America is an exceptional country when it comes to firearms, on one hand, the right to bear arms is protected under the constitution. On the other hand, America is by far the most homicidal country among developed nations. Statistics from PEW Research (2019), show that seventy-five percent of the murders in 2017 involved firearms, and about 51% of suicides involved guns. Moreover, just in August of this year, a total of 31 people died following mass shootings in the Walmart store in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio (). In fact, statistics show that there have been about 21 mass shooting killing a total of 124 people in 2019 alone (CBNC ). Along with the loss of lives, gun violence also causes injuries that exert a significant burden to the US health system, costing about $2.3 billion annually as well as an economic burden that is more than $100 billion every year (Gani et al. 1735). This comes in even as more states continue to relax restrictions on conceal carry laws and the federal reforms on gun legislation being stagnant.
Until recently, the debate on gun control and the effect of available legislations on preventing mass shootings and gun vilence have taken a higher notch in the aftermath of the August tragedy in Walmart store in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio. The discussion on gun control has been an issue of contention in America, despite having a functional criminal justice in place plus a socioeconomic environment that is comparable with the best in the world (Webster). Gun regulation in the USA is a very contentious topic primarily because of the countries’ historical and political context.
Gun violence and related deaths are a concern for many citizens in the USA. Yet, finding ways to reduce gun violence and death is amongst the most contentious issues. Krouse (11), estimates that there are more than 25 million handguns in the country, even as reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and local enforcement agencies and Crime Reports show that the firearm rates have risen to significant levels over the decades. A report by PEW Researchers indicates that about 1.4 million people have died from death related to firearms (homicides, accidents, and suicides) between 1968 to 2017. Compared to other developed countries, USA gun-related homicides is significantly high (Malcolm 108). A study conducted by John Hopkins estimates that victims of gun violence spend approximately $2.8 billion per year in medical expenses (Gani et al. 1730). Further, a report published by the House Joint Economic Committee estimates that gun violence costs the country approximately $229 billion a year (CNBC) . This provides clear evidence that despite the counter-argument gun proliferation and their misuse is a national problem. Unfortunately, despite the seriousness of this issue and the massive support by the majority of the citizens there is yet to be nationally acceptable gun legislation that works.
It is worth noting that firearms plus the freedom and regulations that surround their use and possession have been a controversial issue in the USA. Matters relating to gun control gain significant prominence during elections. In retrospect, it has been noted that lawmakers approach this topic with caution because of the profound differences in opinions among voters with respect to public safety and violation of rights that are protected by the Second Amendment (Doeden). Therefore, despite the ongoing cry for the need for stringent firearm laws, there has been limited progressive legislation on gun control. Moreover, politicians are facing stiff opposition from enthusiastic lobbyists who are against gun control. For example, the National Rifle Association (NRA), which has several supporters and funds use a scorecard system to rate the politicians’ position on gun control. Support is given to candidates who are not actively opposed to guns, and these leaders are voted into the government.
With this said, studies about the impact of gun control have shown mixed reactions. Proponents for increased regulations on gun control cite the use of guns in suicides and homicides, with public health researchers such as the Centre of Disease and Control (CDC) and John Hopkins arguing that the health costs related to gun violence is astronomically high hitting billions of dollars per year. Indeed, numerous other scholars are of the opinion that access to guns correlates to high crime rates. This is in line with data on gun violence against gun ownership on country to country basis. With research suggesting that countries that allow their citizens to carry guns have a significantly high firearm-related crime rate than their counterparts (Malcolm 34).
On the other hand, critics argue that it is within the second amendment for individuals to be able to protect themselves and their property by having the ultimate power to protect themselves against criminal activities (Doeden). Yet, using the legal justification that it is right to be armed for self-defense in a situation that is perceived to be dangerous is unlawful, and life-threatening attack is imminent. It is plausible that a gun could provide one with protection during an assault. To begin with, guns are more likely to exacerbate a situation, than it would in reducing it. Indeed, a study conducted by Branas et al. (109), found that individuals possessing a gun during an attack were more likely to be shot than those without firearms. Presumably,individuals who do not have guns cannot act aggressively; thus, eliminating the need for shot-outs.
For the most part, restrictive laws on gun control are designed to prevent dangerous people from having them. Infact, Carter (45), argues that licensed gun holders are law-abiding citizens. Indeed,
the FBI notes that a majority of criminals who possess guns do not get them from lawful retailers (Krocker 110). This is to mean that violent criminals typically obtain guns through illicit markets or from family members, and acquaintances. Therefore, gun control laws are not effective in controlling crimes. Understandably, gun control laws may infringe upon an individual’s interest in gun possession, but the consensus is that most people would prefer to live in safe societies that have reduced risks for violence related to guns. In fact, restrictions on carry laws have been, to some extent effective in reducing violence, suicide, and homicide (Doeden). Thus, lowering the risk for gun-related violence by having gun control laws provide individuals with increased options regarding their preferences in the place to live, school, work and enjoy their leisure time.
So far, there is nothing that indicates that the availability of guns operates uniformly to promote violence across different states in the USA.For the most part, crime is highest in places where individuals do not have legal access to guns and vice versa. This is to mean that firearms do not necessarily promote violence in the USA. Indeed, advocates of carry laws argue that mass shootings cannot be explained by ownership of guns but by looking at the underlying historical and cultural relationships that Americans have with firearms. For example, looking back, you realize that guns have been central in American struggles such as the Civil war and the American Revolution (Carter 34). Therefore, control of the possession and use of firearms is not the way forward to preventing gun-related deaths and violence. Engaging in public education campaigns on gun safety and how to handle situations related to firearms will be vital to ending this menace.
In this light, the study recommends that the government should put in place campaigns to educate the public on gun safety. This is of utmost importance because of the increased rate of mass shootings. It gets scary, especially for foreigners who are new in America. You go about with the realization that anyone can be a victim. Therefore, it is better to be prepared. Comprehensive education on safety measures during an attack should be laid down and also how well to handle yourself in a gun attack plus possible channels, which number to call, and so much more.
In conclusion, the study looks at mass shootings and gun-related deaths and violence. The fundamental questions being asked is whether gun control will be effective in reducing violence and whether restrictive policies on gun control will prevent an individual from defending their selves. The study concludes that even though having in place stringent legislation on guns can curb gun-related violence, homicides, and suicide, there is also need to educate the public on gun safety and risk management practices to take in the event of an attack.
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Bureau of Justice Statistics. Nonfatal Firearm Violence, 1993-2011, special tabulation from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, provided National Institute of Justice, 2011.
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Gani, et al. Emergency Department Visits For Firearm-Related Injuries In The United States, 2006–14. Research Article Public Health Affairs, VOL. 36, NO. 10 October 2017.pp 1729-1738.
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Malcolm, Joyce Lee. Guns and violence: The English experience. Harvard University Press, 2009.
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