History of Gun Control Laws
Gun control laws are just as old or older than the Second Amendment (ratified in 1791). Some examples of gun control throughout colonial America included criminalizing the transfer of guns to Catholics, enslaved people, indentured servants, and Native Americans; regulating the storage of gun powder in homes; banning loaded guns in Boston houses; and mandating participation in formal gathering of troops and door-to-door surveys about guns owned.
Guns were common in the American Colonies, first for hunting and general self-protection and later as weapons in the American Revolutionary War. Several colonies’ gun laws required that heads of households (including women) own guns and that all able-bodied men enroll in the militia and carry personal firearms. Read more history…
Pro & Con Arguments
The Second Amendment is not an unlimited or individual right to own guns.
In the June 26, 2008, District of Columbia et al. v. Heller U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited… nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
On June 9, 2016 the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 7-4 that “[t]he right of the general public to carry a concealed firearm in public is not, and never has been, protected by the Second Amendment,” thus upholding a law requiring a permitting process and “good cause” for concealed carry licenses in California.
A 2018 study found that 91% of the 1,153 court cases with claims stating a government action or law violate the Second Amendment between the 2008 D.C. v. Heller decision and Feb. 1, 2016 failed.
Further, the Second Amendment was intended to protect the right of militias to own guns, not the right of individuals to own guns. Former Justice John Paul Stevens, in his dissenting opinion for District of Columbia et al. v. Heller, wrote, “the Framer’s single-minded focus in crafting the constitutional guarantee ‘to keep and bear arms’ was on military use of firearms, which they viewed in the context of service in state militias,” hence the inclusion of the phrase “well regulated militia.”
Michael Waldman, President of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, stated there is nothing about an individual right to bear arms in the notes about the Second Amendment when it was being drafted, discussed, or ratified; the US Supreme Court declined to rule in favor of the individual right four times between 1876 and 1939; and all law articles on the Second Amendment from 1888 to 1959 stated that an individual right was not guaranteed.Read More
More gun control laws would reduce gun deaths.
There were 572,537 total gun deaths between 1999 and 2016: 336,579 suicides (58.8% of total gun deaths); 213,175 homicides (37.2%); and 11,428 unintentional deaths (2.0%). Guns were the leading cause of death by homicide (67.7% of all homicides) and by suicide (51.8% of all suicides). Firearms were the second leading cause of deaths for children, responsible for 15% of child deaths compared to 20% in motor vehicle crashes.
Female first-time firearm owners were 35 times more likely to commit suicide within 12 years of buying the gun compared to women who did not own guns; male first-time firearm owners were about eight times more likely to do so.
Approximately 50% of unintentional fatal shootings were self-inflicted; and most unintentional firearm deaths were caused by friends or family members.
Five women are murdered with guns every day in the United States. A woman’s risk of being murdered increases 500% if a gun is present during a domestic dispute. During the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, 5,364 US soldiers were killed in action between Oct. 7, 2001 and Jan. 28, 2015; between 2001 and 2012 6,410 women were killed with a gun by an intimate partner in the United States.
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that “legal purchase of a handgun appears to be associated with a long-lasting increased risk of violent death”
Researchers found that a “general barrier to firearm access created through state regulation can have a significant deterrent effect on male suicide rates in the United States. Permit requirements and bans on sales to minors were the most effective of the regulations analyzed.”
According to a Mar. 10, 2016 Lancet study, implementing federal universal background checks could reduce firearm deaths by a projected 56.9%; background checks for ammunition purchases could reduce deaths by a projected 80.7%; and gun identification requirements could reduce deaths by a projected 82.5%.
Gun licensing laws were associated with a 14% decrease in firearm homicides, while increases in firearm homicides were seen in places with right-to-carry and stand-your ground-laws.
