Anna BarnesMr. SeisAP English Language and Composition22 December 2017Changes in Gun Control One of the most highly debated and intensely controversial topics of today is that of gun control. The constant battle between the unyielding firearm owners defending their second amendment rights and the resolute anti-gun community does not have one simple solution. In fact, the conditions of this massive situation is so complex and intricate that there probably will never be one solution. However, one thing that should be an absolute is the reduction of firearms and their availability, more specifically automatic and semi-automatic firearms Guns can be obtained and abused far too easily. As a solution, the government needs to create and revise laws in order to secure the safety of American citizens and to minimize the commonality of both large and small scale firearm deaths.

This can be achieved by diminishing the sale and production of both automatic and semi-automatic weapons. According to an article titled “Gun Timeline” published on, the first recorded use of a firearm was in 1364. Ever since then, firearms have been the strongest and most influential weapons to be harnessed by humans.

The use of guns have been used to put food on the table, to secure the safety of communities since their beginning. However, along with these firearms comes choices. One of them being the choice to protect or attack.

These weapons wielded by so many people, only ensure the fears of a multitude of people. The fear that these tools will be used for harm. An estimated 55 million Americans own guns. With these numbers, flaws are bound to happen somewhere. Between those 55 million people are nearly 265 million guns in the United States alone (Jervis, Rick. “3% of Americans own half the country’s 265 million guns.). To plainy state that the government needs to enact “a law” to prevent further firearm deaths in the states is simply irrational and out of the question.

Because of the vast community of the black market, guns will never be inaccessible. However, the government does need to further limit the availability and regulations of firearms today. To create sufficient laws, it is important to first look at past precedents to determine its effectiveness and how to keep history from repeating. To begin, is the Sullivan Act.

 It was the beginning of many guntrol pieces passed by legislation in 1911. Essentially, this act required a permit to carry or own concealable firearms. Unfortunately, this law was passed as a result of a high profile shooting of David Graham Phillips.

The shooting began the movement for a manner of gun control that is still in motion today. While this act helped to limit concealable weapons, it wasn’t as useful in controlling larger and deadlier weapons. Around two decades later in the 1930s, the congress passed the first set of national gun control laws. The National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934 implemented a tax on the manufacturing and sale of weapons such as  machine guns, shotguns, and certain rifles. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS),  this act  “was designed to make it difficult to obtain types of firearms perceived to be especially lethal or to be the chosen weapons of ‘gangsters,’ most notably machine guns and long barreled guns (Infobase Learning).” Still in use today, the NFA continues to tax the manufacturing and sale of such weapons. While looking at just the two cases so far it is evident that common U.

S. citizens do not need to own a semi-automatic or automatic guns. To claim that these are necessary for protection would be unreasonable.

Firing that many rounds of ammunition solely for the purpose of protection would be overkill. The only reason these assault weapons should be manufactured and marketed is purely for militaristic use. Putting this type of power in the hands of immature and inexperienced gun owners just creates poor situations. The government can not maintain a naive stand-point when it comes to allowing citizens to freely own guns and assuming they have proper intentions. Furthermore, is the Federal Firearms Act passed by Congress in 1938 which required firearm dealers to obtain a Federal Firearms License. It also made it mandatory for dealers to keep records of every weapon sold across both state and national lines. Additionally, it prohibited the sale of weapons to people who have been convicted of a crime.

In the 1960s, a series of political assassinations lead to more changes in the U.S. gun policy. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald using a rifle that he had purchased through the mail. Five years later, in 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

and New York senator Robert F Kennedy were both shot and killed. This further inspired the movement to limit gun ownership. Later that year, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the gun control act into law. This measure made it necessary for gun manufacturers to obtain federal licenses and keep more detailed records of gun sales.

It also prohibited the importation of guns that were not intended for sporting purposes and the sale of rifles and shotguns being sold via the U.S. mail. Prior to the act, people seeking to buy guns through the mail only had to sign a statement declaring that they were over the age of 21. (Infobase Learning)” Obviously, this placed a lot of trust in the hands of many untrustworthy people which is an unwise decision. Consequently, gun violence has become so common since.

Some time later in the mid-1970s, the National Rifle Association (NRA) became a major force in opposing gun control measures. The association was founded in 1871 to aid members of the U.S. Armed Forces in improving their marksmanship. The NRA eventually developed into an organization dedicated to promoting gun ownership and opposing gun control. In 1975, the NRA created the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), which was a campaigning group that sought to increase the NRA’s influence in government policy making. The ILA was able to defeat an effort of Senator Edward Kennedy; to give the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) the power to regulate guns and ammunition for the purpose of protecting consumers against defective merchandise. The ILA had argued that the effort was a “backdoor attempt at gun control and was unconstitutional.

