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Gun Control

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Nov-02-18 more informaition

Introduction

The debate over gun control in the United States has waxed and waned over the years, stirred by a series of mass shootings by gunmen in civilian settings. In particular, the killing of twenty schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 prompted a new national discussion about gun laws. However, legislation that would have banned semiautomatic assault weapons was defeated in the Senate despite extensive public support. In 2017, mass shootings at a music festival in Las Vegas and at a church near San Antonio have rekindled the gun control debate and invoked comparisons of U.S. gun policies and those of other wealthy democracies.

United States

Gun ownership in the United States is rooted in the Second Amendment of the Constitution: "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."

However, the right is not unlimited. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld some firearms restrictions, such as bans on concealed weapons and on the possession of certain types of weapons, as well as prohibitions against the sale of guns to certain categories of people. The Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits persons under eighteen years of age, convicted criminals, the mentally disabled, dishonorably discharged military personnel, and others from purchasing firearms. In 1993, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act mandated background checks for all unlicensed persons purchasing a firearm from a federally authorized dealer.

At the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court has rolled back certain gun laws. In 2008, the court struck down a Washington, DC, law that banned handguns.

Firearms per 100 people Gun Ownership Rates United States Norway Canada Australia Israel United Kingdom Japan 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100

Source: Small Arms Survey (2007).

Gun homicides per 100,000 people Gun Homicide Rates United States Israel Canada Australia Norway United Kingdom Japan 0 1 2 3 4 United States Gun Homicides per 100,000 People: 3.54

Source: University of Sydney.

Federal law provides the basis for firearm regulation in the United States, but states and cities can impose further restrictions. Some states, such as Idaho, Alaska, and Kansas, have passed various laws attempting to nullify federal gun legislation, but legal analysts say these are unconstitutional.

In January 2016, President Barack Obama took several actions intended to decrease gun violence, including a measure requiring dealers of firearms at gun shows or online to obtain federal licenses and conduct background checks.

As of 2017, there were no federal laws banning semiautomatic assault weapons, military-style .50 caliber rifles, handguns, or large-capacity magazines. There was a federal prohibition on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines between 1994 and 2004, but Congress allowed these restrictions to expire. In the days after the mass shooting in Las Vegas, in October, some lawmakers expressed provisional support for a federal prohibition of so-called bump fire stocks, devices that allow semiautomatic guns to fire at a rate approaching that of automatic weapons.

The United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, has about 35–50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns, according to a report by the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey. It ranks number one in firearms per capita. The United States also has the highest homicide-by-firearm rate among the world’s most developed nations. But many gun rights proponents say these statistics do not indicate a causal relationship and note that the rates of gun homicide and other gun crimes in the United States have dropped since highs in the early 1990s.

Canada

As in the United States, Canada’s national government sets gun restrictions that the provinces, territories, and municipalities can supplement. And like its southern neighbor, Canada’s gun laws have often been driven by gun violence. In 1989, a student armed with a semiautomatic rifle killed fourteen students and injured more than a dozen others at a Montreal engineering school. The incident is widely credited with driving major gun reforms that imposed a twenty-eight-day waiting period for purchases; mandatory safety training courses; more detailed background checks; bans on large-capacity magazines; and bans or greater restrictions on military-style firearms and ammunition.

Firearms in Canada are divided into three classes: nonrestricted weapons, such as ordinary rifles and shotguns; restricted, such as handguns and semiautomatic rifles/shotguns; and prohibited, such as automatic weapons. It is illegal to own a fully automatic weapon unless it was registered before 1978.

Changes to the law in 1995 required individuals to obtain a license to buy guns and ammunition, as well as register all firearms. However, in 2012, the requirement to register nonrestricted guns was dropped, and related public records were expunged.

