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Gun Control

Gun Control in an Economically and Socially Troubled American Society: Turning the Tide of Violence

The controversial Brady Act was passed in response to the shooting of James Brady during an assassination attempt upon President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Brady’s injuries left him permanently paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Passage of the Act took a decade of extensive lobbying, led largely by the efforts of Brady’s wife. President Clinton finally signed it into law in late 1993.

The Act was a federal law that required compliance by all states. It was hailed as a victory for gun control advocates, as it required a five day waiting period and background check for anyone desiring to purchase a handgun, as well as notification of local law enforcement. The Act faced a challenge in the Supreme Court, which ruled it unconstitutional to require state and local law enforcement agencies to comply with the background check provisions. It was deemed that compelling these law enforcement agencies to work for the federal government in this capacity was an infringement upon the rights of the states.

As technology increased, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System came online through the F.B.I. and made the waiting period issue a matter of local concern. In cases where the computer check comes back clean, gun dealers are free to immediately complete a firearm sale. This served to make the waiting period provision moot.

Gun control continues to be a controversial issue. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens the right to bear arms. This was drafted during a time when the ability to form a militia was considered paramount to citizens defending themselves from a potentially oppressive new government. At that point in history, citizens were less controlled and protected by organized police departments and it fell to them to defend themselves, via the gun if necessary.

With the recent rash of mass murders in the past two months, gun control is likely to again become a hot political issue. The Brady Act is not sufficient to control handgun violence. The problem is that those who generally commit illegal acts are not likely to purchase their weapons through legal channels. Weapons are bought and traded on the streets; many of the weapons preferred by criminals are illegal to begin with and not even available for purchase in many jurisdictions. Automatic weapons can be had on the street of any major city. In gang-invested neighborhoods in particular, even a twelve year old can get his hands on one. Additionally, even legal weapons can be illegally modified.

Gun Control Debate

As for what can be done, it would seem that only law-abiding citizens are likely to comply with gun control laws. More laws are only going to serve as an inconvenience to those who would pass a background check and use their weapons legally. Except in unusual cases where an previously unidentified unstable person snaps, it is unlikely that gun control laws will have much impact on handgun violence.

Until American society addresses its larger problems – poverty, the disintegration of the nuclear family, lack of social and economic support for an increasingly mobile population, the general proliferation of violence in the entertainment media and the perhaps total decline of American morality in general, it seems unlikely that any legislation will stem the tide of violence committed by a desperate and morally bankrupt portion of the population.

The Brady Act and any similar and subsequent gun control measures are likely to be a failure in terms of stopping violence. Short of seizure of all weapons (which would logistically generally only be the known, legal and registered ones not being used in crimes in the first place) and denial of the right of any citizen to bear arms, the control of gun ownership seems impossible. There will always be a black market; those who intend to participate in crimes involving weapons will always be able to find them.

Perhaps the only thing that would help at all is further strengthening of sentencing guidelines for persons who to commit a crime involving a handgun. If the system had the teeth and the money to incarcerate these people for longer terms automatically, less of them would be on the streets brandishing guns. Americans are innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, crime prevention is somewhat of a misnomer. There is no crime until the act is committed and someone is already injured or killed. Rather than focusing on legal sale of weapons, it would seem that the underlying social ills leading to crime need to be somehow addressed and the commission of crimes needs to yield much tougher punishments.

Source: Personal Opinion

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