The Flappy Falcon

How Effective are Gun Laws?

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Did you know that you are 20% more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a random mass shooting?  Yet, since the rise of mass shootings and the media hype surrounding them, Americans are demanding something be done; they demand a solution and quickly. The solutions range from giving more people guns, such as give teachers guns to stop school shootings, to enacting more, and stricter, gun laws. America has about 33,000 gun deaths a year, which means every day over 90 people are killed by a gun in the US.  Three states that are ranked in the top 5 states with the most gun deaths are Texas, California, and Florida. Yet, California’s number of gun deaths has been decreasing vastly, compared to Texas’ and Florida’s, where gun deaths continue to grow each year. Since California’s gun laws seem to be effective so far, Americans are wondering if every state should be like California.

Texas has the second highest number of total gun deaths per year with an average of 3,353 gun deaths a year. Of that total, 2,016 are suicides and 1,222 are homicides. As of 2018, Texas has two gun laws, concealed carry permit required and open carry permit required. These laws mean you must have a permit issued by the state to legally carry a gun that is concealed, hidden, or visible outside of a house. Texas Government Code Chapter 411, Subchapter H sets out the eligibility criteria that must be met. Applicants must be at least 21 years of age (unless active duty military) and must meet Federal qualifications to purchase a handgun. A number of factors may make individuals ineligible to obtain a license, such as: felony convictions, some misdemeanor convictions, including charges that resulted in probation or deferred adjudication; certain pending criminal charges; chemical or alcohol dependency; certain types of psychological diagnoses, and protective or restraining orders. There has been almost no change in the gun laws in Texas over the last seven years, and the changes have only made it easier to get a gun.  New laws include reduced fees, enhanced rights to carry certain firearms and knives and enhancements to make acquiring the Licence to Carry (LTC) more convenient to obtain. The amount of gun deaths still increase year by year. In 2011, the total gun deaths in Texas was at 2,303. Within four years, it had risen to 2,599, almost another death per day. However, Texas is not the only state where rising gun deaths is a problem.

Florida has 2,704 gun deaths a year with 1,672 suicides and 992 homicides.  The gun laws of Florida only require a permit for purchase for handguns only; not for other firearms, such as rifles. You can legally purchase a gun if you are older than 18, so more young people own guns in Florida than in Texas.  This made it possible for Nick Douglas to legally own a gun and go to his high school, the one he had been kicked out of, in Parkland, Florida, and start shooting people; killing 17. Although this most recent mass shooting in Florida has sparked a lot of attention with teenagers and parents, there has not been a change so far to Florida’s gun laws. If Florida had gun laws just like California’s, the mass shooting, that has inspired marches across the country, would not have happened because the 19 year old would not have been allowed to buy a gun legally.

California has about 3,184 gun deaths a year with 1,595 suicides and 1,467 homicides. In California, one must be twenty one years old to buy a handgun and eighteen years old to buy a long gun; a firearm that has a longer barrel than most. California has put in place the guns laws of needing a licence to buy a gun, a permit required for concealed carry and all gun sales must be reported to the state.  In addition, there is required safety training, background checks for all buyers, and you cannot possess a firearm if you have been convicted of a misdemeanor, whereas most states only stop you if you have been convicted of a felony. On top of all of that, when you buy a gun, there is a waiting period of at least 30 days, to make sure your background check clears. Since the stricter gun laws have been put into place in California, the number of gun deaths has declined over the years. You would think the media coverage would be helpful in getting others to get in line and follow California’s example.

While California seems to be doing something right, the media is still getting it wrong. Yes, mass shootings, particularly at a school, are terrible. The recent mass-shootings have been random targets, usually the result of somebody’s personal plan for revenge or payback for being wronged somehow, making Americans fear to live their everyday life. However, mass shootings are a tiny percentage of the gun deaths these numbers are talking about. About two-thirds of all gun deaths in the United States are suicides, which means of the 33,000 gun deaths in the US yearly, only 11,000 are from homicides and of those 11,000 only 500 from mass shootings. 500 out of 33,000; less than 2%.  Why are we living in fear that we might be victimized by a mass shooting when our chances are almost zero percent? We need to be worried and focusing on the suicides and other homicides. So, why are we demanding gun laws that are only going to address the smallest percentage of gun deaths?