More gun control leads to fewer suicides. When US gun ownership goes down, overall suicide rates drop; meanwhile, each 10 percentage-point increase in gun ownership is linked to a 26.9% increase in the youth suicide rate. In Indiana and Connecticut, after “red flag” laws to remove guns from people who may pose a threat were enacted, gun suicides decreased by 7.5% and 13.7% respectively, while suicides by other means did not decrease during the same time. A person who wants to kill him/herself is unlikely to commit suicide with poison or a knife when a gun is unavailable.
The US General Accountability Office (GAO) estimated that 31% of total accidental shooting deaths could have been prevented by installing safety devices on guns: 100% of deaths per year in which a child under 6 years old shoots and kills him/herself or another child could be prevented by automatic child-proof safety locks; and 23% of accidental shooting deaths by adolescents and adults per year could be prevented by loading indicators showing when a bullet was in the chamber ready to be fired.
Marjorie Sanfilippo, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Eckerd College who has researched children’s behavior around guns, stated, “We put gates around swimming pools to keep children from drowning. We put safety caps on medications to keep children from poisoning themselves…. [B]ecause children are naturally curious and impulsive, and because we have shown time and again that we cannot ‘gun-proof’ them with education, we have a responsibility to keep guns out of the hands of children.”Read More
The presence of a gun makes a conflict more likely to become violent.
The FBI found that arguments (such as romantic triangles, brawls fueled by alcohol or drugs, and arguments over money) resulted in 1,962 gun deaths (59.9% of the total).
An editorial published in the American Journal of Public Health noted, “gun-inflicted deaths [often] ensue from impromptu arguments and fights; in the US, two-thirds of the 7,900 deaths in 1981 involving arguments and brawls were caused by guns.” A study published in the same journal found that “the weapons used [in altercations]… were those closest at hand.” And thus, according to another study, “[r]ather than confer protection, guns kept in the home are associated with an increase in the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance.”
Statistics show that guns are rarely used in self-defense. Of the 29,618,300 violent crimes committed between 2007 and 2011, 0.79% of victims (235,700) protected themselves with a threat of use or use of a firearm, the least-employed protective behavior. In 2010 there were 230 “justifiable homicides” in which a private citizen used a firearm to kill a felon, compared to 8,275 criminal gun homicides (or, 36 criminal homicides for every “justifiable homicide”). Of the 84,495,500 property crimes committed between 2007 and 2011, 0.12% of victims (103,000) protected themselves with a threat of use or use of a firearm.
Further, armed civilians are unlikely to stop crimes and are more likely to make dangerous situations, including mass shootings, more deadly. None of the 62 mass shootings between 1982 and 2012 were stopped by an armed civilian. Jeffrey Voccola, Assistant Professor of Writing at Kutztown University, notes, “The average gun owner, no matter how responsible, is not trained in law enforcement or on how to handle life-threatening situations, so in most cases, if a threat occurs, increasing the number of guns only creates a more volatile and dangerous situation.”
Common sense gun control laws can decrease the likelihood of a violent situation turning deadly. President Ronald Reagan and others did not think the AR-15 military rifle (also called M16s by the Air Force) should be owned by civilians and, when the AR-15 was included in the assault weapons ban of 1994 (which expired on Sep. 13, 2004), the NRA supported the legislation. A Mother Jones investigation found that high-capacity magazines were used in at least 50% of the 62 mass shootings between 1982 and 2012.When high-capacity magazines were used in mass shootings, the death rate rose 63% and the injury rate rose 156%.
The Second Amendment was written at a time when the most common arms were long rifles that had to be reloaded after every shot. Civilians today have access to folding, detaching, or telescoping stocks that make the guns more easily concealed and carried; silencers to muffle gunshot sounds; flash suppressors to fire in low-light conditions without being blinded by the flash and to conceal the shooter’s location; or grenade launcher attachments. Jonathan Lowy, Director of Legal Action Project at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, states, “These are weapons that will shred your venison before you eat it, or go through the walls of your apartment when you’re trying to defend yourself… [they are] made for mass killing, but not useful for law-abiding citizens.”Read More
A majority of adults, including gun owners, support common sense gun control such as background checks, bans on assault weapons, and bans on high-capacity magazines.
