In the run up to the 2016 presidential election, gun violence was a key issue in the campaigns. Every presidential candidate was made to declare his or her stance about gun ownership and gun control. The democrats were urging that guns be issued only to eligible people and development of new policies to ensure a stricter gun control environment. The republicans on the other side led by president Donald Trump , advocated for more lenient gun control measures with enforcement of the current gun policies (McKay, 2017).
Both views pleased different sections of the American public with the liberals supporting tougher gun control measures and the conservative preferring to remain with the current policies. However, despite those who supported a change in terms of gun ownership being more than those who didn’t wish to see the law change, the conservatives still carried the day (Benton, et al, 2016). This has led to the congress being in dilemma over what is the best policy for them to enact. In the last two years since the election of the last congress, there has been little advancement made towards creating a policy on gun control that suits all.
Most recently the president signed a bill that revokes the previously enacted law on gun control. This new law, revokes the previously enacted policy that required people with mental illnesses checked when they are issued with guns (KITAGAWA OTSURU, 2018). Though this did not stop the numerous cases of gun violence across the country, it did reduce those resulting from people not psychologically fit from owning guns. If it would have been a modified instead of revoked, it would have resulted in drastic reduction of the number of cases resulting from gun violence.
It is from the above that I have set my objective for this study. It will be finding out how the current gun control policies affect the people in the country .I also hope to come up with things which should be enacted or added so that to come up with a policy on gun control that serves the public interest and is accepted by the majority if not all people.
Effects of current gun policies on the environment
To Unauthorized gun holders/ owners
First of all I’d like to begin with the laws that prohibit a certain category of people from having guns. There are certain laws that prevent people who are deemed has been mentally unfit from hovering guns. For example people who are under domestic violent restraining orders are required by the law to be stripped off their guns and not to possess guns. The prohibited people are further restricted to purchase guns. Similar relating laws are those that subject people in banned categories to comprehensive background checks during purchase (Vernick, et al, 2017).
The groups in questions are a real threat to the safety of other and should therefore not be allowed to possess guns and if necessary, they should be closely monitored so as to reduce the effects that they may pose in their unstable conditions. For the gun vendors and dealers, there are measures aimed at providing an oversite of the firearms they sell. This prevents them from selling illegal arms as well as being able to track the arms they sell. Oversight is one way of enforcing responsibility to the in the utilization of the guns.
The above current policies have been deemed to somewhat ineffective. The homicide rates in the United States are still very high and recent reports have put the at around six times more than the average. The situation may actually be worse considering that these are just the cases which are reported. This can only be blamed on the high availability of firearms in the United States. Currently, a person in the United States can easily access a gun than a person in another first world country. Only the low standards are to be blamed.
Suicide cases are also very high in the country. In a report which studied the use of guns in suicide cases in 2015, it was found out that over 22000 people who committed suicide used a gun (Emanuel et al., 2016). This quite a huge number. Furthermore, it was found out that states which have tougher gun control measures have less suicide cases resulting from use of guns than those with more lenient policies. The effect of reduction of suicide by gun in those states was enormous as showed a reduction in the overall number of suicide cases. This can only suggest that people are more motivated to kill themselves rather than seek psychological help when there is gun accessible than when there is none.
Concealing of guns in public.
There have been widespread discussions on whether the current policies on gun ownership serve the role of enhancing security of individuals or putting them more at risk. People have come up with measures which are yet to be enforced on whether the use of guns should be banned or have certain types of guns banned from use by the public. People also think that guns should not be exposed in public but should rather be concealed. Concealing as they say will reduce the feeling of insecurity that other people usually feel when they see others with guns. Such feeling usually prompt other people to want to carry guns around for the purposes of feeling safe and secure.
Challenges facing enforcement of the current laws
Given the above implications, both state and federal governments have been in a race to come up with suitable gun policies. It is important to note that gun needs and policies vary from state to state. Southern states have lesser gun control policies than the northern states. This makes it difficult for the federal government through the congress to come up with policies for the whole countries (Goelzhauser & Rose, 2017). Even if the policies and ideas may gain support of the majority, it may not mean that they will be implemented as the state administration may have bylaws that indirectly contradict what has been enacted.