Gun laws have not been shown to be effective for preventing suicides. It is almost impossible to keep guns out of people’s hands, even if you outlaw them. Modern day technology, such as 3D printers, allow anyone to make or rebuild their own gun. Anyone who is educated enough could make their own gun with or without the help of social media. Americans today are making guns in their own homes, these guns are nicknamed ghost guns. Ghost guns cannot be traced and do not have to be registered. In 2013, a bill failed to pass to ban all ghost guns, and in 2014 a bill failed to pass to require registration for ghost guns. This makes it harder for gun laws to be effective at stopping suicides by gun. Also, a person could buy a gun when they are in a good place in their life but an event may happen and it could drastically change their mental health. For example, if a woman owns firearm, using them in her house for protection, and her child dies, she can quickly become vengeful, depressed, or suicidal. She was perfectly fine to own a gun at the time, yet now she has changed for the worst. So how do we keep her from doing something tragic with a gun?

A solution for something like this would be to run background checks and mental health evaluations every few years to ensure the gun owner is of sound mental and physical health. Unless someone has a serious mental condition, nothing will show on the background check for  mental health. How can we legally trust a random person to own a gun if they have not been fully evaluated? Those who have no intent of causing harm to another with a firearm and have no “dirt” on them to prohibit them from owning a firearm, should have no problem going through tests and evaluations to own a gun. Why should they care if we have gun laws if they are not planning any wrongdoing? However, by requiring frequent testing and re-registration, we make sure that people are still responsible enough, that they have not suffered a mental breakdown of some kind that will make them a dangerous gun owner.

Today’s gun laws are like typewriters; they have some use, but they are pretty limited and not very effective in today’s modern world.  In many states, gun laws are not effective, as shown by the increase in gun related deaths. Overall, the United States has not came up with a great solution for gun control laws. As we continue to see the number of gun deaths increase each year, we still question what could and should be done. There are some gun law changes that need to be done, but for the most part, California is one of the only states that seems to be doing something right to stop gun violence because it has updated its laws, which has decreased the number of gun deaths.  Yet, no state has anything in place to help lower the number of suicides by gun, and suicides account for by far the most gun deaths. Mental health evaluations need to be a part of the solution; the most dangerous people with a gun has been proven to be those people who are not mentally stable or are emotionally overwhelmed. Some accidents can be prevented simply by keeping guns locked up and more gun use education, but that is just scratching the surface. So, become educated. Go out into the public and inform people; particularly raise awareness of how many suicides are committed by using a gun.  Remember, like Harvard law professor John McGinnis says, “Gun control does not decrease gun ownership by criminals, but instead reduces their incentives to refrain from violence because it decreases the supply of armed law-abiding citizens who might resist them.” It may sound crazy, but if we can keep the guns out of the hands of non-criminals, especially those with mental issues, it will severely dent the number of gun deaths in our country.

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WORKS CITED

“California’s Gun Laws Are Saving Lives.” Brady Campaign Releases a Report Analyzing 20 Years of Effective Background Checks | Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, 2016 Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, www.bradycampaign.org/california%E2%80%99s-gun-laws-are-saving-lives.

Frohlich, Thomas C., and John Harrington. “States with the Most (and Least) Gun Violence. See Where Your State Stacks up.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 21 Feb. 2018, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/02/21/states-most-and-least-gun-violence-see-where-your-state-stacks-up/359395002/.

“Homemade Guns: Are They Legal? Must They Be Registered?” Www.criminaldefenselawyer.com, www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/resources/homemade-guns-are-they-legal-must-they-be-registered.

Team, DPS Web. “TxDPS – License to Carry (LTC) FAQs.” TxDPS – Crime in Texas Reports, Texas     Department of Public Safety, www.dps.texas.gov/RSD/LTC/faqs/index.htm.

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