The Gun Law Debate
In the event of a tragedy with national impact people are often divided in proposing solutions. A recent tragedies like the Connecticut School shooting at Sandy Hook’s Elementary is one such incident when the a rift was evident in the nation approach to social ills. This incident once again provoked debates on the gun seizure law. Gun seizure from individuals deemed mentally incapacitated has been proposed by the liberals as the best way to deal with this nature of crime. The issue of restricting use, access or possession of firearms is one of the issues where emotions rather than logic has prevailed in deliberating on how to minimize the harm caused by these weapons. The debate has mainly focused on whether such legislations amount to infringement on individual rights to possess firearms. It has also led to questioning of whether there exists a correlation between crime and guns. Those opposing such restrictions have been of the opinion that individuals possessing firearms are able to defend themselves and that permitting people to own arms would result in safer communities. There is need to reconcile these two opposing sides by avoiding the pitfalls of interpersonal communication Rogers proposes. This is having a third party opinion that is not evaluative, judgmental, or which is neither to approve nor disapprove. This can only happen by paying attention to the genuine concerns raised by debaters on either sides.
Those proposing more gun control are of the opinion that this will reduce the rate of crime. In support of their argument these advocates suggest that there is a correlation between prevalence of arms and frequency of violent crimes. These legislations proposes the types of firearms that ought to be purchased, stipulates the qualification those intending to own arms must possess, and they also limit the use and storage of firearms. These advocates are of the opinion that with less number of firearms the number of crimes will also be minimal. It is, therefore, assumed that possession of certain types of firearms especially handguns has a close correlation with prevalence of use of guns in committing crimes. Accordingly, when the rate of crimes goes high, it is common to have more people calling for gun control legislations (Moorhouse & Wanner 103).
It is understandable when advocates of gun control infer to the close link between the recent tragedies like Connecticut and accessibility of firearms. United States is the home to 5 percent of the total population in the world, but almost half of the global firearms reside in it. As a result, it is understandable for the advocates of the gun control legislation to presume that with getting a gun being so easy in U.S, such incidences as Connecticut are inevitable. The call for stricter measures for possession of firearms is thus seen as deliberate efforts by American to avert consequences of gun proliferation. Gun control laws are even common when the type of firearm being reviewed has a high-capacity magazine. With this type of magazine it is presumed that the number of people that the gun can kill is also going to be higher and therefore, there are enough reasons to control possession of such guns (Collier 81).
However, as Domeneech notes there is no piece of legislation in America that is likely to take away the tendency to harm innocent life from the mentally retarded person (26). The irrational person or mentally retarded are not likely to respond to threat in form of legal consequences or any other rational signal. This is even likely to urge them on. There is a lot of suspicion also among the public that gun control legislation can indeed prevent calamities like what happened at Sandy Hook’s elementary.
Moorhouse & Wanner conducted an empirical investigation to ascertain the efficacy of gun control in reducing crime rate. The study employed data from District of Columbia and other state to understand the impact of gun control legislation on levels of crime and the way prevailing rates of crimes influence legislations of guns. Their empirical evidence did not ascertain that the so called correlation between reduction of crime rates and gun control does exist. Their alternative hypothesis, which was that relaxed gun control policy in adjacent states lowers effectiveness of the state gun control legislations, was also dispelled. In contrast, their work suggests that when the rate of crimes increases, the political support in favor of greater gun control measures is generated. Kates’ & Mauser on the other hand, argues that though international comparisons and evidence have been cited before to support the claim that more guns results in more deaths, and fewer deaths results from fewer guns, most of these debates have been characterized by factual errors and misconception leading into unrepresentative comparisons (650) .
Accordingly contrary to the belief that access to arms is easiest in U.S as compared to other industrialized nations, this is only substantially true ((Kates’ & Mauser 650). Moreover it is also false to claim that U.S has the highest murder rates and it is uncommon to find high murder rates in nations where the per capita rate of guns is higher. This shows that it is wrong to think or assume that having more guns would make people intend to kill more when they experience emotions such as anger (Moorhouse & Wanner 666). Again, contrary to the assertions by proponents of gun control that most of the homicides taking place are committed by law abiding citizens who use firearms in their possession to commit crime, it is established that majority of the homicide cases involves individual with history of psychopathology, violence, substance abuse, and other harmful behavior. Majority of criminals involved in violence cases where life was endangered are person with past criminal record and have in one way or the other came into contact with the justice system. On average 15 percent of American have a history of being arrested, but 90 percent of adult murderers have a record of committing crime in their adulthood. The great number, about 80 percent or more, of person involved in murder, are people who have previously as adults been arrested by police. In Atlanta in 1997, 80 percent of arrests made were drug related, where 70 percent of them were persons with 3 or more cases of drug abuse in the past. Again, in 2003 to 2005, in the State of New York, the New York Times undertook a study of 1,662 murders and established that 90 percent of the murderess had past criminal records (Kates’ & Mauser 667). This list is endless and there is compelling evidence that most of the crimes are committed by individual with a history of committing criminal activities.
