Gun possession in the Unites States of America has a long-time history. Cowboys and colonists successfully conquered the Wild West with the help of guns. Eventually, establishment of the proper national defense and security systems in the country have changed the status of the gun itself. In times of the Wild West, the gun or any other item of firearms was the main tool of tyranny suppression, and in the modern society, it primarily has become the item of self-defense. Considering the availability of state authorities which are supposed to protect citizens’ rights, the civilian population could have refused from having guns in private use. However, the Americans do not hurry to say farewell to the firearms. Moreover, gun possession practically turned into a tradition in America. Talks regarding gun possession consequently lead to the discussions about gun control as far as two issues are tightly interrelated. The present issue takes a central place during discussions among the American community.
Gun control is one of the most notable debate-causing issues in the United States of America. In spite of the statistic data regarding improvement of the criminal situation in the country, including crimes related to the firearms’ use, facts are obvious. As a rule, these controversial debates are activated because of the repeated bloody accidents in American schools or other terrifying cases of violence with a gun involvement. It is commonly known, that heinous assassinations of the American president John F. Kennedy and his brother Senator Robert F. Kennedy could not but cause a new wave of outrage and at the same time hot debates on the issue of gun control. Especially since that time, this topic has become one of the major subjects for public passionate and controversial disputes.
It is a widely-known fact that the issue of gun control first originates from its legal permission. In its turn, a matter of permission to bear any items of firearms roots into the American history and brings one to the ratification of the Bill of Rights (1791).
The Bill of Rights is the most significant part of the Constitution for majority of the Americans. The aim of the Bill of Rights was to restrain and restrict the government power in case of oppression from its side. Simultaneously, it guaranteed the individual liberties. At the dawn of the USA existence, because of strong fears of tyranny, the Americans wanted to put the militaries under their own control by allowing civilians to bear firearms. In 1791, The Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment stating “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” was brought into force.
The Bill of Rights gave birth to the perpetual controversy inside the American society and divided it into two conflicting camps. The adherents of antagonistic points of view, as a rule, actively participate in the disputes and public discussions advocating either for unlimited access to the rifles and guns or, on the contrary, claiming its complete prohibition. The Americans who defend the individual gun possession put emphasis on the half of the Second Amendment, where it says “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”. Their opponents insist on another interpretation of the Second Amendment. They understand its statement as a guarantee of the collective right for gun possession and not a personal one. It means that only army, police, and other authorities that provide national security are exclusively permitted to bear firearms and guns. Nevertheless, Saul Cornell, a historian from the Fordham University, in his work “A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America”concludes that neither adherents nor opponents of the gun possession issue would like to return to the initial goal of the Second Amendment, because it could have provoked more considerable militarization of the society.
Having legalized the possession of firearms, the government searched for various barriers/restrictions to minimize risks of violence or misuse in relation to the guns. In other words, the government initiated gun control procedures. For example, in 1895 there were so called “black codes” that forbade carrying the guns by the black people. In 1938, the Federal Firearms Act put further restrictions on firearms sales. The Gun Control Act of 1968 plays an important role in the gun regulation. It limits an access to the firearms “…because of age, criminal background, or incompetence”. The Gun Control Act, which was admitted in 1968, put control on the “imported guns, expands the gun-dealer licensing and record keeping requirements”. The Gun Control Act expanded the list of the persons who were not allowed to purchase the firearms and included “persons convicted of any non-business related felony, mentally incompetent, and users of illegal drugs”. The Crime Control Act of 1990 put a taboo for making and importing semiautomatic assault weapons in the United States of America.
Therefore, it is obvious, that the matter of the gun control in America is not ignored, and it is in the agenda of the politicians. In this regard, national legislation has been improved. Regretfully, the existing gun control measures have not brought a desirable result as yet. However, it would be incorrect to affirm that these controlling actions are absolutely inefficient and inappropriate.
Simultaneously, more than a half of the Americans support the idea of further control strengthening in relation to the guns. In their opinion, it can substantially decrease the crime level in the country. They suppose that primarily free access to the firearms and handguns lead people into temptation to try it, which, consequently, results in a tragedy. Weakening of the gun control can cause a huge mischief. Reiter Agency says that, for example, in comparison with any other country, most of the Americans have the guns in their possession. Among 300 million of the American population, 90 million people have approximately 200 items of firearms. It is rather shocking data. It means that people do not feel secured in their own country and prefer to rely on the weaponry.
The guns should stand responsible for causing many accidental deaths in America. People possessing guns are not careful with the guns, meaning that they either do not have sufficient practical skills or they simply do not take proper precautions for keeping the gun safely. Children are always curious about something mysterious lying in a house as, for example, a gun. Having free access to it, they unconsciously commit murder or suicide. The supporters of the strict gun control claim more scrutinized background checks on the gun buyers. The gun dealers and sale agents are also to be thoroughly checked to avoid the cases of illegal gun sale. Moreover, the government should restrict free access to the gun purchase. At the same time, gun control advocates demand complete gun prohibition, giving the example of improved criminal situation in other countries. For instance, England illegalized private gun possession and, as a consequence, the crime rate fell down.
Another part of the society considers gun prohibition or further tightening of gun control as a rude infringement of their rights and liberties. Professor John Lott in his book “More Guns, Less Crimes” writes “more than just common crimes may be prevented by law-abiding citizens carrying concealed handguns”. The defendants of the gun possession consider that if a criminal is aware that a potential victim can fend off, he/she will not attack. Thus, it means neither attack nor new crime. Only availability of the gun can prevent the crime. For them, gun possession specifies absence of unsecured victims. However, such an idea seems to be somewhat illogical. Nobody can predict life situations and nobody is insured from making mistakes. A person can be in a weak position of controlling him/herself, and then without any intent, he/she can kill people only because he/she has the handgun at that moment.
The legislation that regulates the right of a person to carry a gun differs in various American states. Some states do not practically have any restrictions on gun ownership. In other states, the citizens have to receive special gun permission. Somewhere else, the state authorities can demand a special permit as well as weapon skills, and after all, in some states, ordinary citizens are not allowed to bear guns. And nevertheless, the statics says that in spite of different gun restrictions, the crime rate does not go down. Therefore, their conclusion is that restrictions that are put on the gun carrying are unnecessary and of any use.
While adherents of the gun possession, as well its opponents, search for stronger points to their arguments, one statement by Michael Werfel summarizes the requirement for gun control. He narrates that “an individual’s right to own and bear arms must be balanced by the greater social needs of a society”. All presented judgments allow one to make a sum up of the essay that the contemporary society in America requires more gun control actions, keeping in mind an increased number of the crimes and gun-related violent acts. The conflicting parties should find common language and common sense on the discussed issue, putting aside their political careers, ambitions, and financial interests for the benefit of the American community.