The State of Gun Laws in America – Ella Finch

Gun laws in America are frequently debated both in and outside of the US itself. However, it often seems as though nothing will ever change, despite the continual cases of terrorism being committed with automatic weapons. To be completely honest, I personally don’t believe that America will amend the Second Amendment in a call for tighter gun control anytime soon, for a variety of reasons. But firstly, here’s some background on America and its rules and regulations – or lack thereof – on guns.

Unless you have been pointedly ignoring the news from America – which I wouldn’t blame you for doing – you will most likely be aware of the horrific event that occurred at a concert in Las Vegas, during which almost 60 people were fatally shot; this has been called the worst mass shooting in American history. I wish I could say that nobody saw it coming, but it’s simply not true – attacks such as that committed in Las Vegas are inevitable in a society where it’s legal for someone as young as 14 to own their own gun. Moreover, there have been six other mass shootings this week alone: Lawrence, KS; Memphis, TN (X2); New Orleans, LA; Baltimore, MD ; and Philadelphia, PA. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, American’s own an estimated 265 million guns – that’s more than one gun per adult. In America, according to a study by the Gun Violence Archive, on average there is a mass shooting (defined as being when four people are killed, not including the shooter) every nine out of ten days.

You cannot discuss gun control in America without considering school shootings – a term that really shouldn’t exist in a moral world. Since the year 2000, there have been 194 recorded school shootings in which people were either killed or injured -194 too many; if you spread them out so they were one per month, there would have been a school shooting almost every month of every year between then and now (October 2017). The most recent attack was committed at Mattoon high School in Mattoon, Illinois on September 20th 2017, in which a 14 year old boy opened fire in the cafeteria. However, school shooting are not a recent issue – there a records of these events going back to as far as 1840 [1].

In America, your chances of being killed in a gun assault are 1 in 370, and the chances of being killed in a mass shooting are 1 in 15,325. In comparison, the chance of dying in a car accident is 1 in 536, and the chances of dying due to the actions of a foreign-born terrorist is 1 in 45,808 [2]. As you can tell from these numbers, America logically should have put gun restrictions into place years ago. So the question is, why haven’t they?

The main reason is that the National Rifle Association are heavyweight funders of electoral campaigns. Whilst it is true that a significant amount of their funding goes to the Republican candidates (in 2016, the NRA gave Trump’s campaign around US$1, 076,150 [3]) , they also give money to the democratic candidates’ campaigns (in 2016 the NRA gave Hillary’s campaign US$10,550 [3]). This would mean financial losses for both parties if they were to put gun laws into place, as no doubt the NRA would withdraw its support for that party during the next election.

Moreover, many Americans don’t believe the Second Amendment should be changed. After the American Civil War (1861-1865 [4]), the American Constitution (originally written in 1787 [5]) was changed to include the Second Amendment which is as follows: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” [6]. Thus, evidently, they believe it is their right to carry automatic weapons with them in case the government suddenly decides to spark another civil war, or something similar (however unlikely that may be).

I am not saying that the American people do not care about what is happening; usually after a mass shooting such as the recent one in Las Vegas there are marches and protests for a few days, and 83% of Americans surveyed by Pew Research said that they believed gun control to be a big problem [7]. However, studies have shown that interest in the topic fades soon after this, and therefore Congress does not pass any new laws. This passive attitude is also partially to blame for the atrocities being committed: I believe that if the American people were to continue to protest and speak up against slack gun control laws then Congress would be forced to consider putting restrictions into place.

However, I do not believe that this will work whilst Donald trump is the current president because, as we have seen through his action last year of signing a bill allowing mentally ill people to buy guns, he is a strong believer in the second amendment. Moreover, most of his electoral votes were from the southern states of North America, where the Confederacy was stationed during the civil war and where the people are extremely attached to their weapons because of it.

The face of a greater America?

The divide in the American attitude is evident when you ask the 47% of Americans who consider guns as being essential to their freedom what should be done about the problem. When making guns more difficult to obtain was suggested, opinions were split, with 13% of people even suggesting it may lead to more mass shootings. [7]

Overall, as I touched upon earlier, this is a political issue dating back to the end of the Civil War, where the southern states lost to the north, and slavery was abolished as a result. Most of the Southern States are republicans, like Donald trump, whereas most of the Northern States identify as democrats. This leftover feud from a war that occurred over 150 years ago is clearly still going strong in the form of the debate over gun control. The Southern States see the right to bear arms as a compensation for their loss of the war, and thus there is the potential that they would see taking away that right as an act against them.

So, will America ever resolve the gun crisis? Honestly, I don’t think it will. As much as I would like to believe that the horrors we hear about on the news will end soon, with a law being put in place to restrict access to guns, I don’t. It would be politically disadvantageous, economically draining (for both the president and the country), and perhaps these restrictions would only make the situation even more dangerous.

Footnotes:

[1] – [List of school shootings in the United States – Wikipedia](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_school_shootings_in_the_United_States)
[2] – [Las Vegas shooting adds to sobering US gun violence statistics – Business Insider](http://uk.businessinsider.com/gun-death-statistics-assault-mass-shootings-accidents-2017-10)
[3] – [National Rifle Assn: Total Contributions | OpenSecrets](https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/totals.php?id=d000000082&cycle=2014)
[4] – [A Brief Overview of the American Civil War | Civil War Trust](https://www.civilwar.org/learn/articles/brief-overview-american-civil-war)
[5] – [Constitution FAQs – National Constitution Center](https://constitutioncenter.org/learn/educational-resources/constitution-faqs)
[6] – [Second Amendment | Wex Legal Dictionary / Encyclopedia | LII / Legal Information Institute](https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/second_amendment)
[7] – [Americans want stricter gun laws after shootings. Then interest fades. – CNNPolitics](http://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/02/politics/gun-control-polling-las-vegas-shooting/index.html)

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