Gun Control Essay

Length: 5 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Law - Constitutional Law Type: Essay Paper: #65665229 Related Topics: Gun Control, Gun Control Laws, School Shootings, School Shooting
Excerpt from Essay :

Proposition

Non-Sense Crime Drugs: A Policy Guide

Proposition #24: Attempts to ban the possession of handguns, or certain kinds of guns, are not a viable option for reducing crime.

According to sociologist Samuel Walker: "People intent upon committing a crime are particularly motivated to obtain a gun. In short, it is not very efficient or sensible to try to control ownership of guns by the public at large when the real problem is the behavior of a very small part of the population -- violent criminals" (Walker 2010: 236). This statement is problematic for a number of reasons. First of all, many individuals who do not intend to commit crimes still do so as a result of crimes of passion. Having a gun involved in a highly emotional situation almost invariably raises the ante of confrontation. Although they might not intend to commit a crime, the crime happens by virtue of the availability of the gun at hand. There are also crimes such as suicides and accidental shootings that are the result of unsecured guns, particularly in the hands of minors.

Regulating gun dealers

One method of regulating guns has been to regulate the dealers themselves, increasing the prohibitions placed upon them regarding sales. Despite Walker's protestation that criminals usually obtain guns through illegal sources, the evidence indicates that this is not the case. "One report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) analyzed 1,530 trafficking investigations conducted between July 1996 and December 1998 and found that dealers and pawnbrokers were associated with over 40,000 trafficked guns. The report concluded that these groups' access to large numbers of firearms makes them a particular threat to public safety when they fail to comply with the law" ("Background," 2015). Dealers are not complying with current, existing regulations governing the dissemination of firearms. However, the program for inspecting federal firearm licensees (FFLs), has been criticized as "not fully effective for ensuring that FFLs comply with federal firearms laws because inspections are infrequent and of inconsistent quality, and follow-up inspections and adverse actions have been sporadic" ("Background: Dealer regulations," 2015). Although some state laws are more stringent, even the minimum requirements of federal laws mandate that licensed dealers initiate background checks on unlicensed purchases; maintain records; report multiple sales, and report sales of two or more semiautomatics an unlicensed individual ("Background: Dealer regulations," 2015).

However, it has become increasingly difficult to regulate the dissemination of guns through the Internet. The patchwork of state regulations which vary greatly, combined with the unregulated and anonymous nature of the Internet means that "people who would be prohibited from buying guns, such as criminals or those involved in domestic abuse, can buy weapons online without raising any red flags in background checks" (Muskal 2015). Thus, although there are current regulations in place to regulate sales, these laws are not fully enforced to enough of a degree to justify claims that gun control is ineffective.

Background checks: The Brady Law

"The Brady Act requires a five-day waiting period for gun purchases during which time prospective buyers are vetted to ensure that they have never been convicted of a felony or committed to a mental institution" (WW 2014). This law has been frequently criticized for showing no demonstrable, measurable improvement in the safety of Americans, given that its passing is not correlated to a noticeable drop in homicides. Once again, however, loopholes and inconsistent enforcement make the efficacy of the bill exceedingly difficult to judge. According to The Economist, there are three critical factors which have reduced the ability of the Brady Act to realize its original promise: "in order of importance, the private sales loophole, the fact that a large share of gun criminals are not disqualified, and the incomplete coverage of the databases utilized in the [National Instant Criminal Background Check System]" (WW 2014). In particular, private gun sales have enabled gun dealers to circumvent the terms of the Brady Act. "It's hard to say for certain what proportion of guns are acquired through private channels; some suggest it is as high as 40%. A system of universal background checks, requiring private gun sales to be mediated by a licensed vendor, would not altogether eliminate private sales to those who would fail a background check, but it would reduce these transactions by criminalizing them" (WW 2014).

The problem of guns and the mentally ill

In the wake of the Adam Lanza shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, one...

...

