Gun Violence: It Can Be Reduced

by: Temiloluwa T., Joseph M., Jeremy J., Victor D., Corby H.

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UNIVERSAL BACKGROUND CHECKS (by Temiloluwa Taiwo)

HOW UNIVERSAL BACKGROUND CHECKS CAN HELP!

Fact or Myth: guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Fact! People are responsible for getting the gun that kill people and pulling the trigger that actually kills the person. The idea that guns are the problems in society is false. Guns are legal for a reason they help to protect individuals from criminals and other people or things that might try and hurt them. So if guns are meant to protect against dangerous people, why do they more often than not hurt innocent people? The answer lies with the individuals who own the guns. Convicted felons, mentally ill people, and minors are not allowed to purchase nor have guns for a reason. Yet private sellers do not know whether or not they are selling a gun to one of these ineligible people because they don’t run background checks. Federal law only permits background checks for gun purchases from federally registered dealers. It is then up to the states to implement any further restriction on gun purchases. Many states decide to leave the law the way it is and only follow federal law. Other states like New York, Washington, Delaware and our nation’s capital Washington D.C., have decided to strengthen their gun background check law to also require private sellers to conduct background checks.


WHY WE NEED INCREASED BACKGROUND CHECK LAWS

This change in legislation has proved to be beneficial because it makes purchasing a gun harder for ineligible people. People often think criminals will get a gun if they really wanted to. That thought isn’t completely true. By requiring private sellers to conduct a background check sometimes requires a fee, which means the seller would then have to increase the price of their guns. Others believe that many criminals get guns from stealing it from people, yet the truth is criminals don’t just go from house to house looking for a gun in someone’s house. The way most criminals, minors, or mentally ill people access guns are from private sellers, at gun shows, online or at underground markets. If the government can help to eliminate 2 out of those places the gun violence in this country would reduce. By requiring private sellers to conduct background checks helps to make sure that only people who are eligible can have access to guns.


STUDY ON MISSOURI BACKGROUND CHECK LAW

In 2007 Missouri decided to repeal their permit-to-purchase handgun law, which according to an article titled “Study indicates Missouri’s spike in murders result of repeal of permit, background check law” written by Jennifer Cruz in February of last year, “required a license showing that the person attempting to purchase a firearm had passed a background check.” The study was conducted by Daniel W. Webster, Cassandra Kercher Crifasi, and Jon S. Vernick of Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. "This study provides compelling confirmation that weaknesses in firearm laws lead to deaths from gun violence," said Daniel Webster, ScD, MPH, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and the study's lead author. The study was astounding the data collected showed that “the spike in murders in Missouri following the PTP law repeal only occurred for murders in Missouri committed with a firearm and was widespread across the state's counties” according to Webster and his colleagues.

Gun BuyBack Programs (by Joseph Muras)

More than 30,000 people are killed each year in the United States by firearms. That is over 80 deaths a day. A significant amount of these deaths could have been prevented if a policy restricted the availability of firearms to criminals.

Cities should introduce gun buyback programs to reduce the number of guns in the hands of criminals. The United States has a considerably higher gun violence rate than most other countries. The reason for this has been debated for a very long time. Although these reasons can be debated, the facts about gun violence in America cannot.

According to The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “Between 1955 and 1975, the Vietnam War killed over 58,000 American soldiers – less than the number of civilians killed with guns in the U.S. in an average two-year period.” On average, 33 gun homicides were committed each day between 2005-2010. Americans own an estimated 270 million firearms. That means there are approximately 90 guns for every 100 people. With so many guns in circulation, criminals have no trouble getting their hands on a weapon. They can fairly easily break into someone’s home and steal their gun. This results in a person obtaining a gun that they would not normally be able to obtain legally. They then use these guns to commit crimes that result in the death of innocent civilians.

I am proposing that cities across the nation host Buyback programs. A buyback program is an event that the local government hosts. They allocate a few days out of the year that citizens can come into police stations and other predetermined areas and turn in any firearm they own. The government in return will give them a specific amount of money for each gun turned in. This program has been seen before in cities such as Los Angeles and Baltimore but has not been widely adopted. These cities paid citizens $100 for handguns and $200 for rifles and shotguns. Another incentive for people to turn in their guns is that they can turn them in completely anonymously. This means that if a person has a stolen gun, they can turn it in without any repercussions. Once they had these guns, the government returned any stolen weapons to their rightful owner. The older and non-functioning guns were destroyed. The guns that were in good condition were sold to a third party company for a profit.

