Saturday, 15 December 2012

Firearms in America

I was horrified yesterday when I heard the tragic news that in Connecticut a brutal shooting occurred leaving 20 children and 7 adults dead. The shooting at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School is the second deadliest shooting attack at a US school or university, second in place to an attack at Virginia Tech university in 2007, where a student killed 32 people and injured many more. This sparked my interest into why America is the only country in which it's citizens are still allowed to own firearms, I started doing some research and this is what I found;

1791
The Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment - "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." was passed. The American people wanted to ensure that it would not just be the government owning firearms.

1837
Georgia passed a law banning handguns. The law was ruled unconstitutional and thrown out.

1865
Several southern states adopt 'black codes', where, among other things, blacks are forbidden from owning firearms. 

1871
The National Rifle Association (NRA) was organized around its primary goal of improving American civilians' marksmanship in preparation for war.

1938
The Federal Firearms Act of 1938 placed the first limitations on selling ordinary firearms. Shops selling guns were required to obtain a Federal Firearms License, at an annual cost of $1, and to maintain records of the name and address of the people to whom firearms were sold. Gun sales to convicted criminals was forbidden.

1968
The Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed to regulate import of guns, and place specific limitations on the sale and ownership of guns.

1986
The Armed Career Criminal Act (Public Law 99-570) increased penalties for possession of firearms by people not qualified to own them under the Gun Control Act of 1986.

1990
The Crime Control Act of 1990 established 'gun-free zones', such as schools.

1998 - November 30
The Brady Act was made permanent, all gun dealers were now required to initiate a pre-sale criminal background check of all gun buyers through the newly created National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) computer system.

Therefore without changing the constitution, and facing major uproar from the public, it is very hard for the American government to change the laws allowing most people the right to own a gun. What do you think about this? Should gun licenses be available only to specific people or do you think most people have a right to own a firearm? Join the online debate at bbc.co.uk