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Brief # 15 Social Justice

Gun Control Efforts in the U.S.

By Erika Shannon

May 24, 2021

The fight for tighter gun laws in the U.S. is nothing new in recent years. We have seen upticks in the number of mass shootings here in the U.S., as well as cities like Chicago struggling with ongoing gun violence daily. Innocent lives are lost left and right as guns fall into the wrong hands; it’s clear that something needs to be done, but there is much debate on what that should be. President Biden has made promises to put efforts towards gun control, and we have seen a few executive orders laid out, but nothing substantial. Individual states are also implementing their own gun control regulations, when federal regulations are just not enough to curb gun violence.

President Biden issued executive orders regarding ghost guns, stabilizing braces, and red flag laws in April. Ghost guns are guns that are harder to trace due to them being made with 3D printers or gun kits, so efforts to get them regulated have been part of Biden’s mission. Stabilizing braces are accessories for pistols that allow the shooter to be more accurate while firing the weapon with only one arm, and they have been using in mass shootings recently. Red flag laws are laws that allow family or police to ask a state court to take firearms away from someone who may use the weapons to hurt themselves or others. More recently, the Justice Department has been working toward on a final proposal on President Biden’s executive order regarding stabilizing braces. It is slated to be finished in early June, with the hopes that soon stabilizing braces will not be able to get into the hands of people who wish to use them to hurt innocent people.

We also have seen the Justice Department acting on the President’s executive order about ghost guns, with another proposed rule in the works. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is hoping to update the legal definition of ‘firearm’ in an effort to crack down on the production of ghost guns. The proposed rule is attempting to redefine the term “frame or receiver,” and to classify firearm kits as complete firearms. The goal is to add serial numbers to the firearm receivers in easy-to-build firearm kits, so that they are subject to more regulation and oversight. The new proposal is also seeking to legally define the terms “complete muffler or silencer device” and “privately made firearms.” There is hope to target 3D gun printing with the new proposal, with a rise in the production of 3D printed firearms being used in crimes. The problem lies in the fact that since these guns are printed at private residences with 3D printers, they lack serial numbers and are often untraceable to law enforcement.

With proposed gun control laws, there is always going to be opposition to it  in the U.S. The most fervent opponent to gun control is the National Rifle Association (NRA). Most of the NRA’s budget goes into lobbying efforts. Their total yearly spending is around $250 million dollars, making them one of the largest and most powerful special interest lobby groups here in the U.S. The NRA vehemently opposes all forms of gun control, and believes that more guns will in fact make the country a safer place. Their efforts to thwart gun control as of late have consisted of town hall meetings, TV ads, digital ads, and mail campaigns.

The problem with the NRA is that they defend an often-disputed interpretation of our Second Amendment: that U.S. citizens have the right to bear arms without any government oversight. This is a dangerous, loose, and outdated approach to the Second Amendment, but one that the NRA unfortunately stands by.

It is important for individual states to take action towards gun control, since moves the federal government can take are limited.

Some individual states have been drafting legislation to help gun control efforts. Just this month, the Oregon state legislature passed Senate Bill 554, which requires Oregon gun owners to securely lock away their firearms when they are not in use with either a trigger lock or cable lock. There will be fines associated with failing to secure firearms. Colorado is following in Oregon’s footsteps and a similar law is expected to take hold on July 1st regarding locking firearms when not in use. Colorado has also signed a law that will go into effect in September and require gun owners to report a lost or stolen firearm to law enforcement within five days of realizing the weapon is missing.

Unfortunately, there are also states that are taking a step backwards when it comes to gun control. Montana’s Governor, Greg Gianforte, signed a bill that would prohibit state and local law enforcement in Montana from enforcing federal bans on firearms, ammunition, and magazines. While the Governor is seemingly trying to protect Second Amendment rights, he is actually just making it more difficult for local and federal law enforcement agencies to collaborate on issues related to gun access. Senators in Missouri have also recently passed a bill to block their police from enforcing federal gun laws, which is just another misstep in the fight to prevent mass shootings and homicides here in the U.S.

It is clear that it will be awhile before there is a remedy to the problem of gun violence in our country. While limiting access to guns is one route to take, it also is necessary to educate Americans on the importance of gun safety. A mix of these two approaches  is going to be the only way to curb what can only be called a plague on America. Innocent lives will continue to be lost until politics are put to the side and a sensible gun control solutions at the federal and state levels are put forth.

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