In light of the horrific tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut, it is only fitting to discuss gun control laws in our nation. Gun control laws were barely mentioned in this year’s presidential campaign. However, mass shootings have been occurring with more frequency in our country’s recent history.Columbine. Virginia Tech. Tucson. Aurora.
Gun control laws are defined by both federal and state statutes. The U.S. Constitution – the supreme law of the land – also mentions guns in the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment states that “[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.” This does not mean that people have an unqualified, unequivocal right to own and operate a firearm. No right guaranteed by the Constitution is absolute. In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment to grant the right to own a firearm without being in the military. Heller also guaranteed the use of a firearm for traditional lawful purposes, such as self-defense in the home.
So what should be done now that many innocent lives have been lost?
Lawmakers are discussing the re-enactment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired on September 13, 2004. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban prohibited the manufacture for civilian use of semi-automatic firearms. Semi-automatic firearms are weapons that automatically remove the spent cartridge casing and load another cartridge into the chamber. This allows the gun to be ready quickly to fire again.
There are also other federal laws that target the ownership and possession of guns. Below is brief outline of the most important laws.
– Gun Control Act of 1968: Broadly regulates firearms, including the interstate commerce of firearms and selling firearms to certain categories of individuals.
– The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act: Requires federal background checks on gun purchasers.
– Gun-Free School Zones Act: Prohibits the knowing possession of a firearm in a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone.
We have several federal laws on the books that regulate control. (States also have their own laws.) However, despite the federal and state controls on firearms, there is still a sense in our nation of insecurity and harm. Have we arrived at a place in our society where schools must have bullet proof windows and an armed police officer patrolling the grounds?
Everyone wants to live and work in a safe environment where they can raise their families peacefully. But, the issue of gun control is very contentious with both sides having legitimate points.
Positions advocating more gun control laws:
– Military style weapons do not have a place in civilian society. Senator Mark Udall of Colorado stated, “I’ve come to the conclusion that military style weapons really don’t have any place in our society. . . . We ought to reinstate the assault weapons ban that served us well for 10 years from 1994 to 2004.”
– Gun control laws will have an incidental effect on the ability to hunt and protect one’s home and families.
Positions against stricter gun control laws:
– There is little connection between stricter gun control laws and preventing gun violence.
– Gun ownership prevents crime.
– The right to possess a gun is a fundamental civil right, not a right dependent on the United States Constitution.
– The Second Amendment, as interpreted in District of Columbia v. Heller, guarantees the right to possess a gun.
Regardless of where you stand on this issue, the discussion of gun control will reinstate itself in this country’s political discourse. How can it not when 26 innocent lives, including the lives of 20 children, were lost in such a tragic and horrific way?
Do you believe that more gun control is needed to protect our children?