Australia

The inflection point for modern gun control in Australia was the Port Arthur massacre of 1996, when a young man killed thirty-five people and wounded nearly two dozen others. The rampage, perpetrated with a semiautomatic rifle, was the worst mass shooting in the nation’s history. Less than two weeks later, the conservative-led national government pushed through fundamental changes to the country’s gun laws in cooperation with the various states and territories, which regulate firearms.

The National Agreement on Firearms all but prohibited automatic and semiautomatic assault rifles, mandated licensing and registration, and instituted a temporary gun buyback program that took some 650,000 assault weapons (about one-sixth of the national stock) out of public circulation. Among other things, the law also required licensees to demonstrate a "genuine need" for a particular type of gun and take a firearm safety course. After another high-profile shooting in Melbourne in 2002, Australia’s handgun laws were tightened as well. Many analysts say these measures have been highly effective, citing declining gun death rates and the absence of gun-related mass killings in Australia since 1996.

Israel

Military service is compulsory in Israel, and guns are a part of everyday life. Much of the population has indirect access to an assault weapon by either being a soldier or a reservist or a relative of one. By law, most eighteen-year-olds are drafted, psychologically screened, and provided at least some weapons training after high school. After serving typically two or three years in the armed forces, however, most Israelis are discharged and subject to civilian gun laws.

The country has relatively strict gun regulations, including an assault-weapons ban and a requirement to register ownership with the government. To become licensed, an applicant must be an Israeli citizen or a permanent resident, be at least twenty-one-years-old, and speak at least some Hebrew, among other qualifications. Applicants must also show genuine cause to carry a firearm, such as self-defense or hunting.

United Kingdom

Modern gun control efforts in the United Kingdom have been precipitated by extraordinary acts of violence that sparked public outrage and, eventually, political action. In 1987, a lone gunman armed with two semiautomatic rifles and a handgun went on a six-hour shooting spree roughly seventy miles west of London, killing more than a dozen people and then himself. In the wake of the incident, known as the Hungerford massacre, Britain introduced the Firearms (Amendment) Act, which expanded the list of banned weapons, including certain semiautomatic rifles, and increased registration requirements for other weapons.

A gun-related tragedy in the Scottish town of Dunblane in 1996 prompted Britain’s strictest gun laws yet. A man armed with four handguns shot and killed sixteen schoolchildren and one adult before committing suicide in the country’s worst mass shooting to date. The incident sparked a public campaign known as the Snowdrop Petition, which helped drive legislation banning handguns, with few exceptions. The government also instituted a temporary gun buyback program, which many credit with taking tens of thousands of illegal or unwanted guns out of supply.

Norway

Gun control had rarely been much of a political issue in Norway—where gun laws are viewed as tough, but ownership rates are high—until right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed seventy-seven people in attacks in Oslo and at an island summer camp in 2011. Though Norway ranked tenth worldwide in gun ownership, according to the Small Arms Survey, it placed near the bottom in gun homicide rates. (The U.S. rate is roughly sixty-four times higher.) Most Norwegian police, like the British, do not carry firearms.

In the wake of the tragedy, some analysts in the United States cited Breivik’s rampage as proof that strict gun laws—which in Norway include requiring applicants to be at least eighteen years of age, specify a “valid reason” for gun ownership, and obtain a government license—are ineffective. “Those who are willing to break the laws against murder do not care about the regulation of firearms, and will get a hold of weapons whether doing so is legal or not,” wrote Charles C. W. Cooke in National Review. Other gun control critics have argued that had other Norwegians, including the police, been armed, Breivik might have been stopped earlier and killed fewer victims. After the massacre, an independent commission recommended tightening Norway’s gun restrictions in a number of ways, including prohibiting pistols and semiautomatic weapons, but changes were not made.

Japan

Gun control advocates regularly cite Japan’s highly restrictive firearm regulations in tandem with its extraordinarily low gun homicide rate, which is the lowest in the world at one in ten million, according to the latest data available. Most guns are illegal in the country and ownership rates, which are quite small, reflect this.

