Gun regulation (or firearm control) refers to policies or laws that regulate manufacture, sale, possession, use, modification, or transfer of firearms. These laws vary greatly from one country to another. In the case of the United States, gun laws regulate the possession, sale, and use of ammunition and firearms. State laws, on the other hand, vary greatly and are independent of the existing federal laws on firearms (Johnson 27). The UK has very strict laws on firearm possession and use. Compared to the UK, the U.S. has fewer restrictions on possession, sale, transfer, and use. Most of these gun laws aim to reduce or control crime and the damaging effects of violence. Incidentally, the stricter laws on gun ownership and use in countries such as Australia and Japan have resulted in lower incidence of firearm-related violence in these democracies. Proponents of gun regulation argue that widespread firearm ownership contributes to rise in gun violence and related crime (Masters Par. 5). On the contrary, opponents of gun regulation/control as well as those who advocate for firearm rights argue that firearm laws and policies do not reduce crime and gun violence, and infringe on individual liberties.
The debate over firearm regulation has grown and faded over the years (Master Par. 1). The series of mass killings and severe injuries in civilian settings has stirred this debate. Most of those who perpetrate these firearm-related killings include teenagers, who shoot indiscriminately at their colleagues and even teachers. A typical case in point is the December 2012 killing of twenty school-going children in Newtown, Connecticut (Master Par. 5). The incident fueled a nationwide discussion over firearm laws and the Obama administrations calls to limit civilian access to military-style weapons. Despite widespread public support, the compromise legislation that sought to expand background checks and ban semiautomatic assault weapons suffered a heavy defeat in the Senate (2013). The proponents of firearm regulation made an effort to rekindle the debate in 2015 in the wake of another string of fatal mass shootings. The killing of 14 people at a San Bernardino-based community center and the indiscriminate shooting and killing of 9 people in Charleston, South Carolina have particularly resulted in renewed calls to review both the federal and state laws on gun control.
Most countries allow civilians to acquire and use firearms. Such countries have put in place certain restrictions and policies to prevent misuse of guns to commit crime or cause violence. Countries have been keen about any illegal cross-border trade to avoid penetration of unlicensed firearms and other small arms (Spitzer 749). Besides, the restrictive nature of gun laws and policies in the United States has resulted in a substantial drop in suicide rates both in men and women. States that adopted more restrictive gun laws reported relatively lower suicide rates. Similarly, States that had several gun laws reported lower levels of firearm-related fatalities. These restrictions have also resulted in an incredibly limited child access to firearms, especially in families that parents legally owned a firearm. As a result, even suicide rates and violence among youth have greatly reduced.
In January 2016, the US President took several executive actions that sought to curtail gun violence. These executive actions include measures that were intended to expand background checks to virtually all firearm buyers. However, the U.S. Constitution appears to have protected civilians right to ownership provided they met the necessary qualifications and other requirements (Shear & Lichtblau Par. 1). According to the Second Amendment of U.S. Constitution, the federal government and State cannot infringe on the fundamental right of civilians to keep as well as bear firearms. This amendment grants all civilians, who have successfully met the necessary perquisites, to purchase, transfer, or use firearms. Besides, the amendment has influenced nearly all U.S. Supreme Court rulings, which have always upheld the constitutional right given to the States and federal government to regulate firearms. Meanwhile, the 2008 decision in the case District of Columbia v. Heller highlights the crucial role of federal authorities in addressing the purchase, possession, and use of firearms. The Court struck down the Washington state laws that barred possession or the use of handguns among civilians. The Washington laws also dictated that those handguns found in the homes must be dissembled or locked.
The design of President Obamas package of the executive actions sought to foster efforts to reduce gun violence. The Presidents set of actions and measures required all dealers selling guns online or at firearm shows to obtain federal licenses and conduct painstaking background checks of potential buyers. Obama and other advocates of gun control hope the executive measures would help seal existing loopholes that seem to have allowed violent criminals to purchase firearms without FBI screening (Shear & Lichtblau Par. 4). Besides, the Obama administration proposed new funding that would enhance the process of hiring more agents charged with responsibility to enforce federal laws. The $500 million budget would include steps to expand individuals access to mental health care. A number of individuals with undiagnosed mental or psychological illnesses have succumbed to gun suicides. The President argued that the Congress had overlooked the urgency with which firearm control laws need to be passed, among other gun safety reforms.
However, the opponents of firearm regulation consider gun ownership a birthright and a vital aspect of the Americas heritage. A Small Arms Survey conducted in 2007 showed that the U.S. has at least 35 percent of civilian-owned firearms in the world. In essence, America ranks the highest in terms of firearms per capita (Blocher & Darrell 295). Incidentally, the U.S. has the highest homicide rate occasioned by widespread use and misuse of firearms by the civilians. States such as Alaska, Kansas, and Idaho have ratified gun laws that are essentially designed to circumvent the federal laws and policies on gun ownership.
