There is a division among citizens when it comes to gun control. Critics argue that guns themselves are not the cause of harm, but rather it is the individuals who use them for violent acts. On the other hand, supporters believe that guns promote aggression and a sense of superiority over others. They assert that restricting public access to firearms would significantly reduce violence and deaths in the nation. These opposing perspectives present a decision for the federal government: either eliminate one of our Constitutional rights—the right to bear arms—or continue allowing individuals to own guns.
The current gun ownership policy in the United States has been influenced by multiple Supreme Court cases. Among them, Printz v. United States was a notable case that evaluated the legality of background checks conducted by gun dealerships on potential buyers. These checks utilized the Brady Form which gathered personal details like name, address, date of birth, and an affirmation confirming no engagement in criminal acts or mental instability.
The dealer is required to confirm the buyer’s identity using a form of identification called CLEO. Once the CLEO has been verified, the dealer has five days to perform a background check and assess whether selling to this particular buyer would break any laws. Sheriff Jay Printz contested this procedure in the Supreme Court, claiming that it violated the constitution. The court determined that the CLEOs were indeed unconstitutional but upheld the constitutionality of all other aspects of the Brady Act.
The National Firearm Act charges against Jack Miller and Frank Layton were dismissed, but this decision was overturned by the Supreme Court in United States v. Miller. The defendants had been arrested for transporting a 12-gauge shotgun across state lines from Oklahoma to Arkansas. Their lawyers argued in the Western Arkansas District Court that their Second Amendment rights protected their gun ownership and questioned the constitutionality of the National Firearm Act.
The lower court dismissed the charges against the two men, which their lawyers agreed upon. The Supreme Court later reviewed this decision and did not retry them. They concluded that the Second Amendment was not violated by the National Firearm Act. Another gun control case, United States v. Lopez, involved a twelfth-grade high school student who faced state law charges for bringing a gun to school. However, those charges were dropped within 24 hours and he was instead charged under federal law for violating the Gun-Free School Zones Act. Lopez tried to dismiss these charges by arguing that Congress had exceeded its authority in passing this law.
The defendant was convicted in the district court and his motion was denied. He appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that Congress lacked the authority to pass the Gun-Free School Zones Act. The circuit court agreed with him and reversed the district court’s decision. The Supreme Court reviewed the case to determine whether Congress had the power to enact this act. Ultimately, they concluded that Congress had exceeded its authority by passing this law. Over time, different interpretations of the Second Amendment offered by the Supreme Court have safeguarded our unchanged right to bear arms today.
The Second Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, is crucial for the establishment of the United States. It highlights the significance of a well-regulated Militia in preserving a free State, thereby granting individuals the right to possess and carry firearms without interference. Although lower courts have provided their interpretations on this issue, a conclusive decision from the Supreme Court is still awaited.
There are three main beliefs regarding the interpretation of the amendment: advocating for an individual’s right to possess weapons, giving precedence to public safety rather than weapon possession, and highlighting its contribution in establishing a non-federally controlled militia. The Supreme Court has made numerous rulings based on this amendment over time.
The Supreme Court has stated that ownership of a gun is only allowed when it is linked to a well-regulated militia. Any use of a gun unrelated to militia activities is considered unnecessary. The interpretation of the controversial Second Amendment remains unsettled. It is worth noting that this amendment, which includes a preamble, stands out in the Constitution and adds to the confusion surrounding its meaning.
Congress has the power, granted by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, to create laws regarding gun possession. The National Firearms Act of 1934 is a significant example of this authority. This act made it illegal for ordinary people to have machine guns or sawed-off shotguns and imposed taxes on their manufacturing and distribution. It also required individuals to register their firearms when buying them.
The Federal Firearms Act, enacted in 1938, aimed to regulate the ownership and transportation of guns. It made it a crime to transport stolen firearms across state lines and to distribute them to fugitives or convicted felons.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 amended the National Firearms Act and repealed the Federal Firearms Act. This amendment established requirements for obtaining licenses, modified regulations for purchasing firearms, and changed policies governing imported guns.
In 1986, the Firearm Owners Protection Act replaced the Gun Control Act. While imposing new restrictions and modifying existing ones, this act also eased certain requirements outlined in the 1968 legislation. Additionally, it prohibited the sale of machine guns to the general public.
The Undetectable Firearms Act, implemented in 1988, mandated the inclusion of a visible orange part on toy guns resembling real firearms. This measure was a direct response to 19 cases wherein children unintentionally carried toy guns that closely resembled actual weapons, resulting in unfortunate police shootings. As a result, Congress introduced the Gun-Free School Zone Act in 1990, which explicitly prohibits firearms within school zones.
Although Congress initially tried to pass legislation enforcing regulations, it was eventually repealed because of constitutional limitations. However, in 1993, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was enacted. This law required a five-day waiting period for gun purchases and introduced a computerized background check system. It obligated law enforcement officials to conduct background checks on individuals wanting to buy firearms. Nevertheless, in the case Printz v. United States in 1997, the Supreme Court declared this specific provision of the act invalid.
Gun control is a highly debated and sensitive subject, involving the completion of a Brady Form by individuals purchasing firearms. The form collects personal information like name, address, date of birth, and an affirmation that there are no criminal or mental health problems. A dealer conducts a background check within five days of waiting time. Once all requirements are met, the gun must be registered with the local police department.
When considering the future, there are multiple possibilities to take into account. One possible outcome is the total elimination of individual gun ownership. At first, criminals might still have a few firearms, but eventually these would disappear completely. Nevertheless, it is crucial to acknowledge that this action alone would not result in an overall reduction in crime rates. The main effect would be a decrease in deaths caused by guns. It is noteworthy that Vancouver, Canada and Seattle, Washington have similar levels of criminal activity.
Seattle has a higher number of gun-related deaths due to the ease of access. On the other hand, if current gun laws are maintained, firearm ownership would be regulated through mandatory gun registration and restrictions on mentally unstable individuals purchasing guns. An advantage to consider is that eliminating personal gun ownership would result in fewer fatalities, although the crime rate would remain relatively unchanged. Nevertheless, this suggestion’s drawback is that it would leave individuals without any means for self-defense.
There is ongoing controversy surrounding gun control in the United States, with some individuals opposing personal gun ownership and others asserting it as a fundamental right for American citizens.
While the Supreme Court has yet to provide a clear interpretation of the Second Amendment, it is generally believed that individuals have the right to possess firearms for purposes unrelated to federally funded militias. The ongoing discussion regarding the role of guns in American society will persist until a definitive judgment is given by the Supreme Court.