If enforced, they may not mean that the all people will observe them. Goelzhauser & Rose, (2017) continues on to suggest that People, criminals in particular can still find a way of getting the guns they want even if the policies don’t allow them. Most states too don’t have stricter standards for gun control than the ones enforced by the federal government. This is according to a study done on the thirteen states where the gun ownership standards were low. Convicts who were imprisoned due to felonies related to gun violence were not prohibited from owning guns after they were acquitted.
This was the case similar to drug abusers. These people are supposed to be limited and monitored on how they access and use guns. Most of those who are found to be drug abusers or convicts who are found to be below 21 years at the time of their conviction (Zeoli et al., 2017). These crimes should also include violence without firearms. Such people if allowed to handle guns later after they are acquitted, may cause harm to the other society members.
Other gun control measures by the congress and the senate
The following are some of the policies that have been enacted overtime so as to ensure that cases resulting from gun mishandling are reduced. I will focus on the federal policies as the state policies may be too numerous and not be similar as those of other states.
The federal firearms act of 1938 and the gun control act of 1968 created a structure for accountability for firearms. It required those involved in the sale of firearms to firearm licenses from the federal government and also limited sale of firearms across states (Johnson, et al, 2017).The interstate sale of firearms was limited to the federal firearm licenses which allowed holders to conduct business in different states. They were also not to be issued to ex-convicts. For those firearms imported into the United States, they were to have serial codes printed on them for tracking purposes (Gilmore, 2017).
Record keeping was brought to a whole new level and was made mandatory. This was to seal the loop whole for irregular use of arms. Firearms could now be traced from manufacturers, to the wholesalers, retailers and the purchasers. However there were some things left out during formulation of the policies. Such include that the weapon dealers were not tasked with the responsibility of verifying the details of the buyers. Prohibited groups could thus easily purchase weapons through false documents. Though this would be punishable if on was discovered to lying and bullying so as to purchase arms (Gilmore, 2017).
The verification requirement would later be corrected and 1994 when brandy handgun violence prevention act was enacted. These seemed to solve the problem as prohibited people could now not access the firearms (Kleck, 2017). There was an advancement made in 1998 in which the five day waiting period for gun purchase was replaced with NICS which handled all gun applications. The applications were to be processed by the FBI or the local law enforcement agencies.
Other policies and enactments include the FOPA of 1986 that prohibited the federal government from creation of registry for firearm purchasers (Cui & Xi, 2018). This was a step backward as it limited the government’s ability for tracking sales via use of records.it also reduced the accountability of the retailer which might have otherwise prevent the accessibility of guns by prohibited people. The gun makers and retailers are also protected and held less accountable by the protection of the lawful commerce in arms act(PLCAA).this acts protects them from lawsuits resulting from unlawful use of firearms by prohibited people as well as third parties (Kendrick,2017).
Though these policies have done their part, there need to be more strict policies for the same. Politicians are doing very little in the creation of better policies. This may be because they are keen not to offend some of their influential constituents. For example if a shootout occurs leaving over twenty people dead, all politicians will do is offer their messages of condolences to the victims (Webster, et al ,2017)this will be followed with some series on the need to develop tougher gun control measures before they keep quiet and go back to their normal businesses. For example, the Florida high school shooting that left seventeen people dead (Dixon, et al, 2018)
Based on above finding on the effects that the current gun policies have resulted in, it is important to develop better measures. The following are some of the measures that can be developed so as to curb the effects of lose gun control policies.
Tougher and more thorough background checks.
First, there need to be stronger background checks for people who want to purchase guns. The current administration led by president trump has come up with some legislations to enforce stricter policies. The president who is known for his usage of social media has used the platform to express his support for the more strict checks which has received enormous support from across the political divide. The fix Nics act of 2017 has been cited as what is needed for tightening the back ground checks (Budget, 2017).
In the shooting incidences that have occurred in the recent period of less than three years, the users have been found to be prohibited users of fire arms. However, they still managed to get firearms due to the loopholes present in the system. However critics have said that the legislation will not be effective in ensuring that people with mental disorders and from problematic backgrounds will not be able to access the guns. Problematic backgrounds include background in which the victims were subjected to patterns in the early stages of their life (Vernick, et al, 2017).