Under Japan’s firearm and sword law [PDF], the only guns permitted are shotguns, air guns, guns with specific research or industrial purposes, or those used for competitions. However, before access to these specialty weapons is granted, one must obtain formal instruction and pass a battery of written, mental, and drug tests and a rigorous background check. Furthermore, owners must inform the authorities of how their weapons and ammunition are stored and provide their firearms for annual inspection.

Some analysts link Japan’s aversion to firearms with its demilitarization in the aftermath of World War II. Others say that because the overall crime rate in the country is so low, most Japanese see no need for firearms.

  1. What is gun control?

    “Gun control” is a broad term that covers any sort of restriction on what kinds of firearms can be sold and bought, who can possess or sell them, where and how they can be stored or carried, what duties a seller has to vet a buyer, and what obligations both the buyer and the seller have to report transactions to the government.

    Sometimes, the term is also used to cover related matters, like limits on types of ammunition and magazines, or technology, like the type that allows guns to fire only when gripped by their owners.

    In recent years, gun control debates have focused primarily on background checks for buyers, allowing people to carry weapons in public, and whether to allow the possession of assault rifles.

  2. What is the state of gun control today?

    Federal law prohibits certain people from owning firearms: those with certain kinds of criminal records or mental illness; drug addicts; immigrants without legal status; veterans who left the military with a dishonorable discharge; anyone with a permanent restraining order keeping them from a partner or a partner’s children. And there are others barred as well; a full list of the prohibitions can be found here.

    Federal law requires that licensed gun dealers conduct a background check, through a database run by the F.B.I., to see if the customer is among those prohibited from owning a gun.

    But the system has major holes in it, among them incomplete listings of criminal cases. Perhaps the biggest hole is that small-scale sellers, including many who do business at gun shows, are not required to do background checks – the so-called gun show loophole.

    The law’s provision on the mentally ill is extremely porous, too. It prohibits gun possession by a person “adjudicated as a mental defective” by a court or other authority. Most people with serious mental illness never receive such adjudication, and those who do can petition courts to have it reversed. Many mass shootings have been carried out by people who were recognized by those around them as being deeply disturbed, yet were able to own guns legally.

    From 1994 to 2004, federal law also banned the sale of many types of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, but the law expired and has not been renewed. A few states have assault weapon bans of their own that remain in place.

    In fact, most gun controls exist at the state level, with New York, California, New Jersey, Maryland, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Illinois and Massachusetts being the most restrictive.

    Some states have more stringent background check systems than the federal one, for example, and some require checks before private sales like those at gun shows. Some states require a license or permit to own a gun, but most do not.

    Laws on carrying weapons vary enormously. Most states allow anyone who legally owns a gun to carry it openly, in public, without requiring a license or permit. A few states also have no permit requirement to carry a concealed gun. Concealed carry requires a permit in most states, but the majority of those states grant the permits automatically to any legal gun owners who want them. States also vary in their rules on gun possession in specific settings, like campuses and houses of worship.

    For example, in Rhode Island, any person with a concealed carry permit can bring a gun onto the grounds of a public school, but next door in Massachusetts, written permission from school officials is required – and rarely given.

  3. What do law enforcement authorities say about gun control?

    There is no consensus. In fact, law enforcement officials have the same kinds of cultural and regional divides as everyone else.

    In general, big-city police chiefs are more likely to support gun control, and small-town chiefs and sheriffs are more likely to oppose it. Those in the Northeast are more likely than those in the South and West to favor it.

    The Major Cities Chiefs Association endorses closing the gun show loophole, strengthening the background check system, reinstating the assault weapons ban and other measures. The Major County Sheriffs’ Association disagrees on assault weapons, but agrees on strengthening background checks.

    The National Sheriffs Association, which includes more sparsely populated areas, has stated that it “does not support any laws that deprive any citizen of the rights provided” by the Second Amendment. And some rural sheriffs have simply refused to enforce new controls.

