In the United States as a country where about a third of the entire population owns firearms, there were many years of debates about whether selling and carrying guns for self-defense should be prohibited. The relevance of the issue of gun control is associated with the recent mass shootings and the fact that the increase of criminality is one of the most crucial problems of the society that requires proactive and decisive actions for its resolution. The challenge of the firearms accessibility by the population became especially acute after the precedents involving the use of guns by maniacs and terrorists against the state and the society as a whole. Every mass shooting in the country is accompanied with fierce disputes between opponents and supporters of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, according to which the citizens of the country are guaranteed the right to freely carry and store weapons. The aim of the paper is to discuss the history of gun laws in the United States and provide arguments regarding the need to reinforce gun restrictions.
In the past, it was important for everyone to own a gun for protection and safety. This necessity has led to the adoption of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution establishes the right of citizens of the country to own firearms. The Second Amendment to the Constitution enshrines the right of every U.S. citizen to own firearms for self-defense only. However, today, there are many arguments in favor of the need to put an end to the ownership of guns, because there is no need for it. Moreover, gun ownership tends to cause even more violence rather than keeping anyone safe. Since there are examples of innocent people being killed, it is important to put gun violence in the United States to an end. Taking into consideration the numerous victims of shootings, the U.S. government should strain control over gun ownership, so that the trading of weapons should be allowed only under definite permission and should be carried out after the compulsory examination of the information about the buyer because of suicide attempts, mass shootings, and high crime rates that are all related to gun possession.
History of Gun Laws in the United States
The possession of weapons in America has a long history. Thus, the first American colonists owned guns and the possibility to use firearms gave them a chance to defend their families from enemies. In the course of their search for a better life, the first people who came to the United States faced hostility on behalf of local residents, and they undoubtedly had to fight for their lives, which was impossible without a weapon. This was the first prerequisite for the emergence of the tradition to have weapons at home. Since the Indians attacks were unexpected and frequent, every family member, including children and women, was able to use firearms. The neighbors often assisted each other in fending off the attackers. Therefore, in the past, the ability to shoot was considered a vital skill.
With the help of a weapon, settlers and cowboys conquered the Wild West. As mentioned earlier, firearms were possessed by the first American colonists. Despite the fact that most Americans today are not threatened by the dangers that their ancestors faced, they consider the right to own weapons their historical heritage and are even proud of it. Many Americans love hunting as well.
The Second Amendment in the U.S. Constitution
For many citizens of the United States, the most important part of the U.S. Constitution is the Bill of Rights. These ten amendments were adopted in order to protect Americans from tyranny. The Second Amendment, which declares the right to carry arms, is often at the heart of the heated discussions. To make it clear, the Second Amendment guarantees the right of people to keep and bear Arms that is aimed at the protection of ones interests by self-defense (Gilles & Lund, 2013, p. 38). By adding the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, the founding Fathers of the United States hoped to protect Americans from potentially dangerous governance of the federal center and other states. Most scholars believe that the Constitution would not have been ratified if the Americans had not been assured that 10 special amendments were added to it in order to restrain the government’s power and serve as a guarantee of individual liberties. In the early years of the countrys history, many Americans were afraid of tyranny, which could come from the armed forces, so they wanted to place the military under the control of ordinary people, allowing citizens to keep weapons. The Second Amendment declares that the right of people to keep and bear arms should not be violated because a well-organized people’s militia is necessary for the security of a free state.
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The text of the Amendment itself is small and provides no clear explanations as for who, how, when and for what purposes has the right to carry and keep weapons. Everyone interprets the phrase people’s militia as they please. The supporters of the right to bear arms consider that it symbolizes a kind of people’s militia, which means that every citizen should have and be able to use weapons in order to protect themselves and the state in case of threat. Opponents of this interpretation speak the opposite way. According to their version, previously at the time of the adoption of the Amendment, there was no special body in the country (the police). Thus, it was replaced by the people themselves, but with the emergence and development of public protection agencies, the Second Amendment became no longer relevant.
There will not be a complete ban on the use of weapons in the United States, because there is a very strong and authoritative arms lobby supported by such organizations as NRA (the National Rifle Association) and GOA (the Gun Owners of America). In addition, for Americans, the right to personal possession of arms is a symbol of freedom and democracy, for which their ancestors were fighting. Only because of the new massacres and increasing crime rate, the American society may demand the introduction of more stringent restrictions on gun ownership.
