America’s children are dying through gun violence, while Congress fails to enact gun safety legislation to prevent it. They secure their own safety at the capitol with 100 percent security screenings of all visitors, while failing to screen 40 percent of all gun sales for our children’s safety.
What should we call this congressional failure to enact gun safety legislation, that has enabled the slaughter to continue? How should we view a legislative body that swears an oath to defend and protect the American people from all terror, domestic and foreign, only to selectively legislate protections for gun profits, while neglecting the gun terror and trauma inflicted on our children and society?
Gun violence in the United States has created a huge and ongoing debate on gun control laws and policies, which has resulted in a struggle both in politics and policy processes for decades. In politics, gun control and regulation of gun ownership have played a significant role in gaining public support during elections. Debate on gun control policies has become a highly salient issue, especially at times when gun violence occurs in schools or other public places. As gun violence grew in the United States, gun control became an important topic for the federal government to address in various ways. It has been argued, in fact, that American policy processes promote a complicated debate on the gun issue and that the debate on gun control is a product of the American political process, rather than America’s romance with guns.
Violence in the society and the availability of guns present risk factors. Some studies indicate that television programs and video games cause further violence. Research also indicates that adolescents who are exposed to higher levels of community violence also engage in higher levels of violent activity, associate with more deviant peers, and adhere more strongly to an aggressive cognitive style. Families are important determinants of both violent victimization and perpetration. Neighborhood disadvantage also plays a significant role in violence outcomes.
that shapes decision-making patterns of individuals. The presence of firearms influences decisions both in social interactions with the potential for becoming disputes and within disputes that have already begun. From an individual point of view, gun use has become a means of status and identity formation for members of inner-city neighborhoods in the United States. Therefore, gun violence can be thought of as an ultimate tool to form and sustain positive social identities within the neighborhood. For some, firearms represent toughness, power, dominance, self-defense, and protection for those living in a violent subculture.
However, gun control statistics of other countries that limit or outlaw gun ownership completely, as well as state by state comparisons of where guns are and are not easier to purchase, are highly suggestive and there is a clear relationship between gun control measures that limit legal access, and a decrease in the amount of deaths and injuries by guns.
Gun violence is a substantial and pervasive problem that has been difficult to solve in the United States. While some strategies have shown promise for reducing gun violence in targeted communities, large-scale changes in policies have been less successful at addressing the gun violence issue. While the debate continues on the most appropriate policy response to gun violence, few would argue that individuals in the United States continue to be killed by firearms at an unacceptable rate.
Criminologist Lawrence Sherman examined gun violence programs and research on gun violence in the United States from an epidemiological perspective. He concludes that most gun crimes would still occur even if every convicted felon in the United States were shipped to Australia, rather than just barred from legal gun ownership. By making this argument, Sherman illustrates that a policy of using prior felony conviction to determine which people are unsafe to have guns is too simplistic. Rather, gun crime rates might be better reduced by adopting an epidemiologically based perspective. An individual’s decision to use a gun in crime cannot adequately be predicted simply by previous criminal history, and alternative strategies to restricting sales to “safe people” are needed to substantially reduce gun violence. Taking such an epidemiologic approach would involve such tactics as increasing gun patrols that focus on high-risk times and geographically concentrated violent places.
Most recently, the federal government proposed Project Safe Neighborhood (PSN) to reduce gun violence by increasing enforcement and prosecution of gun laws. Under this initiative, prosecutors are expected to argue for the maximum sentence for gun crime charges in their jurisdictions. PSN is a coordinated effort to stop gun violence in communities through enhanced, directed resources and more effective prosecution of gun crimes.
One policy option shared by both gun control supporters and Second Amendment advocates is enhanced prison penalties for gun crimes, which has found widespread support from all sides of the U.S. gun policy debate. From a deterrence perspective, sentence enhancements ought to reduce gun violence by incapacitating gun criminals through longer sentences. Sentence enhancements give prosecutors discretion to be able to increase sentences for gun crimes. However, others have found that sentence enhancement laws have not produced a significant deterrent effect for firearm-related crimes and, in many cases, those charges are used as a plea-bargaining tool.
It is estimated that 49% of U.S. households have guns, which amounts to 47.6 million households. Half of the weapons in these households are owned specifically for self-defense. Nevertheless, guns are involved in approximately 70% of homicides and 60% of suicides in the United States. Death by firearm is the second leading cause of injury death. In the United States, gun mortality is more than twice that of the next highest of the industrialized countries. It costs as much as $100 billion each year, and it disproportionately affects young people, as it is the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10 to 19.
There have been multiple recent highly publicized issues that make people wonder whether the right move is to arm more citizens with guns, or put more restrictions on gun ownership so that the likelihood of people who will do harm with them is lessened.