Some citizens and politicians opposed to gun violence suggest putting limits on gun ownership. The United States Constitution, however, guarantees the right of citizens to bear arms under the Second Amendment. Specifically, it states that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed(Bill of Rights). Most of the limits suggested do not limit the right to bear arms per se. Rather, they suggest reasonable limits on the amount or types of arms that people have.
For example, people who support firearm restrictions often point to the use of background checks and minimum wait periods for gun ownership. This does not limit the ordinary citizen from owning firearms. Rather, background checks can prevent people with violent history or mental illness from purchasing firearms. At least three men who went on to commit mass shootings should have been barred by law from buying guns, but got them anyway because our background check systems failed (Elliot and Hennigan).
A more stringent limit might include restrictions on high-capacity military grade firearms. Proponents of limits argue that there is no reason for the average person to have this type of weapon. If one is using a handgun or shotgun, there is a cap to the amount of violence that can be done in a given amount of time. Military grade firearms change this scenario; more fatalities and injuries can occur in the same time period. However, a devil’s advocate might argue that if the government has those types of weapons that could theoretically be used against its citizens, then the government, according to our Constitution, has not right to place restrictions on that.
Additionally, research has found a link between the right to conceal and carry laws and increased gun violence: A 2017 National Bureau of Economic Research working paper estimates that 10 years after the adoption of right-to-carry laws, violent crime is 13% to 15% higher than it would have been without those policies (Hoover). Clearly, measures like conceal and carry laws could contribute to an increase in violence because the average citizen is not trained to use weapons in a way to thwart or stop violence. Also, there is nothing in conceal and carry laws that prevents criminals or people with violent histories from carrying a concealed gun. Accordingly, advocates of gun restrictions believe that simple measures like background checks and eliminating high powered firearms could go a long way in preventing this violence. This seems a simple solution to a much more complicated problem. As with many things, the most effective way to counteract gun violence is with education because it encourages respect and responsibility towards firearms.. Many gun owners take this responsibility seriously and encourage, even demand, a respect for firearms. Outdoor Life, a hunting and fishing magazine, supports this type of approach. It suggests that adults should take the time to instruct your kids about guns, remove the mystery and neutralize the “forbidden fruit” syndrome. Take your children to the range and let them shoot your guns under your supervision. Help them learn how they work and the proper way to handle them safely. Above all, make them respect what firearms can do (Towsley ). It states that it should be routine to teach children to respect things of potential danger, just like you would with fire or a lawnmower (Towsley). Children learn at the foot of the parent. If parents and other adults teach children to respect firearms, it will go a long way towards preventing accidental and unwanted violence. Additionally, schools and other youth programs can help youth understand the seriousness of firearms, such as the effects of guns (both short term and long term) and how gun violence has affected people just like them. Most importantly, families and schools should equip young people on how to act in the face of gun violence. For a long time, schools supported a duck and cover approach to shooter violence, which made students vulnerable for the shooter. Thankfully, schools have embraced the ALICE training, which teaches students how to react in the face of gun violence. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate (ALICE). Rather than waiting to be a victim, this training lets students help in getting away from the shooter or at least trying to fight against the shooter. Programs like ALICE have a higher statistical rate of survival that does the traditional lockdown programs: in violence simulations, traditional lockdown has a shot percentage of 74% (ALICE). In other words, 3 out of 4 shots would hit an intended target. With ALICE, the shot percentage is reduced to 25% (ALICE). While still not ideal, a scenario where only in one in 4 shots hits an intended target is always preferable to 3 of 4. Moreover, it gives students some control in how they react to a situation rather than doing nothing. They can not only help themselves, but maybe help other students, escape the violence. These types of student education can contribute to increased student safety and decreased violence.Finally, public policy needs to be shaped to support the prevention of gun violence. Following the Sandy Hook school shooting, several movements gained momentum in pushing for legislation. In January 2013, the State of New York enacted the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act.In April 2013, Connecticut and Maryland both enacted restrictions to existing firearms laws.(Gerleuck). Also, the federal government has recently enacted laws to prevent firearms in schools, such as the Gun Free Zone Act which prevents having firearms in school zones. This was followed by a federal act passed in 1994 which said that schools would lose federal funds if they did not enforce this act (Gereluk). These laws took concrete steps in trying to prevent gun violence by banning that thing which is necessary to perpetrate gun violence: the gun! If a gun cannot be anywhere near a school, how could gun violence occur? Opposing this idea, in an article in Time Magazine entitled Why Is the GOP Touting New Gun Restrictions After Parkland? Follow the Money, Phillip Elliot and and W. J. Hennigan argue that most federal laws protect the gun industry rather than citizens. It claims that in 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which shields gun manufacturers and sellers from civil claims brought by victims of gun violence. (Elliot and Hennigan). In essence, this means that the gun manufacturers are not accountable for the violence caused by their product. If there were monetary consequences to companies whose product caused death, perhaps they would be more careful about who they sell too. Additionally, David Hemingway, director of the Injury Control Research Center at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, suggests that policy makers look at other industries to enact policy. He points to the auto industry and states that lawmakers can learn lessons from auto safety. To start, they can put in effect more rigorous requirements for owning firearms (Elliot and Hennigan). If it was even half as difficult to get a gun as it is to get a license, then some gun violence could be prevented according to this idea. For example, a wait time between the time you apply for a gun and actually get it might prevent crimes of passion. Additionally, it would give authorities time to run background checks, thereby preventing people with criminal or violent histories from purchasing a gun. These changes in policy gould prevent some gun violence. In closing, there are many arguments about how to curb gun violence; some argue for policy changes, some for education, and others for limits on gun ownership. Obviously, there are passionate arguments on all sides of this issue, from protecting life to protecting Constitutional rights. A number of experts suggest that gun violence can only be controlled when those who use guns are controlled; they suggest using things like background checks and waiting periods before one can own a gun. Others feel that change must start at the top, with the federal government. Only when governemnt policy changes will we see an end to random gun violence. Still others suggest that the key to improving this landscape is through education-that is to teach people to respect guns and the damage they can do. When I began this paper, I was certain that better limits on gun ownership and restrictions could stem the violence of mass shootings. After my research, it is obvious that this topic of gun violence is much more complex than a single law or policy might fix. More study must be put into the Second Amendment and what that means for gun ownership and regulations. America really needs to decide what the intent of the Founding Fathers was in guaranteeing the right to bear arms. Is the Second Amendment outdated or is it a necessity to protect against the tyranny of government? Before we can address gun violence, we must address that as a society.
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