The problem of the permission to carry firearms is rather delicate and controversial. Theoretically, gun legislation could decrease the crime rate in the country. According to Lott (2012), the prohibition of gun ownership for personal purposes relies on the notion that anyone may suddenly go crazy and start misusing their weapon or that any crossfire with a killer would be worse than the crime itself (p. 15). Nevertheless, the number of victims of mass shootings is constantly growing. The availability of weapons leads to the increase of the level of criminality. After all, despite the fact that the United States is one of the most developed countries in the world, the crime rate here is one of the highest in the world. Moreover, the statistics show that usage of firearms causes one of the greatest numbers of deaths, especially among young people and black youth (Nickitas, 2013). According to Nickitas (2013), every day nearly 80 U.S. citizens die and several times as many are injured from gun violence (p.57). Therefore, reducing the number of crimes committed with the use of this type of weapon is one of the topical problems in the United States. Such incidents typically represent American tragedies, and what is especially sad about them is that they do not shock anyone anymore. Anywhere in the world, a person can start feeling enraged and try to harm others, but only in the United States, people regularly become witnesses and victims of mass shootings.
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Arms-related violence is most common in poor urban areas and is often associated with brigade violence, as it often involves male adolescents or young adult males. Shooting in the U.S. educational institutions occurs on a constant basis. The most bloody was the massacre at the Virginia Polytechnic University in April 2007. A student of Korean origin fired from pistols with two hands. 32 people were killed. Surrounded by the police, he shot a bullet in his head. Another purpose of using guns is shooting as an act of terror. In December 2015, a couple from Pakistan shot and killed 14 people in the center for people with disabilities in San Bernardino. Responsibility for the attack was assumed by the terrorist organization Islamic State that is banned in several countries of the world. There are many cases of shootings committed on the racial and sexual grounds. In June 2015, the unemployed Dylan Roof shot the parishioners of the African church in Charleston. In June 2016, Omar Mateen shot 49 visitors of the gay club in Orlando (Deadliest mass shootings in modern US history fast facts, 2017).
However, the most horrible group shootings in the USA that have been recorded recently include the following. The latest mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada was horrendous. 59 people were killed and 530 were injured (Deadliest mass shootings in modern US history fast facts, 2017). The shooting corresponds to the profile of many massacres in America, where the gunmen were not terrorists. That is, the killer was not a terrorist because he did not use violence as a means to achieve political or religious goals. Instead, it seems he was motivated by the reasons that only he understood. Perhaps, no one will know his motives for sure.
Another mass shooting took place in Texas. On November 5, a young American man committed a massacre of parishioners in the Baptist church in a small town of Southland Springs in Texas. In 15 seconds a man shot dozens of people from a semi-automatic rifle. The victims of the incident included children among others. The Texas police are not yet in a hurry to give a list of reasons for 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelly to open fire (Deadliest mass shootings in modern US history fast facts, 2017). The shooting of the parishioners of the Baptist church in Sutherland Springs became the biggest tragedy in the history of the state. It is time to learn from the lessons taught by these tragedies in order to make sure that in the future there will be less of them. The first step is to understand the magnitude of the problem that America faces.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Gun Legalization
For many Americans, the right to own firearms is a potential method to protect themselves from political lawlessness and tyranny. Guns are an effective means of protecting a person and their property from criminal encroachments. Gun ownership changes the alignment of forces in favor of law-abiding citizens. According to Lemieux (2014), the best forecaster of death by guns is the ownership of a weapon (p.90). Therefore, the main arguments provided by the supporters of gun laws consist in the mentality of Americans and history of the United States.
The polarization of the American citizens towards the gun control has expanded into a complex social and political issue. This dispute blemished American politics in last few years. Because of the strong positions of the proponents of arms ownership, there is no possibility to implement stricter regulations of owning firearms. Bovy (2015) calls for the prohibition of all guns not only by ordinary people but by the police officers, as well. He explains his position by the fact that free access to guns is a direct way to aggression. In its turn, aggression serves as a basis for the increased number of crimes and murders, including domestic homicides (Bovy, 2015). The probability of an incidental death of innocent people will grow. This will contribute to the overall worsening of the level of security. Along with supporting gun control policy, Bovy (2015) argues that there is a need to perceive gun ownership itself as an evil.
