Gun Control: Social Contract Broken in the US


For a society to function effectively and for every member of it to be happy and satisfied, everyone needs to adhere to some rules and norms of behavior. There are many social contracts in the US that have been created to regulate the lives of individuals. However, it is frequently the case that these contracts are broken, which leads to adverse outcomes that range from minor inconveniences and disappointments to threatened lives. The current paper focuses on gun control as a broken social contract. It is argued that the insufficient control of firearms in the US is a dire threat because it causes large numbers of deaths of innocent people.

Gun Control: The Broken Social Contract

Gun control has always been an issue raising many questions in the US. The premises behind allowing citizens to own firearms are the right to protect one’s property and the right of self-preservation (Hirschman 541). However, the frequency with which mass shootings take place testifies that the weapon is not used solely for the purposes set by the government. Schools, theaters, public places, and many other locations become the venues of expressing unexplained cruelty and inhumanity by some individuals’ and the places of death for many innocent children and adults. The reason for many of such instances is mental illness (Metzl 240).

Because guns are so often used for goals other than self-protection, this social contract is broken. The society cannot control individuals owning guns, and the government does not seem to understand the need to change the legislation.

While police officers are the ones who should support citizens in their desire to live in the peaceful environment, they are frequently the ones disrupting this peace. The history of the US knows many examples of officers’ shooting innocent or unarmed civilians (Fridell 481). In particular, the incidence of the police shooting unarmed African American minorities is alarmingly high (Fridell 481). Thus, not only uncontrollable anger and unstable mental state but also bias may prevent gun owners from making right decisions as to how their weapon should be used.

Groups Involved in the Broken Social Contract

There are several parties related to the social contract that is being discussed. These groups are at different levels, and each of them has a specific understanding of the problem. However, one issue connects them all – each of the groups involved in the broken social contract understands the existence of the problem and wants to eliminate it. The first party that seems relevant to mention is the government. This legal institution is the one responsible for creating and supporting laws that regulate the right to obtain and use weapons. Government officials are the ones having the most decisive vote in what is to become of gun ownership.

Other groups involved in the conflict are state officials, gun owners, police officers, and citizens. Each state can have its own regulations in regards to buying and carrying weapons. Thus, the officials at this level carry much responsibility for destabilizing the social contract. Gun owners present another important group of stakeholders. These people are accountable for the locality’s and country’s peace because their decisions concerning how to use weapon may impact the society greatly. Police officers constitute a subdivision of the gun owners group. However, their use of weapon differs from the civilians’ one because they carry guns as a job duty. Usually, they protect citizens by guns, but sometimes they may harm innocent people because of the regulations allowing them to fire without making sure that the suspect is armed.

Finally, the largest group involved in the broken social contract is presented by citizens who do not own guns. These individuals are exposed to the danger of unwise decisions made by the government and gun holders. This party is the least secure since its representative cannot protect themselves against weapons used by others. What is more, citizens cannot predict the behaviors of those owning guns and cannot eliminate the danger by omitting certain places because no one can know when and where the next assault will happen.

The Historical Context

There have been some attempts made to mitigate the conflict and avoid breaking the social contract. Over the course of time, many policy proposals on restricting gun use have been suggested. However, as Fox and DeLateur remark, the likelihood of such suggestions’ success in the reduction of mass murder is not high (125). The basic historical document regulating guns ownership is the Second Amendment to the Constitution that protects the Americans’ right to keep and carry firearms (Blocher 813). However, Blocher notes that this Amendment serves as “a banner for gun-rights supporters, a common enemy for gun-control advocates, and a consistent headache for scholars, lawyers, and judges” (813). Thus, even the initial gun control regulation does not provide sufficient explanation of the matter.

After a number of massive shootings, the US government made some attempts to restrict the laws regulating gun ownership, but they were not highly successful. In 1994, Congress passed legislation “to outlaw the sale of certain types of semiautomatic guns and large-capacity magazines” (Gebelhoff). However, the law has only relative control, and even that stopped helping in 2004, when the ban expired (Gebelhoff).

Hirschman notes that personal access to the “use of deadly force for self-defense and the defense of property” builds the semiological grounds of the US social contract (541). The scholar emphasizes that the prospects of the US government’s attempts to decrease civilian possession of guns are rather low (Hirschman 541). Thus, scholars agree that the current policies, as well as historical ones, do not provide sufficient gun control, which constitutes a broken social contract.

The Prospects for Americans in Case the Social Contract Were Not Broken

If the discussed social contract were not broken, the citizens of the US would be able to lead peaceful and secure lifestyles. They would not need to worry about sending their children to school. They would not have to be afraid to go to concerts and theaters. People would not need to be scared that they might be accidentally shot because of their skin color by policemen. In general, if guns were used strictly for the purposes they are supposed to be used, citizens’ lives would not be threatened on a daily basis.

Conclusion: The Significance of the Problem

The issue chosen for the essay is the most crucial in the modern American society. Too many innocent victims of mass shootings, homicides, and police officers’ errors testify that something is drastically wrong in this system. The broken social contract concerning gun control poses the greatest threat to the US citizens. It is crucial to solve this problem by suggesting effective policies before it is too late. Every person has a right to live, and no one must take away this right just because of owning a gun and not being able of controlling its use.

Works Cited

Blocher, Joseph. “Gun Rights Talk: Panel IV: Has the Constitution Fostered a Pathological Rights Culture? The Right to Bear Arms.” Boston University Law Review, vol. 94, 2014, pp. 813-833.

Fox, James Alan, and Monica J. DeLateur. “Mass Shootings in America: Moving Beyond Newtown.” Homicide Studies, vol. 18, no. 1, 2013, pp. 125-145.

Fridell, Lorie A. “Racial Aspects of Police Shootings: Reducing both Bias and Counter Bias.” Criminology and Public Policy, vol. 15, no. 2, 2016, pp. 481-489.

Gebelhoff, Robert. “This Is How We Save Lives from Gun Violence.” The Washington Post. 2018. Web.

Hirschman, Elizabeth C. “Social Contract Theory and the Semiotics of Guns in America.” Social Semiotics, vol. 24, no. 5, 2014, pp. 541-560.

Metzl, Jonathan M., and Kenneth T. MacLeish. “Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 105, no. 2, 2015, pp. 240-249.