” After this case, the debate about gun ownership became very distinguished and clear divide was present. Some time later, President Ronald Reagan was shot by a mentally ill man as he was leaving a hotel in Washington D.C. on March 30th, 1981. Reagan, who was shot in the chest, survived without permanent injuries. However, White House Press Secretary James Brady was shot in the head and left disabled. The attack prompted yet another wave of anti gun protests and Brady’s wife, Sarah, became an advocate for stricter gun legislation. As a result, on November 30, 1993, President Bill Clinton signed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act into Law (Infobase Learning).

Often known as the Brady Bill, the law stated that local law enforcement was required to issue a background check and five day waiting period to anyone attempting to purchase a weapon. ¨Under federal law, anyone who buys a gun from a licensed firearm dealer must undergo an instant criminal background check. The check is designed to determine if the buyer fits any criteria that will prevent them from purchasing or possessing any firearms, including a prior felony conviction, certain domestic violence misdemeanors, unlawful use of controlled substances, or commitment to a mental institution.¨ ( Vernick, Jon S., et al. “Background checks for all gun buyers and gun violence restraining orders: state efforts to keep guns from high-risk persons.”) States with laws requiring background checks of all buyers are unevenly distributed throughout the U.

S., with a greater density of these laws in the northeast and western states. According to a study conducted by the Department of Justice, ¨between 1994 and 2014, federal, state, and local agencies conducted background checks on more than 180 million firearm applications and denied 2.82 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers. To date, the background check system has blocked over 3 million firearm sales to prohibited purchasers.” While this system of background checks is certainly important, there is a detrimental loophole. ¨ {The} federal law does not require a background check when a gun is purchased from someone who is not a licensed gun dealer.

People prohibited from purchasing firearms may not legally acquire guns under any circumstances, but when no check is required to verify their status, there is nothing to enforce the prohibition.¨ (source) This shows that even with the strictest of background checks, criminals can still find a way of purchasing and handling guns. The most common ways of doing so through gun shows, flea markets, and the black market. While new laws are coming around, not enough is being done. Back road ways of buying guns should be banned and stricter laws need to be placed, limiting gun purchases to only be allowed through licensed dealers. However, putting such extreme limitations on weapons would lead to more objections.Along with the Brady Bill, came new legal challenges.

In a 1997 Supreme court case, Printz v. United States, the Court ruled 5–4 that the changes in the Brady Bill that required local law enforcement to conduct background checks was unconstitutional. The checks, the Court ruled, violated the 10th amendment of the United States Constitution, which bands the federal government from exerting certain powers over states that the Constitution does not specifically delegate. Despite this ruling, many state and local law-enforcement agencies continue to carry out the background checks unconstitutionally. Then, in 1998, the Brady Bill waiting requirement expired. That year, also in accordance with the Brady Bill, the federal government launched the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which requires gun dealers to review a database run by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) before selling guns to customers.

The database includes information on people with criminal records, outstanding arrest warrants, and a history of mental illness. Gun dealers selling weapons on the secondary market, however, were not required to check with the NICS database, a lapse known as the “gun show loophole.” In 2004, the assault weapons ban expired and Congress did not renew it. In 2007, Seung-Hui- Cho, a student at Virginia Tech, used two guns to kill 32 people and wound several others into attacks two hours apart on the college campus in Blacksburg. Cho, who had a documented history of mental and emotional health problems, had nonetheless been able to purchase guns because the state of Virginia had failed to share his history with the NICS. In response, Congress passed the  NICS Improvement Amendments Act (NIAA) of 2007, which attempted to close this loophole. “The NIAA seeks to address the gap in information available to and NICS,” a fact sheet on the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics website states. (Infobase Learning, Gun Control Laws)A year later in 2008, the Supreme Court ruled 5–4 in District of Columbia v.

Heller that “a 32-year ban on handguns in Washington, D.C., was unconstitutional under the Second Amendment.