According to a Feb. 20, 2018 Quinnipiac Poll, 97% of American voters and 97% of gun owners support universal background checks. 67% support a nationwide ban on assault weapons, and 83% support mandatory waiting periods for gun purchases.
As much as 40% of all gun sales are undocumented private party gun sales that do not require a background check (aka the “gun show loophole”).
53% of all adults surveyed approve of high-capacity magazine bans. 89% of adults with a gun in the home approve of laws to prevent the purchase of guns by the mentally ill, and 82% approve of banning gun sales to people on no-fly lists.
77% of Americans support requiring a license to purchase a gun.
Don Macalady, member of Hunters against Gun Violence, stated, “As a hunter and someone who has owned guns since I was a young boy, I believe that commonsense gun legislation makes us all safer. Background checks prevent criminals and other dangerous people from getting guns.”
Many would like to see the U.S. enact more laws like other countries, citing the fact that countries with restrictive gun control laws have lower gun homicide and suicide rates than the United States. Both Switzerland and Finland require gun owners to acquire licenses and pass background checks that include mental and criminal records, among other restrictions and requirements. In 2007 Switzerland ranked number 3 in international gun ownership rates with 45.7 guns per 100 people (about 3,400,000 guns total). In 2009 Switzerland had 24 gun homicides (0.31 deaths per 100,000 people) and 253 gun suicides (3.29 deaths per 100,000 people). Finland ranked fourth in international gun ownership rates with 45.3 guns per 100 people (about 2,400,000 guns total). In 2007 Finland had 23 (0.43 deaths per 100,000 people) gun homicides and 172 gun suicides (4.19 deaths per 100,000 people).Read More
The Second Amendment of the US Constitution protects individual gun ownership.
The Second Amendment of the US Constitution reads, “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 ownership is an American tradition older than the country itself and is protected by the Second Amendment; more gun control laws would infringe upon the right to bear arms. Justice Antonin Scalia in the June 26, 2008, District of Columbia et al. v. Heller U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion syllabus stated, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”
The McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010) ruling also stated that the Second Amendment is an individual right.
Lawrence Hunter, Chairman of Revolution PAC, stated, “The Founders understood that the right to own and bear laws is as fundamental and as essential to maintaining liberty as are the rights of free speech, a free press, freedom of religion and the other protections against government encroachments on liberty delineated in the Bill of Rights.”
The Second Amendment was intended to protect gun ownership of all able-bodied men so that they could participate in the militia to keep the peace and defend the country if needed. According to the United States Code, a “militia” is composed of all “able-bodied males at least 17 years of age… under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.” Therefore, the militia mentioned in the Second Amendment would have been composed of almost all adult men and, in turn, that most adult men should not have their right to own firearms infringed.Read More
Gun control laws are discriminatory and infringe on citizens’ rights
Current gun control laws are frequently aimed at inner city, poor, black communities who are perceived as more dangerous than white gun owners. Charles Gallagher, Chair of Sociology at LaSalle University, stated that some gun control laws are still founded on racial fears: “Whites walking down Main Street with an AK-47 are defenders of American values; a black man doing the same thing is Public Enemy No. 1.”
In the late 1960s, gun control laws were enacted in reaction to the militant, gun-carrying Black Panthers. Adam Winkler, UCLA Constitutional Law Professor, stated “The KKK began as a gun-control organization. Before the Civil War, blacks were never allowed to own guns” so, after the Civil War, there was “constant pressure among white racists to keep guns out of the hands of African Americans because they would rise up and revolt.” For example, in Virginia, in response to Nat Turner’s Rebellion (also called the Southampton Rebellion, in which enslaved people killed 55 to 65 people in the most fatal slave uprising in the United States) in 1831, a law was passed that prohibited free black people “to keep or carry any firelock of any kind, any military weapon, or any powder or lead and all laws allowing free black people to possess firearms were repealed.
