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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

The United States is in Need of Gun Reforms

The Second Amendment of the United States’ Constitution provides citizens the right to bear firearms with some limitations. The U.S. government cannot remove or change this amendment among the nine other amendments that are known as the Bill of Rights. However, these amendments were written in 1791 by James Madison, which means that they were written to help the people based on the position of the nation in earlier years. New laws and regulations must take place as a nation and the people within that society evolve. Gun violence affects everyone at various levels and to keep gun violence low U.S. legislators need to make decisions about gun policies that will help everyone because the health and safety of the nation are in jeopardy. It is important to understand the concept of gun violence, how we as citizens can influence decisions about gun control, and what legislators should do to reduce the number of victims in gun-related murders while protecting the Second Amendment rights.

The argument “Guns do not kill people, people kill people” is a logical fallacy. Evidence from the Consortium suggests that although it may be difficult to prevent and stop mass murders, legislators need to take careful measures to make it harder for mass murderers to commit their crimes. Based on a recent study about three-fourths of mass murders in the United States are mass murders with guns as the primary weapon. Although gun control may not be able to prevent all mass shootings there is evidence that it may reduce the number of victims per mass shooting. A 2016 study analyzing gun ownership and mass shootings concluded that “nations with high firearm ownership are particularly susceptible to mass shootings” (Lewis, 3).

The United States has one of the highest gun ownership and mass shooting rates amongst all other nations. Still, researchers cannot accurately collect data about the connection between gun control and mass murders because the National Rifle Association (NRA) has lobbied the U.S. Government in regards to providing funding for gun violence research. Since the 1990’s the NRA has been attempting to lobby Congress. This association has succeeded to push lawmakers to pass a legislation in 1996 that banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to use government funding to do studies on gun violence (Pearson and Otis). Former President Barack Obama has succeeded to lift the ban on federal gun research, but there are still no fundings from the U.S. Congress to the CDC for firearm deaths research. Although there are limited funds for studying guns and their effects on our health in America, legislators can examine Australia’s 1996 National Firearms Agreement (NFA) and its benefits to introducing similar laws in the United States. A study conducted by Leigh and Neil in 2010 after the enactment of the NFA showed that there was a 65 percent decline in firearm homicides and a 59 percent decline in firearm suicides in Australia, which is evidence that if the policy is introduced in the U.S. it can be effective in reducing gun violence (90). Since Australia’s gun reforms became stricter, they have proven to be effective in reducing gun violence. The U.S. and Australia are both first-world nations with similar government forms which means if Australia’s NFA is introduced in the United States it will reduce gun violence. This is only possible when all parts of the new system work properly and effectively.

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution 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 Supreme Court addressed and applied the Second Amendment for its obvious purpose, the continuation of an effective militia. This interpretation was not argued against prior to the District of Columbia v. Heller and the McDonald v. City of Chicago cases. Both cases were similar and argued for individuals’ rights to keep and bear arms. The defendants of the two cases fought in the Supreme Court and won because the court agreed that the Second Amendment protects individuals’ rights as well. Many people might believe that the shift in the understanding of the Second Amendment is a setback for firearm control advocates, but they fail to recognize that this right does not give every person in the United States the freedom to use any gun in any place and environment and in any form. Although it is unconstitutional to ban all firearms and the manufacture and purchases of guns the Constitution is not an unlimited right to own guns and gives the States the power to place restrictions on the way individuals who pose a threat to themselves or society handle firearms. Legislators must consider the people’s rights and the nation’s health when introducing or approving gun reform laws, such as banning the sale of semi-automatic and automatic weapons to civilians or restricting the number of guns a person can buy.

Suicide is an unfortunate event that not only affects the victims and the victim’s family but our society and our methods of thinking in tricky situations. The Consortium presents evidence that says suicide is the second leading cause of death among adults aged 25-35 and suicide accounts for more than half of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. every year (3). To prevent the social phenomenon of suicide and more closely suicide with guns from happening we need to first understand and accept its complexity. It is not only a matter of creating rules and guidelines to prevent tragedies from happening but a matter of social reconstruction that helps everyone in society to recognize and accept non-violent ways of living.

Suicide is as much a mental health issue as it is a social construction problem. Few people with serious mental illnesses receive the help they need in managing or fixing their issues. Everyone needs to have a simpler way of accessing mental health support systems and resources to help the modern U.S. society and the individuals within this society better understand and deal with mental illnesses. There is much to work on to improve our life quality and conditions. The developmental steps are reshaping our beliefs surrounding mental health issues and we must educate ourselves on how we can help reshape the way our society thinks. Legislators must understand the complexity of suicide and mental health issues and analyze the effects the new gun control laws they might introduce will have on people with mental health issues.

