Tue, Mar 5, 2013
While several issues currently divide the nation, few incite as much passion and political fervor as the debate on gun control. The unfortunate truth is that gun violence has plagued America for decades. However, widespread media attention of mass shootings in recent years has raised awareness to unprecedented levels. President Obama unveiled a comprehensive plan to address gun violence and urged Congress to vote on gun control legislation. Conversely, the state legislature in Arkansas recently joined 23 states by passing bills protecting the right of colleges and churches to choose for themselves whether to allow concealed weapons on their grounds. Supporters of the Second Amendment undoubtedly grieve the victims of gun violence, but most are unwilling to sacrifice their right no matter what the cost. Whether or not the answer to gun violence lies directly with gun legislation, the key is to find the right laws and support efforts to effectively prevent future tragedy.
Gun Control Legislation
The National Firearms Act of 1934 prohibits civilian possession of automatic weapons, short-barreled shotguns and hand grenades. The Gun Control Act of 1968 makes mail-order sale of weapons illegal and requires dealers to be federally licensed as well as maintain sales records. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 mandates all licensed gun dealers to conduct background checks. Many argue that background checks should be mandatory for all firearm sales; effectively closing the ”gun show loophole” that currently does not require them in private sales. Critics argue that this measure would not have precluded any of the shooters in recent mass killings to acquire weapons since they lacked criminal histories and lax state participation prevents many mental health records from being put into the system. The 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban outlawed the sale of semiautomatic weapons with features like large-capacity magazines and pistol grips. The law expired in 2004, and strong support currently exists to resurrect it. Studies conducted on the ban’s effects on gun violence were inconclusive, largely due to grandfather clauses and short timeframe. Legislation prohibiting straw gun purchases already exists, but both the gun industry and politicians agree that law enforcement lacks the resources to enforce these laws.
Gun Use Laws
Many laws focus on the restriction of gun availability. However, some states have enacted laws designed to deter the use of guns in crimes. Known as ”10-20-Life”, Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing for crimes involving guns has been regarded as a success in reducing gun crimes in the state. Many have argued that criminals intent on using guns will not be swayed by the threat of a severe prison sentence and unfairly punishes those facing extenuating circumstances.
While gun buyback programs make for positive press coverage, these programs have been widely regarded as being ineffective in reducing gun violence. Changes in police strategies have been widely recognized as an effective approach towards reducing gun violence. By increasing patrols in high-risk areas at certain times of day, the Pittsburgh Police Department was able to focus on illegal gun carry violations and reduce gun violence in those areas by as much as 71 percent.
Reconsider Protective Tort Legislation
In response to class-action lawsuits filed against the tobacco industry years ago, the gun lobby pushed legislation through Congress that effectively shielded firearms manufacturers from similar suits. Perhaps this is legislation that should be revisited. Although such a move would obviously be controversial, an objective approach on all levels may prompt relevant gun legislation.
Byline: Tyler C writes on everything from gun safety and regulation to the deadliest months according to death rate patterns.