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You Don’t Let Children Run With Scissors

Every day, 48 children between the age of zero and nineteen are shot. Gun violence is a prominent issue in this country, one that claims the lives of 90 people per day. While I am a firm believer in the 2nd Amendment, the United States is much different than it was when the Bill of Rights was written in 1791. Federal legislation instating more in-depth background checks and preventing loopholes that allow anyone to acquire a firearm must be enacted. Shockingly, roughly 62% of the lives claimed annually by gun violence are suicides, showing a clear correlation between mental health issues and gun violence.

Of the 16 most recent mass shooters, a timeline documents the process they underwent to acquire firearms, as well as mental health conditions many of them suffered from – and whether that impacted their ability to acquire their firearms legally. Currently, background checks run through a search done by either a state or the FBI on one’s criminal, citizenship, and mental health records across four federal databases. Should the state conduct the research, it may use its own databases independent of the four the FBI must use, allowing them to generally access more information than an FBI search. A report conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice analyzes the effectiveness of background checks. In 2010 alone, 152,850 people prohibited from acquiring a firearm were denied a permit or gun transfer. While this number appears encouraging, 20,511 annual suicides is an excruciatingly high number as well.

Clearly these background checks are effective, so how do criminals or the mentally troubled obtain firearms? Imagine the gun market similarly to the car market, distinguishing between a distinct primary market and secondary market. Within the primary market, although sellers are frequent and easy to locate, they require background checks for buyers, and their transactions are traceable by the government. The secondary market, however, is more of a risk for the buyer in that they cannot be sure of the quality of gun they are purchasing, and is often more time consuming. Unlicensed gun sellers frequently abuse the lack of regulation between the primary and secondary market, allowing them to purchase firearms from the primary market and then distribute them under the radar in the secondary market. In order to do so, it is suggested that increasing punishments for selling firearms to prohibited individuals would in turn slow circulation from the primary market to secondary market; ideally diminishing the unlicensed, unregulated trafficking in the secondary market.

While it is often argued that nothing will stop someone who wants a gun from obtaining one, enforcing harsher regulations and punishments that stifle illicit gun traffic will make finding a gun not only harder, but typically much more expensive. Forcing individuals to not only search harder to find a seller willing to forgo background checks, but also pay more, will logically reduce the rate at which illicit guns are circulated.

If stopping traffic between the primary and secondary market could suffocate the circulation of illegal firearms, why haven’t regulations been established? Not only are policies restricting the secondary gun market staunchly opposed by republicans, but instituting harsher punishments such as incarceration for traffickers are opposed by democrats. Even lobbying groups such as the NRA carry extreme political power, enough to influence legislation efforts. Barack Obama has commented on the NRA’s immense power it carries in Congress, stunting most talk of new gun control laws, and holding the 2nd Amendment to a sort of “sacred reverence.” Because the NRA has this immense political power, it has rendered opposing groups powerless in their opposition, prevailing in their ability to impact federal legislature. The NRA further intimidates congressmen into yielding to their power through grading them on their stance on gun control, posting this evaluation online for the public to look at, and further mailing all their members this grade.

Every year, 32,964 people are killed by gun violence. This figure alone should be enough to ask: why haven’t we done anything about it? There are many obstacles that make instituting gun regulations difficult in the United States, notably regarding the NRA and its power over Congressional legislation; which has also stifled sociological research on gun regulation. Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, would you feel comfortable selling a firearm to someone who may be mentally unstable? We are allowing thousands of people to die every year simply because we do not want to infringe on the 2nd Amendment, but it is time for federal and state legislatures to enforce stricter requirement for firearm ownership. You don’t let children run with scissors, so why let the mentally troubled have guns?

Nick • December 14, 2016

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