The Congress had not passed any laws that could ban the purchase or use of semiautomatic assault weapons, including caliber rifles, large-capacity ammunition magazines, or handguns (Blocher & Darrell 295). In particular, the high-capacity magazines increased the lethality of the firearms. The U.S. had put in place a federal ban on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons between 1994 and 2004. However, these restrictions expired under the watch of Congress.
Unlike the United States, Canadas firearm laws appear to be stricter. Ottawa set federal firearm restrictions, which have since been supplemented by those of the provinces, municipalities, and territories. In Canada, prospective gun owners must not be below 18 years of age. The country has also introduced a public safety course and a rigorous background check to ensure that prospective holders of firearms were people of integrity and in the correct frame of mind (Masters Par. 15). In its attempt to control crime and gun violence, the country has come up with three distinct classes of weapons namely: nonrestricted, restricted, and prohibited. Nonrestricted weapons include shotguns and ordinary rifles. Restricted rifles, on the other hand, include semiautomatic rifles, handguns, and sawed-offs. Prohibited guns are mainly the automatics. According to Canadas gun laws and the Royal Canadian Police, an individual wishing to acquire any restricted firearm must obtain a registration certificate from the federal government.
Today, prior gun violence has been the major driving force in formulating and implementing modern gun laws in Canada. Like the .U.S., cases of gun violence have been rife in Canada in the past. In 1989, for instance, an irritated student killed 14 students and injured several others using a semiautomatic rifle in Montreal engineering school. The incident drove subsequent firearm legislation, including the Firearms Act of 1995. According to this act, holders of long guns (mainly rifles and shotguns) had to seek fresh licensing and registration. The act banned at least half of all guns that were already registered. Eventually, the federal government abandoned the policy regarding registration of long guns in 2012 due to cost concerns.
Finally, many states have played an integral part in reducing gun violence and boosting the security and safety of civilians. They applied strict laws and policies to curb misuse of firearms by children and individuals with mental problems. Incidentally, children who lived and schooled in states that had adopted stricter firearm laws were safer. Besides, these states reported few cases of gun-related suicides (Johnson 27). Most individuals were less likely to use their firearms to commit suicide and other crimes due to the restrictions put in place by their respective states. The significant reduction in gun deaths is a pointer to various states success in implementing stricter laws that governed the purchase, possession, use, transfer, or sale of firearms. The gun laws also sought to address the overwhelming cases of military veterans in the U.S. who use guns to commit suicide.
In summary, the burdens that gun regulations impose on the keeping and bearing of arms are often incidental. Therefore, the burdens call for a review of the boundaries among gun regulation, constitutional law, and legally enforceable private ordering (Blocher & Darrell 295). Most would want to know if the Second Amendment applies to civil suits for negligence, nuisance, and trespass. It is still unclear if the Amendment covers firearm-neutral laws and policies of general applicability such as disturbing the peace and assault. Besides, controversy surrounds the effectiveness of gun regulation to reduce crime. Policies that increase firearm availability tend to make criminals arm themselves with guns all the time. In general, firearm control policies would be more effective in reducing crime and gun violence if they affect both the victims and criminals costs (Oliveira & Giacomo 435).
Milva, Abner & Rosenthal, Lawrence. Effective Firearms Regulation is Constitutional. The New York Times, Feb 24, 2016, retrieved http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/24/opinion/effective-firearms-regulation-is-constitutional.html
Milva and Rosenthal article Effective Firearms Regulation is Constitutional (2016) argues that the principal objection to strict gun laws is that they infringe on the Second Amendment. It further highlights the 2008 Heller decision as the main point of arguments of opponents of gun control proof that the U.S. Supreme Court has similar opinion. The court held that the Second Amendment conferred the right to keep and bear arms. However, the need for stricter measures is inevitable. For instance, the federal law that requires compulsory background check on individuals who intend to purchase a firearm implies that all prospective gun holders must submit to a background check. According to this article, the background-check requirement proposed by Brady Bill would only apply to firearm sales by the licensed gun dealers. The requirement leaves virtually all resales of firearms by private individuals unregulated. In essence, the whole of secondary firearm market is a huge regulatory void. This gap presents dire consequences as criminals make a concerted effort to avoid background checks as well as firearms that federal agencies can trace to them. The surveys of offenders in the U.S. show that a vast majority opted for alternative routes to obtaining firearms, rather than obtain them from licensed dealers...
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