Gun Control And Gun Rights
Gun Control And Gun Rightsl refers to legislation and regulations that place controls on the ownership of firearms, restrict certain types of firearms, or determine where they may be carried. In the United States, gun control is a highly controversial topic that engenders debate surrounding public safety, state and federal government oversight, and individual rights. Supporters of gun control seek tighter restrictions on the sale and circulation of firearms to decrease the high incidence of gun-related violence and deaths in the United States, while opponents argue they have a constitutional right to own and bear firearms.
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The Second Amendment to the Constitution, which concerns the right to bear arms, is always a hot-button issue, especially during election season. Gun rights and gun control groups alike have been lobbying Congress for decades to craft legislation in their respective favors. Twice in the past two years the gun issue has reached the nation’s highest court. In the 2008 Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller, the court ruled that the Constitution protects an individual’s right to own a gun for personal use. But the 5-4 decision only applied to federal laws and failed to address local and state laws. Thus, in July 2010 the Supreme Court ruled that the federal right to bear arms also applies at the state and local levels. The ruling lifted a nearly 30-year-old Chicago gun ban. The National Rifle Association called the ruling a landmark, but the decision did not specify what kind of gun laws can be applied to the Second Amendment. “The real challenge is going to be getting law-abiding citizens access to it,” said NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre after the ruling. Both gun rights and gun control groups will likely continue to lobby Congress on this issue to either blunt or sharpen the ruling.
Gun control data analysis
Data from 2020 showed there were 45,222 firearm-related deaths in the United States, as reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among firearm-related deaths in the United States in 2020, about 54 percent were suicides and about 43 percent were homicides. Firearm-related injuries rank in the top five causes of death for United States citizens up to age sixty-four. Assault by firearm accounts for 70 percent of nonfatal firearm-related injuries, while unintentional injury accounts for twenty percent. The vast majority of victims (86 percent) are male.
Interesting reviews from gun control research
Many Americans support the right to bear arms but also believe that the government has the right to regulate firearms in the interest of public safety. Though there are differences along party lines, a 2021 Pew Research poll found that 53 percent of Americans believe gun control laws should be more strict, and 14 percent believe they should be less strict. Gun rights groups, such as the National Rifle Association (NRA), aim to prevent new gun control legislation and, if possible, roll back existing legislation. In the late twentieth century, the NRA began to wield significant political influence at the national and state levels, especially among conservative politicians. In response, gun control advocacy organizations such as Brady, Giffords, and Everytown for Gun Safety have worked to enact legislation designed to better regulate gun ownership, such as requiring waiting periods, background checks, gun permits, gun safety training, and restrictions on the possession of assault weapons.
Pros and Cons of Banning Assault Weapons
Though many gun rights proponents state guns are necessary for self defense and hunting, such activities do not require the efficiency and firepower of automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Assault weapons are known to be capable of injuring and killing large groups of people in mass shootings.
Most Americans support a federal ban on military-style assault weapons. For politicians in many jurisdictions, supporting such legislation would reflect the will of the people.
While the accidental discharge of a firearm always carries the risk of injury, the accidental discharge of an automatic weapon can result in much greater damage.
Banning any type of firearm would be interpreted by some as a violation of the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. Because federal law forbids the importation of foreign-made assault weapons, all such weapons sold legally are manufactured domestically, thus helping local economies and encouraging further innovation. A federal assault weapons ban would have minimal impact on gun deaths, as the majority of gun deaths are self-inflicted and do not involve automatic weapons.
The Second Amendment
The right to keep and bear arms is included as the Second Amendment to the US Constitution as part of the Bill of Rights ratified on December 15, 1791. It states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The precise meaning and purpose of the Second Amendment have been subjects of frequent debate in the early twenty-first century. At the time it was enacted, each state maintained a militia composed of ordinary citizens who served as part-time soldiers to protect settlers on land contested by Native Americans and defend against any attacks by foreign entities, some of which still held territories later claimed by the United States. In addition, some of the authors of the Second Amendment feared the federal government would use its standing army to force its will on the states and intended to protect the state militias’ right to take up arms against the federal government.
Opponents of gun control
Opponents of gun control interpret the Second Amendment as guaranteeing individual citizens’ right to keep and bear arms. They assert the amendment protects the rights of the general population because colonial law required every household to possess arms and every white male of military age to be ready for self-defense and military emergencies. Therefore, by guaranteeing arms for the militia, the amendment simultaneously guaranteed arms for every citizen. Opponents of gun control further maintain the term “right of the people” in the Second Amendment holds the same meaning as it does in the First Amendment, which guarantees such individual liberties as the freedom of religion and freedom of assembly.
Proponents of gun control
Proponents of gun control debate some of these interpretations and argue that much has changed since the amendment was written. Some twenty first-century gun control supporters argue the amendment was meant to protect only a state’s right to arm citizens for the common defense, not private citizen’s rights to possess and carry any firearm in any space. They also argue that, according to the amendment, such militias were “well regulated,” meaning they were subject to state requirements concerning training, firearms, and periodic military exercises.
Major Legislation and Court Cases in the Twentieth Century
The US Congress has created laws regarding gun regulations and the Supreme Court has ruled on several cases. The National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934 was the country’s first major federal gun control legislation. The law required the registration of certain firearms, imposed taxes on the sale and manufacture of firearms, and restricted the sale and ownership of high-risk weapons, such as machine guns. The Federal Firearms Act (FFA) of 1938 provided additional regulations, requiring federal licenses for firearm manufacturers and dealers and prohibiting certain people from buying firearms. The Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Miller (1939) upheld the NFA and set a precedent that the right to bear arms applied to citizens in active, controlled state guard or militia units.
