Gun politics and gun control have been some of the most controversial issues in the United States of America politics. There are numerous types of guns used today including rifles, pistols, handguns, revolvers, and shotguns. The bone of contention mainly stems from the debate on individual liberty to own a protective weapon in this case a gun and the government’s duty to introduce more gun laws to prevent crime and maintain public order. Under the Second Amendment of the United States constitution, a person upholds the right to bear or own a firearm. Because the constitution of the United States has entrenched the right to own o gun for purposes of self-defense, it has become extremely hard for the politicians responsible to amend that particular section. (Spitzer 23) Furthermore, most people feel that they have the right to own guns and the politicians would not want to do it against the will of the citizens since they risk their political careers. Apart from the United States of America, other nations that use or draw their legislations from the English law do not allow an individual the right to own a weapon (gun) for purposes of self-defense. In the gun politics controversy, the issue of a gun culture arises. Gun culture is used to refer to people who legally own these weapons and are also strong advocates of them. The reasons why these people advocate for arming other people include:
- They present a strong argument that people need guns mainly for self-defense purposes. According to them, there exist criminal elements in society that can easily acquire guns. It is therefore important that one arm himself or herself for protection against them. (Spitzer 25)
- Those who advocate for guns or own them say they need them for sporting purposes. Sporting purposes refer to the hunting of animals mainly birds and wild animals.
- Gun advocates also justify gun ownership for recreational purposes. These recreational purposes involve target shooting and shooting sport. This kind of sport is played to test one’s accuracy and speed in the category of weapons he or she is using. (Spitzer 26)
The term gun culture was coined by an American in the seventies to refer to people’s fondness and adoration for these weapons. Several factors motivate people especially in the United States to like guns or have affection for them and desire to own them. They include:
- America’s revolutionary history. Several myths and legends are revolving around guns that create a fantasy of wanting to own them.
- The militia and hunting tendencies of early American days greatly created an initial development stage needed for the spread of gun use. (Spitzer 23)
- Hunting was important in the early days to provide food, especially for settlers.
- The war with the Indians made it necessary for other Americans to own guns to protect themselves from attacks.
- The widespread and consistent use of firearms has led society to believe that people cannot do without guns. They have therefore over time been accepted as an integral part of society. (Spitzer 23)
Due to the reasons above and especially the last point the society has approved the use and ownership of guns than what is debated is not why one should own a weapon but why one shall. So when one approaches the authorities responsible for issuing gun licenses, they are likely to take a look at your criminal record rather than probe you on the need of you needing one.
Gun politics in the United States
The following is a brief look at how gun politics play out in America and how political parties take on this controversial issue. Gun politics do not play out as a strictly partisan issue but the Democrats are seen to be in favor of gun control. (Wilcox 4) This is especially so if you look at the public opinion on the position of party members on this issue. Although Republicans are seen to mainly lean on anti-gun control measures, public opinion suggests that they are divided on the issue. For instance, President George Bush in his 2000 campaign supported trigger lock requirement, increasing the age limit and applying limits on gun shows but no legislation on gun control was initiated by the president after his election. The libertarians on the other hand overwhelmingly oppose gun control. The Libertarians approach this with very clear and straightforward sentiments that could almost be termed as radical. They see gun control as having racist motivations and refer to the pre-civil war era when gun ownership was outlawed to black slaves. Libertarians perceive those who want to have introduced or want to introduce more legislation on gun control as restricting individual rights of self-defense and effectively infringing on individual freedoms. They go ahead to associate gun control with dictatorial ruling systems such as communism and fascism. Rights restriction and victim disarmament are other terms the Libertarians use to refer to the act of gun control.
The democratic officially however do not have such strong views on gun control to counter those of the Libertarian Party in its role as maybe the only active advocate of gun control. In its official position, it recognizes the right of an individual to own an arm by the second amendment. (Wilcox 4) However, they indicate the importance of reasonable regulation on the ownership of the firearm and also cite that different realities exist in different areas. This is seen to mean that uniform laws cannot be imposed on the whole nation but localities can come up with their legislations of gun control that suit their respective area. In their opinion, people can enact what they (democrats) call commonsense laws and improvements. This, they point out include improving the background check system, closing gun show loophole and reintroducing the ban on assault weapon. The reason that Democrats give for these measures is for the people to ensure that these weapons do not fall into the hands of criminals and terrorists. They cite the importance of respecting the wide range of views on this issue and acting responsibly. (Wilcox 4) This way Americans can uphold the right to own arms and keep the communities and the children safe. The Republicans seem to lie in the middle of the debate but they nevertheless oppose strong legislation aimed at gun control. In my opinion, the issue of gun control is going to remain a thorny one but no significant or landmark legislation is going to be enacted to enhance gun control. One can though expect a scenario contrary to this if the Libertarian came to power. They sure would even scrap the existing laws on gun control. The problem is-public rating is not on their side. (Wilcox 4)
Why ban guns?
There is a popular saying that guns don’t kill people. This in a way means that people cannot kill each other by busing the weapon if it was not available. Some studies have been carried out to find out if fewer guns in society translate to less crime and less murder or suicide but they have proved to be inconclusive. (Spitzer 23) Most of these studies fail to conclusively give the final verdict on whether lesser guns would mean lesser ills or vice versa. When they seem to give a clear answer, say for instance the more guns in the society the more the crime, they are purported to be carried out either by a pro or anti-gun control groups. One fact though that is not in dispute is that guns kill and they are and have been responsible for millions of deaths worldwide. Many people globally have lost their lives by the barrel of a gun probably than they have from the HIV AIDS pandemic. One might ask himself what is the purpose of the police force if almost all the citizens are free to own guns. If people justify or the right to have or own a firearm for self-defense, then why should there be an armed group purporting to be protecting or defending the people. Don’t they have the arms to arm themselves? The United States for instance has become flooded with guns with even very sophisticated ones available in abundance in the streets. Numerous shops are trading guns throughout the United States. The easy access to guns has on several occasions led to mentally challenged or just angry people going on a shooting spree.Such cases have nowadays become common whereby a person goes for instance to a public place like a school or a mall and opens fire indiscriminately to an unsuspecting crowd and later kills himself. For example, a man in December 2007 entered a department store and started shooting indiscriminately and killed eight innocent people. An extra five were injured and some critically. (Garcia)If it was relatively difficult for such a person to acquire a firearm, then maybe such innocent people could not have died. Maybe this person (who killed himself and hence did not meet justice) had no previous criminal record and had obtained his weapon through the premise of self-defense.
In conclusion, guns have been responsible for many ills in society. Prospects for restrictions on guns in the United States do not look too good and the status quo may remain for a long time to come.
Garcia, Oscar. Mall killings. Web.
Wheeler, Stark. Controlling Guns. Web.
Wilcox, Clyde; The changing politics of gun control. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield. (2005) pp 1-4.
Spitzer, Robert J.: The Politics of Gun Control, Chapter 1. Chatham House Publishers, 1995.