This buyback program will result in fewer guns in circulation within the United States. This means that there is less opportunity for accidental shootings. The majority of the people that attend these programs are people that don’t use their guns or have them improperly stored. This alone will cut down the amount of deaths significantly. This is because children will no longer find guns in their house and accidentally shoot themselves or a family member.

This violence will not stop on its own and requires a new policy. This policy should be a government-sanctioned gun buyback program. This will greatly reduce the amount of accidental and intentional deaths related to firearm use. This policy will make the United States a safer place, so we will no longer have 30,000 preventable deaths every year.

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Restrictions on High-Capacity Magazine Sales (by Jeremy Jacks)

When it comes to gun violence, many people immediately think of larger, mass shootings: Columbine, Aurora Colorado, Sandy Hook Elementary. These stories stay in the headlines because of the tragedies that come along with someone walking into a concentrated area and letting loose tens and hundreds of bullets. Analysis of these shootings shows that if shooters had to take more time to reload their weapons then many lives could be saved. Restricting the sale and distribution of high-capacity magazines provides a solution to the problem in a way that focuses more on businesses and distribution centers of ammo, rather than individuals. Gun policies tend to be a pretty sensitive subject in the United States, and the second amendment (“The right to bear arms”) almost always gets brought up. Restricting ammunition does not deny Americans their right to own or purchase weapons, but rather limits the type and ability of those devices. Many political figures are already behind the idea of magazine control.

According to Josh Horwitz, of U.S. News, "An analysis of mass shootings in the United States of America reveals one variable that has remained remarkably consistent over time: The use of detachable, high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 cartridges" (US News).


"A recent study of mass shootings by the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City identified 30 such incidents from 1984 until the present in which semiautomatic firearms (either handguns or long guns) and high-capacity ammunition magazines were used. This includes Virginia Tech (2007), Northern Illinois University (2008), Fort Hood (2009), Tucson (2011), Aurora (2012), Oak Creek (2012), and Sandy Hook (2012)" (Horwitz).


As of 2014, only 8 U.S. states have a ban on high-capacity magazine sales: California, Colorado, Hawaii (handguns), Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York (Wikipedia). Creating a federal ban will make the distribution of ammunition easier to understand and hopefully make consumers more knowledgeable on their rights to purchase and attempt to purchase different size magazine for their firearms.

With the presidential election coming up next year, it looks like gun laws will once again be a huge deciding factor on which way the country will lean. Though, everybody should be able to agree that gun violence is something that should be kept as low as possible in this country; one of the most gun-ridden countries around the world (Khazan).

Gun Violence & Mental Background Checks (by Victor De los Santos)

One of the biggest dilemmas with gun violence is how difficult it is to predict it. According to psychiatrist and sociologist Jonathan Metzl from Vanderbilt University, one of the biggest myths concerning guns and violence is that psychiatric diagnostics can predict gun crimes before they happen. Unfortunately, we will probably not have the capability to reach this level of predictability for a very long time. So, does that mean there is absolutely nothing we can do to help prevent firearms from falling into the hands of those with bad intentions? No. In fact, there is a lot that can currently be done, all we have to do is take the initiative and ensure the extensiveness of in depth mental background checks before being able to purchase any type of gun. Take a second and think about all the tragic events caused by the easiness of criminals or the mentally ill to own a gun; the Virginia Tech, Aurora movie theater, and Marysville-Pilchuck High School shootings are only a few examples of horrific events where the lives of multiple students, children, and parents could have been saved if more precautionary measures were taken to ensure the mental stability of those who were given dangerous firearms. However, guns don’t get handed out to just anyone; there are state laws in place to help prevent gun crime, some of which are more in depth and powerful than others, but as you can see, they don’t always work. California is probably at the top of the game when it comes to mental background checks. As of last year, the California state law states that guns cannot be sold to anybody who had, in the past, been a patient in a psychiatric facility, taken treatment for mental illness, or communicated with a licensed psychotherapist who believes that the patient is or can be considered a threat.

