The History Of Gun Control Criminology Essay

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In the United States of America the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, was ratified in 1791. This amendment means that all United States citizens have the right to own guns or other forms of weapons for their protection or other uses. When this amendment was put into place, the idea behind it was to allow people to protect themselves and give them the freedom to do so. However, during the time this amendment was created and put into place, the United States was a different place to live in. The people who lived here lived in a different setting where robberies, murder and other criminal activities, involving guns and such weapons, were not as much as a concern as they are today. Nowadays, there is barely a day that goes by that the news isn't talking about some type of crime occurring in the community. Most of those crimes involving weapons, specifically guns. The reason for the higher crime rate could be said to be based on the higher number of guns being bought and the more likelihood of those guns falling into the hands of the wrong people. Gun control in the United States is not something that is regulated very well. Buying guns has become a simple and easy thing to do. Because of the easy accessibility to any type of gun, and in some cases no background or mental illness check, massacres like at Virginia Tech, Columbine, and the shootings at the Colorado movie theater and of Congresswoman Gabriella Gifford have become common tragedies; tragedies that could have been prevented if the right actions or gun control laws were put into place. The people behind the weapons that have killed too many innocent people are one of the main reasons gun control needs to be more relevant in our country. Doing so will help reduce crime while protecting the lives of many.

The argument that the Second Amendment is one of our Constitutional rights that cannot and should not be revoked is a strong argument. Many believe that our right to bear arms, to protect ourselves and our homes is a right and a privilege. Therefore, the idea that more control over this right could potentially occur angers people. They argue that the guns they own are for self-defense or entertainment purposes such as hunting. However, studies from the University of Chicago Crime Lab show that our nation averages 87 deaths a day due to gun violence and 183 gun injuries (Warren, par.2). Another study from the FBI Uniform Crime Report shows that between the years 2006-2010 an estimated 47,856 people were murdered just from the involvement of guns (Date, par.7). Unfortunately due to the amount of gun deaths daily this number is not surprising to many. In Chicago, with over 4,000 people 21 and younger having been shot in the past year, these numbers are unfortunately just a known statistic to them (Warren, par.1). However, to some these numbers may seem outrageous. Looking at the number of gun dealers and guns there are in the United States creates large numbers. There is an estimated 300 million guns in the U.S.(Warren, par.5), and according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives as of August 1, 2012 there was more than 129,817 licensed firearm dealers in existence (Date, par.1). The ATF reports show a shocking number of 5,459,240 guns that were manufactured in the U.S. in 2010, 95% for U.S. use, and that's not including the 3,252,404 million that had been imported (Date, par.4). With large numbers like these it makes the shock about the high rate of deaths less shocking. Harm can only come from large amounts of deathly weapons being produced at a fast rate. The amount of deaths and the amount of guns produced coincide with each other. Controlling the large production of firearms will not necessarily eliminate all murders involving them, but it can help reduce that number. I do not believe our country will ever revoke the second amendment mainly due to the fact that the "right the bear arms" has become one of the basic freedoms in our country. I just believe more control over the manufacturing and distribution of these weapons should occur, and according to 62% of other Americans, they agree (Gun Stats and Facts). There is a problem in our society when in 1994 it was shown that there were "four federal safety standards that applied to the manufacturing of teddy bears and none for the manufacturing of firearms" (Gun Stats and Facts). If the manufacturing of teddy bears is more of a concern to manufacturers than guns are then it's time for there to be a re-evaluation of the definition of 'dangerous'. With more laws and certain qualifications that have the ability to exist; being able to buy a gun could have prevented some tragedies that have occurred and can possibly help there to be fewer future ones.

As of today, there is a "National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) that screens prospective gun purchasers" to see if there is any reason that the buyer should be prevented from buying a gun (Dangerous Omissions). But for this system to work, all people with criminal backgrounds must be put into the system. Then when a costumer goes to purchase a firearm the seller should automatically enter their name into the NICS and if it comes back questionable with a criminal history then the customer is denied. Unfortunately, the original creation of the NICS may have seemed like a great thing, but in more than 40 states consumers can buy guns through "private sales" which means no background check screening is given or needed (Horwitz, par.2). The downfall to the NICS is that background checks are only required when guns are being sold through federally licensed firearm dealers (Horwitz, par.2). Consequently "private sales" account for nearly 40% of all guns sales in the United States (Horwitz, par.2).

Another defect in this system is that although it does check to see if the customer has a criminal background, it defaults in checking their history in another important area, mental health. If someone is mentally unstable, then they should be prohibited from owning or buying any type of firearm; based solely on the safety of the public and even for the safety of themselves. Although some mental illnesses are not detected or known to some, there should be a mental health background check to go along with the criminal one. The NICS has a form that is filled out by the consumer where they are given the opportunity to state any mental illness they have. However since it is information provided by the consumer, they could possibly leave out important information regarding their mental health. Because to be considered mentally ill you have to be labeled "adjudicated as a mental defective" or have been "committed to a mental institution" the amount of people that are categorized under these two titles are quickly narrowed (Harowitz, par.4). If you do not fit under either of these titles you are not mentally unstable and can therefore legally buy guns. Because this law is so broadly stated, many are able to pass through the system. Even if someone has never been involuntarily committed into a mental institution, and they have a different form of a mental illness they can still buy a gun. The only other way a person can be denied the right to buy firearms and is entered in to the NICS as mentally ill is if he or she: "1) Is a danger to himself or to others; 2) Lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs; 3) Is found insane by a court in a criminal case, or incompetent to stand trial, or not guilty by reason of lack of mental responsibility pursuant to the Uniform Code of Military Justice" (Harowitz, par.4). Even if a pupil qualifies as mentally incompetent, if the state did not file the individual as so they will not be found in the NICS, therefore, escaping the system (Harowitz, par.5). Again, even if someone is found as mentally ill they can go through the private sale of firearms to be able to buy one. This is why the program has a major downfall to it. The system's intentions were good at first but they ultimately fail to have been executed well because of all the loops that can be passed through it. Although there are many mental diseases that can make the individual dangerous to the public, not all mental illnesses threaten the lives of others. As one study shows, usually it is the severely mentally ill that commit violent acts. Of those patients the vast majority of them have some type of substance abuse issue or other illness as well. From those released patients the study found that one third of them did go on to commit some type of violent act, while only one fifth of the severely mentally ill, who did not also have another problem, committed violent acts (Arkowitz, par.7). However, then comes the predicament that if a law was created inflicting more gun control and denying the sale of guns to the mentally ill; how to differentiate the severely mentally ill, who have a higher percentage of violent acts committed, to the moderately mentally ill becomes difficult.