In 1996, the statistics indicated that more than 242 millions firearms were either available for purchase or in the hands of private owners. Out of this, 72 million were handguns such as revolvers, pistols and derringers. In 2000, the number had escalated to 259 million, with 82 million being handguns. In 2007, the numbers rose to 294 and 106 million respectively. However, the number of deaths caused by firearms and non-negligent manslaughter in every 100,000 people decreased between 1993 and 2000 from 6.6 to 3.6. The number remained the same in 2001, but increased to 3.9 between 2006 and 2007 and went down to 3.2 by 2010 (‘Gun Control Overview’4). These statistics reveals that though the number of guns in private hands escalated, the rate of increase did not result in a similar increase in the number of homicides. Therefore, guns control unlike what proponents of such policies presume, do not result in reduced rate of homicides.
The primary reason why gun control measures have been advocated for is the increased rate of crimes committed by persons with mental problems. For instance, on July 20, 2012 James Holmes threw hissing canisters in Aurora, Colorado and started to shoot moviegoers causing injury to 58 and killing 12. Following the incident, President Obama called for better enforcement of the gun laws and advised that guns should be kept out of person with mental problems. Holmes possessed his gun legally, but before the shooting he was seeing a psychiatrist (Vars & Young1). This incident highlights one of the areas that possession of firearms is prohibited. The Supreme Court ruling in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller held that it is prohibited for mentally ill persons and felons to possess firearms (Vernick 84). Therefore, though the Second Amendment provides Americans with an inherent right to possess firearms, the court ruled mentally ill do not qualify probably because it weighed the health implications of giving them such rights.
The history of Second Amendment which accords all Americans the right to possess firearms goes back to 1791. In this period American wanted to appear different from the European’s who kept their subjects unarmed to exercise greater control over them. James Madison in drafting the amendment also wanted to maintain the states’ rights declarations, which presumed people had a right to protect own arms for their own protection and that of the state (Sterzer 174). Therefore, a lot of influences led to the drafting of the second amendment. The most important factor to understand in considering the second amendment is that the constitution gave citizens the right to possess arms in order to keep the government power in check (Sterzer 176). Change in gun regulation only began in 1911 by adoption of Sullivan Act. This regulation required all firearms that could be hidden to be registered. It was followed by another regulation by federal government in 1919 requiring taxation of guns during purchase. In subsequent years the federal government developed stricter regulations of private guns, especially because firearms were being used by gangsters to kill innocent people in the street.
Gun control has not just developed out of political motives. In contrast, in certain areas lawmakers have had a lot of challenge in interpreting the constitution. Advocates of the mentally ill possession of firearms have felt that gun control measures infringe on their constitutional right. This group of people is also a part of American citizenry, and therefore, entitled to rights granted by the constitution. However, there is also a desire to safeguard the citizens from the harm these individuals can cause to the public by acting violently. As a result, contrary to the belief by the mentally ill supporters, gun control laws partly develop to cut a balance between these opposing goals (Sterzer 178). Although society recognizes mentally ill persons have fundamental rights granted by the constitution, in terms of gun control recent tragedies like that of Holmes supports legislation banning mentally ill from enjoying the firearms right.
The debate of gun is one of the most divisive issues in America today. Americans have been swayed to either side of the debate by proponents of the different opinions. Some of the misconceptions proposed in support of more gun control include that lesser guns would lead to lesser crime. Though there seems to be no empirical evidence to support this claim, some proponents of gun control have backed their opinion with this mantra. On the other hand, opponents have cited the constitution right in advocating for private ownership of guns. This essay has clearly highlighted that both sides of the debate have a clear line of argument. It has highlighted the opinions of both proponents and opponents of gun control. The two sides in the debate are mostly divided because none of the two sides is keen to understand the concerns of the other. Rogers argues that it is possible to bring two opposing sides into agreement if parties involved can take time to listen at what the other participants say. Groups representing the mentally ill for instance, have taken the opposing side in the debate. In so doing, they ignore the genuine concerns of the proponents who have been compelled by the recent tragedies where mentally ill persons have used guns to take lives of innocent people.
Collier, Charles W. Gun Control in America: An Autopsy Report. Dissent, 60.3, (2013): p 81-86. Print.
Vars, Fredrick E. & Young, Amanda Adcock. Do The Mentally Ill Have A Right to Bear Arms? Wake Forest Law Review, 48, (2013): Print.
Vernick, Jon S. Carrying Guns in Public: Legal and Public Health Implications. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, (2012). Print.
Sterzer, J. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly A 50-State Survey Exploring Federal and State Firearm Regulations Related to Mental Health. The Journal of Legal Medicine, 33, (2012): 171-199. Print.
Kates, Don B. & Mauser, Gary. Would banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide. Harvard journal of Law & Public Policy, 30.2, (2007): 649-694. Print.
Moorhouse, John C. & Wanner, Brent. Does Gun control Reduce Crime or Does Crime Increase Gun Control? Cato Journal, 26.1, (2006): 103-124.
Domenech, Benjamin. The Truth about Mass Shooting and Gun Control. Commentary, (Feb 2013). Print.
‘ Gun Control Overview’. Congressional Digest, 92.3 (2013): p3-7.