as how such weapons can be stored or carried and finally the official record keeping of said individuals by government to avoid firearms landing in wrong characters (Carter, p.279). Wilcox and John (p.3), state that in recent years, the debate surrounding gun control has been based on three particular issues namely the background checks of the buyers, provisions to carry loaded and deadly weapons in public and finally the acceptance of civilians owning military grade assault rifles. In reference to the Federal Law, individuals are not allowed to own or carry firearms when they suffer from mental illnesses; anyone with a criminal record; non-citizens lacking any form of legal status; dishonorably discharged military officers; individuals with known drug addictions as well as a person having a restraining order against them in addition to other issues (Carter, p.260). However, despite his prohibitions there are overwhelming statistics showing that firearms are held by the wrong kind of people in the United States (Beck, p.30). The biggest problem is that there are a significant amount of incomplete listings of criminal cases consequently making it harder to identify criminals from ordinary law abiding citizens (Gaines and Roger, p. 72). In addition to this the number of small-scale sellers is high subsequently highlighting on the fact that they do not do comprehensive background checks before selling guns to individuals
Duwe (p.45) defines a mass shooting as a single shooter incident that leads to the death or injury of four or more individuals. In reference to this definition according to (Gold and Robert, p. 367-368), in 2015 alone there were approximately 372 mass shootings in the US, consequently 475 individuals lost their lives as well as 1,870 wounded. Of all the reported shootouts 64 were school shootings with the inclusion of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Connecticut. This figure excludes all instances where a firearm was discharged though no individual was hurt in the process. However, the data above only represents ‘Mass shootings’, when comprehensively highlighting on all forms of gun related violence a report by (p. 670), shows that 13,286 individuals were killed by a gun in US soil in 2015 and a further 26,819 were injured. These incidences include both violent criminal as well as accidental acts where a US citizen either lost his or her life through violent conduct or accidentally. This number is reported to be on the increase annually. The high number of gun violence other than mass shooting is directly related to violent gang activities and accidental discharge of weapons mainly by underage individuals who have no training of handling weapons.
The US in its history has taken part in 12 wars since the revolutionary war to the war on terror in Iraq losing an estimated 1,396,733 individuals in the process. However, this number is superseded by the fact that since 1968 to 2014 the US has lost 1,516,863 individuals to gun violence in the American soil.
Table 1. Death Caused by Gun Violence Since 1968 To 2015
|1968 to 1980
|1981 to 1998
|1999 to 2013
Source: CDC analysis of FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports, press accounts, agency press releases, and other compilations by mass media and advocacy groups.
From the table above represents the number of individuals who have lost their lives through violent criminal and accidental gunshots. The information presented above is a derivative of the data publicized by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC does not have annual data of individual’s death since 1868 to 1980; however, a report published by the organization states that 377,000 individuals lost their lives through gun related incidences during this period. Annual data from the CDC on the other hand states that since then a total of 1,139,863 individuals have killed in gun related activities in the last 34 years.
According to Utter (p. 64) the reason behind these killings can be attributed to different causes the first being the number of guns in the public domain. Lott (p.722), states that the number of firearms that are estimated to be in the hands of the public in the US by 2015 are about 300 million units. In addition to this, only a third of the US population hold this guns. Beck (p.41) in his manuscript about gun use in the US indicates that currently there are enough guns for every man, woman and child in America a fact that is alarming considering that the security level in all States does not demand for such a high number of firearms in the public. The high number of firearms has presented two highly sensitive issues that have been used by gun control lobby groups the first being poor storage that has caused a high number of deaths over the years. In 2013, Lucas Heagren, aged 3 years was playing at his parents’ home in Ohio where he came across his father’s 45-caliber pistol that was temporarily hidden under the couch, unfortunate for Heagren the weapon was loaded and he shot himself through the right eye and died (Luo and McINTIRE, p. 7). Only days later, Cassie Culpepper, aged 11 years became a victim of an innocent gun act when his older brother shot her in the mouth with his father’s pistol (p.8). Reports indicated that Cassie father gave his son the gun to scare of coyotes believing that the gun is empty only to realize later that it was loaded and had a round in the chamber. Alex Whitfield aged eleven while looking for snacks money found a Glock pistol in his mother apartment in Huston, as he handled the weapon he accidentally pulled the trigger shooting himself in the lower abdomen and latter losing his life due to server blood loss (p.10). All the above examples are examples of chilling incidences where the victims of guns were young and unaware of what they were in possession of.
