Gun crazy Americans in control dilemma

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By Hugo OdiogorForeign Affairs Editor, with Agency report.

Imagine dropping your children off to school in the morning, and watch them jump off the car, with their school bags strapped behind them. They wave you goodbye as they run along with their friends.

They are innocent, happy and totally unaffected by the circumstances ad vicissitudes around them. As a parent, it is a sight to be hold. At the back of your mind there is a felling that the kids are  that the children are safe and ready to develop their mind and body.

But unknown to anyone is lurking harm posed by a psychopath who has no value for his own life, but would rather go down with innocent lives, young and old. This was the dilemma of Americans living in New town Connecticut, that morning of December 14, 2012, where a joyful day became a sorrowful and agonising phase of life for the parents of the slain kids.

By the end of that day no fewer than 20 children, some of them as young as six years were shot and sent to their untimely death. Six adults were also killed. This is an orgy of violence that has become the nightmare of America. Americans love their freedom and and their ownership of gun is seen as a symbol of that freedom and spirit of individualism. The gun culture is an epitome of assuming responsibility for their protection and self defence.

The result is that that there are 274 million guns circulating in America which has a population of over 300 million. The gun culture reflects in their movies, television, music, books and magazines.

The archetypal images of “wild west”, “cow boys” and “red necks”, were used to reinforce the tough guy image which came with access to firearms.  Americans are gun crazy and it will take the act of God to convince those who did not suffer the unfortunate calamity at SandyPromseElementary school that gun control should be enforced.  In fact to some members of the NRA and other gun lobby groups it is almost an anathema to speak of gun controlled or enforcing tougher regulation on possession of firearms.

It is now a nightmare  to think that life can be nasty, brutish and shore in a country that ironically professes to be the show piece of freedom, democracy and bastion of human rights.

The gun is America is a symbol of power, masculinity and gangster culture that the country cannot  clean up.

The young kids that were killed in Newtown were expecting to celebrate Christmas and enter the New Year with their dreams to be part of the American dream. Today that dream has been shattered and the country is deeply divided on what to do with firearms. The young children that were killed in the April 16, Virginia Tech in 2007, the 23 movie goers that were killed at Aurora in Colorado in July 2012, the victims of the Fort Hood shooting and other bizarre shooting in  America were not privy to how their county became gun crazy yet they have paid with their lives, they may not have encroached or invaded the property of their assailants.

America’s Gun Politics

The history of possession of firearms in America is as old as the country itself, dating back to the process of the first European migrants who arrived in the New World in search of freedom from all forms of dogma, treasure and territory. The Native Indians  who were the original owners of the territory were dispossessed and decimated by the New Arrivals, that needed the instrument of coercion to guarantee their own security and protection of the property that they acquired through violence. The was when the argument of ownership of gun as a symbol for  self defence, protection property, became the vogue. The right to own a gun and defend oneself is considered by some, especially those in the West and South, as a central tenet of the American identity.

It must be noted that the militia culture arose from the citizens dependence on themselves to protect themselves from hostile Native Americans and foreign armies. In fact during  the 18th century, there was no desire by the American state to maintain a full-time army because such an institution would be  a threat to the rights of the civilian populace.

The idea of armed citizen-soldier to carry out the responsibility defending the citizens was therefore embedded in the militia culture which allowed the citizens to weapons and ammunition.

The Second Amendment and the right of self defence

The Second Amendment of the American constitution gave Americans the right to carry arms. This is seen as a  constitutional right of individual self-defense. Consequently, there have been attempts to interpret “the  right to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state was interpreted as an individual right”. There has also been attempt to enforce gun control laws which some people see as an attempt to breach their individual right.

Political debates

Faced with the anger of parents and liberals who want the Federal Government to curb gun related violence. But the

arguments of gun politics in the United States center around disagreements tranging from  whether gun ownership causes or prevent crime? to how should the Second Amendment be interpreted?There are also the ethical dbate of whether  an individual’s right of self-defense through gun ownership should grant him or her the liberty to deny other people, similar rights.

