Victimology in Regards to Gun Violence in America
Victimology in Regards to Gun Violence in America
Gun violence has become a hot topic and a thorny issue in the United States of America, with the recent spree of mass shootings and attacks on innocent civilians in public places. This situation has largely been attributed to the large number of guns in the hands of the American public, given that the Second Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees every American the right to own and possess guns legally for the purposes of self-defense. However, more often than not, most of these guns have infiltrated into the hands of criminals, religious extremists and terrorists. As a matter of fact, statistics from theUnited NationsOffice for Drug Control (UNODC) shows that the US leads in the number of guns globally and has the highest rates of reported gun violence than other countries in the world such as Britain with similar gun possession laws. The increased incidences of gun violence has also been blamed on weak legal and legislative framework , coupled with the fact that efforts to have strong gun control laws have always been met with resistance given that the issue has taken a largely political dimension. Whereas the Obama administration has promised to tighten the noose on gun violence criminals through more effective gun control laws, such efforts are likely to be thwarted by lack of a bipartisan approach to the issue of gun control. For example, as Zurcher (2015) observes, the US Republican dominated Congress has blocked all gun control efforts in the past. This paper looks at the aspect of victimization of gun violence and other issues surrounding gun violence in the US.
Data, Studies and Statistics of Gun Violence in US
According to the BBC (2016), “the number of gun murders per capita in the US in 2012 was approximately 30 times that in the UK, 30% more than in Canada and 32 % more than that in the Australia” (p. 3). According to this source, there are close to 300 million guns in the hands of US citizens alone which mean one gun for very US citizen, making the country the leading in terms of guns available in the public hands. And yes, recent research studies also show that the US has more gun elated violence than any other democracies like Canada, UK, Australia and France. As Venkataraman (2011) observes, the rates of gun violence in the US are significantly higher than that in other Western democracies, partly due to the fact that most parts of the country were dominated by anarchy and violence up to the late twentieth century coupled by the fact that people relied no more on the government to protect them. Moreover, the author argues this is the case in the US and not in any other democracy because Americans are less willing to give up their Constitutional Second Amendment rights to self-protection so easily. Moreover, given that the first government of the US was a democratic one, the concept of gun ownership and freedom of free use of guns got entrenched in the US so that taking away or limiting such rights has become difficult even for the current Obama administration due to fierce opposition from politicians and lobby groups. Moreover, this is not the case in other European democracies because there, the democratized governments carried out disarmament exercise and took control of all guns unlike the US where such efforts have born no fruits. Furthermore, statistical information from the Gun Violence Archive shows that gun violence, particularly in the past one decade has been on the rise and higher than that in other democracies.
Frequency of Mass Shootings in the US
A mass shooting refers to a single shooting incident that kills and injures four or more people inclusive of the shooter. The rates and frequencies of mass shootings have almost tripled in the last five years in the US. All these have enhanced calls for tighter gun regulation but with little success (Gunter, 2015). According to Palazzolo and Flynn (2015), research and statistics from the State and Federal Departments of Criminal Justice increasingly show that the US leads in the number of mass shootings using handheld guns and other firearms authorized by the current gun laws. This situation has been blamed by the Obama administration on lack of effective and properly crafted gun control laws. According to the Mas Shooting Tracker, “the total number of mass shootings in the US in 2015 alone was 372 that killed 475 people and wounded 1870 more” (Palazzolo & Flynn, 2015, p. 2). Examples of these shootings that have painted a grim picture on gun control laws in America include the Sandy Hook Elementary school in New Town in 2012, the Aurora College shootings in 2012, Charles Town shooting in 2014 at a historic black church, San Bernardino in California in 2015.
These mass shootings have suddenlyalmost tripled in the last half a decade in the US, with most pundits blaming this on weak gun control laws and the paradoxical support that gun ownership receives from a majority of Americans. The main reason for the increase in mass shootings over the last decade may be because of the concomitant increase in the number of guns in the hands of the American public and also the emergence of extremist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda that are hell-bent on bringing America down and revenging on its people. Furthermore, this increase in shootings could be due to the infiltration of foreign immigrants to the US disguised as asylum seekers and refugees from war torn countries like Syria while their real intent is to get a soft landing spot to carry out their ill intentions. This situation has been mainly attributed to the relaxed immigration laws or policies that have led to porous US borders.