According to Lot, p. 35), cases such as aforementioned are devastating though preventable. The total number of children who have died trough accidental discharge of a firearm through either their actions or the action of others is not well documented because the police department records show them as homicides. In the case of Cassie Culpepper, like other 259 accident cases highlighted in 2013 of children who died due to gun activity have been characteristically been placed under solved homicides with limited details provided to the CDC.
The image above is a cutout of the police report filed in reference to Cassie Culpepper indicating that she was a victim of homicide yet the check box for ‘Accidental’ remains empty. The reason for this is that her cause of death was from a firearm a factor that is directly tied to a murderous act. His brother, Nicholas, was later reported to have suffered emotionally after he realized that his action was not entirely labeled as accidental as it occurred. As a result of such undocumented accidents the estimates of such cases where children have found themselves handling loaded firearms has led to the increase of gun control regulations. ‘Safe Storage’ laws have been suggested indicating that firearms safety mechanisms should be upgraded for instance, all guns kept in the household should not be loaded and kept in locked storage compartments such as safes, metal boxes as well as closed closets that have limited access to children. These regulations are primarily based on making sure that a case such as that of Lucas Hearne and Alex Whitfield are prevented from occurring again. On the other hand, similar to all other gun control discussions these regulation has been opposed with factions such as The National Rifle Association indicating that it is unconstitutional to use undocumented cases to set up rules that may affect the rights of Americans freely having access to their weapons at all times. According to The National Rifle Association, children are more likely to die of natural disasters than guns a fact that may be true; however, the blatant disregard of the fact that the accidental cases are preventable shows that the society requires stringent regulations on storage of firearms (Hepburn, p. 112).
The second regulation placed on this issue giving children guns such as Cassie’s case. In the American society Thomas, being given a gun by his father to fend of coyotes is not out of line as in context it is a matter of self-defense. According to Luo and McINTIRE (p. 10), for years American parents introduce their children to firearms at an average age of 9 to 10 years. A report by Beck (p.31) shows that the largest number of deaths in child gun accident comes at the higher end of 13 and 14 years a fact that is unsurprising due to the fact that parents commonly allow adolescents easier access to firearms. In cases where a child shoots him or herself, involved children aged 3 to 5 years and storage was the issues but in the cases where an underage shot a relative or a friend involves a case where a gun was left in plain sight or was given to the said juvenile for protection. The new regulation requires individual to attend gun safety classes and successfully attain a license before being given a gun by an older individual.
As earlier indicated, the most common gun control regulations have always been based on background checks, provisions to carry loaded and deadly weapons in public and finally the acceptance of civilians owning military grade assault rifles; however, there are documented cases of shootouts that involved individuals with stable mental and criminal backgrounds. This would suggest that the current checks are not working to their specified requirements. In a report published by the FBI SHR as well as other sources, show that through the years between 1999 and 2013 there have been approximately 317 Mass shootings cases in the US consequently taking 1,554 lives in addition to over 2441 injured victims (Gold and Robert, p 412). In this 14-year period, the two authors indicate that there has been an average of about 21 mass shouting’s annually with subsequently causing 104 murder victims in the process. However, the alarming statistics is that the number is increasing over the years.
Mass Shootings: Five-Year Annual Averages
|Years||Incidents||Victims killed||Victims Injured||Total Casualties|
Source: CRS analysis of FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports, press accounts, agency press releases, and other compilations by mass media and advocacy groups.