Like all systems, gun control needs all parts to function properly for the strategy to be effective in preventing gun violence. For states to be able to report all disqualifying individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), they need to have guidelines to follow that instructs them on who and what details they must report. States cannot report disqualifying individuals from buying firearms unless they have the necessary databases to do so, which is why the Congress of the United States needs to take actions that will provide all states with the necessary resources to best report useful data to the NICS. Government funding towards states for background check data systems shall increase to supply all states the essential instruments so they are able to improve the accuracy of reporting of disqualified individuals. The Consortium reported that 40% of all gun purchases are through unlicensed dealers for which no background checks take place (3). This should cause great concerns for U.S. citizens and for legislators to strengthen background check requirements and the process of gun acquisitions.

While there are many arguments against stricter gun control policies in the United States, statistics and data about the effects of gun control prove that most of these claims are false. A common belief of gun rights advocates seems to be that implementing stricter gun control policies will create opportunities for the U.S. government to further interfere with the citizen’s rights. Based on our government’s structure it is not possible for one party or character in the government to become too powerful. Citizens can prevent the government from interfering with their constitutional rights by voting with essential background information on issues in every election. An important detail that is often unnoticed in conversations about gun violence is the lives of innocent, law-abiding citizens that end due to some “mistake.” When discussing the Constitutional right to bear arms we must also remember that in the United States Declaration of Independence all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Firearm incidents, murders, and mass shootings take away the victims’ rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is a natural reaction for most humans to respond to uncomfortable situations with anger, frustration, and unhappiness. Based on the article Developments in Mental Health Law there is research which explains that there is an increase in intimate partner homicides when an abuser has a firearm (7). Supposing that it might be normal for some people to react violently to unpleasant circumstances laws should not make it easier for abusers to commit their crimes. The article also shows evidence about firearm prohibition laws which reveal that in cities where respondents to domestic violence restraining orders no longer have the right to own firearms homicide rates decreased by 25 percent (7). This can show that most perpetrators do not look for alternative weapons to guns to commit their crimes. As I discussed previously if U.S. legislators form the laws that lower the chances of gun violence occurring other forms of violence will decrease as well. How do we bring U.S. legislators to create laws to strengthen gun control? As a nation, we have earned the right to vote freely and our ancestors have fought for this freedom for many centuries. It is the citizens’ responsibility to vote for members of the government that will employ the people’s voices in their decision making.

Firearms affect Americans’ lives every day and have been a part of the United States’ culture for an exceptionally long time. When an activity or object has been a major part of a nation, it is difficult to adapt to a new lifestyle without those things. Although controlling firearm deaths is attainable by focusing on the issues discussed in this essay, the results might not be noticeable in a brief time. But when these adjustments and new laws get studied closely and taken seriously the effects will last for a long time, like Australia’s current firearm control strategies and decreased gun violence rates. Since Australia adapted new and stricter gun laws positive changes have occurred in the Australian society. Because Australia and the United States are both liberal democratic nations with similar government systems if the U.S. Congress implements similar laws to the Australian NFA in the U.S. they will be effective.

Gun violence has been hurting the U.S. for a long time and continues to hurt our innocent citizens. In these decades of countless mass shootings, the time to take the necessary actions to minimize gun violence has arrived. For the United States to move onward, legislators must improve gun policies to help the current American society and future generations. Mass murders and suicide by firearms are preventable by states having proper data systems and reporting all disqualifying individuals due to mental health issues or criminal offenses to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. This is only possible with more grants from Congress to the states. Gun violence has many contributing factors and legislators must consider them when making decisions about the gun issues in the U.S. In our search for a solution, we must understand how gun violence occurs and what preventative steps we can take to minimize gun brutality in America.

Works Cited

“Consortium for Risk-Based Firearms Policy Recommends Evidence-Based Changes to State and Federal Gun Policies.” Developments in Mental Health Law, vol. 33, no. 1, Feb. 2014, pp. 1-10. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=asn&AN=97180082&site=ehost-live. (3,7)

Hirsh, Lauren.“Brothers in Arms Control: Introducing Australian Style Gun Control in the United States.” Macquarie Law Journal, vol. 12, Jan. 2013, pp. 81-108. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=asn&AN=94685227&site=ehost-live. (90)

Lewis, J. Scott. “The Relationship between Gun Control Strictness and Mass Murder in the United States: A National Study 2009-2015.” International Social Science Review, vol. 94, no. 2, May 2018, pp. 1-23. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=asn&AN=131932327&site=ehost-live. (3)

Pearson, Erica, and Ginger Adams Otis. “NRA Lobbying Led to Law That Stopped CDC from Using Federal Funds to Study Gun Violence – NY Daily News.” Nydailynews.com, New York Daily News, 9 Apr. 2018, www.nydailynews.com/news/national/no-funds-studies-gun-violence-article-1.1809263.

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