Guns in Our Society

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Nowadays, the right to bear arms is of vital importance in American society. It is dictated by the nation’s concerns about the public health threat from weapons. The increasing rates of violence, mass murders and suicides suggest the idea that weapon limits can reduce this violence. The ending of the validity of a federal assault weapons ban, the unprecedented interpretation of the Second Amendment’s “militia” by the Supreme Court, concealing weapon laws (Record and Gostin 2) draw people’s attention to the issue. On the other hand, imposing firearms restrictions would violate the basis of American democracy – Freedom, and freedom to self-defense, particularly. A delicate balance between the right to bear arms, guaranteed by the second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the responsibility of the U.S. authorities to prevent crimes is the subject to debates in our society. The key issue is whether firearms control legislation would reduce weapon crime and similar firearms misuse, or such laws would deprive defenseless victims of effective means to protect their lives.

Two controversial views prevail in the current Second Amendment debate. Gun prohibition advocates regard of the Second Amendment as a collective right. They argue that the key idea of the Amendment is expressed in the Preamble supporting “the importance of a well regulated militia” (Cornel and DeDino 488). This approach highlights the state possibility for protecting the well regulated militia from the danger of reducing the size of its weapons by the federal government (Cornel and DeDino 488). The representatives of the opposing approach regard the Second Amendment as an individual right. Gun rights supporters focus on the latter part of the Second Amendment that proclaims ”the right to keep and bear arms” (Cornel and DeDino 488). They claim that this right is similar to freedom of the press. Therefore, the U.S.Constitution maintains the similar standard of protection for guns and the mass media. The most passionate advocates of this approach claim that the U.S.Constitution guarantees the right to arms possession for selfdefence, hunting, or to start a rebellion against the authorities (Cornel and DeDino 488).

The major part of courts interpret the Second Amendment as a collective right. In the case United States v. Emerson, the U.S. Court of Appeals distinguished three key approaches to the issue: “the sophisticated collective rights view, the traditional rights view, and the individual rights view (Cornel and DeDino 490). In the case Silveira v. Lockyer, the U.S. Court of Appeals embraced a different classification: “the collective rights view, the individual rights view, and the limited individual rights view (Cornel and DeDino 490). Therefore, the contemporary scholarship is at the crossroads “from an expansive individual right to a narrow collective right of the states to maintain their militias” (Cornel and DeDino 490).

Since 1970s, a great range of federal regulations of firearms sales has been passed. The Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits the gun sale to certain categories of American citizens. (Record and Gostin 2). Nevertheless, all these claims can be easily avoided. In fact, the representatives of the above mentioned groups can purchase guns from dealers without a license. “Brady permits” make possible a waiving checks by licensed sellers, seven states allow mentally ill persons to buy firearms (Record and Gostin 2).

Being passed in 1994, the Brady Law is the foundation for the authorities attempts to verify higher-risk individuals who tend to purchase guns and to ban these purchases. In the United States, firearms control worked on the honor system before this legislation. Weapon buyers filled in the form, noting whether they were under the exclusion standards for legal weapon possession. In fact,the given data were not expected. Since 1994, buyers have bought firearms from a federally licensed weapon dealer, and all the provided information has been verified. As a result, over 2 million acquisitions were banned on the ground of the fact that the applicant was prohibited from buying weapons (Webster et al.6). Nevertheless, the Brady Law has not stopped illegal traffic in arms. Approximately 40 percent of weapon purchases were made from not licensed gun dealers. This loophole was widely used by criminals, gaining advantages from the private sales. According to the statistics, about 80 percent of individuals who used the firearms in crimes, had bought the weapon illegally. In fact, researchers of the influence of the Brady Law on the homicide and suicide rates, argue that it was not success. Being widely exploited by the criminals, the significant loophole for the private firearm sales was the major cause of its failure (Webster et al. 6).

