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Political Sciences: Gun Control Laws Essay

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Updated: Jul 20th, 2021

Introduction

The discussion of gun control laws is one of the most critical topics in the USA. While some believe that every citizen should have a right to self-defense, others note the growing number of incidents involving violence induced by weapons. Hence, the major concern is that by allowing individuals to carry guns for self-protection, the government simultaneously puts other people in danger of being killed accidentally or intentionally. My stance on this issue is that there should be strict gun control laws regulating who can own and carry weapons under what circumstances and who cannot do so.

The most prominent constitutional issue related to the topic is reflected in the Second Amendment that defends the individual right to keep and bear arms. However, as Blocher remarks, this Amendment’s “massive” role in the national gun debate is not solely positive (813). The law has become “a banner for gun-rights supporters, a common enemy for gun-control advocates, and a consistent headache for scholars, lawyers, and judges” (Blocher 813). The Second Amendment is recognized as the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which incorporates various aspects of citizens’ rights (“14th Amendment”). However, the law requires a thorough analysis and an innovative approach since too many people have suffered because others exercised the right to bear arms.

Position

The major reason why I am in favor of gun control laws is that the Second Amendment does not provide enough justice for everyone. While the right of some citizens to bear arms is protected, many others feel unprotected and insecure. Currently, the majority of the US states have only minimal constraints on people’s ability “to keep and bear arms” (Blocher 819). The problem is aggravated by the fact that the right to bear arms in the USA has become a significant political and historical issue.

The USA and Mexico are the only countries in the world guaranteeing the right to bear arms in their constitutions (Lemieux 76). All other states that used to grant such a right have altered their constitutions by making gun possession not a right but a privilege.

Politically, the complication of approaching gun control laws is related to a variety of opinions among residents. However, it is necessary to note that the lack of the demand to obtain a license from a specialized authority frequently leads to tragic events involving numerous deaths. Thus, a peculiar aspect of the gun law discussion is the problem of mental health issues about gun control measures. As Fox and Fridel remark, many instances of deadly shootings could have been prevented but for the deficiencies in the US mental health system (14). McGinty et al. report that news media tend to use the phrase “dangerous people” more frequently than “dangerous weapons” when covering mass shootings (406).

This evidence indicates that society attempts to drive away from the attention from the core evil – weapons – and putting emphasis on people instead. However, this fact is another proof that mentally unstable citizens must not exercise the constitutional right to own a gun. Taking into consideration the rate of murders committed by mentally unstable individuals, it seems logical that those expressing their wish to bear arms should pass a psychological test in the least.

What is interesting is the reaction of the public to gun control laws, which changes immediately after mass shootings. According to research performed by Luca et al., the number of firearm bills proposed in a state after a mass shooting amounts to 16% within one year (1). Depending on the number of people killed, this rate may become higher. Newman and Hartman argue that because of intolerable gun violence incidence, there is a high demand for policy change (1). It is impossible not to agree with the scholars since too many innocent people suffer because of the constitutional right to own a gun granted to anyone.

Briefs of Cases

Case 1

The issue of Voisine v. the United States is that Stephen L. Voisine failed to uphold the regulations of the Second Amendment when killing a bald eagle. Voisine had been convicted of numerous cases of domestic violence. According to federal laws, the man had no right to bear a rifle (Voisine v. United States 1). Due to having committed a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” Voisine was not supposed to carry or use a weapon.

However, Voisine appealed to the federal rule of “reckless, rather than knowing or intentional, conduct” (Voisine v. the United States 1). Hence, the convicted individual tried to defend himself by arguing that killing a bald eagle was not a domestic violence case.

However, the court did not agree with Voisine and did not accept the defendant’s claims. The First Circuit affirmed the crime, holding that “an offense with a mens rea of recklessness may qualify as a ‘misdemeanor crime of violence’ under §922(g)(9)” (Voisine v. the United States 2). Further, Voisine filed a “joint petition for certiorari,” and the case was remanded for further consideration (Voisine v. United States 2). Finally, the First Circuit upheld the conviction once again on the same basis. Thus, the specific holding of the court was the affirmation. The case shows a negative implication of allowing anyone to bear arms.

