This paper argues that strict gun control should be implemented to alleviate adversities caused by moderate control of firearms. Currently, the federal laws sometimes allow civilians to acquire firearms without carrying out background checks to determine the psychiatric and criminal history of the potential gun buyer. Furthermore, the national legislation limits implementation of dealer inspection more than once per annum. That notwithstanding, no legislation governs the carrying of weapons in public, leave alone the type of gun one should own. Out of the estimated 310 million firearms civilians had in 2009, 114 million were handguns, 86 million were short guns, and 110 million were rifles, but the real number of firearms has never been known. Such a thing has exposed not only security officers to criminal attacks, resulting in many deaths. Many civilians also die because of the lack of strict gun control laws. In 2012, firearm violence caused the death of 11,622 people through homicides and 20,666 through suicides. Although some people have supported increased ownership of guns, their increase among civilians without strict control laws will not reduce these devastating effects.
Keywords: gun control, legislation
A series of incidents that involve mass killings with the use of fire arms in the public domain and civilian settings have fueled the need to have stricter laws to guide gun control in the United States. For instance, the tragic shooting and killing of 20 children and seven adults on December 3, 2016, that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut, stirred mixed reactions among the American population (Siegel et al. 2098). The shootings may worsen in the future if gun ownership is not regulated beyond what is happening at the moment, meaning that more people will die from shootings than before. This essay argues that strict gun control should be executed to alleviate problems the country is currently experiencing due to the lack of or weak gun law implementation that results in adversities.
The State of Gun Control in the United States
The country has only moderate gun control laws that give civilians the right to bear arms for many purposes such as sport shooting and hunting among many other things. DeGrazia reiterates that the current federal laws on gun control are extremely minimal, which permits their illegal use (2). The reason for issuing such an allegation is because the current law can give adults who lack particular disqualifying psychiatric or criminal history an opportunity to purchase firearms easily. For instance, the renowned Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act provides for background checks of people who want to buy guns, but only if gun sellers are licensed dealers with private sales that include those conducted online and with gun shows being exempted (DeGrazia 2). Such a thing shows that records of the background checks cannot be preserved by the law because the Act prohibits the creation of national registries of gun ownership.
This legislation further limits the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms from inspecting gun dealers multiple times in a year and has raised the standard of proof that is required to revoke licenses. Additionally, the law does not guarantee the relevant authorities to acquire data on where some people have purchased their weapons. The amendment of the law to the 2003 spending bill prohibits the enforcement of the legislations from publicly releasing valuable data to show the place where criminals have purchased their firearms (DeGrazia 3). This prohibition means that criminals can still buy guns for their malicious use, yet those who sell them these weapons will never be identified to cut down the supply of weaponry into criminal hands.
Carrying of guns in public is not strictly controlled by the federal laws. When it comes to the carrying of guns in public domains, the only federal legislation in place is the Gun-Free School Zones Act that is equally moderate because many people can still walk with guns in public as long as it is out of learning environments (DeGrazia 3). This occurrence is a threat to the public because walking with guns can threaten the lives of many people, especially if the gun is in the hands of a criminal or a person with mental health problems who is at risk of perpetuating violence. 49 states in the country allow the carrying of firearms and more than 30 permits carrying them even without a license (3). Since the 2004 expiration of the popular Federal Assault Weapons Ban, firearms the public holds legally includes not only handguns and long guns, but also assault weapons and high capacity clips among other dangerous weapons. DeGrazia explains that it is worth noting that the two deadliest rampages that occurred in 2012 featured assault weapons as well as high-capacity ammunition (3). Weak regulations, therefore, pose a danger to the public, but strict gun control can help address the situation.