The Impact and Effectiveness of the Gun Control Bill
Sealing Loopholes in Current Gun Control Laws
Concerned about the increased number of mass shootings in the US, President Obama introduced into the US Congress a piece of legislation aimed at tightening gun ownership regulation amid divisions between Republicans and Democrats as to the effectiveness of such laws. The Bill has provisions that seek, inter alia, to limit the ammunition magazines to ten rounds and require that criminal background checks be conducted for al gun sale, including the currently exempted private sellers. One of the reasons why these provisions will help reduce gun violence at least to some extent is that these provisions of the law will help seal some of the loop holes that currently exist in the American gun control laws such as the exemption of private gun sellers from frequent background checks. It is through this lack of a proper background check that criminals find it easier to purchase and use illegal arms to perpetrate mass shootings and murders of the American people.
Keeping Guns out of Wrong Hands
Expansion of background checks on guns according to Webster and Vernick (2013) will help reduce gunviolence by keeping illegal guns out of wrong hands. By empowering the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to require all gun sellers whether private or public to get licenses and allow background checks on their gun stores, it will be possible to manage and track the flow of firearms. Moreover, these gun control laws will be effective in controlling gun violence by increasing the mental health treatment, lack of which has been blamed for some of the gun violence by mentally retarded individuals who possess guns illegally. Information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show that through the background check system, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has managed to prevent more than two million guns that would have otherwise gotten into wrong hands.
More Effective Enforcement and Funding Required for Success
Making the background check system more effective and efficient is important in ensuring that only genuine people possess guns and that criminals don’t get the opportunity to illegally use guns to kill innocent Americans. However, without effective and smart gun control law enforcement, not much may be achieved by the new gun control legislation proposed by the Obama administration. Furthermore, without enough funding and political goodwill to enforce the gun control laws, such a proposal as background checks may not achieve the desired results. Additionally, besides these tough gun control laws, there is an urgent need for gun safety technology to be embraced by the federal executive and states to help prevent theoccurrence of gun violence in the future. The reduction or limitation of the number of ammunitions in the guns possessed by citizens to ten rounds is also a good idea since it will help minimize the impact that gun shots have on the victims of mass shootings or gun violence in America. For instance, according to a study by DeGrazia (2014), the type of gun used by James Holmes, “the assailant in the Aurora Colorado mass shooting was 100-round ammunition that he used to kill 12 people and wounded 58 others” (p. 4) . Thus, limiting the number of ammunitions to 10 would help reduce the number of casualties in case of attacks. This is what the author calls a ‘moderate gun control’ that does not totally interfere with or remove the right to bear arms.
My Stance on President Obama’s Gun Control Measures
I fully support President Obama’s gun control measures for a number of reasons. To begin with, the gun control measures will help protect Americans from future gun violence and attacks since through the executive orders; the previous loopholes that were apparent in the federal laws allowing convicted felons to purchase dangerous weapons from private sellers without any background checks will be sealed. Secondly, the gun control measures put in place or proposed by the President will keep in check those who intend to use illegal firearms to kill American citizens. With the new laws, it will be easier to track gun ownership and hence ensure that only those who are legally legible to own guns possess guns. Moreover, the Obama’s gun control measures will help keep illegal weapons out of the hands of wrong people such as extremists and criminals thus ensuring the safety and security of the country. This assertion or view is supported by a study by Hahn et al. (2015).
Reasons America has not had a New Gun Control Law the Past Decade
Constitutional Right to Bear Harms and US Politics
Since the right to possess arms entrenched in the US Constitution through the Second Amendment to the document, no new substantive and comprehensive gun control measures have been enacted into law in the past decade. The main reason cited for this state of affairs is the polarization and politicization of the issue of gun control. Due to diverse political views and stances taken in the US Congress by both Republican and Democratic members, it has been difficult to have any new gun control proposal or Bill passed. Depending on the number of members in each side of the political divide, gun control measures and proposals have often been shot down on the floor of the Congress based on political lobbying. As a result of this fact, President Obama’s decision to introduce anew gun control law in the US Congress at a time when political temperatures are high has been hailed by many such as Hillary Clinton as a brave step towards safeguarding the lives of the American people.
Strong Anti-Gun Control Campaigners and Lobby Groups
Furthermore, the existence of very strong gun ownership lobby groups and associations such as the National Rifle Association has had significant influence on the passage of any gun control measure into law. Such gun rights lobbyists have managed over the years to prevent any legislation gun control and also gained massive support from US citizens and politicians who are against gun control laws. In fact, some of the Republican Presidential aspirants like Ted Cruz have been quoted accusing the current Obama administration of attempts and intentions of “taking away your (American citizens’) rights to own guns without amending the Constitution”.