From the above table it is evident that there has an increase of mass shooting incidences over every four-year period indicated this is because most of the most resent mass shootings in schools, restaurants, workplaces, neighborhood as well as other public settings have been conducted by individuals with a clear criminal record and mental sanity. In addition to a lack of information that would single out such individuals the provision of military assault refiles has made the percentage of killing higher than it was before. An example of the case stated above is the April 20, 1999, where Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado with four loaded weapons with over 30 home-produced explosives in the process killing 12 individuals (Hasday and Judy, p. 4). According to reports the two assailants, guns were ordinary pistols that can only fire a single shot with a trigger pull; however, by then this was the worst mass shooting in the US. Fast-forward to the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon or the Colorado movie theater shooting where an AR-15 America’s rifle was used the rate of the attack’s potency would be considered higher than that conducted in 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton (Dahl, Bonham, and Reddington, p. 24). The use of an automatic or semi-automatic rifle changes the scope of any attack with AR-15 being easier to work with though the civilian version of the firearm is less powerful than the military version.
The Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which is officially known as the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, is a derivative of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 prohibited civilian from using certain automatic firearms (Lott, p. 55). However, the law was placed on suspension in 2004. An investigation conducted by the FBI stated that of 62 mass shooting incidents in the US 42 high capacity magazine firearms were used across 31 cases; 20 assault rifles were used in 14 occasions and 33 mass shootings involved both the aforementioned weapons. It then raises the questions on how the legislation though active has failed to get rid of such high velocity weapons (Gold, and Robert, p. 78). According to these authors, though the legislators realized the grim nature the above mentioned weapons possess they felt necessary to have a number of modified units remain in the market for the safety of its civilians; however, the consequences of this actions have been realized in all 62 shootings investigated. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2013 highlighted on the facts of outlawing all forms of automatic and high capacity magazine firearms form the public; however, this bill was not supported by the members of congress who I their view represented the view of the community owning guns that would fend off any form of threat. In a report presented by congress it was stated that any individual with the motive of causing harm to the public would have to think twice before launching an attack since he or she would be mindful of the weapons the civilians have. However, an in-depth analysis shows that incase the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, the bill would make it illegal for any individual to own a high lethal firearm that have been used by assailants in more than a dozen mass shootings from the 62 cases investigated.
When it comes to the removal of such guns such as the AR-15 or INTRATEC TEC-9, TEC-DC9, TEC-22 the American public has been adamant in understanding the fact that the mass shooters are ordinary people who they interact with daily meaning their lives could be in danger without them knowing it themselves. Mass shooters from the Columbine High School in Littleton in Colorado to the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon were part of the community and had access to the weapons they used legally and even a background screening would not detect any anomaly in form of mental illness or criminal activity. However, a stringent form of regulation would have made it harder for them to conduct potent attacks on the civilians reducing the number of deaths
The US is a nation that is made up of people from different regions each searching for a better life; however, this has brought about the introduction of violent gangs. Gang activity according to (Lott, p. 75), there are currently over 1.7 million active gang’s member in the US today all representing the views of about 34,000 gangs operating in the US. The amount of violence passed by these gags have increasingly been brutal due to the use of guns. The gangs causing these atrocities are part of the society, they are individuals who have lived in their neighborhoods for years and are left to operate as they wish as the society feels that the justice system itself is a problem (Gaines and Roger, p.116). Due to this factor, it is apparent that the government should come up with regulations on guns that would make it harder for these gangs to operate with the autonomy they have in the current surrounding
In conclusion, the US society is driven by the constitutions and a violation of ay amendment is not welcome even when the change is only based on the safety of the community. Gun control has been a controversial issue that has seen a variety of US citizens become split on if the current regulation requires to be re-analyzed. It should be noted that the individuals in the community who refute all logic to change gun laws fail to realize that the society itself is the cause for these changes in regulations. The first instance supporting the introduction of new gun regulations is the increasing number of accidental deaths involving children. In a variety of reports show that poor storage and a lack of gun safety classes have seen a high number of children lose their own lives or even their friends and relatives as indicated in the paper. This in itself is preventable and requires regulations that would see firearms stored in places that cannot be accessed by underage members who are not trained to handle such weapons. The second issue is the increased ratio of mass shootings that have been on the rise over the last past decade with assailants switching to highly militarized weapons that are sold to civilians making it harder to save lives. The last case is the increase in gang related activities which have led to the loss of innocent lives throughout the US. Through history the society has always protected its right to have carry guns and use them when necessary; however, the increase of deaths is a factor hard to ignore.
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