It is fairly easy to buy and own a gun in America, as compared to most other countries in the world.
Why is this the case? The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives Americans the right to “keep and bear arms.” In the past, the U.S. Supreme Court passed two landmark judgments supporting this right. These judgments allow any person the right to own a gun for personal use and self-defense. So under the law, any person over 18 years with no past criminal record can purchase arms.
While US federal law entitles every individual to bear arms, the individual US states have laws that dictate how and where these weapons can be purchased and carried. Some states have stricter laws than others.
Why are we talking about this now? Two tragic incidents this past weekend have brought this issue back to the forefront. One was on Saturday at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and another took place in Dayton, Ohio, just 13 hours later. At least 30 people died in total, and many more were hurt.
What is the problem at hand? It is fairly easy to buy a firearm in the US as compared to most other countries in the world. It is argued that this easy availability of guns has led to a shocking number of gun related crimes in the US.
What are Americans saying about this?
For gun control: Some of them are angry and frustrated. But it isn’t just the number of guns that worries them, it’s also the kind of guns and ammunition that are legal, and how one can buy them. They are demanding some stricter gun control measures, such as:
- increasing the minimum age to buy guns from 18 years to 21 years.
- introducing universal background checks for all gun purchasers, including those buying arms on the internet. This is to stop firearms from falling into the wrong hands, such as people with links to terrorist organizations, gang members, or people suffering from mental illnesses.
- banning military-style assault rifles and ammunition.
Against gun control: Not everyone wants to change the laws. Another group believes that guns are important for self-defense, sporting activities, and hunting. They lay the blame for misuse of guns on exposure to violent video games and on poor mental health.
One powerful organization against gun control is The National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA was formed in 1871 to promote shooting sports. The group has grown very powerful over the years, and represents the entire gun industry in America. It is in the NRA’s interest for more guns to be sold in the US, and the group has actively and successfully been pushing back against gun control. It believes that gun violence will not decrease with gun control laws – it says “bans do nothing but infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens.”
What happens next? There are some important gun control proposals being considered in the US Senate at present. It is hoped that these proposals will be supported by both the Democrats and Republicans to bring about some change.
Let’s put this in context: What are gun control measures in other countries?
Gun control laws differ around the world.
Most other developed countries have banned the sale of semiautomatic assault-style weapons and ammunition magazines. They have also put stricter requirements in place for those who wish to buy a gun.
New Zealand’s Parliament banned military style weapons right after the Christchurch incident.
A year ago, Australia ran a gun amnesty program. This program urged civilians to turn in illegal guns without paying a penalty. The government was successful in collecting 57,000 illegal firearms through this measure.
The United Kingdom has gradually banned access to many firearms over the years. It is rare for civilians to own guns there.
India has one of the strictest gun laws in the world. The law prohibits the manufacture, transport, sale, and possession of firearms unless the user can obtain a license from the government.
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Written by: Biyash Choksey and Sunaina Murthy