Mass shootings across the United States have been on the rise. One of the most recent incidents occurred in California on 23rd May 2014 where Elliot O. Rodger, a student of Santa Barbara City College, went on a killing spree that left 6 dead and 13 injured. The twenty- three year old was found to be in possession of three handguns and more than 400 hundred rounds of unused ammunition which were all legally purchased! Add to this the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting and the Aurora shooting, where 12 were killed and 70 injured during the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, both in 2012, the occurrences have left most of the globe shocked and the average U.S. citizens questioning their government’s policies.
The U.S as a nation has always more or less supported violence, with the C.I.A going as far as promoting it outside the nation’s boundaries. Whether it is turning Iraq and Iran against each other, or training Laden to attack the Soviets, America has always used armed conflict as a way of conquering interests abroad. This seems to have given way to a nation where firearms instill in the populace a sense of security and not of threat.
With guns going off on a daily basis, it seems that Americans have been robbed of the art of peaceful conflict resolution as the daily death toll resulting from gun violence has reached a shocking 24 per day, even when you exclude accidental deaths and successful suicides! As Michael Moore has repeatedly said, “Guns don’t kill people- Americans kill people”.
It thus becomes imperative to look at the current gun control legislation in the country which is enforced at both the federal and state level. The federal law allows open carrying of firearms in public; where exceptions apply only to government owned buildings and premises. Only six states prohibit the open carrying of handguns in public places, while on the other hand thirty one allow it even without any license or permit, though in some cases the guns must be unloaded. In these thirty one states a law enforcement officer is not allowed to go to a possessor of a firearm and ask for identification proof, thus making it impossible to confirm if the individual is eligible to carry such weapons, giving potential troublemakers a lot of leeway.
The American Constitution in its Second Amendment enshrines the ‘right to bear arms’ and it is from here that the eternal debate between the American polities sparks. The Republican Party upholds the right, which according to them protects the ‘law abiding citizen’s God-given right of self-defense’. On the other hand the Democratic Party supports reasonable regulations on the distribution of guns and wants to promote stricter background checks and reinstate the assault weapons ban.
But the Senate’s weighing scales tip in the favour of the Republicans as they are supported by the NRA i.e. The National Rifle Association. The NRA is dedicated to its cause and states that it is but protecting a right enshrined in the Constitution and assures that arming citizens is the key to effective self-defense in the event of an attack. But the essential fact remains that the attack itself is a by-product of arming every citizen capable of pointing a gun!
This view is also challenged by other institutions like the Brady Campaign that resulted in the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 which led to background checks during handgun purchase. There has also been a recent movement challenging NRA’s authority which is the Michael Bloomberg funded Everytown for Gun Safety. This movement promises to put on record every politician’s stand on firearms regulation and generate a rating system to counter the one already in place by the NRA.
But gun enthusiasts still seem to have the upper hand in U.S Parliament. The Sportsmen’s Act was recently passed by 82 senators to 12, with certain Democrats also going against traditional views and voting for the Act. The act which aims to ‘protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing and shooting’ has been religiously supported by gun enthusiasts. On the other hand, the gun-control legislation has been put on hold since last April.
State laws on the same are varied. Where California and New Jersey are considering gun seizure laws, which allow judges to seize guns from mentally unstable individuals on the basis of police evidence, states like Idaho are passing legislation that prohibit the regulation of firearms even in campuses and dorms making guns freely available to younger and brasher members of the society. Georgia has also recently passed a bill that allows more guns in bars and other public places. This decision of the State is bound to increase the scope of minor conflicts escalating into fatal casualties.
On the other hand Indiana remains the only state that has an operational gun-seizure law, which unfortunately is also being challenged on the ground that the law is prone to abuse by police officials.
Research shows that the U.S.A spends a grand total of 5% of its GDP on defense expenditure. The NRA’s proclamation that every U.S citizen needs a gun to save them seems to have become a self-fulfilled prophecy. The dichotomy of the situation may reflect itself in an average American’s mind where on one hand he goes on rallies to oppose mass shootouts in schools and on the other probably goes and buys one himself right after the rally for self defense if such a situation was to ever present itself to him.
This dual thinking seems to have become a part of the American citizen and is now giving rise to an atmosphere of perpetual fear which not only fuels the problem turning it into a vicious cycle but is also backfiring all the federal and state plans for any kind of gun control measures that make access to guns harder, for the purpose of self-defense of course!
About the Author
Originally from Mumbai (or as she like to call it ‘Bombay’), Karishma is a second year student of National Law University, Delhi. She enjoys reading fiction, dancing and daydreaming. She hopes to travel the world someday, but for now she prides herself on surviving away from home. She has recently developed a fascination for Political Science and plans to explore the subject further.
Ellis Ralph and Sidner Sara, Deadly California Rampage: Chilling video, but no match for reality, 28 May 2014.
Available at http://edition.cnn.com/2014/05/24/justice/california-shooting-deaths/
Michael Moore, ‘Guns don’t kill people- Americans kill people’, 25 May 2014.
 Open Carrying Policy Summary, 29 July 2013.
Available at http://smartgunlaws.org/open-carrying-policy-summary/
 Republican Party on gun control, Party Platform Available at http://www.ontheissues.org/celeb/republican_party_gun_control.htm
 Democratic Party on gun control, Party Platform Available at http://www.ontheissues.org/celeb/democratic_party_gun_control.htm
Parton Digby Heather, NRA’s Constitutional Fraud: The truth behind “the right to bear arms”, 2 June 2014. Available at http://www.salon.com/2014/06/02/nras_constitutional_fraud_the_truth_behind_the_right_to_bear_arms/
 Saprykina Daria, Supporters and opponents of stricter gun control in US, 8 July 2014. Available at http://voiceofrussia.com/radio_broadcast/no_program/274464127/
 Cox Marie Ana, The real reason gun control is failing, 8 July 2014. Available at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/08/gun-control-failing-americans-michael-bloomberg-millions
 Roberts Dan, Senate passes vote to promote shooting on public land by 82 to 12, 8 July 2014. Available at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/08/senate-passes-sportmens-act-gun-control
 States look to gun seizure laws after mass killings, 6 July 2014. Available at http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/06/states-look-to-gun-seizure-law-after-mass-killings/
 Extremism in action. Available at
 Supra, see note 10.