I would therefore recommend that the policy be redesigned to ensure that there is deeper evaluation of the applicants. If necessary, the law enforcement bodies or other bodies tasked with reviewing the applications may liaison with other bodies that may provide the necessary information. For example if they liaison with health facilities, they may be able to get data about the person’s mental health and that of immediate family members. Social groups such as home owners associations may be able to provide data unknown to the state about the mental wellbeing of a person.
Raise the age limit of owning a gun.
The current minimum age limit of holding a gun is eighteen years though one is eligible to purchase a gun from a public seller is twenty one years. The minimum age according to me should however be raised from eighteen years to twenty one years. This means abolishing policies that allow individuals below twenty one from being able to purchase weapons from private dealers.
There have been similar claims from lawmakers and other politicians. For example, Florida governor rick Scott proposed for raising of the minimum age from eighteen to twenty one for purchasing semi-automatic rifles. Though his call has received support from some senators, the NRA is still against the idea of raising the age limit. Legislators from southern states have also opposed the idea of raising the age limit for purchase of what they refer to as long guns (Kumaresan, et al) this may prove to be just a dream as the current indicators show that the bill may not gain support in the senate. But with the election of Governor Rick Scott as the senator of Florida in the just concluded elections may prove to be a break through as he may seek support easily from within the house.
Reducing the capacity of the weapons being sold.
There have been calls to have Semi-automatic rifles be banned all together. They should only be provided to law enforcement agencies. In the recent Florida shooting, the survivors called for a new ban on assault rifles. The assailant in the incident used a semi-automatic rifle that is why he was able to shoot so many victims. The legislators seem determined in making sure that such legislations do not even see the light of day (Hemenway, 2017). A bill in February seeking ban semi-automatic rifles did not even make it to the floor of the house. Due to the obvious difficulty in passing such a bill, the necessary parties should advocate for reducing the capacities of the riffles available instead of advocating for the banning of the semi-automatic assault rifles.
Arming reliable school workers.
President trump recently advocated for teachers to be armed saying that they would be able to control such an attack quickly reducing the number of casualties (Minshew, 2018) .this will be however difficult as some states in the union have laws that prevent guns within school and other educational institutions. The idea seems viable as it would mean that teachers and other school workers to undergo training so as to gain knowledge on how to use the guns. Even if the federal government s may be able to pass such a bill, they may not be able to enforce it due to by laws by the various state legislatures. This will mean that state abolish laws prohibiting gun possession in learning institutions. Even if this was to happen, it would be quite a long process. It may be seen as if we will be allowing for incidences like mass shootings to appear in schools again.
Improvise regulations on reporting of missing firearms.
We should also make it compulsory for gun owners to report loss of their firearms immediately. Currently, gun owners are supposed to report their stolen guns but it is not that strict. Some people tend to report their missing after an incident such as shooting has occurred (Kleck, 2017). Better measures that force the owners report immediately after they find out that their guns have been stolen. This will put the police force on alert so that they can quickly respond to situations in which the thief’s of the firearms may attempt to cause harm to the public.
Reduce the availability of cheap guns.
Many people are able to access firearms because they are cheap and affordable. Making them expensive might reduce the ability of people in accessing them. This may not be in necessarily of a price hike but it may be through limiting distribution of cheap fire arms to retailers and wholesalers.by doing this, the young people who buy the cheap guns will have limited options and may not easily be able to buy a gun.
Set the limit of the number of guns that people can own.
Currently in most states, people can buy numerous number of guns and give them to individuals who are either underage or ineligible to own a gun. Legislations should come up with measure by setting up the limit. Such policies may include that the person will should comply with law enforcement authorities if required to produce the guns. Most of the people who do acts like mass shootings in most cases use guns that are not theirs. This makes it nearly impossible on punishing the person who was negligent and left their gun in a place accessible by unauthorized parties (Hochschild, 2018)
From the above discussion I have been able to find out some of the effects that the current gun policies have on local people and the challenges facing their enforcements. I have also being able to identify some keys issues which when identified may be able to better the current gun control policies. If the proposals made are considered, the case of gun related violence may reduce.
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