Supreme Court decisions

Since the late 19th century, there have series of judicial pronouncements including the Supreme Court which has consistently ruled that the Second Amendment (and the Bill of Rights) restricts only the federal Congress, and not the States, in the regulation of guns. In one of such cases, it  former Chief Justice Warren Burger, (1990) stated that

“Americans also have a right to defend their homes, and we need not challenge that. Nor does anyone seriously question that the Constitution protects the right of hunters to own and keep sporting guns for hunting game any more than anyone would challenge the right to own and keep fishing rods and other equipment for fishing – or to own automobiles. To “keep and bear arms” for hunting today is essentially a recreational activity and not an imperative of survival, as it was 200 years ago. “Saturday night specials” and machine guns are not recreational weapons and surely are as much in need of regulation as motor vehicles.”

Obama’s Gun control headache

.On Wednesday, president Barack Obama Obama presented a three-part plan to cut their appetite on ownership of gun especially, the high capacity guns.

The proposals called for:

1.          A focus on universal background checks. Right now some 40 percent of gun sales take place without background checks, including by private sellers at gun shows or over the Interne.

2.          A ban on assault weapons and limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds or fewer.

3.          A federal statute to stop “straw man” purchases of guns and crack down on trafficking rings.

4.          More anti-bullying efforts; more training for teachers, counselors and principals; and funding for schools for more counselors and resource officers.

President Obama is among millions of people around the world who were horrified by the killing of 20 school Children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut last year President Barack Obama’s broad effort to reduce gun violence will include proposed bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines as well as more than a dozen executive orders aimed at circumventing congressional opposition to stricter gun control.

The broad package also include efforts to stop bullying and boost availability of mental health services. But Congress would have to approve the bans on assault weapons and ammunition magazines holding more than 10 bullets, along with a requirement for universal background checks on gun buyers. Some gun control advocates worry that opposition from Republicans and conservative Democrats, as well as the National Rifle Association, will be too great to overcome.

The proposal which was draft by Vice President Joe Biden will compel federal agencies to conduct more research on gun use and crimes. The vice president’s proposals included 19 steps that could be achieved through executive action.

On mental health, Obama will focus on more availability of mental health services, training more school counselors and mental health professionals, and mental health first aid training for first responders, according to the lobbyist, who was not authorized to discuss the plan publicly before the president’s announcement and requested anonymity.

Obama may also order the Justice Department to crack down on people who lie on gun-sale background checks; only a tiny number are now prosecuted. Such a step has support from the NRA, which has consistently argued that existing laws must be enforced before new ones are considered. Obama gave schools flexibility to use grant money to improve safety. But he is not expected to call for armed guards in schools, a position promoted by the NRA.

GUN CONTROL LAWS

On Tuesday, the State of New York New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday signed into law the toughest gun control law in the nation, and the first since the Connecticut school shootings. The law includes a tougher assault-weapons ban and provisions to try to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people who make threats. Some other states are making moves to introduce more control on the ownership of guns. There are series of gun control laws and regulations at all levels of government, with the vast majority being local codes.

The NRA argues that there are about 20,000 gun laws in America but a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine stated that there are about 300 federal and state laws regarding the manufacture, design, sale, purchase, or possession of guns. For instance, at the federal level, fully automatic weapons, short barrel shotguns, and short barrel rifles have been taxed and mandated to be registered under the National Fire arms Acts (1934).

The Gun Control Act of 1968 requires that guns carry serial numbers and implemented a tracking system to determine the purchaser of a gun whose make, model, and serial number are known. It also prohibited gun ownership by convicted felons. The Act was updated in the 1990s mainly to add a mechanism for the criminal history of gun purchasers to be checked at the point of sale.

In 1996  the  Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban prohibited ownership and use of guns by individuals convicted of misdemeanor on domestic violence.

The 1994 Violent Crime Control Law Enforcement Act enacted the defunct Federal Assault Weapons Ban,  which banned the purchase, sale, or transfer of any weapon specifically named in the act, other weapons with a certain number of “defining features”, and detachable magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, that had been manufactured after the beginning date of the ban. The Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004.

This was a  major victory  for the Gun rights advocates at the federal level. Efforts by gun control advocates to extend the ban at the federal level failed; two later attempts to reestablish the ban also failed.

While the families that have lost their loved ones grieve, others are rushing to acquire deadly weapons and others are lobbying to ensure that they are left unleashed to carry deadly weapons around, it is clear that no legislation will quench the appetite of Americas for guns, soon we will hear another cry of agony from unfortunate families.

 

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