Gun control is the actions to regulate the use, purchase and sale of firearms implemented by local, state or the central government. Gun ownership has been an urgent issue in the United States since increased cases of mass shootings have raised concerns about gun control laws (Spitzer, 2020). Similar incidences of shootings have encouraged the establishment of strict measures to control firearm ownership to ensure the safety of people. The ownership and misuse of firearms have prompted the United States lawmakers to develop new regulations to control gun ownership.
The American Gun Control Act requires that before purchasing or obtaining a license to sell and buy a weapon, the citizens must pass proper background checks (Fisanick, 2010). This process includes checks of criminal records, public background, and financial status. Moreover, the authority can hire a private investigator to check the life of the seller or buyer. The act further prohibits the sale of guns to people under eighteen years, individuals with criminal records, disobedient and discharged military personnel, and the mentally disabled (Fisanick, 2010).
The debate on gun control has been on for many years. In the legalization of gun ownership, there have been different interpretations of the United States Constitution. Discussions on whether to adjust the current gun control act or put more enforcements onto the current law have been ongoing in the Senate. Another issue surrounds the right to possess a gun and whether the right extends to the citizens or only applies to the military force (Spitzer, 2020).
Recent mass shootings have brought the debate into the limelight. In 2012, there was a tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, stirring a national discussion on the current gun ownership laws (Schildkraut & Elsass, 2016). New legislations were brought before the Senate in 2013, but laws did not go through despite considerable public support. However, in 2015, at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, four Marines were shot dead. Another nine people were killed at a church in Charleston the same year (Schildkraut & Elsass, 2016). The debate was again revived, and strict laws to advocate for the controlled use of guns were presented in the Senate. Former United States president, Barack Obama, was forced to control gun owners, such as expanding the background checks for gun buyers (Jones & Stone, 2015).
The United States’ laws have more restrictions on the use of guns than central government laws. There has been a series of Senate meetings to debate gun control legislation, but the individual states’ laws sometimes affect the Senate’s decisions. In the 111th Congress, the debate on gun control was surrounded by two court rulings the District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. The city of Chicago (Fisanick, 2010). In Columbia in 2008, the court ruled that there were violations of individual rights to firearm possession for self-defense by the District of Columbia, and laws that restricted handguns were brought down. In the Chicago case, the court ruled that individual rights had been violated and ruled for McDonald (Spitzer, 2020).
In 2011, there was a shooting in a Safeway market in Tucson, AZ (Schildkraut & Elsass, 2016). The shooting brought together the 112th Congress, where more legislation was passed in the Congress. Consequently, a proposal to restrict the use of firearms around senior state officials was presented and passed (DeGrazia & Hunt, 2016). These legislations were to help reduce mass shootings. After the legislation had been adopted, civilians could carry unloaded guns in their luggage when traveling in AMTRAK trains. Besides, law enforcers were allowed to carry guns even when off-duty, individuals owning guns and had bankruptcy cases were protected by these laws not to have their guns repossessed by the central or state government. Therefore, civilians were allowed to carry guns when in public places, such as national parks (Spitzer, 2020).
In the 113th Congress, however, the capability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives was weakened by reducing their funding (DeGrazia & Hunt, 2016). Congress passed two bills, allowing gun owners to hunt on state-owned lands and military veterans to carry guns.
Organizations have a great impact on the lawmakers’ decisions on gun control legislation. Some organizations are in support while others are against gun ownership. The National Rifle Association (NRA), with over 4 million members, supports gun ownership by the citizens, and considers it as a right guaranteed by the constitution (Jones & Stone, 2015). This association widely influences national policies on firearms since it has enough human capital to conduct massive campaigns to support gun ownership. A 2012 survey showed that NRA members agree with proposals on gun control, and this association sways lawmakers to support gun rights in the United States (DeGrazia & Hunt, 2016).
Other prominent organizations that protect and promote gun rights are the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and the Gun Owners of America (GOA). GOA sees gun ownership as a rights issue and, therefore, gets dedicated to its protection and preservation. Moreover, it is against practices and policies that they feel do not support the Second Amendment rights in the constitution for their members. As a way of intimidating Congress members that do not support gun ownership, GOA rates each Congress member on a scale of A-F, where A is a good grade, and F is a failure (Jones & Stone, 2015). Such moves by these organizations ensure gun ownership amendments are passed.
James Brady, a former assistant to President Ronald Reagan, started an organization after he was disabled in an attempt to assassinate the president in 1981 (Spitzer, 2020). The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has helped change the gun industry by coming up with regulations to reduce gun violence. These associations have similarities, and they have a particular control in the gun policy debate at the Congress. Organizations, such as GOA and NRA, have a large membership and control debates among the lawmakers (Jones & Stone, 2015).
In conclusion, to have a voice of change in the conversation on guns, politics should be set aside on the issue. The public should be engaged in the gun rights issue as well. Advocates for gun rights should view it as a constitutional right and bring out the social benefits of gun ownership. Every person is entitled to enjoy their rights, but this privilege should not have any negative effects on others or society.
DeGrazia, D., & Hunt, L. H. (2016). Debating gun control: How much regulation do we need?. Oxford University Press.
Fisanick, C. (2010). Gun control. Greenhaven Press.
Jones, M. A., & Stone, G. W. (2015). The US gun-control paradox: Gun buyer response to congressional gun-control initiatives. Journal of Business & Economics Research (JBER), 13(4), 167-174.
Schildkraut, J., & Elsass, H. J. (2016). Mass shootings: Media, myths, and realities. Praeger, ABC-CLIO.
Spitzer, R. J. (2020). The politics of gun control. Routledge.