Reason for Enhancing Gun Control
It is surprising that despite the devastating effects of firearm ownership on the lives of many people, the United States is not aware of the number of firearms that is in public hands mainly because of the lack of a strict gun control. In 2010, the renowned General Social Survey estimated that 32% of American households had at least one gun, but the 2012 Gallup Organization estimates revealed that 44% of the households owned one or more guns (Hill 2). The variations occur because the exact number is unknown and most organizations and the government have been left to make estimates. Further estimates show that in 2009 the United States had more than 310 million firearms in the hand of civilians and out of this number 86 million were short guns, 110 million were rifles, and 114 million were handguns (Hill 4). These estimates reveal that American civilian firearms increased by 4.1%, while the American population increased by 1.1% every year between 1994 and 2009 (Hill 4). This increase indicates that the rate of firearm ownership exceeds the population growth rates, which is something that requires strict ownership gun control to reduce the number of guns among civilians and account for the number of guns in the country.
Strict gun control should be mandatory because excessive handling of guns by civilians without strict laws that regulates gun ownership results in the death of not only the public, but also law enforcement officers. The rates of homicides in the United States are higher than any other country in the entire world and are associated with the high levels of gun ownership by the public in addition to less strict regulations (Swedler 2043). When controlling for economic and demographic factors within the American states, homicide rates are positively correlated with firearm ownership (Siegel et al. 2100). Therefore, the rates of these homicides in the country vary from one state to the other and those states with a high number of civilian-owned guns report high rates of gun-related homicides.
Law enforcement officers are one group of victims that moderate gun control impacts the most because they are murdered even when on the job by civilian gun owners. Firearm use causes 90% of homicides among these officers (Swedler 2043). Assailants merely require guns, a rudimentary knowledge of how the weapons work, and an opportunity to wound or kill a superiorly trained and well-equipped law enforcement officer. The high presence of guns in any place, therefore, creates a conducive environment for increased deaths of such officers, especially if guns get into the wrong hands of civilians who intend to perpetrate malicious actions using these guns. However, strict gun control can limit the presence of these weapons in such hands, resulting in reduced officer homicides. Although there is a positive association between firearm ownership and homicide rates, states with stronger firearm control legislations report reduced firearm-related homicides and suicides (Swedler 2043). Therefore, the country together with its states should adopt strict gun control laws to ensure reduced prevalence of suicides among law enforcement officers.
On the same line, the absence of strict gun control threatens the lives of many civilians some of whom are killed by gun owners who can also commit suicide using the same firearms, especially because of having mental challenges. The United States reports more than 74,000 nonfatal injuries and at least 31,000 deaths caused by the use of firearms every year (Siegel et al. 2098). The worst thing in lacking strict regulations to carry out the background checks to assess the mental health status of potential gun buyers threatens not only the lives of civilians, but also buyers themselves. It occurs that way because those with mental health problems are likely to commit suicide using these guns or even kill those in their vicinity. However, most of these people committing suicide have mental health challenges that manifest in the form of suicidal thoughts and attempts, which predispose them to commit suicide by the use of their weapons. Strict gun control can help prevent the acquisition of such firearms by people who have such health problems, thus addressing the menace of deaths in the public domain.
Some people argue that it is important for civilians to access guns for self-protection. It is controversial on whether increased ammunition of the public will enhance security because states with high public ammunition have high rates of firearm-related deaths. This claim is true, but only if strict gun control laws are in place. Hill reports that most guns in the country are not registered, leave alone being tracked by the security agencies (2). About a third of the firearm-related deaths in 2012 were suicides and the rest were homicides since out of 32,288 deaths emanating from firearm violence, 20,666 suicides were suicides and 11,622 were homicides (Wintemute 7). Such a thing shows that suicides claim lives of more people in the country than even homicides. Therefore, it is only through strict gun control that the situation will improve.
Strict gun control should be enhanced to alleviate challenges emanating from public gun ownership. Currently, the gun regulation laws are not strict, which allows many people to acquire guns even without having criminal and psychiatric history background checks. Furthermore, the federal government does not obtain data of the place where criminals acquire the ammunition, meaning that sellers can sell guns even to criminals. Furthermore, no law prevents carrying firearms in the public except in schools. Such a state of the current federal gun control regulations has resulted in the death of law enforcement officers and civilians. Some civilians commit suicide mainly because of having mental health challenges, but the law cannot prevent them from acquiring firearms. Therefore, it is important to enhance strict gun control legislations since states with such laws report fewer firearm-related homicides and suicides than those without.