Columbine, Co. Through the news we have witnessed the horror, gore and serious crime that has extended its influence even to the youth of small towns across America. America has experienced a cultural change where solid values no longer serve as a deterrent to crime. This spread may have resulted from the desensitizing media under the, “If it bleeds, it reads.” marketing ploy, or perhaps the rise of the Internet. However, occurrences such as those at Columbine illustrate the violence that plagues America. Universally, this town represents the insecurity Americans feel under our current gun control policies. We no longer live in the “cleaver” family 50’s when streets and schoolyards were safe, door were left unlocked and windows unbarred. Changing times call for changing policies, enforcing stiffer laws and preventing the distribution of guns to violent criminals. Although, under the Clinton/Gore administration violent crime has decreased by 24 percent, both Bush and Gore recognize that the fight against lawlessness and violence has just begun.
Our founding father’s structured the government to have three freedoms: life, liberty, and property. The one which influences the topic at hand is life. The government is responsible to ensure safety; from other countries through a high-powered military, through FDA regulations, through road safety laws and through police enforcement. At this point, the government has created a daunting military reputations, we are ensured healthy food and safe roads; however, most Americans, male or female are afraid to walk alone at night, even in small towns. Some children are afraid to go to school and some teachers fear their own students. With these fears come the failure of one of our founded freedoms: life.
Americans recognize the threat of serious crime and the need for change. However, another fundamental founding feature of our nation impedes on the governments ability to limit the distribution of guns and thus the safety of America; the second amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms as a necessity to secure the free state. With this limitation in mind, the pressure to follow their parties platform, as well as the desire to please the majority of the American population, Bush and gore customized their attitudes and resolutions to the lawlessness and violence that plagues every nook and cranny of today’s America.
A republican candidate, as described under its Party Platform will “recreate respect for law through a zero tolerance approach.” Their agenda would support no-frills prisons with productive work requirements to restore the threat of jailtime as a powerful deterrent to crime.3 Republicanism reflects the desire for government to character build its citizens through the influence of the ten commandments. They feel the root of the problem lies in dysfunctional families and the critical need for positive role models and mentor programs. Fundamentally, a Republican candidate would increase funding toward state and local law enforcement through “research, grants, and joint task force.”3 to encourage more effective anti-crime efforts.
Bush’s stance on gun control fundamentally follows the guidelines of the Republican Party Platform through his concern for character building and his support for aggressive gun law enforcement; however, simultaneously protecting citizen’s rights under the second amendment. In the second debate Bush commented on the gun issue as a cultural glitch, “somewhere along the line we begun to disrespect life…gun laws are important…but so is loving children, character education classes and faith-based programs.” This is representative of the conservative nature of the Republican party.
However, Bush realized that to win the election he had to attract those registered voters vacillating between the attitudes of the Democratic and republican parties. Thus he did not embellish upon his disapproval of photo-licensing, he supports trigger locks on guns sold in the future and offering free installation of trigger locks in old guns. This process has been installed in Texas. In addition, he supports the age at which a juvenile can carry a handgun without parental supervision to be raised from 18 to 21.5 Finally, Bush believes in the instant-check system and supports changing federal law to give gun show sponsors special access to the Nation Instant Check System.5 All of these efforts could potentially decrease serious crime without threatening our rights under the second Amendment.
Gore feels that Bush only offers half the solution. He believes in the Golden Rule and tougher laws as well, however he doesn’t believe it will result in the change society needs. He believes there needs to be fundamental changes in federal law combined with strict law enforcement. A few changes include the restoration of a three-day waiting period, mandatory trigger locks, gun photo-licensing, ban of assault weapons, increased penalties for gun trafficking and gun related crimes and limiting gun purchases to one per month.
Gore’s agenda seems to impede on the second amendment through his proposal to require gun manufacturers and licensed sellers to report gun sales to a state authority, and through the photo-licensing program. However, Gore is always quick to note he will protect the rights of hunters and responsible home owners. This suggests that the only use of guns is to hunt and to protect from intruders. However, the second amendment directly refers to the right to form a militia to ensure state freedom and nowhere states the governments right to the knowledge of individual ownership.
Gore’s agenda almost exactly correlate’s with the Democratic Platform. They believe that gun crime needs to be fought on all fronts with stronger laws and stronger enforcement through photo-licensing, full background checks, mandatory child safety locks, gun safety tests required to purchase a new handgun and supplying states with 10,000 new prosecutors to fight gun crime.7 They also vow to respect the rights of hunters, sportsmen and legitimate gun owners.
Gore did not have to steer from his parties agenda because a majority of the country is known to be Democrats, although they do not always make it to the voting booths. However, Gore did have to make it clear to the pro-gun conservatives of the south, especially those in the election-deciding state, Tennessee, that he intended to secure the rights of responsible gun owners.
This topic played an influential role in the election especially through campaign financing. One of the Republican party’s largest donaters is the National Rifle Association. The party must thus keep their interests in mind as they form their political agenda. Gore on the other hand is not as concerned with their wants or desire for protection under the second amendment as most of his funds come for labor unions. However, as the general public often suggests, Bush is not soley following the desires of the NRA in his agenda. He must be responsive to the desires of his constituents, the voters of America, in order to become elected to make the changes.
This issue is especially important because it has touched the lives of many Americans and has become a topic encompassed with emotion and strong attitudes. When it directly effects the welfare and lives of American families, the candidates must make the issue one of their main concerns. In 1996, 140 children died after being accidentally shot and about 1,500 children are hurt by guns every year. 2 Furthermore, more than 40 percent of US homes have guns.2 It is difficult to say if an agenda is preferred by a majority of the population because the country is split between the interpretation and importance of the second amendment. Some feel threatened by the proposed actions of Gore and others are willing to sacrifice a bit of their privacy in order to create a safer society. However, 91 percent of Americans agree that there should be at least minor restrictions on gun ownership.2 Whereas 57 percent of Americans support major restrictions or even a ban.2
The debates accurately reflected the attitudes of the candidates within the discussion of gun control and the overall concern for improved safety. Gore spoke longer on the topic which represents Gore’s support for drastic change and Bush’s conservative stance on the issue. The candidates were very respectful to each other within the time period of the discussion most likely because of the seriousness of the issue. Their agreement is representative of their recognition of the need for change.