Gun Violence in the US
Out of the 34 developed countries, the US stands 4th to be the highest recorded homicide incidences wherein a firearm was involved. Tracing these incidences of gun violence to its roots, we shall find that the rate of homicide in cities like Philadelphia was much lower in the 19th century than it has been today. A surge in the number of homicide rates in the US has been observed over the last few decades more than ever.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, handgun homicides accounted for most of the homicide instances in the US. According to statistics, 67% of homicides were a victim of gun violence. Going by the data provided by the FBI, the number of gun homicides has been on the rise- from 8,890 victims in 2001, the numbers have increased as much as 11,004 in 2016.
Of course, Americans are no short of instances to recall when it comes to gun violence. Among the recent ones, the nation has been a witness to Stoneman Douglas High School shooting at Parkland, Florida who killed seventeen people including students and staff members and injured seventeen more. Shooting at Santa Fe High School followed next killing ten people and injuring thirteen others. The latest incident of a gun attack at a synagogue at Pittsburgh which put to death as many as eleven people and injured six others including four police officers sparked this heated debate of Gun Control laws in the US. Stricter Gun Control laws in the US are looked at as the most logical solution to reducing violence by many. Here are some facts about gun violence in the United States:
- The National Firearm death rate has increased to 12 per 100,000 people according to the latest (2016)
- Despite the attention that mass shootings attract, they account for only 1% of the total gun deaths. Suicide accounts for 61.6% while another homicide occupies 34.9%. The rest of the deaths (2.6%) are due to unknown causes.
- Statistics reveal that the homicide rate in metropolitan cities in the US is 4.7 per 100,000 which is more than the homicide rate in non-metropolitan cities (3.4 per 100,000).
- Child gun death rate in the US is more than that of the other high-income nation. Statistics reveal that nearly 20 children are shot in an average day in the US.
- States with higher gun availability show high homicide rates. Therefore, it I to be taken note of that the US state that has higher gun ownership have increased rate of gun and overall homicide.
- There have been 61 mass shooting in the US from 2007 to May 2018, three of which has been termed as the deadliest mass shooting in the history of modern America took place within the past 24 months.
About Gun Control Laws in the US
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution includes the right to keep and carry arms. The Gun Control laws have been formulated to keep a regulation on the manufacture, sale, possession, transport and also the destruction of all firearms and ammunition. Let’s get to the basic regulations for obtaining a gun in the US:
- The Minimum age- According to the Gun Control Act of 1968, the minimum age for owning a shotgun or a rifle and ammunition is 18 years. Other firearms such as handguns can only be purchased by someone who is 21 years of age or older.
- Restriction regarding the purchase of firearms- The laws restricts fugitives and patients committed to mental institutions from purchasing or carrying a firearm. Also, people who hold a past criminal record which may include a prison sentence for more than one year and misdemeanour sentences exceeding two years are barred from the right to possess firearms. The Gun Control laws restrict people who have been involved in the unlawful control and sale of substances such as marijuana in the past year.
- The sale of firearms- Every dealer must obtain a Federal Firearms License (FFL) to be able to sell firearms lawfully. Every person, 12 years and above is eligible to obtain an FFL. To lawfully sell firearms, the dealer needs to have his business premises and must make a local law enforcement officer aware of their plan when submitting their application to the federal bureau.
- Background Check- Gun Control Act of 1968 makes it mandatory for every FFL to conduct a background check on the buyer. ATF 4473, a Federal Form which the purchasers require to fill up to get the basic criteria checked. The background check begins with a phone call or an online interaction that is estimated to take less than 10 minutes. The buyer gets an immediate answer on whether his license to own the firearm is approved, denied or delayed. Delay implies further research for three business days.
- Permits to carry handguns- Each state has their regulations on carrying handguns. Some state makes a concealed carry of firearms mandatory while others allow individuals to carry firearms openly. Almost all states require a permit to carry guns.
Pros and Cons of Stricter Gun Control Laws in the US
Rigid Gun Control laws in the US may come with certain pros and cons. The following points emphasise them:
Pros of Stricter Gun Laws in the US
- The reduction in mass causality incidences- Reports highlight the fact that 75% of the mass shooting instances were carried out with shotguns purchased legally. Therefore, tightening the gun laws may directly contribute to reducing such causalities.
- Reduced risk of violence- Since having a firearm at home increases the risk of suicide or homicide by 40 times, reduced access to guns or restriction on their purchase may help in reducing the numbers.
- Elimination of Gun Culture- Gun culture in the US has been the reason for everything from a reduction in the wildlife to accidental deaths wherein a firearm was involved. Stricter Gun Control laws in the US would eliminate the raging gun culture and thus, will hopefully lead to a sharp reduction in the causalities.
Cons of Stricter Gun Culture in the US
- The opening of black markets- Stricter Gun Control laws will increase the demand and supply of guns in the black markets.
- Use of alternative weapons- It is highly debated whether making laws stricter regarding purchase or ownership of guns in the US will bring down the number of incidents of violence. The focus might shift to alternate weapons such as homemade explosives for people who understand nothing but violence.
While there are people who believe that making the country’s Gun Control laws stricter should solve the increasing instances of gun homicides in the US and reduce violence, others don’t seem to agree over the statement. The ones with the opinion contrary to the above may mention the fact that the constitution of America allows every adult to own or carry a gun. Thus, making laws stricter would not solve the problem, and that would only make it difficult for the general masses to defend themselves. The debate does not seem to come to an end anytime soon but having broken the topic down we can have our own opinion on the same.