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Gun Control in the United States
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Download file to see previous pages In short, more thorough background checks of those people who wish to buy guns is a necessity for stricter gun control due to the increased level of crimes involving guns in our communities. However, as DeConde (2001) notes, ‘no social issue of recent decades has produced more distorted data and contention among Americans than the struggle to control gun violence’ (p. 3), and so the issue is far from simple. There are well over 200 million guns in the United States (far more than in other developed countries) while the gun laws are comparatively weak. Canter ( 2006) found that when the US is compared to other economically-developed and democratically-governed countries, the age-adjusted rate of death by firearms is eight times as high as the average of the other countries pooled together. It is obvious that current background checks are not good enough. The massacre at Virginia Tech in April 2007, which left 32 staff and students dead, was carried out using two weapons, both of which was purchased completely legally at local stores. The killer had, two years earlier, been declared mentally ill and a danger to himself by a judge. This alone should surely have disqualified him from purchasing firearms, but he was never placed on a list banning him from buying guns in Virginia. The issue here was surely the vastly-different state laws on gun controls. What is needed is strong national laws, and checks conducted using nationwide databases. Fig. 1. The Geography of Gun Deaths in America. Source: [Accessed January 27 2011] Background checks as a feature of the gun control debates in the United States date all the way back to the 1930s, when the District of Columbia introduced a 48-hour cooling off period for the purchase of firearms. Indeed, until the 1970s, the National Rifle Assocation (NRA) – the leading group in the pro-gun lobby, actually supported such policies. From 1986, there was a nationwide campaign for the introduction of a waiting period on all gun purchases, and in 1993, the passage of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act established a 5-day waiting period, during which time background checks were to be conducted to ascertain whether a gun could responsibly be sold to the applicant. Spitzer (2002) produced a list of the reasons for which a gun purchase could be blocked: if the applicant had been convicted of a crime carrying a sentence of more than a year, if a restraining order had been placed against them for violence, if they had been convicted of domestic abuse, if they had been arrested for using or selling banned substances, if they were deemed to be mentally unstable, or if they were an illegal alien (p. 51).The Brady Act is held to have had some effect on firearm-related violence. Canter (2006) noted that the number of deaths by guns fell from 37,776 in 1992 to 32,436 in 1997 (p. 3). Nevertheless, this can scarcely be hailed as the major breakthrough in tackling gun crime which is needed in the United States. While the Supreme Court struck down the requirement for police to conduct background checks in 1997, handgun background checks have largely continued. In theory, all this should have done much to ensure that only those who could safely be sold a handgun would be able to procure one. However, there have been major issues. In 1998, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) set up its National Instant Criminal Background ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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