The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 decreased penalties for illegal gun sales and provided high standards of evidence for prosecution of firearms sellers, restricting the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms inspections. Being adopted in 2003, the famous Tiahrt amendments restrict “public access to crime gun trace data, prohibit the use of gun trace data in hearings…and restrict ATF’s authority to require gun dealers to conduct a physical inventory of their firearms” (Webster et al. 7). Being passed in 2005, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act provides insurance from lawsuits against weapon manufacturers (Webster et al. 7).

After the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut that cost  lives of  20 school children, President Obama declared that the United States has to make fundamental changes. Mortality level of key causes of injury has decreased. Nevertheless, mortality rate from firearms is extremely high. President Obama suggests the key decisions to solve the problem. These activities include three steps: “closing background check loopholes, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and improving mental health services” (Record and Gostin 2). President Obama suggests all categories of sellers to check the purchaser’s name in the verification system not to allow the prohibited categories of citizens to buy firearms. These actions would not violate the right to bear arms. Nevertheless, the NICS database is imperfect and cannot possess the information about all the prohibited individuals. As a second step of his program, President Obama suggested banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. According to a 2003 report the states that limited weapons have the lowest homicide levels (Record and Gostin 3).

The third step is a restriction on firearms possession for mentally ill individuals. Teachers, healthcare professionals , and social workers are expected to recognize mentally illness verifying teenagers.

The gun prohibition lobbies give two major arguments, supporting their idea. First, the great majority of murderers had been law-abiding citizens before they used guns. Second, most part of shootings was made by mentally healthy persons, used home protection handguns in the state of passion (Kates et al. 52).

The gun prohibition advocates argue that gun control would reduce the rates of crime. They claim that weapons turn ordinary individuals into criminals and make an emphasis on the fact that annually thousands of gun murders could have been prevented if the common citizens had not possessed firearms (Kopel 7). They focus on the fact that “since the early 1970, the United States have averaged nearly 14,500 gun homicides and perhaps other 70,000 non-fatal injuries from gun assaults” (Jens and Cook  207). Annually over 31,000 people die from gunshot injuries. In 2010, 337,960 nonfatal crimes were committed using firearms, and 73,505 individuals were treated in hospitals because of gunshot injuries (Webster et al. 7). Gun misuse violence cost the taxpayers about $32 billion allocated for medical treatment and lost productivity expenses in 2005. The direct annual cost of gun crimes to all levels of government is about $325 per individual (Webster et al. 2). The gun-ban advocates highlight that lost life quality, psychological traumas, reduction of the income are extremely high price for the right to bear arms. Moreover, there are certain high-risk groups, which representatives could misuse the weapons: individuals with prior felony convictions, drug abusers, youth under age 21, mentally ill persons, and other categories.

Gun rights advocates claim that constantly repeated statements about the most wide-open legal access to firearms in the USA, compared with other states, has led to the highest murder rate are false in their nature (Kates and Mauser 2).

As for the accusation of high rates of crimes among adult citizens because of the bearing guns, the researchers claim that aggressors possessing firearms are “less likely to attack physically their victims, less likely to injure the victim given an attack” (Kates et al. 10). Firearms can make the committing of crimes easier, but they cannot cause reliable and law-abiding citizens to kill illegally. The open-wide access to guns influences the levels of particularly gun violence, such as homicide, suicide, or robbery rates. Nevertheless, it does not influence on total rates of violence (Kates et al.10). Therefore, the arguments of gun prohibition lobby are groundless. Moreover, the researches show stunning results. According to the researches provided among eighteen nations, the United States has a position below the median in the International Intentional Homicide Table. The levels of homicides and suicides were twice lower than the same rate in anti-gun Hungary and three times lower than gun-prohibiting Romania. According to this comparative table, such firearm-intensive states Romania, New Zealand and Israel showed extremely low levels of gun-made crimes (Kates et al. 39). As for the accusations of high rates of suicides among adolescents, these figures have grown in all the world’s countries. For example, in the UK , the rate of suicides among males aged fifteen to twenty-four has shown results over ten times greater than the U.S. rate in the same category (Kates et al. 40). Moreover, Denmark, famous because of its intensive gun-banning policy, showed high rates of homicide. Its results were approximately four times greater than the similar rates in Israel (Kates et al. 41). Therefore, the gun-ban policy does not reduce the level of crimes in the countries.

