USA is one of the very few countries where you can own a gun way before you can buy yourself a can of beer. A country that places national security at its top, has let loose its citizens with deadly arms and ammunitions, with very little to no laws governing the circulation of guns in America.
By: Nasheet Hamdulay
What does the Law say?
The Gun Control Act, 1968 is a U.S Federal law which governs the firearm industry. It essentially focuses on regulating the circulation of arms and ammunition by restricting interstate transfers except amongst licenced dealers. The Act has made it imperative on all individuals as well as companies engaged in the business of selling arms & ammunitions, to get themselves a licence known as the Federal Firearm License (FFL). However, the only criterion one has to fulfil to procure guns is the age limit of 18 in case of shotguns or rifles and 21 in case of handguns and other ammunitions. Besides that, fugitives, people deemed to be dangerous to the society, persons under indictment for, convicts, persons imprisoned for a period exceeding one year, misdemeanours carrying sentences of two years or more, patients committed to mental institutions and those found guilty of possessing or using controlled substances within the past year are debarred from procuring of firearms.
Only 14 out of the 50 states in US require a legal permit to own a gun, unlike a driver’s licence which is mandatory in all 50 states. As per the laws regulating the ownership of guns, a time period of three days is given to run a thorough criminal background check. The procedure we are looking at is a lot longer than the three-day default procedure. With that being said, if the concerned authority fails to provide so, one can still own a gun on the 4th day.
Stricter gun laws in the US? A Prompting Question:
Not very long ago, in 2016 an open fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida left 50 civilians dead and several injured. The suspect named Omar Mateen had legally purchased the guns despite the investigation run on him by the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding his potential ties with terrorism. This event was not in isolation, 58 were killed during an open fire at a country music festival at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in 2017, 14 dead in an open shooting at a staff gathering in San Bernardino back in 2015, 32 dead in the student massacre at Virginia Tech University in 2007.1 These being one of the few out of the many mass shootings that have taken place in the US, ranks US as one of the leading countries in terms of gun ownership and gun violence.
What sparks controversy?
Gun ownership in America is deeply rooted in the second Amendment of the Constitution. The undemanding gun laws were meant to cater to the need of self-defence. Contrarily, these laws compared to those of the other developed/ developing countries have only contributed towards the menace of never-ending gun violence in America. The already suicidal individuals are literally one trigger away. Domestic partner homicide resulting in the death of more than 50% of the victims i.e. women is due to the easily available firearms. Triggered by racism and white supremacy guns pave way to be a leading cause of death for children of colour.2
Need of the hour:
Another bill like the one passed in 1968 in order to put into motion a ban on mail-order responsible for the killing of John F. Kennedy must make its way into the Parliament. As was rightly stated by the then Vice President Franklin Orth in support of the bill, “We do not think that any sane American, who calls himself an American, can object to placing into this bill the instrument which killed the president of the United States.”3
It took New Zealand one mass shooting at the Christchurch mosque to make gun laws more stringent and ban assault weapons. What’s keeping the United States from adopting stricter laws? Laws that are costing them their own citizens. So much in the name of non-infringement of rights, is any of this worth it?
Instead of training children, teachers, houses of faith & concertgoers to prepare for being shot, one could just pass universal background checks, disarm domestic abusers, mandate safe storage, ban bump stocks, semi-autos and high cap mags designed to kill people.
Our friends have a right to go to the club without the fear of getting shot. Your kids have a right to go to elementary school without the threat of never coming back. We deserve to be able to step outside our doors and be able to come home at the end of the day. I stand by that gun reform isn’t a political issue, it’s a human one, “The right to go to Walmart, or to a food festival, or a church, or to a synagogue, or to school, without fear of being shot is imminently worth fighting for.”
1 Orlando gay nightclub shooting: 50 killed, suspect is Omar Mateen, BBC News (June 12, 2016), retrieved 14.30, June 19, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-36512308
2 Data compiled by wearorange.org
3 The Birth of Modern Gun Debate, The New Yorker (April 19, 2012), retrieved 16.45, June 20, 2020, from https://www.google.co.in/amp/s/www.newyorker.com/books/double-take/the-birth-of-the-modern-gun-debate/amp
Nasheet Hamdulay is a first Year Student (3 Year LLB) at ILS Law College, Pune.