History of Gun Laws and Legislation in the US

1755 words (7 pages) Essay in Law

18/05/20 Law Reference this

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During the past few years, gun control has been one of the most controversial topics discussed throughout the United States and possibly most the developed world. During these past few years, legislatures from multiple sides of the political spectrum have attempted to pass legislation to restrict or in some cases, outright ban some types of firearms, most notably, as with the case of AR-platform weapons, or “assault weapons” as people have called them. Legislation has been passed or proposed in recent years that has restricted the usage of these weapons, as since been the case with the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 and another proposed ban from California attempting to be passed this year (United States). These bans have attempted to ban the sale, transfer and usage of so-called assault weapons, particularly if they had pistol grips and bayonet mounts (Plumer). The 1994 ban had expired in 2004, and now today, a new ban is looking to be passed, of course named the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019, though this has been at the Senate since January and hasn’t moved anywhere since (United States). Senator Lindsey Graham stated that “I don’t think that an assault weapons ban fixes the problem, … you’ve got 24 million guns out there already.” (Republican Views). Laws such as these generally need approval from both parties within the government as well as minding groups and states that may oppose such laws, such as the NRA and states such as Texas (Plumer).

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            This brings us the concept of federalism, which allows the division of power between the federal and state governments. There has been lawsuits in the past that have shown that the federal government can overstep their bounds as in the 1995 Supreme Court case United States v. Lopez, which stated that the government claimed that guns on campus were banned under the Commerce Clause, though the Supreme Court ruled that the Commerce Clause only affects interstate commerce, and doesn’t affect guns (Kutz). The federal government could also influence states through giving states grants, incentives and mandates, though often times there’s a catch, such as with categorical grants, which given money can only be spent as defined by the federal government and mandates, which the government would only grant money if a state satisfies a demand (like funding highways if a state has a 21 drinking age). Though federal block grants allow states to use the money however they choose. Both states, however, have the concurrent ability to make and enforce laws, varying from state to state (Kutz). Federalism in general is a complex concept and remains today a fuel of many political controversies, such as conflicting state and public political opinions over gun control.

            Gun control has been a very controversial topic discussed between both major political parties. The Republican belief rests that Americans have the right, explicitly given in the Constitution, to possess and use firearms (Republican Views). They believe that the Bill of Rights describe unalienable rights to American citizens and that the modern norms of society cannot alter these given rights. The GOP as a whole, state that they wish to uphold the rights the nation was built on, and that the decision whether a citizen should own a gun or not should rest within the states, not the federal government. This talk over gun control was rekindled almost immediately after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting which occurred back in 2012, which the shooter used a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle along with a handgun to kill 26 people, 20 of them children, before taking his own life (“Sandy Hook”). Executive Vice President of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre later called for armed security to be at every public school and said that the “Only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” (Republican Views).

           Democrats would like to propose a different, more strict take on the Second Amendment, with their views being based on that the 2nd Amendment is “…subject to reasonable regulation.”, and their goals revolve around improving background checks for gun sales, prohibiting mentally ill people from obtaining guns and attempting to reinstate the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (“Democratic”). Hillary Clinton said that access to firearms has been shifted “…out of balance” and that people shouldn’t have access to a gun anywhere they go, stating that it isn’t in the “…best interest of the vast majority of people.” (“Democratic”).

            Both major parties have noticeably differing views on gun control, with Republicans willing to uphold constitutional rights and having a more open view on the matter, while Democrats generally wish to further restrict access to firearms. However, in Texas, a predominantly Republican state, gun laws are generally laxer. Though issues still arise regarding gun laws within the state. Many states in the U.S., including Texas, have laws allowing police to take guns away from those deemed mentally ill and a few states have what’s known as “red flag” laws, allowing police to take gun from those feared for potential mental instability (Dexheimer, Bureau). Texas does not have red flag laws, and gun right activists don’t wish for the state to adopt such laws, as Terry Holcomb, Texas Carry’s executive director, stated that “Red flag laws and due process are oxymorons.” (Dexheimer, Bureau). However, for those suspected of illegally possessing a gun, the state cannot legally force the owner to forfeit his/her guns, as this is handled through what’s called the “honor system”, in that those in question voluntarily turn their guns over or they could state they don’t have guns, under the knowledge that they can’t forcibly look for them (Dexheimer, Bureau). Texas has relatively limited restrictions on firearms, mostly centered around preventing those with a criminal past or history of mental illness from acquiring a firearm. Texas is known for having some of the lightest gun laws in the nation, partly due to its fully Republican congress and activist groups fighting to keep the state’s gun laws where they currently are, such as the NRA.

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          Gun control has been one of the most politically talked about subjects in the past 25 years, with the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994, to the many notorious mass shootings in recent years as well as talks to reinstate the bans, the battle over gun control between Democrats and Republicans is beginning to heat up once more. Democrats are calling for the weapons ban to be reinstated after many mass shootings have occurred, most notably, Sandy Hook, to prevent or at least lower the frequency of, mass shootings from happening. Texas, though, with the state being heavily Republican, has fairly light gun laws and even is one of the few states in the union allowing open carry of guns in public and is the only state to allow carry of swords [stated as blades over 6 inches are legal]. During August of 2017, the Campus Carry bill was signed into law, allowing students on college and university campuses to carry a concealed handgun for the sake of self-defense or armed gunman. The federal battle for gun control along with Texas’s light gun control takes a new meaning to the phrase, “Come and Take It”.

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