Gun control is a debate that has been around for centuries. However, due to the numerous gun related mass shootings in America over the past few decades, the debate has gained greater attention for obvious reasons. Proponents supporting gun laws feel that stricter laws for owning a gun should be implemented by the government in order to decrease crime in our country. Opponents of more gun laws believe that owning a gun is a constitutional right under the Second Amendment and that implementing more laws would not decrease crime in America. Although I support current gun laws and feel that they serve a legitimate purpose, I believe that our nation needs to focus on enforcing the gun laws that are already in place. Rather than adding more laws to a list of existing laws that are not being effectively enforced in hopes that new laws will decrease the amount of crime in the United States, we should find out why the current gun laws have not been effective in decreasing crime. More laws that only law abiding citizens will follow should not be implemented in hopes of creating a safer America.
What is gun control in America? According to Richard PÉrez-peÑa, “gun control is a broad term that covers any sort of restriction on what kinds of firearms can be sold and bought, who can possess or sell them, where and how they can be stored or carried, what duties a seller has to vet a buyer, and what obligations both the buyer and the seller have to report transactions to the government.” This definition seems to cover every aspect of owning, selling or purchasing a gun. Although the federal law has placed prohibitions that should make it difficult to purchase, own or sell a gun, these laws have proven to be inadequate in their effectiveness. One reason could be because of the inconsistency of these laws among states. “Most gun controls exist at state levels and vary enormously.” (PÉrez-peÑa) If each state in America is inconsistent implementing federal laws and have the right to create their own provisions, what good is a federal law in the first place? How does a citizen know which law they must follow if each state has its own laws, yet the state is also under the law of the federal government?
William Rosen, a director of an advocacy group, stated “Our Congress has been terribly derelict in its duty to keep this country safe from gun violence. At the same time, states can and have been solving these issues” (qtd. in Frazee). Although individual states have responded to gun control, they have responded in their own way. According to Richard PÉrez-peÑa, “states have gone in opposite directions – some have made their gun laws stricter while others have made theirs weaker.” One state’s law says that a person with a permit to carry a concealed weapon can bring a gun onto school grounds. The neighboring state, however, says that you have to have written permission from school officials in order to have a concealed weapon on school property. A few states over, the law is that no one can have a weapon of any kind on school grounds other than law enforcement. With differing gun laws from state to state, can one really say that states are solving gun issues? I would venture to say that each state having different gun laws has complicated the issue. Maybe those advocating for more gun laws should consider the federal gun laws and state gun laws that are common among one another and focus on enforcing those that are already in place.
Many gun control advocates feel that Congress has stayed away from creating broader laws that would help cut down on crime and mass shootings. As stated by Amy Swearer, “the facts tell us that some of the most common gun control measures have already proven to be ineffective at preventing mass public shootings in states where they are currently implemented.” Since the year 2018, there have been 11 mass shootings in 7 different states. Three of the eleven occurred in California. According to Swearer, California is “the only state with an “A” rating on preventing gun violence and two occurred in Pennsylvania, whose has a “C” rating although they have the 13th strictest gun control framework in the country.” Texas, on the other hand, has an “F” gun control rating but only 6.6% of total mass shootings since the year 2000 (Swearer). Once again, can one say that creating more gun control laws is the answer to decreasing crime? It doesn’t seem to be working in the states that are known for having some of the strictest gun laws currently. So do we solve the problems related to gun violence by making more laws that law abiding citizens will follow any way?
It seems as though the law abiding citizens are the ones suffering because their rights to own guns are being restricted. According to the Second Amendment, “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.” In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the amendment protected a citizen’s right to own a firearm unrelated to serving in a militia. They declared that firearms could be used for lawful purposes, such as self-defense in one’s home (Segal). By making stricter laws to decrease gun violence, you take away the rights of citizens to defend themselves from danger. Our focus should be on how to support law abiding citizens in their right to own guns, but determine what underlying causes there are that contribute to gun violence among criminals.
Opponents of more gun laws are not necessarily against gun laws. David Ashe, an avid hunter, states that “rights come with responsibilities, and that all citizens have a moral responsibility to address America’s gun violence crisis.” For those citizens that are morally responsible, some feel as if gun law advocates are limiting a person’s freedom of owning a gun for the personal pleasure of hunting. Most hunters would agree that gun laws are a necessity although they do limit the rights of honest citizens. However, guns laws are “responsible limitations that do not infringe on the ability of American’s to hunt, shoot, or protect themselves and their families (Ashe). Ashe, along with other hunters, even have prohibitions that they support when it comes to gun laws used to cut out crime – not the sport of honest men.
So how do you decrease gun violence without infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens? Most gun control opponents would agree that you have to educate all people on the safety and prevention of guns and the violence they can result in. Suggestions have been made to educate and support those with known mental health problems, gang and drug involvement, black market firearm transfers, and the lack of economic and educational opportunities that lead to poverty and crime. Federal and state money must be allocated to support these areas that need support and education. However, we must make sure that laws are not created in response to the grief and anger of mass shootings. Lawmakers must “ensure that policy decisions are made with an eye toward facts and reality, not panic and outrage” (Swearer). The fact of the matter is that “we must dramatically increase our investment in mental health services. Proper diagnosis should start in our schools where funding for school counselors, school psychologist and school social workers is being cut” (Arnold). Diagnosing a problem doesn’t always have to start with the problem. Sometimes we have to dig deeper to discover what lead to the problem in the first place.
Stricter laws may seem to be the answer to gun violence. However, being smarter about carrying out the laws we have seems to be the smarter choice. According to Segal, research shows that federal checks could cut gun deaths by an estimated 90%. Why implement news gun laws when this research shows that gun deaths can be decreased with a law already in place. Universal background checks, a current law, could also lead to few deaths. This law should not only be enforced among gun retailers, but on private and gun show sales as well. Common sense tells you that if it is the law to do a background check for anyone that purchases a gun at a retail shop, then it would only make sense to conduct a background check for private purchases and gun show sales. One would think that the background check would be mandatory for private and gun show sales over a retail store that keeps track of purchases any way.
In conclusion, I stand firm that enforcing more gun laws will not decrease crime in America. I do support the implementation of gun laws in order to keep citizens safe. However, laws only keep law abiding citizens morally responsible. Gun laws will not keep criminals from getting their hands on a gun. Law abiding gun owners do have the Constitutional right to protect themselves by bearing arms. They should not be punished for the action of criminals that typically disregard all laws that keep the people safe. With that being said, more laws that only law abiding citizens will follow is not the answer to gun violence and crime. There are deeper rooted issues that need to be addressed. One could start by making gun laws consistent across all states. After all, aren’t we one nation under God?