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Gun control legislation raises more questions than answers

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The United States has a long history of conflict and perseverance, and from that, a culture of gun ownership was born. The nation’s framers saw the necessity in allowing citizens to own firearms, form their own militias, and ultimately fight back against a government that they found to be oppressive. The Second Amendment protects this right for American citizens.

The Voyager editorial board is in agreement that atrocities committed with firearms are occurring far too often and are heartbreaking. Many Americans see a mass shooting as an opportunity to call upon legislators to increase gun control in the United States. The problem is that many of these individuals are ill-informed on the actual process of buying a gun in the United States.

Currently, to buy a firearm you have to pass the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. Along with being a long and complicated process, NICS matches your information with the national databases of the Interstate Identification Index, the National Crime Information Center, the NICS Index, and if you are not a US citizen, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. You must not have been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for over one year; be a fugitive from justice; be an unlawful user of certain depressant, narcotic, or stimulant drugs; be adjudicated as mentally defective or incompetents or those committed to any mental institution; be an illegal alien; be convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence; or be subject to a restraining order. Practically this means that those with a criminal background are ineligible to purchase a firearm. On top of the background check, there are waiting periods before you receive your firearm of up to 72 hours after purchasing it. The process of buying a firearm is not simple by any means.

So, if the United States strictly controls who can have a firearm, why are there so many gun violence deaths every year? It is hard to pin down the number exactly, but according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), fewer than 2% of gun violence offenders in 2004 had purchased their firearms legally from a gun show or store. It should be known that other studies done by private institutions have seen this number be as high as 11%. With so many offenders purchasing guns illegally, it’s no wonder that we have a gun problem in the United States. People who are already breaking the law have no interest in following another. Stronger and more complicated processes only push more criminals to get firearms illegally and make it harder for responsible Americans to purchase firearms.

Recently there has been a push to increase regulations or ban “Assault Weapons”, which is essentially an ambiguous made up term by legislators that refers to the cosmetics of a firearm. More often than not, the Assault weapons title includes rifles like the AR-15. But are these types of firearms the United States’ biggest problem? According to the The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), out of the 11,004 firearm homicides in 2016, 7,105 of those were committed by people with handguns. It is important to note that 3,077 of those homicides were committed with a firearm, but the type was not stated. That means that in homicides in which the type of firearm is known, handguns made up 89.6% of the weapons used. While rifles dominate news coverage, handguns are much more likely to be misused. These types of firearms are the most likely to be traded illegally or passed down through a family or from acquaintances. There is good news however. From 1992 to 2011, homicides committed with firearms have decreased nearly 50% and overall gun violence has also seen a decline. Suicides, which make up a large portion of gun deaths per year, are usually included in the gun violence/gun death statistics.

Some of the most heavily regulated parts of the United States, like Chicago, have a serious issue with gun violence. 4,368 people were victims of gun violence last year in the Chicagoland area. Furthering regulation in Chicago did not seem to solve the issue at hand. Unlike the rest of the United States, gun violence is on the rise in Chicago.

Everyone should be informed on the reality of the gun laws here in America, and understand that sometimes, greater regulation only serves to make it harder for responsible Americans to express their Second Amendment right. Criminals and the mentally estranged will always find a way to possess a firearm, no matter how many background and mental health checks you put into place.

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According to the Voyager. . .