The Symbols of Freedom and Liberty

Guns are used to kill 86 people in the U.S. Each day (Vittes et. all). Guns aren’t killing people, but people are using guns to commit homicides at a rate seven times higher than the other 22 high income nations (Vittes et. all). As a country the U.S. institutionalized a right to bear arms after the American Revolution, along with a near lawless frontier it allowed and facilitated the development of a massive gun industry. Resulting in 240 million guns in the United States (Hagan and Foster), there are more than 20,000 laws regarding guns in the U.S., more than enough more than enough to criminalize and punish offenders. 

The problem is not having guns, the problem is proper control and documentation over the supply of firearms. “When we look carefully at what some of these laws might require, we see that they were meant to be difficult to enforce” (Braga). Federal Law requires anyone who purchases a gun from a federally licensed firearms dealer to present Government issued identification and pass a background check. In contrary if it is a private transaction the law allows it to go on with no background check or legal paperwork to record the identities of both parties, a government provided identification would suffice. The 1986 McClure-Volkmer Firearms Owner Protection Act (FOPA) makes it difficult to prosecute gun traffickers for dealing firearms without a license, because they can pose as private sellers.  Congress needs to close this loophole and regulate the secondary firearms market. Straw Purchasers (those who falsely purchase weapons for others prohibited), Unregulated private dealers, and corrupt license dealers illegally diverted new and second-hand firearms within states and across state lines according to the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Bureau. “Gun traffickers exploit this gaping loophole in licensing law to illegally divert guns to criminals and juveniles” (Braga).

Laws should be in place federally and not by state to implement the recording and requiring of background checks for every gun transaction especially private transactions happening in the United States. Federal laws would make weapons less accessible to those with malicious intent or at the least document the identities of those owning weapons; citizens and gang members alike. The lack of background checks and transaction paperwork in secondary markets make it easy for prohibited persons, criminals, and juveniles to acquire firearms and make it specifically difficult for law enforcement to prevent, detect, and prosecute the illicit sellers and buyers. Citizens need guns to protect themselves only because criminals have easy access to firearms through the means of these unregulated loop holes. Prior to the act (FOPA), the operating rule was that individuals who sold five guns or more per year were considered a firearms dealer and were required to obtain a federal license to sell (Braga). Now there is no defined limit to the number of guns sold or the profits made before an unlicensed seller is required to obtain a license. There should be a specific limitation in place for the avoidance of gun trafficking or set specific regulations for the Gun collectors to know and apply the proper background checks and documentation for gun sales. The limitations of private sales would hinder the ability of Firearms traffickers operating illegally to avoid prosecution by claiming they sell from only their “private collection”. “In all but a handful of states it is perfectly legal for criminals, gun traffickers, and others to skirt under the background check requirement by obtaining firearms from unlicensed sellers” (Vittes et. all). 

Our neighbors to the north, Canada has taken more strict approach to keep their guns out of the wrong hands. Canada has only 7 million firearms, a third of the guns in the United States (Hagan and Foster). Canada had a permit system for handguns in the country by 1982 and since 1932 a system in place for the registration of all firearms. Being able to keep guns out of violent crimes conflicts has significance for the offenders as well as victims. It also helps that the citizens of Canada have been in support when it comes to restricting and limiting the use of their guns contrary to the 2nd amendment addicts of the United States.  In Canada however, “burglars armed with guns may become robbers and murderers. If guns were less controlled in Canada, many of these burglaries might have been robberies and might even have caused homicides. That is, the Canadian burglary rate may be relatively high because it includes the incidents that in the United States might have become robberies or homicides” (Hagan and Foster). Handgun use in the United States accounted for if not all most of the growth in homicide after 1985. Compared to Canada, non-gun incidents prevailed, doubling in growth from 1990 to 1991. But hand gun deaths form only a small minority category, throughout the period of mid 1970’s to the mid 1990’s the rate of handgun homicides did not change substantially. The overwhelming of casualties in Canada came from non-gun incidents as opposed to gun terrorism. Canada and the U.S. might have similar homicide trends, but the effects of said trends in Canada have been contained at greatly reduced levels by the lesser involvement of guns and the federal regulations they have in place for purchasing and possession documentation of firearms (Hagan and Foster).

Firearm transactions need to be documented as a centralized database, rather than pieces scattered and kept on file by dealers, distributors, and manufacturers on their own. Not only would this provide a traced history for new and second-hand firearm transactions it would also provide the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Bureau with more support by being able to trace firearms and manage better conviction rates against illegal gun runners. Canada is a leading example of how a country can have an armed citizenry while being able to prevent those who are not qualified to have guns away from having access. It is second amendment right for U.S. citizens to be able to bear arms and will continue to do so if there’s groups who feel the need to arm themselves. There is a proper way to arm the law abiding citizen to defend his family I agree but at the same time it would be more beneficial to cut off access to those which they are defending themselves from. The regulation of the secondary gun market is crucial to that path, it starts with the prevention of private sales to go on without the need for a background check. If federal laws were applied rather by state, it would set a consistent base for gun reform to occur on a national scale. A database established for Firearms transaction history would further benefit the ability to prevent gun violence on the streets through convictions of the illicit gun traffickers supplying to the prohibited. More laws and more enforcement are complimentary and not substitutes to each other. Both are needed to reduce the social burden of gun violence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

  • Common sense gun policy reforms for the United States: The most recent mass shooting has led to a rare opportunity to effect change, Katherine A. Vittes, Jon S. Vernick, & Daniel W. Webster, British Medical Journal, Vol. 346, No. 7889 Jan 15, 2013 p. 6, Publisher: British Medical Journal, Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23493453
  • More Gun Laws or more Gun Law Enforcement, Anthony A. Braga, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Vol. 20, NO. 3, Summer 2001, pp.543-549, Publisher: Wiley on behalf of Association for public policy analysis and management, Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3326136
  • Making corporate and criminal America less violent: Public norms and structural reforms, John Hagan & Holly Foster, Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 29, No. 1, Utopian Visions: Engaged sociology for the 21st century, January 2000, pp 44-53, Publisher: American Sociological Association, Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2654930

 

Images Cited

(Top to bottom)

  • Customers viewing semi automatic rifles on display at a gun shop in Los Angeles, California – CNBC.com
  • Pro-gun conspiracy theories – Blogspot.com
  • How real or possible is gun confiscation – concealedcarry.com
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