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Gun control in America has been a major issue since 1934 when control began on the ownership of guns by civilians. However, these laws have faced opposition with opponents citing the Second Amendment that allows citizens to own firearms for safety reasons. The existence of differing federal state laws is also an impediment to gun legislation. Some states have softer laws concerning gun ownership. Criminals, therefore, turn to these states for easy acquisition of guns. The correlation between crime rates and gun control has come under scrutiny to determine whether gun legislation plays any role in reduction of crimes committed using firearms and violence. According to Roleff (4), mass killings in recent years using guns have fueled urgent government need to protect innocent citizens from illegal gun ownership.
Are Stricter Legislations on Gun Ownership the Solution to Gun-Related Crimes and Violence?
Following the 2013 Connecticut killings in which a young man killed 26 people in a school, President Obama made a resolution to tighten gun control in order to curb such killings in future. Some of these stricter rules include: conducting background checks on gun buyers, banning assault weapons, restricting magazine capacity to 10-round of ammunition, deploying police offers in schools and adding more security officers in the streets, sterner punishments on gun traffickers, and offering mental health insurance cover. These laws are meant to either compliment or strengthen existing legislations on gun control. Gallup Summary (46) statistics show that introduction of gun control laws contribute to a significant reduction in gun-related crimes. For this reason, there is a need for stricter rules on guns. These laws should not be aimed at restricting those who wish to own guns for recreational or security purposes. Instead, they should be geared towards eliminating illegal ownership of guns.
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Compulsory background checks are instrumental in the control of illegal ownership of guns. These include taking all personal data of anyone wishing to purchase a gun and crosschecking this information with security databases maintained by security agencies. This way, individuals with previous criminal records or mental health problems can be denied a firearm or permission delayed as further checks are conducted. This is a means of ensuring that less guns are sold to potential criminals. This is not to say that background checks will completely solve the problem. Criminals may find other means of acquiring firearms for use in their criminal activities. However, this loophole should not be a deterrent to effecting background checks (Gun Control Overview 6-7).
A critical concern still exists on whether gun control laws actually prevent criminals from acquiring guns. Effective enforcement is possible through imposing stricter punishments on gun-related crimes as well as trafficking. However, partial enforcement of such laws has been the main hindrance to achieving its maximum control potential because some crimes commited by certain individuals, for example, powerful politicians, remain unpunished. The impression created is that of lack of commitment to gun control by the government. Therefore, if street criminals using illegal guns are subjected to a certain punishment, everyone else who commits a similar crime should also face the same charges as Moorhouse (104) puts it in his journal. According to Trotter (31), double standards are threatening the fight to take control of gun ownership.
Studies have indicated that criminals either buy guns illegally on black markets or steal them. A strict law to curb this trade is necessary. In fact, gun trafficking offenders should attract severe sentences. The rationale behind this is to deter other criminals from engaging in such crimes. Moorhouse (112) states that a massive crackdown on illegal firearm possession complemented by community policing can be effective in dealing with illegal ownership of firearms.
Do Stricter Gun Control Laws Leave Law-Abiding Citizens Vulnerable?
Apparently, some laws are deliberately put in place to make it difficult for individuals to acquire firearms for personal use. For example, raising the cost of acquiring a gun prevents low income earners from owning them. Opponents of gun control argue that such laws give criminals an upper hand over their victims. They, therefore, conclude that this move does not solve gun violence. According to Sugarman (75), women are capable of protecting themselves and other vulnerable members of the society if they own a gun. However, the deficiency in gun control can be improved by deploying more law enforcement officers in the streets, schools and other areas inhabited by vulnerable groups. This is an indication that these laws are effective if linked together to achieve the common goal of reducing crimes through ensuring only legalized individuals own guns.
The ban on possession of certain firearms by the public, and limitation of magazine capacity is a right move towards gun control. Study shows that criminals are likely to use guns that allow them to fire several rounds of ammunition without necessarily reloading. Trotter (27) reiterates that these guns make the criminal powerful because of the added advantage that enables him to keep several opponents at bay at a given period of time. Involvement of the National Firearms Act (NFA) ensures that these firearms are inaccessible to the public. NFA also controls concealed firearms. Production and sale of these firearms are also closely monitored. The enforcement of this law has resulted in reduction of crimes committed using such firearms (Gun Control Overview 6).
A studies conducted by Congressional Digest have produced statistics that overwhelmingly support the effectiveness of gun control. Between 1994 and 2009, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reported that gun owners reduced from 242 million to a staggering 105 million. Importation of illegal guns also reduced significantly in the same period. Homicides implicated with gun violence reduced from 6.6 percent in 1993 to 3.2 percent in 2011. Firearm vitalities also decreased from 39, 595 in 1993 to 29,574 in 2004. The National Crime Victimization Survey estimated that non-violent crimes committed with the use of a firearm reduced from 428,670 in 2000 to a low of 326,090 in 2009 as reported by Gun Control Overview by Congressional Digest(4-5). These statistics clearly indicate that the existence of stringent laws on guns have a positive impact on the control of guns. Additionally, they also vilify the notion that gun control rules are purely emotionally driven. These laws are debated in the Congress for a long period notwithstanding what is going on in the public domain. As a matter of fact, some of these laws have been passed amid strict oppositions (Roleff 40-50).
Gun control is connected to several other social, economic or even health issues. For example, gun crimes could be on the rise when people with mental illnesses possess them. These people are more likely to kill their victims. As a part of diversifying the gun control campaign, such issues cannot be ignored. That is why it is necessary to put in place comprehensive insurance cover on mental healthcare (Gallup Summary 30).
In conclusion, all gun control legislations should aim at both protecting the law abiding citizens and preventing the prevalence of illegal ownership of guns among criminals. Besides being stricter, these laws should also be enforceable upon anyone who contradicts them so that the campaign can remain credible. Compulsory background checks and other older rules on gun control need to be strengthened or better still reinvented to meet current gun control challenges. The enactment and enforcement of gun control laws should have a strong foundation that is not based on emotions or contemporary issues. Rather, the campaign should stem from a passionate and futuristic desire to bring down crime rates related to firearms.