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.
Selfie sticks, video blogs, photo-bombs – is it now our first instinct to pick up a camera in every situation?
Like it or not, this filming trend is very much the only way we can tell fact from fiction and has even had an effect on a recent murder case in the U.S… and may suggest that some American police officers are racist.
South Carolina, USA. Police Officer Michael Slager shoots a black man called Walter Scott.
Slager claims: Scott had tried to grab his taser weapon, and that he felt threatened.
The Issue: This isn’t the first time a black man has been shot by police in suspicious circumstances. Is America’s police force racist?
WHAT’S VIDEO GOT TO DO WITH IT?
A video was then released, showing a whole different story. Scott is seen running away, unarmed, before being shot in the back by Slager.
The video appears to show Slager dropping an item by the dead body – and some are saying that the taser was planted near the body to suit the police’s version of events…
RIGHT NOW: Michael Slager has been charged with the murder of Walter Scott.
A second video has been released, showing Scott being pulled over by Slager, for a broken headlight on his car and then fleeing the scene.
THERE’S A PATTERN HERE…
Oakland, California – 22 year old Oscar Grant III shot by white Police officer Johannes Mehserle as he lay defenceless on the ground. Many videos show Grant was already restrained by other officers when he was shot. Mehserle was charged with manslaughter, not murder, and was released in 2011.
Ferguson, Missouri – Unarmed black teenager Michael Brown shot dead by Officer Darren Wilson. Wilson was not charged with murder and no video was taken to tell if this action was justified.
New York – Eric Garner died after being put in a chokehold by a New York cop. A video shows him saying “I can’t breathe”. The police officer was not charged.
Cleveland, Ohio – Tamir Rice, aged only 12, is shot by police responding to reports of a youth waving around a “probably fake” weapon. The weapon did indeed turn out to be fake. CCTV shows the shots being fired within seconds of the police’s arrival. The verdict is yet to be revealed.
THE WIDER ISSUE
These events and the many other similar killings of black people by white police officers all add to the ongoing debate about whether America’s justice system and police officers are racist. Cue: public outrage, riots, protest marches and campaigns for justice.
Increase in CCTV cameras and video technology in mobile phones: the public has been able to compare the police’s version of events to what they see in the videos. And they don’t like what they are seeing.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Michael Brown’s parents have campaigned for a law to make police officers wear body cameras, filming their actions and as a result of Walter Scott’s death many others support this move.
Some body cam studies suggest that they reduce police misconduct.
Due to the fact America is made up of different states, policed by 18,000 separate police agencies its unlikely police cameras will be rolled out throughout the whole country any time soon.
Very hard to tell. What we do know is that several people are protesting across various states in America over what they see as racist behaviour.