Gun violence is a national problem across the United States. The phenomenon has contributed to a significant number of deaths across the country. Gun violence has a long history in the country, but it peaked in the United States in the late 1980s and 1990s. Gun homicides have been profound amongst adolescents and the youth. The high rates of gun violence are attributed to drug abuse amongst the shortlisted individuals across the country. Numerous policies, including the Gun Control Act of 1968, had been established to address the issue of gun violence; however, they failed due to various loopholes. Today, numerous legislative bills have been proposed to address the issue of gun violence across the United States. They include; No Guns for Abusers Act of 2019 (H.R. 1287), the Resources for Victims of Gun Violence Act of 2019 (S.1352), and the Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act of 2020 (H.R. 5717). Although various bills have been formulated that address the phenomenon, the high rates of gun violence can be reduced by restricting access to firearms and ammunition to adolescents, youth, and individuals who are at risk of harming themselves or others and ensuring adequate oversight over the marketing and sale of guns and ammunition, as well as insisting on mandatory training of gun license owners.
Guns play a central role in American life as they help to ensure an individual’s security and safety. However, discussions have emerged over the past few years concerning the negative impacts of guns, such as their contribution to violence. Today, gun violence is amongst the leading national problems that the United States federal and state governments are putting more effort to address. The phenomenon contributes to more than 31,000 deaths and 78,000 non-fatal injuries every year (Evans, Farmer, & Saligari, 2016). Although the rates of gun homicides across the United States have decreased in recent years, the country’s rates are substantially higher compared to other countries across the world. Gun homicides in the United States are argued to be seven times higher than those of various countries, such as Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, India, Japan, South Korea, and Canada, among others.
Guns are not a necessary or sufficient cause of violence, and thus, can be used legally for a variety of sanctioned activities. Despite this fact, guns are largely used in approximately two-thirds of homicides and half of the suicides across the United States (O’Grady, 2015). O’Grady (2015) argues that at least 30 gun-homicide cases are reported daily in the United States, and 53 people die every single day from gun-related suicides. Guns have also provided some individuals with the capacity to inflict great trauma and grief on society, thus the general public has raised claims insisting that the issue should be addressed effectively to make the United States safer. Gun violence demands special attention, and at the federal level, policymakers have urged relevant authorities to evaluate and assess the background of the issue, its causes, and come up with effective measures to help mitigate the adverse consequences of the phenomenon.
Gun violence has become a major challenge within American culture. Gun violence is characterized by an interesting historical background. Besides, many people believe that gun violence is contributed to by various factors. Furthermore, gun violence has impacted many people across the United States. In addition, gun control policies have been formulated in the past both at the federal and state-level governments to mitigate the adverse consequences of gun violence. However, those policies have not effectively addressed the issue due to some loopholes existing in the legislation.
Historical Background of Gun Violence
Gun-related violence across the United States began before the 19th century. However, the phenomenon peaked in the United States late in the 19th century, particularly in the period of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since that period, the United States has recorded a significant decline in gun-related violence. The United States has registered a 33 percent decline in gun-related violence cases since 1993, including a 35 percent decrease in handgun homicide-related cases that had become rampant in the period of the late 1980s and early 1990s (Esposito & Finley, 2014). Besides, the United States experienced a 20 percent decline in gun-related death cases in 1992 and 1996 (Esposito & Finley, 2014). Within the same period, gun-related aggravated assaults declined by at least 12 percent, and the overall incidences of gun violence across the country decreased by approximately 16 percent (Esposito & Finley, 2014). According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) uniform crime data report of 1997, gun-related death cases dropped by 7 percent that particular year compared to the previous year, and the overall gun-related violence declined by 3 percent. Despite the significant decline in gun-related violence cases across the United States, gun homicide remains to be one of the leading national problems in the country.