  4. Where does the American public stand?

    Over the past 25 years, Americans’ support for stricter gun control laws has been generally declining even as the number of mass shootings is on the rise. While some high-profile shootings have resulted in calls for increased restrictions, that support has proved fleeting thus far. Gun control is one of the most sharply divisive issues in the U.S. today.

    This chart, compiled by the Roper Center, provides a summary of public opinion on the issue since 1989. The most recent reading was taken in mid-September by Quinnipiac University, and found Americans were evenly divided. Several polls in the last several months have shown a similar divide with majorities of Democrats and those without a gun in their households favoring more restrictions on guns and majorities of Republicans and gun owners voicing opposition.

    The results, however, also depend in part on how you ask the question. Surveys that ask broadly whether people favor stricter gun laws show the public roughly evenly divided but when surveys ask people about specific gun restrictions, the picture becomes much more pro-control.

    Overwhelming majorities support universal background checks, and steps to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people. Those changes have vast support among Republicans and Democrats, and gun owners and non-owners alike. (In 2013, The New York Times profiled several people from across the country who had intimate experiences with firearms, including gun enthusiasts who fell on both sides of the gun control debate.) Majorities also favor the creation of a federal database to track all gun sales, and an assault weapons ban, though answers to those question show more of a partisan divide.

  5. What are the arguments against gun control?

    The arguments come down to principle, law and practicality.

    Gun rights advocates see weapon possession as a matter of individual rights. They say that people have the right to arm themselves for hunting, self-defense, sport – or just because they want to.

    Legally, the debates often come down to the Second Amendment, whose 18th century context and language have been endlessly parsed and debated: “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.” Gun rights advocates say that means an individual right to gun possession, while gun control advocates say it means the people’s collective right, through a militia.

    For generations, the Supreme Court avoided directly answering the question, though its decisions were often seen as favoring the collective interpretation. But in 2008, the Supreme Court ruled for the first time, in a 5-to-4 decision, that the Second Amendment protects the individual right to have firearms. Even so, debates continue to rage on what sorts of limitations on that right are allowable.

    On a practical level, gun owners argue that the weapons actually make society safer, giving people the power of self-defense, and dissuading criminals from victimizing people who might be armed. In particular, they say that an armed citizen can stop a mass shooter.

  6. What are the arguments in favor?

    They begin with numbers. The United States has far more gun ownership than other developed countries, and far more gun violence. In 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation had more than 33,000 firearms deaths: 70 percent of all homicides (11,208), more than half of all suicides (21,175), and hundreds of accidental and unsolved deaths.

    Fewer guns, better records on who has them, and some restrictions on purchase, possession and storage, gun control advocates argue, would still allow law-abiding people to have firearms, while resulting in far fewer deaths. They contend that it is not a question of disarming the public or absolutes – most people agree that individuals should not have bazookas or machine guns – but a matter of where to draw sensible limits.

    While gun-rights advocates say more people armed equal a safer society, people who favor gun control say the opposite is true: the more people carry weapons, the more likely it is that an everyday dispute can escalate to lethal force. Social scientists say there is little reliable data one way or another.

  7. Why does nothing get done about gun control?

    Gun rights advocates, led by the National Rifle Association, form a powerful lobby that politicians fear to cross. For many of them, it is a core voting issue, a line they will not cross, which, as President Obama recently lamented, is less often true for those who want gun control.

    These advocates have effectively deployed the argument that after mass shootings, when emotions run high – and interest in new restrictions spikes – is not the time to debate the issue.

    Opponents of gun control often talk about President Obama wanting to take guns away from lawful owners, and although he has never proposed to do that, many gun owners continue to believe it.

    The gun lobby has also become more unyielding in recent years. The N.R.A. has hardened its opposition to expanded background checks, for example, and after years in which the group gave subdued responses to mass shootings, after the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting, Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A.’s executive vice president, famously declared that school employees should have been armed, because “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

    Over the past generation, American politics have become more bitterly partisan, and regional divisions more rigid. As a result, gun control has become an increasingly partisan issue, with Republicans more uniformly opposed – at a time when Congress and most state houses are in Republican hands.

