The extant gun control legislation in the US is inadequate, due to the absence of sufficient stringency. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution permits the bearing of arms by US citizens, under certain specific conditions. A control on the possession of firearms in the US is a highly contentious issue. Nearly, half of the American public bears arms. Those who favor gun control recommend a degree of regulation in order to reduce violence, involving firearms; whilst, the proponents of arms, believe that the Second Amendment permits them to bear arms as a right.
However, it has to be accepted that in the larger interests of society, a reasonable amount of control has to be exercised on the bearing of arms. Gun control is essential for enforcing law and order in society. In its absence criminals and juveniles can possess firearms and use them for unlawful activities. The recent rampage by a Korean student, Cho Seung – Hui, in the Virginia Tech on 16th April 2007, clearly establishes this fact. In that incident, Seung – Hui was in the possession of a semi – automatic gun, which he used for firing indiscriminately at the other students in the college.
This incident left thirty – three students dead. The whole nation was shocked by this terrible event, which transpired due to lax gun control laws (Gun points). This incident justifies the contention that the Federal Government has to impose stringent measures on the availability and purchase of guns. Statistics reveal that the possession of guns by individuals is increasing annually. Not surprisingly, the number of homicide cases is also increasing. During the period from 1985 to 1993, data indicates that incidents involving homicide have increased.
In these incidents, youth between the ages of fourteen and twenty – four are using firearms to cause the death of others. The crime rate had increased by one hundred and seventy – three percent during that period. In other words, maintenance of law and order in society has not been addressed with sufficient gravity (Gun Control). Gun control measures result in the saving of several lives. The government of the United States had imposed some stringent laws after the massacre at Columbine High School in the year 1999.
The ten – year proscription on nineteen varieties of guns, which had been imposed by the Congress expired in 2004. In an address, President George Bush opined that people had the right to carry firearms and that at the same time they should abide by the principles of the law of the land (Virginia Tech killing spree exposes US gun culture). However, politicians typically take strongly opposing stances on this issue. For instance, on the 8th of February, 2008, the US Vice – President, Dick Cheney, broke with tradition and joined forces with the Congress, thereby going against his Administration’s official stance.
The District of Columbia had imposed a handgun ban and these Congressmen and Cheney, submitted an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court, urging it to set aside this prohibition, on the grounds that it violated Second Amendment rights. This shows the strong opposition to imposing stricter gun control measures (Barnes). The constitutional right to hold private property such as guns is not absolute. There should be a balance between the right of individuals to bear firearms and the welfare of society. This balance should address the citizens’ right to safety in a civilized society.
Imposing restrictions on the possession and use of guns is justified. Some firearms are more powerful and capable of causing considerable damage. Such firearms pose grave danger to society at large. For instance, the Barrett . 50 caliber 82A1 rifle is a sophisticated weapon. This rifle is designed for military purposes and can penetrate very good quality armor – reinforced war vehicles. It can also shoot down aircraft. The range of this rifle is about a mile and its ammunition is freely available in any gun store. Although its price is high, an individual can purchase this rifle in the market.
The only requirement for the obtention of this weapons is that the purchaser has to be twenty – one years or older at the time of purchase. It is difficult to perceive the legitimate use of such a powerful weapon, by an individual and clearly indicates the lackadaisical approach to imposing stricter gun control laws (Warfel). It is essential to adopt stringent measures right at the time of purchase of firearms. This measure is to be adopted in order to reduce the number of occasions on which individuals are killed by other gun bearing individuals.
Statistics indicate that more than thirty – five thousand people are killed in the United States, due to firearms, annually. This mortality rate is higher than that of any other developed nation. It is an indisputable fact that guns are dangerous and that laws, which aim to impose gun control are contentious (Zimring). A new dimension was added to this macabre situation, with the sudden eruption of school violence, entailing firearms, in the 1980’s and the 1990’s. There was a significant increase in incidents, in which students brought firearms to school and shot their classmates and teachers.