Background checks and micro-stamping are an invasion of privacy. Background checks require government databases that keep personal individual information on gun owners, including name, addresses, mental health history, criminal records, and more. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) worried that Senator Harry Reid’s 2013 proposed background check legislation (the bill failed 54-46) would have allowed the government to keep databases of gun purchases indefinitely, creating a “worry that you’re going to see searches of the databases and an expansion for purposes that were not intended when the information was collected.” Micro-stamping similarly requires a database of gun owners and the codes their personal guns would stamp on cartridge cases. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) wrote that they would oppose any legislation that infringes “on the American people’s constitutional right to bear arms, or on their ability to exercise this right without being subjected to government surveillance.”
Gun control laws infringe upon the right to self-defense and deny people a sense of safety. The police cannot protect everyone all of the time. 61% of men and 56% of women surveyed by Pew Research said that stricter gun laws would “make it more difficult for people to protect their homes and families.” Nelson Lund, Professor at George Mason University School of Law, stated, “The right to self-defense and to the means of defending oneself is a basic natural right that grows out of the right to life” and “many [gun control laws] interfere with the ability of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves against violent criminals.” A Pew Foundation report found that 79% of male gun owners and 80% of female gun owners said owning a gun made them feel safer and 64% of people living in a home in which someone else owns a gun felt safer. Even Senator Dianne Feinstein, a gun control advocate, carried a concealed gun when her life was threatened and her home attacked by the New World Liberation Front in the 1970s.
Gun control laws, especially those that try to ban “assault weapons,” infringe upon the right to own guns for hunting and sport. In 2011, there were 13.7 million hunters 16 years old or older in the United States, High-powered semiautomatic rifles and shotguns are used to hunt and in target shooting tournaments each year. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, “So-called ‘Assault weapons’ are more often than not less powerful than other hunting rifles. The term ‘assault weapon’ was conjured up by anti-gun legislators to scare voters into thinking these firearms are something out of a horror movie… [T]he Colt AR-15 and Springfield M1A, both labeled ‘assault weapons,’ are the rifles most used for marksmanship competitions in the United States. And their cartridges are standard hunting calibers, useful for game up to and including deer.” According to a Feb. 2013 Pew Research report, 32% of gun owners owned guns for hunting and 7% owned guns for target or sport shooting.Read More
Gun control laws simply do not work.
Gun control efforts have proved ineffective. According to David Lampo, Publications Director of the Cato Institute, “there is no correlation between waiting periods and murder or robbery rates.” Banning high-capacity magazines will not necessarily deter crime because even small gun magazines can be changed in seconds.The “gun show loophole” is virtually nonexistent because commercial dealers, who sell the majority of guns at shows and elsewhere, are bound by strict federal laws. According to a Mar. 10, 2016 Lancet study, most state-level gun control laws do not reduce firearm death rates, and, of 25 state laws, nine were associated with higher gun death rates.
Mexico has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world and yet, in 2012, Mexico had 11,309 gun murders (9.97 gun homicides per 100,000 people) compared to the United States that had 9,146 gun homicides (2.97 per 100,000 people). The country has only one legal gun store (the Directorate of Arms and Munitions Sales), compared to at least 63,709 legal gun stores and pawn shops in the United States as of Feb. 10, 2014. Mexico’s gun store is on a secure military base and customers must present a valid ID, go through a metal detector, and turn over cellphones and cameras to guards. To actually buy a gun, customers have to show proof of honest income, provide references, pass a criminal background check, prove any military duties were completed with honor, and be fingerprinted and photographed. If allowed to purchase a gun, the customer may buy only one gun (choosing from only .38 caliber pistols or lower) and one box of bullets. Between 2006 and 2010, Mexico’s one gun shop sold 6,490 guns, yet as of 2012, Mexicans own about 15,000,000 guns, or about 13.5 guns per 100 people.