    The result is that in recent years, states have gone in opposing directions. Responding in many cases to the same mass shootings, some have made their gun laws stricter (such as Oregon and Connecticut) while about the same number (including Arkansas and Georgia) have made theirs weaker.

    In Congress and in more conservative and rural states, gun control tends to be a non-starter. Gun control advocates say politicians’ fear of the gun rights lobby is exaggerated, but even in swing states and some more liberal ones, that lobby has a reputation for punishing those who step out of line.

    After Colorado enacted new gun controls, in 2013, gun rights groups succeeded in recalling two Democratic state senators who had voted for the measures, including the Senate leader. In 2014, they targeted two Democratic governors who had signed tougher gun restrictions into law, John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, but both were narrowly re-elected.

    Another example of the gun lobby’s power came after Smith & Wesson broke with the rest of the gun industry in 2000, agreeing to several control measures to settle government lawsuits over gun violence. The N.R.A. led a boycott of Smith & Wesson, its sales plummeted, and rather than setting an example that other gun makers would follow, the company backed out of the deal.

    It was the first day of school, the very first day. When I sat down to dinner, I expected to hear my daughters’ happy jabber about their friends and teachers. I did not expect their excited exclamations to center on guns. But here we are.

    “Mommy, you know what we’re supposed to do? We’re going to throw staplers at a shooter if one comes! That will confuse him, and his bullets will miss, and more people will get away!”

    It was like a record screeching in my brain. What did I just hear? The room fell silent as I struggled to parse the reality that my children had apparently been told to act like Wile E. Coyote, or some other cute but deranged cartoon character who couldn’t die, in the face of a machine gun.

    And my kids, being 10, thought that was a really nifty idea.

    My kids don’t know what it means to die by gunshot. They don’t know what it means to die at all. They think they’re invincible because they’re babies, and they believe they should stand up and fight a shooter with school supplies because a trusted adult told them to.

    Parents are well aware that we live in a time of mass shootings. We worry for our children in a way generations past never had to. Every drop-off, every kiss on the forehead and “Have a good day” becomes precious. We don’t fret day in and day out, but that undercurrent of unease stays with us throughout the day until our little ones are back home with us. We can only hope that, should something happen at school, our babies will be spared.

    In Florida, some counties have implemented ALICE. It stands for “Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate,” an active-shooter civilian response training program used for police officers, businesses government officials and, of course, elementary school kids. Across the country, school districts are implementing all sorts of training and education for teachers and kids. All of them focus on how not to die in school. All of them place the responsibility for staying alive on the victims.

    And what choice do we have? In a country where we can’t even consider gun regulation, we have to try secondary means to save lives. If we’re not going to do anything about gun control, we’re left with no choice but to train our children how to try not to get shot.

    Part of that training is stand up to the machine gun and toss school supplies at it. Confuse the shooter.

    What kind of David and Goliath game are we playing with my children?

    [When a child asks: What should I do if someone points a gun at me?]

    While I understand that, in theory, someone could and maybe even should stand up and fight back to help others escape by creating confusion, distraction and stopping for even a few moments the course of those bullets, I don’t want that to be my children. I don’t want that to be anyone’s children. And how cynical of the adults to pass this idea down to them, these little humans whose closest idea of violent death comes from cartoons or video games — where the characters get to try again.

    It’s been weeks now, and, honestly, I’m still enraged whenever I think about my kids gleefully grabbing an old textbook and tossing it at speeding bullets coming their way.

    This is completely unacceptable. Not only because of the sheer ridiculousness of babies against AR-15s, but also on a level deeper than that. Look at how far we, as a nation, will go to avoid sorely needed gun control. We’re twisting ourselves in knots and forcing schools to pay for all this training to save our kids’ lives, just so we don’t have to contemplate legislation that would stop the problem at its root. This cannot stand.

