“The United States must do more, to protect the American children. If we are unable to do so, shame on us and our legacy.” These were the chilling words spoken by U.S. President, Barack Obama after the mass shooting at a school in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty children and six women died in the assault on Sandy Hook school by a lone man who took his own life. Officials say the gunman was armed with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and used a semi-automatic rifle as his main weapon.
This is for the first time that President Obama himself has spoken against America’s liberal gun-laws. However calls for the restriction of arms sales by the Democratic government have been met by protests and anger by a large group of “pro-gun” enthusiasts who cite the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as the “right to own arms for self-defense”. So how do US gun laws work, and are they too liberal? Lets explore…
According to the current U.S. gun law (Gun Control Act-1968), any law-abiding citizen in the United States is allowed to carry or own a gun. This right comes from the US Bill of Rights and the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, the country’s supreme law, which was written in 1791. This makes the United States one of the most liberal countries regarding gun laws. Thus, many Americans feel that bearing arms is an intrinsic part of their culture. However after recent cases of terrorist attacks and mass-shootings which left people across the country startled, many people are beginning to wonder if America’s liberal arms act is virtually ‘helping’ criminals to obtain arms.
In the most simple terms, those opposed to gun use and ownership say fewer people would die if there were tighter controls. They point to the high number of people killed in the United States every year in gun related violence compared to countries where people aren’t allowed to own guns. Some regard the laws as outdated and obselete which were required two centuries ago. Statistics do back their claims…
On the other hand, the people who back liberal gun sales argue that American citizens should be allowed to defend themselves, especially in more rural and less populated areas of the country and that it is their right under the Second Amendment. They also say that if guns are banned, only the criminals will remain armed.
Either way, the U.S. has a very strong gun lobby which has a profound influence on the political, social and cultural lives of Americans. Groups such as the wealthy National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Gun Owners of America (GOA) often mobilise voters and politicians to back existing gun laws and argue against anti-gun lobbies. Politicians fear arguing against these organisations could lose them votes. Thus, anti-gun protests have been stifled pretty easily in the past.
However for the first time in modern U.S. history a sitting U.S. President has declared his intention to implement tough gun laws, despite opposition from the Republican controlled Congress. Several of Obama’s Republican rivals have declared that they would erase the measures “on day one” if they win the White House. This time, however, more people than ever are favouring revamped gun laws fearing for their and their family’s lives. Just take a look at the graph below:
Lets hope that there is an extensive policy debate on gun-laws this election season and the people of the United States proceed with an open mind.
Though restricting gun sales will not solve every violent crime in the US, it will potentially save lives and spare families the pain of loss of their loved ones.