All year round, approximately 30,000 people are reported to die from gunshot wounds in the USA. In 2010, the US reported gun violence as the leading cause of premature mortality, with young people falling victims. However, it is such a pathetic state for a developed country as the US to have such high mortality rate due to the high prevalence of gun violence. Among all the developed countries with high crime prevalence rate, the situation was termed as the worst in the US, which associates to the high firearm homicide rate.
The high prevalence of ownership of guns accompanied by less restrictive laws underscored some of the reasons contributing to violence and high rate of crime in the country. Peek-Asa, Butcher, and Cavanaugh (3) note that various economic costs are linked gun violence. For instance, the country spends approximately $30 billion annually on settling medical bills in relation to treatment of firearm injuries and deaths. The incurred costs could be spent in expansion of other productive economic activities.
However, the cost of owning and using a gun goes beyond this point since there are other adverse effects and outcomes. In addition, violence and other forms of crime cause a reduction in revenues collected from taxes, and these elements are some of the challenges that the federal government should address.
Policies Regarding Control of Gun in the United States
There have been several debates concerning the gun control policies. The proponents of gun control policies hold that the control measures counter the prevalence of crime incidences by ensuring that firearms are taken away from the wrong hands.
However, most people assume that they must either support or oppose the gun control policy, which is not the case. Policies or laws on gun control stipulate the types of the firearm to be purchased, qualities of the purchaser and the holder, and safety restriction concerning the storage and use of guns.
Although there were laws to ban the possession of guns, this move was overturned by a court order that was passed by the supreme court of Columbia and Chicago. Currently, the implemented policies do not fully disarm adults as long as they are over the age of 21 years. This requirement seeks to control the rates of prevailing crimes since fewer people would be in a position to own guns.
In order for the gun control to ensure a reduction in the rate of crimes, there should be an evaluation of the impact of the gun control policy on availability and accessibility to firearms, especially for the case of handguns. On the other hand, the effect of the prevalence of guns on the commission of a crime should also be evaluated. Many researchers justify the gun control laws due to the evidence of high crime rate that calls for political support of these laws.
Currently, gun control laws focus on the definition on conditions that prohibit an individual from owning a gun or firearms, implementation of laws and regulations to prevent prohibited individuals from illegal possession of firearms and guns. In addition, these laws stipulate restriction to carrying concealed guns outside one’s home and regulations on the design of these guns in order to enhance individual safety and that of the members of the public.
Rationale for the Prohibition of Gun Possession
The law prohibits certain categories of individuals from purchasing or even owning guns and firearms. They include fugitives, those served with restraining orders due to domestic violence, persons convicted of domestic crime, felons, people who are mentally ill, illegal aliens, ex-soldiers dismissed from the military and person below the recommended age of 21 years.
However, the laws stipulate that 18 years is the minimum age at which possession of a handgun could be transferred from one person to another, especially for unauthorized gun dealers.
The move to ban some people from owning or carrying a firearm hinges on research results, which showed that the ever-increasing crime cases were due to access to firearms by some individuals. For instance, a felony convict stands a higher chance of committing violent crimes in the future as compared to non-felons.
In addition, most domestic homicides are directly linked to availability and ownership of gun within the family household. Based on some researches carried out, researchers concluded that quite a substantial percentage of perpetrators of domestic violence are likely to extend their abusive tendencies to other people in the society.
Drug and substance abuse are linked to the increased rate of domestic violence within American families, violent crimes, and actual or suicidal attempts. The group of researchers (2) established that homicide offenders are more likely to abuse drugs as compared to non-offenders.
However, a small percentage of people suffering from mental illness are associated with some form of violence, as others with disorders such as stress and depression are likely to harm others or even themselves. On the case of the minimum age limit, it was established that the minimum age restriction on possession of firearms and guns was a crucial move.
Policy makers decided on the age limit after researchers established that there had been an increment in the prevalence of violent crimes amongst the adolescents. This aspect was attributed to the brain structures at that age, which embrace risk-taking impulses, hence contributing to heightened risk of violent behavior amongst youths at this age bracket.
The Debate on Gun Control Policies
Over the years, legislative proposals to restrict the availability of guns to the members of public yield different reactions from people. In the recent years, proponents of gun control laws hold to the fact that proper implementation of federal laws can be quite successful. However, the only challenge arises where states with few legal restrictions on guns tend to supply them to the states where comprehensive bans are implemented. Various issues arise from this constitutional provision as stipulated by the proponents.
First, with the presence of professional police forces, this provision stands to be obsolete. The provision was in favor of the military officers to guard them against suppression, hence posing a restriction only to the military officers. In addition, the right to owning a gun is not absolute, but can be limited within reasonable requirements. The proponents also seek to know why a common citizen would own a gun not designed for the purpose of authorized sporting or hunting activities.
With regard to reasons stipulated above, proponents for the policy on gun control advocate some changes on the prevailing policy on gun control to deter criminal activities and risks posed to the public. Since 1930, machine guns and short-barreled rifles remained under strict regulations, but they were banned completely from private ownership in 1980s. Currently, small handguns, ammunitions feeding devices and assault weapons among others are some of the arms to be included in the control regulations.
Gun control legislations meet opposition in different dimensions, but opponents maintain that gun control policies fail to meet the intended purposes. In argument laid by this group, they stipulate that acquisition of weapons by high-risk individuals can hardly be controlled, even after implementation of federal laws. They also add that stringent laws would impose more difficulties to law-abiding individuals to abide by the new laws. Such a move leads to frustration and probably a threat on the rights of citizens and even their safety.
They also note that even in countries where the rates of violent crimes are low, it is not necessarily due to gun control policies; actually, tolerance and community policing amongst other social integration strategies contribute largely to the low crime rates.
According to Filindra and Kaplan (1), the antagonists of gun control policies are not fully convinced that private gun ownership is meant for recreational activities exclusively. However, they call for the need for people to have effective means to defend themselves for security purposes. In addition, the opponents point out that possession of guns would help in reducing the rate of crime.
To the proponents of gun control legislations, propositions by the opponents comprise a misinterpretation of the provisions of the constitution regarding possession of guns. Gun control legislations should be put in place if the Federal State is to deal with the prevalence of high crime rate comprehensively. However, a comprehensive study of the effects of various gun control policies can help people in making an informed conclusion on whether these policies can really help curb violent crimes prevailing in the US.
- Filindra A, Kaplan NJ. Racial resentment and whites’ gun policy preferences in contemporary America. Political Behavior. 2016;38(2):255-275.
- Hohl BC, Wiley S, Wiebe DJ, et al. Association of drug and alcohol use with adolescent firearm homicide at individual, family, and neighborhood levels. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2017;177(3):317-324.
- Peek-Asa C, Butcher B, Cavanaugh JE. Cost of hospitalization for firearm injuries by firearm type, intent, and payer in the United States. Injury Epidemiology. 2017;4(1).