    At the very least, if we’re going to do this and pay people to train all the schools, we need to come up with something better than children throwing staplers at machine guns.

    We are foisting so much responsibility on the shoulders of potential victims, some of whom are as young as 4. We’re coming up with every secondary solution possible, from federal money for guns in schools, to arming teachers, to bulletproof backpacks, to students triaging each other, to little kids tossing pencil sharpeners at live shooters. We are doing all this to avoid the primary solution: controlling access to guns.

    We can teach our children how to run in zigzags and jump the fence during school hours, how to play dead and where the best hiding spots are, or we could solve the problem and ban guns.

    Gun regulation is really our only solution here. We need to take the onus off the children just trying to get an education and also not die.

    What happens when the bullets fly past the stapler and into my kid’s chest? What happens when it’s your child instead? When do we stop telling kids how to survive and start telling people not to shoot them — not with words but with laws? When do we put our legislation where our mouths are?

    Why are our kids’ lives worth nothing to our country?

DMU Timestamp: September 17, 2018 17:21

Added November 02, 2018 at 2:02pm by Alexis DiGregorio
Title: more informaition

Parkland, Florida. Another week, another school massacre. And, as the opponents of meaningful restrictions on the sale of guns and ammunition trot out their well-worn arguments for ignoring the bloodletting, another missed opportunity to call them on the enormous gap in the logic of their case.

We can repeat the arguments in our sleep. As President Donald Trump puts it, "We have a lot of mental health problems in our country ... [b]ut this isn't a guns situation."

As former Arkansas governor and Trump rival Mike Huckabee says, "When somebody has an intent to do incredible damage, they're going to find a way to do it."

And, according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, "with the ability to carry [guns], there's always the opportunity that gunman will be taken out before he has the opportunity to kill very many people."

Whether gun control advocates wish to admit it or not, there's truth in each of these assertions. Well-adjusted individuals don't arm themselves to the teeth and go on shooting sprees. People set on doing others in can choose from among a variety of means to accomplish the task. An occasional gun-toting bystander may, by chance, be able to take out a mass shooter before the latter has finished. Indeed, it is by no means certain that gun control measures would have prevented any of the mass killings that have become the new normal.

Here, though, is the unseen fallacy employed by the Second Amendment fetishists. To constitute sound, life-preserving legislation, restrictions on the availability of guns and ammunition needn't prevent all gun-related carnage.

An analogy: knowing full well that murders will inevitably occur in a nation of 300 million people, we nonetheless adopt homicide laws and punish violators we manage to apprehend. If, instead, we were to reason — as gun control opponents would have us do with gun restrictions — that homicide laws are inappropriate since they are not perfect deterrents, we'd be stepping over dead bodies as we stroll down the sidewalk.

The best that homicide law or gun restrictions or any prohibition against harmful conduct can do is deter some of the people who would otherwise engage in the prohibited conduct. In fact, though, even a modest measure, like banning the semi-automatic attack rifles used in many of this decade's mass shootings, would, over time, save any number of innocent lives.

The gun lobby's emphasis of the imperfection of gun restrictions is an example of what in formal logic is called a "red herring" argument, in which the speaker's argument deflects attention from the issue at hand. In this case, the issue at hand is whether gun control measures are likely to save some — but not all — of the many lives now lost through gunfire, and the "red herring" is the assertion of the NRA and other opponents of restrictions that many lives will still be lost.

Though they hold truth, the tired arguments trotted out after mass murders like the one in Parkland to maintain the easy availability of attack weapons are pretexts to preserve the age-old accoutrement that makes men feel like men. Through a rhetorical sleight of hand, the incomplete prevention of gun deaths through tighter restrictions has become an argument to do nothing.

Whatever the fate of efforts to impose stiffer gun restrictions, it's time to pull the curtain back on the serious illogic of the gun-control opponents.

DMU Timestamp: November 02, 2018 17:13





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