Tougher laws on who gets guns. Celebrities seem to want it. President Obama’s tried to do something about it. And after a recent shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, Americans are now googling “gun control” rather than “gun shop”. So why is it so difficult to change the laws on gun control in the USA? Why can’t gun use be made illegal instead of ‘controlled’?
Americans; if you are 18+ you can buy a shotgun in any state. If you’re 21 and over you can buy handguns.
Drinking laws in America mean that you can buy a gun at 18, but not buy an alcoholic drink until 21. Seems fair.
Since 1968, people who have committed a crime punishable by more than one year in prison, who are busted with illegal drugs or have mental health issues aren’t allowed to buy guns.
The Constitution of the United States of America is the supreme law in the USA. It’s a set of principles stating how the country is governed and it outlines the rights and freedoms of the country’s citizens.
Part of the Constitution called the Second Amendment states;
“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.”
Americans have the right to keep a weapon for self-defence. Recently more and more states are bringing in “right to carry” laws, which mean you are legally allowed to carry a gun in public.
The USA has the highest gun ownership in the world. On average the US has 88 guns for every 100 residents. That’s compared to only 6 in the UK. However this DOESN’T mean that all Americans have guns. In fact only 32% of Americans own a gun or live in a household where there is one. Meaning certain individuals are buying up more and more guns.
According to gun control campaigners The Brady Campaign, 18,000 US children and teenagers are injured and killed due to guns every year.
Over the past few decades a number of shootings have got people asking if guns are a good idea.
These events include; the Columbine Massacre in 1999, where Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed twelve students and one teacher. The most deadly attack by a single person in American history was the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, where 32 people were killed. And in 2012, a gunman killed 12 people during a showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado.
The recurring fact: civilians taking guns into a crowded public place and killing people. In the past few weeks gun control is on the agenda again. This time it’s because of the tragic killings of nine people by a man called Dylann Roof, in Charleston, South Carolina.
– More guns mean more deaths. Simple.
– It’s not just about murder; it’s also about suicides. Around 2/3rd of gun deaths in the US are suicides. A report showed that people were more likely to commit suicide in areas where gun ownership was high. Should we be making it easier for people to take their own life?
– No gun control = US government cannot protect its citizens. The statistics show Americans want change. Around 54% of Americans would like tougher gun laws and around 90% agree with background checks before being able to buy a weapon. Though it’s worth noting this is just one survey.
– The Second Amendment is outdated. Controversial? Maybe, but some argue the most important part is where it talks about a militia (military force made up of civilians in emergencies). When the constitution was written it was unsure if America would actually be a success. Invasion from other American states was a real threat. The idea was that the people should be allowed to protect themselves if invaded. But with the chances of an American invasion now very low is this rule still relevant?
– A gun study looked at shootings from 1982 to 2012. In 49 out of 62 cases the killer used legal weapons. So if you want to reduce the shootings, make ’em illegal!
– It doesn’t mean we’re going to take your precious guns away. Tougher checks just mean that people who shouldn’t have shooters don’t get them. Simple as that.
– In the UK, banning handguns didn’t do much to lower homicide. Although death by guns went down, overall murders went up. As the saying goes; Guns don’t kill people, people do.
– Having a gun means you can protect yourself if attacked. How many victims of knife crime or muggings would still be alive if they’d had a gun?
– A ban on assault weapons put in place in 1994 has not been renewed. The reason? The banning of these weapons didn’t reduce the number of shootings.
– The Second Amendment is just as relevant now as then. Just because the individual states now get along fine, doesn’t mean America isn’t under threat from other countries and extremists.
– And about suicide; do we have the right to take away people’s choice over taking their own life? It’s their choice. And if you get rid of guns, people will find other ways, which might be more painful and slow.
This year is the 800 year anniversary of the Magna Carta, a document which agreed how England was to be ruled. But what has this got to do with modern politics?
It’s a document written in 1215 which recorded “the liberties of England”. Basically a posh word for the laws of the land.
Most importantly the Magna Carta stated that the ruler of England (at that point King John) had to obey the law just like anyone else. At that point the laws were agreed by the King and his barons so this didn’t exactly affect ordinary people. Who needs fairness anyway?
Nonetheless the Magna Carta document is still regarded as an important step to creating the constitution of the United Kingdom.
A Constitution is a set of principles and rules which determine how a country is governed. It is the supreme law; which means how the country is run and outlines the rights and freedoms of the citizens of that country. No biggie.
One of the most famous examples is the Constitution of the United States of America. This lays down how the power lies in the USA and outlines the civil rights belonging to citizens of the US. Woo, freedom!
That’s right. The UK is one of a very small number of modern countries which doesn’t have a written constitution.
Before you panic; things like your human rights and the laws of the country are set down in different treaties, documents and traditions which have existed for centuries. What we don’t have is one single document which brings all these different parts together.
The “Unwritten Constitution” is a group of traditions and practices for how the UK is run. For example, the idea of having a Prime Minister and how they are appointed (by gaining a majority in the House of Commons) is a convention. Whereas in America the Presidency is written in law by the constitution.
Last year the government held a committee exploring the idea of creating a constitution for Great Britain. They found that people liked the idea of having a constitution or a “second Magna Carta”, but couldn’t agree what should go in it. Go figure.
A written Constitution would make it clear who governs and how they are appointed. At the moment the UK head of state is the Queen. One of the options explored by the committee was having an elected head of state (like the Presidency in the USA) rather than a monarch. Bye-bye Queenie?
A new Magna Carta or Constitution would mean the UK would also have constitutional laws. These would ensure citizens cool stuff like “all men and women are equal” and the right to a private life in a widely acknowledged way, which could be referred to. So if a new law was proposed which could threaten those civil liberties the court can throw it out for being “unconstitutional”. Would this protect the rights of the people, or do you think it would slow the work of government?
Magna Cartas and Constitutions can lead to a LOT of legal headaches. In some cases it just makes things more complex. US Lawyers constantly find loopholes within the writings of their constitution.
Example: The US Supreme Court is currently deciding if there is a constitutional right for Gay Marriage. Supporters of Same Sex Marriage say that banning it is discriminatory which is against the constitution of the United States. Time to get lawyered up.
Once the Constitution is put into law it is extremely difficult to get rid of it or even change it. The American constitution has had only 27 amendments added since its creation in 1787. Realise a few years down the line that you missed something major? Tough Cookies.
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