The next major piece of federal firearms legislation was the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968, passed in the wake of the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The GCA expanded both the NFA and the FFA. The law ended mailorder sales of all firearms and ammunition and banned the sale of guns to minors, felons, fugitives from justice, people who use illegal drugs, persons with mental illness, and those dishonorably discharged from the armed forces. The Supreme Court bolstered controls when it upheld New Jersey’s strict gun control law in Burton v. Sills (1969) and the federal ban on possession of firearms by felons in Lewis v. United States (1980).
The Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA), however, eased many GCA restrictions. Opponents of gun control lauded FOPA for expanding where firearms could be sold and who could sell them but continued to object to prohibitions on the manufacture and possession of machine guns for civilian use. In 1989 the administration of President George H. W. Bush announced a permanent ban on importing assault rifles. With passage of the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 1994 (also called the Federal Assault Weapons Ban), Congress banned the manufacture and sale of specific assault weapons. The ban expired in 2004.
Support for some gun-control measures
More than 8 in 10 gun owners said they are in favor of universal background checks for all gun sales, including private sales and at gun shows. That’s similar to the almost 9 in 10 of all Americans who say so in other surveys.
Roughly two-thirds or more are in favor of raising the minimum age to buy an assault-style weapon to 21 (72%), raising the age to buy any kind of gun to 21 (67%) and red flag laws (65%).
“As a gun owner myself, both pistols and hunting rifles, I feel that it’s important that background checks, red flag laws and raising the age should be something that we as a country should be doing,” said poll respondent Christopher Montes of Connecticut.
Montes, a self-declared independent, said there are simply too many guns in the wrong hands.
Recently passed legislation expanded background checks on those between the ages of 18 and 21 looking to purchase a gun, offered incentives for states to pass red flag laws and eliminated the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” which expanded on a law that prevented spouses convicted of domestic abuse from owning a gun.
“While this bill doesn’t do everything I want, it does include actions I’ve long called for that are going to save lives,” President Biden said before signing the legislation.
Among other things, Biden wanted to see a return to a ban on AR-15-style semi-automatic weapons, the kind seen in recent mass shootings that can fire many rounds quickly.
But there is less support for an outright assault-style weapons ban among gun owners as opposed to other gun-control measures, with 55% opposed to such a ban. There was a sharp split by party, with 72% of Republican gun owners and a slim majority of independents (53%) opposed, and 84% of Democratic gun owners in favor.
Other surveys, including ones conducted for NPR, have found majority support for this kind of measure when non-gun owners are factored in. There was a ban on such weapons for 10 years beginning in the mid-1990s. When it expired, mass shootings increased threefold.
“I do support that [an assault-style weapons ban] because I think that we should be protecting our kids,” said poll participant Lizzie, a 45 year old self-described conservative who lives in West Texas. She didn’t want her last name used.
She said she’s fed up with the horrific stream of mass shootings — at elementary schools, grocery stores, and Fourth of July parades.
“We don’t need to be losing kids like that,” she added. “They should grow up and be who they want to, and fulfill their dreams. You know, they’re just too innocent to die so young.”
Fred, a 73 year old Republican gun owner in Bakersfield, Calif., agreed.
“Get rid of the AR-15s, get rid of all of that kind of stuff, and do better background checks,” he said. “It’s made for war. It is not made to hunt with, it is made to kill, okay? Regular people have no business owning them. That’s part of the problem we have.”
But others disagree.
“I’m not for banning any of them,” said Montes, the independent gun owner from Connecticut, who supports some gun-control measures. “If they’re going to ban again just ARs, that doesn’t make sense. There are other high-powered, fairly high capacity guns that don’t look like ARs. And so are you going to not ban those?”
Amber, a Republican police officer from Pennsylvania, sees any AR-style ban as unnecessary and unconstitutional.
“I don’t believe in banning them because I believe that everyone should have the right to bear arms, who legally owns arms in the United States. I don’t think we should take the right from American citizens who own guns legally, who should have guns.”
Weapons, like machine guns and rocket launchers and other “destructive devices,” are technically legal at a federal level, but highly regulated and require strict background checks.
About one in five gun owners say they own AR-15 style semi-automatic rifles, including a quarter of Republicans. When asked if “people like me” need to own such weapons, 45% of gun owners said no, while 35% said yes. But there was a big partisan split. Three-quarters of Democrats said no, but only about half of independents and a third of Republicans said no.
The numbers highlight the sharp partisan lines that emerge when it comes to more high-powered types of guns – and the difficulty in getting broad support to restrict them.
By far, pistols are what most respondents own (73%), followed by rifles (57%) and shotguns (56%). Most gun owners (70%) say they own more than one gun with a quarter saying they own six or more.
People said they own guns mostly for their own protection (79%) or to protect their families (78%) and because they enjoy shooting for sport (54%).
Less than half (46%) said it’s because they’re exercising their constitutional right to do so, though there was a partisan split on that with six in 10 Republicans saying that’s why they do versus just 17% of Democrats. Democrats were also less likely to say they own a gun for sport (34%).
Distrust of government
Despite the potential support for some gun-control measures among gun owners, when you dig deeper there is a clear distrust of government, especially among Republicans, who make up the plurality of gun owners in the survey.
Just a quarter of gun owners overall said they have trust in the federal government to look out for their best interests. (An even lower 16% said so of the news media.)