This trend resulted in a number of massacres and in 1998, two students planted bombs all over the school and then commenced to shoot fellow students and faculty. Finally, they shot themselves to death. The toll was thirteen dead and twenty – one wounded (Gun Control ). The recent shooting incidents have established that young people can easily possess guns and shoot at whomsoever they feel like. Surprisingly, despite having knowledge of this fact, the opponents of gun control vehemently oppose any new legislation that calls for stricter control on the possession of firearms.
Such persons are of the opinion that the extant gun control laws are more than adequate. However, there are a number of lacunae in the existing gun control laws. Criminals and dangerous people purchase guns in the market with impunity, due to these slack gun control laws. The circulation of guns is on the increase and purchasers of guns need not show their personal background to any authority. Therefore, gun control laws should be made more stringent to prevent the massacre of innocent people (Deerlin).
Subsequent to the attempt on the life of President Roosevelt in 1933, the initial federal legislation, namely the National Firearms Act of 1934, was enacted. This piece of legislation provided for a penalty of two hundred dollars for owning machine guns and sawed – off shotguns. This was woefully inadequate to control the situation. The history of gun control legislation reveals that laws were passed only after some terrible incident had taken place; there was a distinct lack of interest in tackling this problem in the long term.
For instance, the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and that of Martin Luther King resulted in the Gun Control Act of 1968 (Gun Control ). The House of Representatives 2640, National Instant Criminal Background Check System IMPROVEMENT ACT, was passed by voice vote on the 13th of June, 2007; and on the 19th of December, 2007 in the Senate (NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007). Under this act, it is mandatory to verify the criminal background, nationality and mental health of individuals who purchase guns in the US.
Moreover, it is mandatory for the sellers of guns to verify the mental condition and criminal records of individuals to whom they sell guns. There is considerable opposition to these measures and as such the existing gun control laws are deplorable and woefully inadequate (BBC NEWS / AMERICAS). The foregoing discussion makes it abundantly clear that stricter laws regarding the possession of arms have to be not only enacted but also enforced. The prevailing legal scenario is inadequate to handle this situation. A number of strict laws are required to mitigate such incidents.
Some people blame rock stars and violent digital games for this trend. However, without sufficient gun control measures, the violence will not abate. Not unexpectedly, these laws were half – hearted in their attempts to control the import of firearms. A few restrictions were imposed on arms imports, which only served to increase their cost. The domestic arms industry was left untouched and there was a proliferation of substandard weapons. All said and done, the US has become witness to a very large number of killings, involving firearms. The need of the hour is to ratify and put into effect much stricter gun control legislation.
Barnes, Robert. “Cheney Joins Congress In Opposing D. C. Gun Ban. ” Washington Post 9 February 2008: A01. BBC NEWS / AMERICAS. US House passes gun control bill. 29 September 2007. 10 February 2008 <http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/low/americas/6750869. stm>. Deerlin, Lionel Van. Increased Gun Control Can Prevent School Shootings. At Issue: How Can School Violence Be Prevented?. Ed. Scott Barbour. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2004. Gun Control. 10 February 2008 <http://www. policyalmanac. org/crime/guns. shtml>. “Gun Control . ” 2001. In World of Sociology, Gale.
10 February 2008 <http://www. credoreference. com/entry/4785417>. “Gun points. ” THE Chriistian Century (May 29, 2007): Vol. 124, Iss. 11, P. 5. “NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007. ” GovTrack. us. H. R. 2640–110th Congress 2007. GovTrack. us (database of federal legislation), 2007. “Virginia Tech killing spree exposes US gun culture. ” Wednesday, April 18, 2007. Warfel, Michael W. The Second Amendment Is Not Absolute. Ed. James D. Torr. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2002. Zimring, Franklin E. “Gun Control. ” Microsoft® Encarta® 2006 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2006.