Causes of Gun Violence
Drug abuse is the major contributor to the United States’ high rates of gun homicides. The peak of gun homicides in the late 1980s was attributed to the increased crack cocaine drug trade in the urban areas across the country. Since then, methamphetamine, a more addictive drug substance compared to crack cocaine has become the major drug choice amongst adolescents and the youth in urban, suburban, and rural communities. The use of methamphetamine has largely contributed to the high rates of gun violence across the United States compared to other neighboring countries.
The rising trend of gun-related violence has largely impacted minority groups in the U.S. including Hispanics and African Americans, particularly adolescents and youths from low-income families. Since the late 1980s, rising trends in gun-related homicide rates have become more profound amongst Hispanics and African Americans from low-income families (Esposito & Finley, 2014). Esposito & Finley (2014) argues that gun homicide rates have been rampant amongst adolescents and youth. The authors contend that gun homicide rates for children under the age of 15 years are sixteen times higher compared to those from other industrialized countries across the world (Esposito & Finley, 2014). Compared to Canada, gun violence rates across the United States amongst individuals aged between 15 years and 24 years is five times higher. Besides, gun-related violence rates in the United States are thirty times higher than in Japan’s (Esposito & Finley, 2014). The authors argue that gun homicide rates peaked in this particular age group of individuals between 15years to 24 years in the period from 1984 to 1993 (Esposito & Finley, 2014). During the period, gun-related cases within this age group increased by over 158 percent (Esposito & Finley, 2014). In contrast, gun violence rates across the United States declined by approximately 19 percent amongst individuals aged 25 years and above during the same period (Esposito & Finley, 2014). Esposito & Finley (2014) contend that individuals aged 15-24 years are likely to be affected by gun violence in the present United States. These individuals are more likely to die of gunshot wounds than from natural causes of death.
Historical Policy Snapshot
Numerous gun-violence-related policies have been established and implemented both at the federal and state-level governments across the United States including the National Firearms Act, Gun Control Act, and Firearms Owners’ Protection Act. Many Americans have supported the need for the formulation and implementation of stricter legislations to curb gun violence in the country. One of the previous policies that were formed to address the issue of gun violence in the United States is the National Firearms Act (NFA). NFA was passed by congress in 1934 (Boylan, 2003). The legislation required the registration of certain firearms, imposed taxes on the manufacture and sales of guns, and restricted the sale and ownership of high-risk weapons, such as machine guns, as well as sawed-off guns.
Additional firearm legislation that was formulated and implemented to address the issue of gun violence in the United States include the Gun Control Act and the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act. Gun Control Act was implemented in 1968 (Boylan, 2003). The legislation ended the mail-order sale of all firearms and ammunition, as well as banned the sale of guns to fugitives, drug dealers, mentally ill persons, and individuals discharged from the armed forces (Boylan, 2003). These two shortlisted Acts were characterized with ineffectiveness. The legislation only proved to be more effective in punishing ineligible individuals who had acquired firearms rather than preventing them from obtaining one. Besides, both legislations placed more accountability on gun purchasers than the seller. Due to such loopholes, ineligible individuals were able to obtain firearms under unclear circumstances, thus an increase in gun violence was experienced later in the 1980s. The high gun-homicide rates experienced in the late 1980s were also escalated by the implementation of the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA) of 1986 (Boylan, 2003). The legislation eased the restrictions that had been outlined in the Gun Control Act. FOPA did not outline individuals that were eligible to purchase or sell a firearm. The ease in firearm restrictions allowed ineligible individuals to obtain firearms, thus an increase in gun violence cases was experienced across the country in the late 1980s.
Numerous legislative bills have been proposed by the United States Congress to help address the issue of gun violence across the United States. The bills include; No Guns for Abusers Act of 2019 (H.R. 1287), Resources for Victims of Gun Violence Act of 2019 (S.1352), and Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act of 2020 (H.R. 5717), among others.
H.R. 1287- No Guns for Abusers Act of 2019
H.R. 1287 authorizes the Department of Justice to make grants for state and local governments to implement procedures for withdrawing firearms from individuals charged or convicted with domestic violence cases. Besides, the bill requires the National Institute of Justice to present the best practices to Congress related to how such procedures can be implemented (“H.R.1287,” 2019). The legislative bill also requires the National Institute of Justice to contract with nongovernmental entities to assess and evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed procedures before their implementation.
