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From Trigger to Treaty: Solving the Gun Control Controversy

This article was written by Dwija Saraiya, a student at the University of Warwick.

Guns. They are one of the most contentious and divisive issues in American society today. Gun control has been a hot topic for decades, with political debates raging on over the extent of the Second Amendment, background checks, assault weapons, and much more. In this article, we will take a closer look at the political differences and debates surrounding gun control, backed up by data and statistics.


The Second Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms and reads as follows: "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." Some interpret this as an absolute right that cannot be infringed upon in any way, whilst others believe that reasonable restrictions should be placed on the right to bear arms, in the interest of public safety. 

One of the most pressing issues surrounding gun control is the inclusion and expansion of background checks at the point of purchase. According to a study by the Pew Research Centre, 91% of Americans favour expanded background checks for gun purchases. Federal law currently requires background checks for gun sales made by licensed dealers, but not for private sales. However, proponents of stricter gun control laws argue that this loophole allows criminals and illicit traders to purchase guns without undergoing a background check. In a 2018 General Social Survey, 26% of US gun owners reported that they had acquired their most recent firearm without a background check. Opponents argue that background checks would be an unnecessary burden on law-abiding gun owners, and that they would not necessarily prevent criminals from obtaining guns through other means, such as the black market. However, data from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) reveals that over 300,000 gun sales were blocked between 2014 and 2018 due to background checks revealing criminal records or other disqualifying factors. Furthermore, it is worth noting that, while background checks are not foolproof, they do provide a barrier to dangerous individuals seeking to make a purchase.


Another area of debate is the issue of assault weapons. These are defined as semi-automatic firearms with features such as detachable magazines and pistol grips. Many gun control advocates argue that these weapons are unnecessary for civilian use and have thus proposed a nationwide ban on the sale and distribution of semi-automatic weapons to those without a specific licence. However, considering that a relatively small percentage of gun crimes result from assault weapon use – with the majority resulting from handgun use, this ban has been rendered by many a flawed solution to the complex problem. This is not to say that assault weapons are not a problem; indeed, they have been used in some of the deadliest mass shootings in American history. However, the fact remains that handguns are the most pervasive and deadly type of firearm in the United States, and thus should be the more logical target of similar attempts at nationwide bans.


So, what is the solution? Many gun control advocates believe that universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, and a limit on magazine capacity are the most effective measures that can be taken to reduce gun violence. Meanwhile, others believe that mental health reforms, stronger enforcement of existing gun laws, and increased education on responsible gun ownership are the keys to reducing gun deaths. Other proposed solutions include implementing "red flag" laws, which allow law enforcement to temporarily confiscate firearms from individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others. These proposals have been shown to have some effectiveness in reducing gun violence and thus have gained significant traction, but there is still debate over the extent of their impact. 


Considering that there are two extremes to this debate, with laissez-faire gun-controls being widely supported by Republicans and traditionally ‘small-government’ advocates and more extensive gun-controls being supported predominantly by Democrats and ‘big-government’ supporters, it is unlikely that either of these two extreme solutions will be implemented. Each side has powerful lobby groups and politicians supporting them, and will thus seek to block any solutions they deem ill-suited to solving the problem of gun violence in America.


Therefore, the most effective solution to gun violence is likely to be a combination of these different approaches, tailored to fit the unique circumstances and challenges of each 

community. The key is to implement evidence-based policies and programs that have been shown to be effective in reducing gun violence, and to continuously evaluate and refine these approaches based on the latest research. However, it is important to note that even the most effective policies and programs will not eliminate gun violence. The problem is complex and multifaceted, and there are many different factors that contribute to it. It will take a sustained and collaborative effort from all stakeholders, including government officials, law enforcement, mental health professionals, and community members, to make meaningful progress towards reducing, and hopefully eliminating gun violence in America once and for all. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Warwick Economics Summit.




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