The main reason gun control doesn’t work is because laws will not prevent criminals from obtaining guns or breaking laws. Of 62 mass shootings in the United States between 1982 and 2012, 49 of the shooters used legally obtained guns. Collectively, 143 guns were possessed by the killers with about 75% obtained legally. A Secret Service analysis found that of 24 mass shootings in 2019 at least 10 (42%) involved illegally possessed guns.
The logical conclusion is that gun control laws do not deter crime; gun ownership deters crime. A study in Applied Economics Letters found that “assault weapons bans did not significantly affect murder rates at the state level” and “states with restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons had higher gun-related murders.” While gun ownership doubled in the twentieth century, the murder rate decreased. Journalist John Stossel explained, “Criminals don’t obey the law… Without the fear of retaliation from victims who might be packing heat, criminals in possession of these [illegal] weapons now have a much easier job… As the saying goes, ‘If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.’”
More gun control is not needed; education about guns and gun safety is needed to prevent accidental gun deaths. 95% of all US gun owners believe that children should learn about gun safety. The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute, Inc (SAAMI), stated, “Whether in the field, at the range or in the home, a responsible and knowledgeable gun owner is rarely involved in a firearms accident of any kind.” According to Kyle Wintersteen, Managing Editor of Guns and Ammo, studies show that “children taught about firearms and their legitimate uses by family members have much lower rates of delinquency than children in households without guns” and “children introduced to guns associate them with freedom, security, and recreation—not violence.”   Read More
Gun control laws give too much power to the government and may result in government tyranny and the government taking away all guns from citizens.
57% of people surveyed by Pew Research in Feb. 2013 said that gun control laws would “give too much power to the government over the people.”
The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre stated, “if you look at why our Founding Fathers put it [the Second Amendment] there, they had lived under the tyranny of King George and they wanted to make sure that these free people in this new country would never be subjugated again and have to live under tyranny.”
Concurring, Alex Jones, radio host, stated, “The Second Amendment isn’t there for duck hunting, it’s there to protect us from tyrannical government and street thugs… 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms!”
The Libertarian Party stated, “A responsible, well-armed and trained citizenry is the best protection against domestic crime and the threat of foreign invasion.” Counsel for the NRA explains, “It is evident that the framers of the Constitution did not intend to limit the right to keep and bear arms to a formal military body or organized militia, but intended to provide for an ‘unorganized’ armed citizenry prepared to assist in the common defense against a foreign invader or a domestic tyrant.”
Marco Rubio (R-FL), US Senator, speaking about gun control laws during his 2016 presidential campaign, stated, “If God forbid, ISIS visits our life, our neighborhood, our school, any part of us, the last thing standing, the last line of defense could very well be our ability to protect ourselves.”Read More
|Did You Know?
|1. A Pew Foundation report found that 79% of male gun owners and 80% of female gun owners said owning a gun made them feel safer, and 64% of people living in a home in which someone else owns a gun felt safer.
|2. The US General Accountability Office (GAO) estimated that 100% of deaths per year in which a child under 6 years old shoots and kills him/herself or another child could be prevented by automatic child-proof safety locks.
|3. The Centers for Disease Control listed firearms as the #12 cause of all deaths between 1999 and 2015, representing 1.3% of total deaths. They were also the #1 method of death by homicide (67.3% of all homicides) and by suicide (51.9% of all suicides).
|4. Mexico has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world and yet, in 2012, Mexico had 11,309 gun murders (9.97 gun homicides per 100,000 people) compared to the United States that had 9,146 gun homicides (2.97 per 100,000 people).
|5. Carrying a concealed handgun in public has been permitted in all 50 states since 2013, when Illinois became the last state to enact concealed carry legislation.
|6. Five women a day are killed by guns in America. A woman's risk of being murdered increases 500% if a gun is present during a domestic dispute.
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