(Infobase Learning)” The Second Amendment according to Justice Antonin Scalia “applies to the individual right to bear arms, not just state ‘militias.'” However,a string of shootings in 2015 revived the movement for gun control once again. In June, 21-year-old Dylan Roof shot and killed nine people in Charleston, South Carolina at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. “While much of the coverage of the event was focused on Roof’s motives in the shooting-Roof stated that he had targeted African Americans in hopes of starting a race war-many noted that Roof had been able to buy a gun despite having an arrest record that should have easily prevented this purchase.

FBI spokespeople blamed the mistake on a breakdown in communication between local and federal authorities in the background check system. (Infobase Learning)” However, these breakdowns cannot be allowed. This nation can not afford to have reoccuring shootings due to such matters. Tougher backgrounds checks need to be implemented therefore making it rather difficult to obtain a firearm.  Another “breakdown in communication” occured in June 2016 when gunman Omar Mateen opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people.

The FBI had questioned Mateen in 2013 and 2014 about potential ties to terrorism, but ultimately had removed his name from its Terrorist Watchlist. This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a deadly weapon that allows them the power to take innocent lives. Since then, the Democrats promoted two bills, one imposing stronger background checks on gun buyers, and the other prohibiting anyone on the FBI’s Terrorist Watch List from buying a gun. However, Republican leaders opposed both measures which led to both proposals to not reaching enough votes to be enacted.

Even after analyzing the effects of these laws, it is apparent that not enough has changed. Many people may argue that enough has already been done to minimize the chances of gun violence and that this is simply a fact of life now. There is a line between protecting the nation and violating second amendment rights. For instance, the National Rifle Association (NRA), “which is recognized widely as one of the world’s premier providers of firearm education and an adamant Second Amendment defender, believe in the rigorous persecution of crimes committed with firearms. ( O’Meara, Kelly Patricia. “Is Gun Control Just About Guns?)” While it is easy to agree that any crime committed with a weapon of such capacity should be punished severely, it becomes harder to side with the associations common belief that “there already are more than enough laws to prove that gun control does not solve criminal shootings.” While the NRA and its members make a solid point that simply spending an extra day looking into the background of gun owners will not stop shootings.

In fact, it is important to create a national database listing people with past violent tendencies such as charges for crimes such as abuse, assault, or battery of any kind to ensure they aren’t allowed to ever purchase any sort of firearm. The same should go for mental illnesses. A person with any mental illness that affects a person’s conscious thinking and could render them not sane should not be allowed to possess a firearm either. Nonetheless, it is important to note that not all shootings have occurred as a result of faulty government systems. For instance, this concept is shown more in depth when taking a look at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown Connecticut.

This shooting occurred on December 14, 2012 when 20-year old Adam Lanza shot and killed twenty children and six adults. What is so difficult about this case is that Lanza obtained the three guns used in the shooting form his legally licensed mother.  His mother purchased these guns for protection which were later abused by Lanza. Even with additional background screening and relentless paperwork, this wouldn’t have prevented the shooting.

This is because the laws can not stop the actions made once the guns are purchased and taken home. The government had no way of knowing that in the Lanza household lived a mentally ill person. Just because guns are purchased legally, it does not ensure that legal actions are going to occur with them. In fact, nearly 93 people a day are killed by guns (Everytown for Gun Safety) and even with the nearly 20,000 current federal, state, and local gun control laws (Susan Jones, How Many Gun Control Laws are There?), it’s not sufficient. More needs to be done. There are many different approaches and points of views on way to improve the nationwide gun violence.

Besides the already mentioned suggestions, it is also very crucial to properly treat mental illnesses. This includes, but is not limited to “{Ensuring} accessible, high quality, culturally competent and widely {accessible} mental health treatment in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. (Prevention Institute, Gun Violence Must Stop). While guns are becoming increasingly common and on the rise, mental health services are diminishing.

“We must face this challenge head on, reduce the stigma associated with mental health needs, and support our children, friends, family members and neighbors in seeking-and obtaining-high-quality treatment (Prevention Institute, Gun Violence Must Stop).” The controversy of guns and how they should be used is continually on the rise. Along with the rising industry of gun and the ownership comes the demand for new solutions to issues of gun violence. While most gun owners are protected under their second amendment rights, this doesn’t mean that more can not be done. It is absolutely crucial for the government to increase funding for the treatment of mental illnesses.

One of the main factors in many shootings is mental health issues. With the combination of improved mental health treatments, banning the sale of firearms through non-licensed and unevaluated distributors, and creating a nation database accessible to all distributors and law enforcement officials, there is a possibility of lessening gun violence. While there is no single solution, maybe one day with the right factors, gun violence and shootings will finally become scarce again.


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