All these have worked against any efforts to have a meaningful gun control law in the US. The NRA has for instance blasted Obama’s executive measures as being too emotional, ripe for abuse, baseless being based on no statistics and a usurpation of his Presidential powers under the Constitution. It has instead painted a picture of a situation whereby the new law will give the federal government the right to confiscate Americans’ guns, make it harder for law-abiding citizens to legally obtain guns and represents a serious affront or violation of the Second Amendment rights. There have also emerged arguments by the gun possession advocates against gun control laws to the effect that ‘criminals don’t follow gun laws’ and ‘gun control only hurts law-abiding US citizens’. All these have created a bad impression on the gun control campaign in the US and hence thwarted any efforts or measures to have a new gun control law. These arguments against gun control measures and laws are not only misleading but also devoid of a serious consideration of the social impacts that relaxed gun control laws have on the safety and protection of American citizens.
Liberal Interpretation of Gun Control Statutes by US Courts
The US courts have also consistently interpreted the Constitutional right of American citizens to hold firearms in a rather liberal manner thus thwarting any federal or state legislation that is deemed to be unduly restricting this right to use guns for self-protection, defense, sporting and hunting purposes. Examples of such decisions are Bliss v. Commonwealth (1822), US v Miller, McDonald v Chicago, and District of Columbia v Heller.
Scientific Data and Studies Associated with Victimization with Regards to Gun violence in US
Gun Violence Victimization and Race
According to a survey conducted in 2011 by the US Department of Justice of the Bureau of Justice statistics in the period between 2001 and 2010, 9 percent of all violent victimization was committed using firearms (Truman, 2011). Property victimization related to gun violence also increased with almost similar proportions duringthese periods, raising alarm as to the effectiveness of the current gun control laws in combating gun violence and victimization(Planty & Truman, 2013). Other studies also attribute gun violence and victimization as resulting from mental illness and that most of the mass shootings sprees witnessed in the last decade have been committed by those with mental problems hence the need for gun control laws to address the issue of mental illness too (Metzl & MacLeish, 2015). However, as Fisher and Lab (2010) observe, gun related victim ology or victimization may also be looked at from the perspectives of race and geographical location of victims of crime and gun violence. According to these authors, race has a significant role to play in the risk of gun violence victimization. Thus, the writers note, “Black Americans are more likely to be victimized than their Hispanic and Whitecounterparts” (p.11). These authors claim that studies in the recent past have shown that“in spite of African Americans making up only 13% of the US total population; more than half of victims in gun related violence in the US are African Americans” (p. 11). As to the geographical aspect of gun violence victimization, the writers argue that those who reside in metropolitan urban centers and suburbs are more vulnerable to firearm attack victimization than those who live far away from major cities and institutions. Moreover, a study by Dahlberg, Ikeda and Kresnow (2004) shows that more deaths in Americanhomes are resulting from gun violence in the US besides the high rates of suicide involving personal guns. According to this study, there is increasing evidence of a link between high prevalence of guns in homes and high rates of suicide and homicide in addition to thousands of victims of gun violence. Interestingly, the results of this study shows that those category of people in the American society who are more likely to be effected by gun violence as victims are mainly young people of below 35 years and those from ethnic or racial minorities. This study’s results have therefore been confirmed by that of other later writers and re s e archers like Fisher and Lab (2010).
Legal Issues Related to Gun violence Victimization
Gun violence, fun control and victimization raise a number of important legal issues. To begin with, gun control laws raise the issue of conformity of such legislative measures to the US Constitution Second Amendment rights. It has been argued by strict interpreters of the Constitution like Ted Cruz that the drafters of the US Constitution did not intend or envisage a situation whereby the right to possess guns will have to be regulated in a manner that renders the realization of such legal rights illusory. Accordingly, those who are against gun control laws and measures adopted by President Obama argue that the original meaning of the Constitution must be preserved and hence no measure likely to unnecessarily limit the rights of Americans to own guns should be struck down by courts for being unconstitutional. Further, the disparities in gun violence victimization in America also raise serious issues of equal treatment of every American citizen before the law as is the letter and spirit of the US Constitutional culture. Additionally, according to Kates and Beard (2013), gun violence and victimization raise issues of the extent of the powers of the US President under the Constitution to issue executive orders that seem to conflict with the direct Constitutional requirements. Interpretative issues to do with the Second Amendment also arise according to Kates and Beard (2013). According to the authors, such interpretation challenges and issues have in fact arisen in National Rifle Association of America v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives701 F.3d 974 (4th Cir. 2012).
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