A series of events, mostly mass shootings and suicides, have raised the question whether the US should adopt stricter gun controls. Today, America’s gun violence death rate is extremely high (approximately 40,000 Americans per year) and its gun ownership system is one of the most liberal in the world.
Other countries, like Australia, have managed to minimize the rate of gun deaths by introducing wide-ranging gun control legislation.
Current US gun legislation
- A license is required to own a firearm or ammunition. One must be 18 years old and pass a criminal and mental check to get a license.
- In the application one must indicate a specific reason for needing a firearm (the class of firearm depends on the type of permit granted).
- Gun owners are only entitled to a specific number of guns. They are also required to store the firearm and its ammunition in separate locked safes. At the same time, the gun’s serial number must be registered to their name.
- Gun owners could be required to turn over their firearms in return for fair market value.
Even though President Biden said he doesn’t want to “wait another minute” to find the cure for the gun violence epidemic in the US, he hasn’t made any changes yet. Lawmakers and advocates of gun control have suggested multiple policies, however the Biden administration has made it the Senate’s responsibility to draft bills to be approved by the White House that make background checks more thorough.
Specifically, one of the bills will supposedly close the so-called “Charleston loophole”, which allows an individual to buy a firearm after 3 business days, even if the FBI background check has not been completed. President Biden also called for the ban of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. His recent statement on the mass shooting at a Boulder, CO, supermarket reads: “I’m going to use all the resources at my disposal to keep the American people safe. I don’t need to wait another minute let alone an hour to take common sense steps that will save lives in the future and to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act”.
In order for the gun control legislation to pass, a 60-vote majority is needed. White house press secretary, Jennifer Psaki, said that Biden would work with both Democrats and Republicans to get this done, since it would be hard to even get the entire Democratic caucus on board.
Where does the public stand?
Morning Consult, a market research firm, conducted a nationwide poll last fall that shows that 66% of American citizens “strongly agree” that no gun sale should take place without a completed background check. Another 20% said they “somewhat agree”, while just 10% said they “somewhat disagree” or “strongly disagree”.
While adopting stricter gun control legislation will most probably reduce mass shootings, gun-related injuries, murder, suicide and accidental deaths, it is extremely difficult to implement it effectively. Other than that, gun control policies infringe a constitutional right that the American government is obligated to uphold (2nd Amendment Right).
Will enhanced gun control actually minimize the mass shooting incidents that have been tormenting the US or will it just provoke protests and worsen the situation?