S.1352- Resources for Victims of Gun Violence Act of 2019
The bill establishes an advisory council to support victims of gun violence within the United States (“S.1352,” 2019). The legislative bill outlines that the advisory council ought to assess the needs of gun violence victims and disseminate accurate information to the relevant authorities about the resources that are required to satisfy the needs of such victims.
H.R. 5717- Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act of 2020
The bill outlines various requirements related to the sale, transfer, and possession of firearms and ammunition across the country. The bill requires that every individual ought to obtain a license from the relevant defense agencies before purchasing, acquiring, or possessing a firearm or ammunition. Besides, the legislative bill outlines that only individuals aged 21 years and above are eligible to purchase or possess a firearm or ammunition (“H.R. 5717,” 2020). Furthermore, the bill restricts the manufacture, sale, transfer, or purchase of guns without serial numbers. The bill also restricts the import, sale, manufacture, transfer, and purchase of semi-automatic assault weapons and ammunition-feeding devices in large capacities.
Comparison of Alternatives
The three shortlisted legislative bills play an essential role in addressing issues related to gun violence in the United States. H.R. 1287 outlines that ineligible individuals, particularly those subjected to domestic violence protective orders or charged with domestic violence, should not be allowed to obtain or possess firearms or ammunition. Besides, S.1352 requires that an advisory council should regularly assess and evaluate the needs of gun violence victims to ensure that they are effectively addressed. H.R. 5717 provides a framework related to individuals who are eligible to possess firearms; it also outlines numerous restrictions to curb gun violence cases. With gun violence being a major problem in the United States, passing and implementing H.R. 5717 would help to reduce the high rates of gun violence across the country.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Gun violence is a major national problem across the United States. The phenomenon contributes to a devastating number of deaths yearly across the country. Gun violence is rampant amongst adolescents and the youth, particularly unemployed individuals and those from low-income families. Although numerous legislations have been formulated and implemented, gun violence rates have not decreased. Therefore, the relevant defense authorities ought to come up with stricter measures to reduce the high rates of gun violence across the United States. Among the measures that can be undertaken to curb gun violence across the country include reducing access to firearms and ammunition to adolescents, youth, and individuals who are at risk of harming themselves or others, and providing oversight over the marketing and sale of guns and ammunition, as well as insisting on mandatory training for all gun license owners.
Boylan, M. (2003). Gun Control in the United States: Ethical Perspectives for the Twenty-First Century. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 408, 17-27. https://doi.org/10.1097/00003086-200303000-00004
Esposito, L., & Finley, L. (2014). Beyond Gun Control: Examining Neoliberalism, Pro-gun Politics and Gun Violence in the United States. Theory in Action, 7(2), 74-103. https://doi.org/10.3798/tia.1937-0237.14011
Evans, R., Farmer, C., & Saligari, J. (2016). Mental Illness and Gun Violence: Lessons for the United States from Australia and Britain. Violence and Gender, 3(3), 150-156. https://doi.org/10.1089/vio.2015.0049
H.R.1287 – 116th Congress (2019-2020): No Guns for Abusers Act of 2019 (2019, March 25). Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1287?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22gun%2Bviolence%2Blegislative%2Bbills%22%5D%7D&s=2&r=1
H.R.5717 – 116th Congress (2019-2020): Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act of 2020 (2020, March 10). Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/5717?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22gun%2Bviolence%2Blegislative%2Bbills%22%5D%7D&s=2&r=6
O’Grady, B. (2015). Homicide in Canada and the United States. Gun Violence and Public Life, 44-58. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315634265-3
S.1352 – 116th Congress (2019-2020): Resources for Victims of Gun Violence Act of 2019 (2019, May 07). Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/1352?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22gun%2Bviolence%2Blegislative%2Bbills%22%5D%7D&s=2&r=2