Voisine violated the law by carrying a weapon even after the restriction, which indicates flaws in the law. It is evident from the case that a citizen who feels empowered to bear arms will not deny himself this right voluntarily.

Case 2

The issue of Caetano v. Massachusetts is that Jaime Caetano failed to uphold the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts’ law prohibiting the possession of stun guns (Caetano v. Massachusetts 1). The Second Amendment grants every American citizen the right to keep and bear arms. Caetano was carrying a stun gun and used it to threaten her violent ex-boyfriend who assaulted her. However, the law issued by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts turned Caetano from a person trying to protect her life into a criminal (Caetano v. Massachusetts 2). There were two rules used against Caetano in that case.

The first one was Massachusetts General Laws, ch. 140, §131J, “which bans entirely the possession of an electrical weapon” (Caetano v. Massachusetts 3). The second one was Massachusetts law 470 stating that “a stun gun is not the type of weapon that is eligible for Second Amendment protection” (Caetano v. Massachusetts 4). According to these two rules, Caetano had no right to bear a stun gun.

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts upheld a Massachusetts law banning the ownership of stun guns. Further, the Supreme Judicial Court rejected the defendant’s Second Amendment claim (Caetano v. Massachusetts 1-2). This case is an example of another type of deficiency in gun control legislation. While the Second Amendment declares the right to self-protection, Caetano was deprived of such a possibility. Hence, it is clear that the legislation on gun control is insufficiently developed and requires alterations and improvements.

Opposition

The most popular opinion expressed in defense of gun ownership is that mentioned in the Second Amendment, which defends the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. Furthermore, gun lobbyists argue that “gun-related homicide rates have been stable in the last decade” (Jena et al. 1065).

Therefore, those being against gun control laws state that there is no need to restrict anyone’s rights regarding weapon ownership. However, research indicates that while the number of homicides has been comparatively low, there is a rising “epidemic of gun violence” in the USA (Jena et al. 1065). While the country houses only 5% of the world’s population, its weapon possession rate is as high as 40% (Jena et al. 1065). Numerous cases of mass shootings signify that the stability of homicide rates must not blind legislators to the danger posed by lax gun control laws.

Conclusion

Gun control regulations in the USA require serious reconsideration due to the number of tragic accidents involving weapons. While the right to bear arms is defended by the Second Amendment of the Constitution, it seems viable that some regulations should be made to this law. The first recommendation is to follow the example of almost all countries and make gun possession a privilege instead of a right. The second suggestion is to create a set of requirements without fulfilling which a person will not be able to own, carry, or use a gun. An individual’s life is the most treasured possession, and it should not be taken away merely because someone else mistreats a weapon.

Works Cited

Blocher, Joseph. “Gun Rights Talk.” Boston University Law Review, vol. 94, 2014, pp. 813-833.

Caetano v. Massachusetts, 577 U.S. (2016). . Web.

Fox, James Alan, and Emma E. Fridel. “The Tenuous Connections Involving Mass Shootings, Mental Illness, and Gun Laws.” Violence and Gender, vol. 3, no. 1, 2016, pp. 14-19.

Legal Information Institute, n.d. Web.

Jena, Anupam B., et al. “Does the Declining Lethality of Gunshot Injuries Mask a Rising Epidemic of Gun Violence in the United States?” Journal of General Internal Medicine, vol. 29, no. 7, 2014, pp. 1065-1069.

Luca, Michael, et al. “The Impact of Mass Shootings on Gun Policy.” Harvard Business School, NOM Unit Working Paper No. 16-126, 2019.

Lemieux, Frederic. “Effect of Gun Culture and Firearm Laws on Gun Violence and Mass Shootings in the United States: A Multi-Level Quantitative Analysis.” Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences, vol. 9, no. 1, 2014, pp. 74-93.

McGinty, Emma E., et al. “News Media Framing of Serious Mental Illness and Gun Violence in the United States, 1997-2012.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 104, no. 3, 2014, pp. 406-413.

Newman, Benjamin J., and Todd K. Hartman. “British Journal of Political Science, 2017, pp. 1-17. Web.

Voisine v. United States, 579 U.S. (2016). . Web.

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