Gun advocates give a great range of benefits of bearing arms. A weapon plays a symbolic and practical role in American society. Acquiring new meanings, guns have become symbols of individualism and equality - the key values of American nation (Kopel 1). An individual, possessing firearms, personifies the person taking the law in his or her own hands. “By reversing more power for themselves, Americans grant less power to government” (Kopel 4). The armed cowboy is an archetypal American hero, like the British knight in the UK, the samurai in Japan, or the mounted policeman in Canada (Kopel.2).

The second reason of popularity of firearms in the United States is a lack of monopoly on hunting from the first days of the immigrant emergence in America. This condition fostered wide use of firearms. Despite the fact that Americans do not use shotguns, rifles, and handguns “for their food as their ancestors did, the sporting popularity of guns in America maintains a link with the frontier heritage” (Kopel 3). The United States takes a unique place among nations. It rejects a universal licensing system for all guns, and it does not license handguns” (Kopel 4).

The third important reason is that Americans associate guns with the taking law into their own hands, which is the key principle of the justice system in the United States. The emphasis is made on personalities of the individuals who would possess the guns and law: criminals who violate the law or citizens using firearms to stop the law-breaking (Kopel 3).  

The fourth benefit of the right to bear arms is that they provide the idea of equality. “Based on the history of other societies, the more that physical power is dispersed among various members of the society, more equal their relationships will tend to be (Kopel 7).

To sum up, nowadays the right to bear firearms is of vital importance in American society.  The nation concerns about the public health threat from weapons. The high rates of violence, mass murders and suicides suggest the idea that weapon limits can reduce this violence. The key issue of the everlasting debates is whether firearms control legislation would reduce weapon crime and similar firearms misuse, or such laws would deprive defenseless victims of effective means to protect their lives.

Two controversial views prevail in the current Second Amendment debate. Focusing on the Preamble, gun prohibition lobbies regard this legislation as a collective right. This approach highlights the state’s possibility for protecting the well- regulated militia from the danger of reducing the size of its weapons by the federal government. Regarding the Second Amendment as an individual right, gun rights supporters focus on the latter part of the Second Amendment that proclaims the right to keep and bear arms. They argue  that the U.S.Constitution guarantees the right to arms possession for self-defence, hunting, or even for starting a rebellion against the authorities.

Since 1970s, a great range of federal regulations of firearms sales has been passed: The Gun Control Act of 1968, the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, the Brady Law of 1994, and others. After the tragedy  in Newtown, Connecticut that cost lives of 20 school children, President Obama declared that the United States has to make fundamental changes. He suggested the key decisions to solve this problem: closing background check loopholes, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and improving mental  health services.

During the recent years, there are constant debates about the benefits and drawbacks of  the right to keep and bear firearms. A delicate balance between the right to bear arms, guaranteed by the second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the responsibility of the U.S. authorities to prevent crimes is the subject to the debates. The key issue is whether firearms control legislation would reduce weapon crime and similar firearms misuse, or such laws would deprive defenseless victims of effective means to protect their lives. The gun prohibition lobbies give two major arguments, supporting their idea. First, the great majority of murderers had been law-abiding citizens before they used guns. Second, most part of shootings was made by mentally healthy persons, used home protection handguns in the state of passion. Gun advocates claim that the accusation of high rates of crimes among adult citizens because of the bearing guns is groundless. The statistics proves the fact that the gun-ban policy does not reduce the level of crimes in the countries. The key reason of all the gun ownership problems is the firearms possession by criminals and unreliable individuals.

Moreover, a weapon plays a symbolic and practical role in American society. Acquiring new meanings, guns have become symbols of individualism and equality - the key values in American society. Americans associate guns with the taking law into their own hands – the key principle of the justice system in the United States. Therefore, gun rights bans would violate the basis of American democracy – Freedom. Americans have passed a long and thorny way to the independence and this nation has deserved the sacred right to possess firearms.

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