Lanza could have allowed her son such unfettered access to deadly weapons. Lanza's mother was a gun enthusiast and hoped that shooting would bring her son out of his socially awkward shell and make him more confident. Even after she began to worry about his violent behavior, she did not restrict his access to guns. The fact that Lanza obtained his guns legally highlights the difficulty in effectively regulating gun sales. "Once again, a mass killing has triggered calls for doing something to keep guns away from the mentally ill. And, once again, the realities of the situation convey how difficult a task that is. There are, after all, plenty of young, male, alienated loners -- the now-standard description of mass shooters -- but very few of them become killers" (Nocera 2014). It can be extremely difficult to evaluate before violence occurs which young people pose a risk to society and to themselves. Statistics also indicate that a predisposition to violence vs. A troubled mental health history is a far better indication of whether someone's ownership of guns might prove to be problematic: "a 2001 study looked specifically at 34 adolescent mass murderers, all male. 70% were described as a loner. 61.5% had problems with substance abuse. 48% had preoccupations with weapons; 43.5% had been victims of bullying. Only 23% had a documented psychiatric history of any kind-which means three out of four did not" (Beckett 2014). There are also concerns that such laws can stigmatize the mentally ill, given that most individuals with troubled psychological histories do not engage in violent behavior.

However, supporters of laws which deal with mental health issues and guns point out that some types of laws are effective, such as laws which threaten gun owners with legal sanctions who do not appropriately secure their guns, including from suicidal teenagers. "The presence of unlocked guns in the home increases the risk of both unintentional gun injuries and intentional shootings. A 1999 study found that more than 75% of the guns used in youth suicide attempts and unintentional injuries were stored in the residence of the victim, a relative, or a friend" and suicide risks increase in homes where guns are stored loaded and unlocked ("Background: CAP," 2013).Child access prevention (CAP) laws which penalize adults who own guns that are used in crimes committed by minors (including suicide) are not universal to all 50 states but advocates call for wider adoption, given such statistics. Additionally, in the statistics regarding school shootings committed by minors, "in more than 65% of the cases, the attacker got the gun from his or her own home or that of a relative" ("Background: CAP," 2013).

The gun show exception: A loophole?

One reason that private sellers are so easily able to evade federal regulations is the so-called 'gun show loophole.' Most states do not require background checks for firearms purchased at gun shows from private individuals -- federal law only requires licensed dealers to conduct checks" ("Gun show background checks," 2015). Five states currently mandate background checks and compliance with federal laws even at gun shows but these regulations are increasingly ignored ("Gun show background checks," 2015). Initially passed to protect hobbyists (such as dealers in antique guns) many unlicensed buyers and sellers are using gun shows as opportunities to traffic in a wide array of new as well as old guns, rendering current laws ineffective.

State-by-state variations in laws and enforcement

A final problem with the current state of gun regulation in the U.S. is the wide variation in laws and enforcement, which makes trafficking across state lines relatively easy particularly in the age of the Internet. Even relatively mild gun control laws, such as CAP laws, which do not actually prohibit any type of firearm being owned but merely mandate appropriate methods of securing guns vary by state. Levels of rigor in terms of enforcement also varies and this fosters a lack of respect for gun control laws in addition to facilitating circumvention of existing regulations.

Conclusion

Criticism of gun control laws is not warranted given that current laws are relatively mild in nature and are inconsistently enforced. Making pronouncements about their ineffectualness based upon the patchwork of regulations in the U.S. today is unwarranted and more stringent and consistent enforcement would be required for the aims of gun control advocates to be achieved.

References

Background: CAP. (2013). Smart Gun Laws. Retrieved from:

http://smartgunlaws.org/child-access-prevention-policy-summary/

Background: Dealer regulations. (2015). Smart Gun Laws. Retrieved from:

http://smartgunlaws.org/dealer-regulations-policy-summary/

Beckett, L. (2014). What we…

Sources Used in Documents:

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