It is not enough to control gun ownership before allowing citizens to buy weapons. It is important to remember about friends, children, and relatives. There is no guarantee that the purchased gun will not be used by a wide range of people regardless of the licenses and permits. The free trade of weapons will contribute to serious transformations of the social and cultural stereotypes and personal relations. This will require many Americans to deal with the challenges of weapon selection and use, training, care, storage, restricting access of children, etc.
The possession of firearms contributes to the high rate of suicide. Nowadays, suicide is a global issue, which is associated with enormous expenses for the society. The ownership of weapons represents a risk factor for suicide. One of the most powerful methods of suicide prevention consists in limiting the access to the actual means used for committing it. This is explained by fact that sometimes people make impetuous suicide attempts. Thus, if the means to commit suicide is not easily accessible, suicidal impulses will eventually disappear. In the moment of crisis, easy access to the means of committing suicide serves a role of a determining factor, which defines whether a person will live or die. The gun is the most lethal means of suicide. It does not provide time to change the decision and immediately causes death.
Furthermore, the ownership of guns leads to the growth of deaths, which result from home violence. In particular, this issue refers to women. The availability of firearms makes home violence lethal. At the same time, because of the lack of appropriate knowledge, women may receive injury or even die from careless weapon use. Moreover, there is a probability that guns will be bought by individuals who are characterized by excessive aggression. The laws are not capable of regulating individuals responses to specific emotions. Therefore, gun legislation would contribute to the increase in the number of guns possessed by the emotionally unstable people.
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The limitation of the firearms spread is one of the most crucial tasks that are aimed at the prevention of conflict situations in the modern world. There is a strong need to enhance the control and regulation of the circulation of weapons, including the measures that are being implemented to detect the violations of the usage, storage, or carrying of guns. Kalesan, et.al (2016) claim that the comprehensive verification of firearms purchase can significantly decrease gun mortality rate (p.1852). A special attention should be paid to the owners of guns, who abuse alcohol or drugs, and violate public order, i.e. by being culprits of domestic violence, committing crimes, or having conflicts with neighbors (Vizzard, 2015, p.894). For untrained people, the weapon can become not only a means of defense, but also a threat. Thus, the gun control could prevent uncontrolled explosions of violence and become one of the key social indicators of the comfort, safety, and security of citizens.
Means of Protection without Gun
The United States has about one firearm per citizen and the highest death rates caused by gun violence. The possession of guns leads to the spread of violence. However, the historical factor that hinders the process of abolition of gun laws in the United States lies in the fact that gun is the most effective way to protect oneself. Nevertheless, there are many other ways of self-protection. The most accessible means of protection for the population include gas pistol, traumatic pistol and gas can. Traumatic weapons are more effective means of self-defense than gas weapons. The purpose of a traumatic weapon lies in stopping a potential aggressor by causing him an injury and sufficient pain.
Another way to protect oneself is ones ability to fight. The methods of martial arts allow fighting regardless of the strength of the enemy and the circumstances. They include a large number of blocks and strikes that are not used in competitions, but are necessary for effective self-defense on the street. Self-defense without a weapon suggests that a person can fight off one or two opponents in a life-threatening situation. However, if the aggressor has firearms, it is better to get away, because heroism will not bring anything good. Additionally, one should keep in mind that if a criminal has guns or traumatic weapons, it is better to solve the problem by peace at all costs. If one decides to run, it is better to run zigzagging, hiding behind garbage cans, and constantly turning behind houses. This will not allow the enemy to aim and produce an accurate shot.
In the United States, the disputes and conflicts among the advocates of gun rights and supporters of the gun control remain acute. There are many reasons for strengthening gun control. Guns make domestic violence lethal, especially for women. The growth of the number of guns in the hands of emotionally unstable people leads to the epidemic of suicide. Although the supporters of the firearms legalization argue that a free access to guns leads to the decrease of crime rates and increases the level of self-defense, it is crucial to understand all dangers of gun ownership. The advantages of gun legalization cannot be compared to the value of peoples lives, which have been taken by firearms in mass shootings. Therefore, there is a need to take strict measures on gun control.
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