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Americans believe that the guns are a sacred emblem of the United States’ independence from Great Britain. However, Haynes asserts that mass shootings have unearthed debates on gun ownership, control and rights (1). Gun violence, which refers to the use of firearms in harming or killing individuals or groups of people has erupted debates on the ownership and issuance of unlicensed guns. Many argue that crime rates that are associated with gun violence can only decline where the US government controls the distributions of guns directly (Haynes 1).
Opponents of this stance cite the second amendment of the US constitution, which recognizes the need for a well-regulated militia in any free state and protects against infringement of the right to keeping and bearing arms. Lose interpretations of the constitutional amendment have led to the conclusion that gun control is not unconstitutional. In contrast, strict interpretations hold that gun control prohibits the exercise of the second amendment right of bearing and keeping arms (Wagner and Machnowski 1).
This paper is an examination of the ideological divide in gun control debates and the most sensible approach to gun ownership in the United States. The continuing debate on gun control makes it essential to identify policies stemming from the US Federal law, beginning with the second amendment. The Supreme Court has used the constitution in making significant gun-policy decisions in cases such as the District of Columbia v. Heller or McDonald v. Chicago where the second amendment upheld the right of individuals to possess firearms for self-defense (La Valle 1).
Gun owners through the National Rifle Association have guarded the right to bear arms and opposed laws that seem to dilute it. Between 2008 and 2011, the Supreme Court overturned over eighty existing gun laws with remarkable consistency.
The Supreme Court has upheld existing gun laws as constitutional with the effect being little change ever since the rulings. For many advocates of gun control policies, the focus remains on the patchwork of gun policies made in courts and states. These advocates neglect opportunities of convincing lawmakers to take touch votes (Wagner and Machnowski 1). Besides, the solidly pro-gun Republican majority has expressed little interest for conversations on the issue. Additional federal gun control proposals have increased following the trail of massacres in the United States. Many pundits believe the battle over gun control policy cannot be won in Congress but will take place away from the national spotlight through a patchwork of state-level decisions and precedents as well as legal cases throughout the country (Wagner and Machnowski 1).
With the Supreme Court’s embrace of the second amendment rights and Republican control over the House of Representatives, new congressional action appears unlikely. Gun-related policy developments at the state level have occurred as a response to the lack of will by Congress. For example, the Ohio State Supreme Court handed gun advocates a victory in 2010 by ruling that Cleveland and other cities were barred from passing stricter laws on assaults weapon restrictions and hand-gun registration requirements apart from those of the state (Wagner and Machnowski 1). Even with the increased focus, state legislatures have only succeeded in passing prohibitions such as concealment in few states. Future federal gun control efforts will go through the NRA, which is famous for its muscular approach in influencing policy. The NRA has also spent billions of dollars on federal lobbying with its political action committee reporting millions of spending on mid-term election campaigns (Boylan et al. 3934). Gun advocates also hold key positions that hinder the passing of additional gun control measures in Congress.
However, many others express their disappointment at lawmakers and special interest groups who use mass shootings as vehicles for pushing personal political agendas (Boylan et al. 3934). For example, the NRA has failed to mount major lobbying pushes to make sure that lawmakers agree with the view that guns do not kill people. Where shootings occur, the NRA is often passive and only asks for prayers for the victims and their families while making sure that anything else is inappropriate. Lawmakers echo the views of the NRA that access to guns is irrelevant to discussions on gun violence and that bringing it up after a mass shooting is irrelevant and disrespectful. The only legislation with a chance of becoming a law is a bill banning the manufacture and sale of high capacity machine guns (Haynes 1). Bold Supreme Court rulings encourage judicial scrutiny of gun control legislations that fail to pass Congress or state legislature.
The Supreme Court ruling, which reaffirmed the second amendment, protects gun ownership rights regardless of their membership to the state militia (La Valle 1). Previous court rulings do not prohibit gun control laws but easily challenge their constitutionality. Many legal systems recognize self-defense as a right, but permit citizens to use handguns for purposes prescribed by law. The case has only opened up floodgates of litigations in state and lower federal courts with more litigations certain until the parameters become clearer (La Valle 1). Legislators evade discussions about gun control, especially where Bill Clinton strong-armed leaders into voting for the laws that cost most legislators their jobs. Democrats are aware of the move from making gun control a major plank in their domestic policy.
Even with the cracked legislative windows, the possibility of congressional action remains somewhat remote. Years of intense local initiatives and legal battles have forced different groups to straighten their priorities (Haynes 1). Blaming objects such as guns take away the blame from individuals for their moral choices. Some supporters of gun control base their positions on the belief that legislations would reduce crime while others are motivated by their disdain for gun owners (Wagner and Machnowski 1). Even more are reluctant to condemn groups for their actions and make guns their substitute scapegoat. Rather than use guns as scapegoats, there is a need for the factual basis upon which policy is based. It does not mean basing decisions on facts about policies that are capable of reducing homicides or suicides (Wagner and Machnowski 1). It means basing decisions on the accurate understanding of trade-offs behind each policy.
Fair and effective gun policies require knowledge of implementation challenges, the affected parties, implementation challenges, and unintended consequences, revision of policies for better affect, costs of legislation to the society and gun owners, and other issues defining the acceptability of these policies. The questions do not supersede individual and second amendment rights even though both should be considered in decision-making (Haynes 1). Gun control attracts heated and passionate debates whenever it comes up. The glimpse of the wide range of opinions on the topic reveals supporting and opposing voices on the subject. Opponents of firearm regulation and advocates for stringent gun controls cite constitutional, criminal, and criminological justifications that rationally support their stances with very little common ground. It is the belief of many researchers that the absence of a common consensus worsens the problem. The taboo and complicated nature of gun control is filled with emotions that prevent solutions to the problem of civilians hurting and killing others with firearms. Nonetheless, the two extremes need to welcome areas of agreement and use them as starting points in drafting sensible approaches for minimizing the dreadful harms that are associated with guns. Overall, rigorous and transparent methods are required alongside a commitment to non-partisan and objective policy analysis.
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