A look back into the history of the United States and where we as a country have always stood on the topic of gun control seems to have remained the same. Back in the years' right before, during and after World War I, the use of firearms started to become popular and in 1919 the first (of few) gun control acts was formed. A tax on the manufacturing of firearms was created. It was originally stated that the 10% tax was to help the War Revenue Act, but later in history was also said to have been put into place to control the use of handguns because they were a public safety concern at the time (Zimring, par.7). As years passed more acts were established; from the 1926 proposed Uniform Firearms Act that required dealers to obtain a license to sell the guns, a 48 hour waiting time before handguns could be purchased, and the registration of all handguns and penalties established for those used in violent crimes (Zimring, par.11), to the 1927 law "prohibiting the mailing of concealable firearms to private individuals" (Zimring, par.9) some forms of control were starting to appear. Then in the 1930's two major laws emerged, they were the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Federal Firearms Act of 1938. These two acts would later help initiate the most well-known act years later, the Gun Control Act of 1968 (Zimring, par.16). Both laws go hand-in-hand with each other. The National Firearms Act of 1934 states that the civilian ownership of relatively rare firearms, also known as "gangster weapons," should be abolished (Zimring, par.17). The Federal Firearms Act of 1938 was considered one of the more powerful laws enforced before the infamous 1968 act (Zimring, par.20). It required all dealers and importers to have federal licenses which would help to erase some of the distributions to some felons or fugitives. They were also required to keep records of sold firearms to any persons (Zimring, par.21). In 1958 the FFA added to the federal law and made serial numbers on all firearms mandatory (Zimring, par.30). 275 arrests were reported between the years 1966-1968 under the FFA, yet no dealers were charged with any type of defilement until 1968 (Zimring, par.25). The lack of enforcement of the FFA is why the Gun Control Act of 1968 was established.

On October 22, 1968 the Gun Control Act was signed by President Johnson. This law would soon become the largest base of gun control policy in the United States for decades to come and even still today. The act has three main policies that originated with the document and since have included amendments from some of the previous acts that did not have as much success, such as the NFA and the FFA. These policies are, "1) Eliminating the interstate traffic in firearms and ammunition that had previously frustrated state and local efforts to license, register, or restrict ownership of guns. 2) Denying access to firearms to certain congressionally defined groups, including minors, convicted felons, and persons who had been adjudicated as mental defectives or committed to mental institutions. 3) Ending the importation of all surplus military firearms and all other guns unless certified by the Secretary of the Treasury as "particularly suitable for ... sporting purposes"" (Zimring, par.45). Later minor regulations were added as well like distributing any form of firearm to minors, felons, fugitives, adjudicated mental defectives and persons previously in mental institutions, and addicted users of marijuana, depressants, stimulants or other narcotics (Zimring, par.53).

Since the biggest gun control movement act, (Gun Control Act of 1968), there have been few other laws created. In 1972 the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms was created, this was just created to enforce the Gun Control Act. Then the Firearms Owners' Protection Act was established and eased all restrictions on the selling of guns (Gettings, par.12-14). This is a step backwards in our society and went in the opposite direction then we should have. However, in 1990 our country took a turn back in the right direction when the Crime Control Act which prohibited the possession or discharge of a firearm in a school zone was created (Gettings, par.15). Then came the Violent Control and Law Enforcement Act which "banned the manufacture, possession, and importation of semiautomatic weapons to civilians." It also prohibits juveniles from obtaining handguns (Gettings, par.15-20). In 1998 the Brady Handgun Act came about and this act basically just reiterates some laws in the Gun Control Act and requires the background check by the NICS to occur when purchasing firearms (Gettings, par.21). This is one of the latest acts involving the monitoring of the use of firearms.

Unfortunately, gun control is not a big enough of a concern to the majority of the public. Because of this the manufacturing of guns will continue to be produced in large proportions. From the research and statistics shown it is evident that there needs to be some restrictions on the distribution of firearms. Now while gun control might not become completely regulated, actions to have more restrictions over the selling of firearms to consumers' needs to start. Even though many people have been trying and will continue to try and get more legislation of gun control policies to pass, the Second Amendment is still fully intact and there doesn't seem to be any part of the amendment that is going to be abolished, so this seems very unlikely. Consequently, without more regulation of these firearms, some of the wrong civilians are gaining control of weapons that can destroy the lives of families and people all over. All from the lack of restrictions our country has on such lethal weapons.