So, how will my policy differ from this somewhat well-established law? Well, if adopted, my policy will go much further with mental background checks to ensure that guns will not be given to those who have any potential to harm themselves or others. Before purchasing a gun, individuals must go through extensive background mental history evaluations that will make it difficult for them to own guns if they have had any voluntary or involuntary visits to any form of psychologist or psychotherapist, including visits as simple as being forced to go to the high school counselor. Any of these visits will cause red flags with the potential buyer, and multiple steps will be taken before selling the gun to make sure that there is no possibility of future problems. Consequently, these processes might be time consuming. However, I believe that a longer wait time is a very small price to ensure the safety of the lives of others. So, although my mental policies might sound a little overwhelming at first, think about the danger you could be putting someone else in before giving somebody the power to take another’s life with the pull of a trigger.

More Guns, Less Crime (by Corby Hall)

The number one killer of people in the world is government. Hitler's Germany killed 17 million. Stalin's Soviet Union killed 23 million. And Mao Zedong's China killed 78 million. Likewise, much genocide is still ongoing today in many countries around Africa and the Middle East. At the times these acts of genocide occurred, one major commonality existed among the populations which were ravaged, and that is the unavailability of weaponry to citizens sufficient to resist their government's brutality. Going forward with gun-control laws, we need to remember the reason why civilian firearm possession became a 2nd Amendment right in the first place. Arms possession was contemplated by the founders of this country as a means for citizens to keep an oppressive government in check.

Our organization is proposing the enactment of laws and policies, which when implemented with common sense, are designed to ensure that competent law-abiding citizens will gain even greater access to firearms and their accessories while reducing the number of firearms in crime-ridden communities and their availability to criminals and mentally incompetent individuals.

The commonality of background-checking procedures across the nation can help law-abiding citizens get access to firearms easier and quicker, while closing those loopholes otherwise used by criminals. Like is in place in Texas and other States, our background-checking policy will become uniform across the country and exempt individuals who already hold a valid Concealed Handgun License from a having to submit to a background check when purchasing a firearm. When all individuals and businesses are required to conduct background checks prior to selling or transferring a firearm, criminals will have a more difficult time acquiring firearms since they will also be required to undergo the same screening as everyone else in the country.

A national gun-buy-back program will generally reduce the number of unused or unwanted firearms in communities, which is particularly useful in higher-crime areas. Our policy proposes that all functional firearms which are exchanged should then be made available for discounted resale to individuals with exemptions such as those with valid Concealed Handgun Licenses, certified peace officers, honorably-discharged military veterans, and former peace officers in good standing. Exemptions could also be made for citizens completing a series of approved safety and law courses regarding firearms ownership, possession, and usage.

Restricting the availability of high capacity magazines arguably has the potential to reduce gun violence. However, our organization is proposing policies that come with some added benefits to those citizens who have a history of responsible firearm ownership. Citizens with the previously discussed exemptions may still purchase and possess these high capacity magazines from manufacturers, dealers, and as surplus items from the government.

Our organization would like your support to help us implement these common-sense policies which are designed to reduce gun violence while ensuring that law-abiding citizens continue having unbridled access to firearms and their accessories. While our country is far removed from the brutality witnessed over the last century at the hands of dictatorial regimes, this is only true still today because of our right to bear arms. However, we must never allow ourselves to unconditionally inch towards removing power from the citizens, even at the cost of tolerating remote instances of gun violence.

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Works Cited

Crifasi, Cassandra. "Repeal of Missouri's Background Check Law Associated with Increase in State's Murders." Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. N.p., 17 Feb. 2014. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.


Corcoran, Michael. "Mental Health Checks When Purchasing a Gun." The Workthreat Group, LLC. Work Threat, 28 Aug. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2015.


Follman, Mark, Gavin Aronsen, and Jaeah Lee. “Half of Mass Shooters Used Assault Weapons and High-Capacity Magazines.” . Mother Jones, 27 Feb 2013. Web. 25 Apr 2014.


Khazan, Olga. "Here’s How U.S. Gun Violence Compares with the Rest of the World." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 14 Dec. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2015.


Horwitz, Joshua. "Mass Shootings Have High-Capacity Magazines in Common." US News. U.S.News & World Report, 7 Jan. 2013. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.


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