Categories

Gun Control: How to End Gun Violence

22 Mar 2013

Gun control is among the top news items and blog posts. Searches for the keyword ‘’gun control” have spiked. So have those for ‘’Obama gun control’’ and ‘’Batman Tragedy’’. There are few criminal events as stunning and frightening as a mass shooting. Sudden, random and unpredictable episodes like the killing of six men by a gunman in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin; the early morning massacre at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theatre; and the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut. These horrific events have spawned a federal task force on gun control and kick-started a national conversation about gun violence and gun law. President Obama is even considering a “universal background check” for anyone wanting to own a gun Lawmakers began a new session of Congress with the mass shooting at Newtown inspiring a new push to pass gun control laws that could prevent another tragedy. On Day One, lawmakers in the House of Representatives introduced nearly a dozen bills related to gun violence. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-New York, a long-time gun control advocate, led on the Democratic side. She is sponsoring legislation that would require background checks for all gun sales — including at gun…

Gun Control – ‘’Right of the People’’ : The Supreme Court Debate

21 Feb 2013

The Second Amendment provides: “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.’’ In this post I consider two questions related to gun control. Is the right to keep and bear arms stated in the Second Amendment to the Constitution an individual right or a collective one? And if a collective one, who is included? In D.C. v Heller in 2008, the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court debated the meaning of the phrase “right of the people” http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/07pdf/07-290.pdf. In summary the Court held: ‘’1. The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home…. (a) The Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms…. (b) The prefatory clause comports with the Court’s interpretation of the operative clause. The “militia” comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert…

Guns and the City: Guns in American Books and Movies

15 Feb 2013

The romance of the gun The gun has long been a symbol of power and masculinity in America. The figure of the gun-toting frontiersman in popular literature was created by James Fenimore Cooper in his adventure tales The Last of the Mohicans (1826) and The Deerslayer (1840). By the late 1800s, cowboy and Wild West imagery had become part of the collective imagination. A female cowboy, Calamity Jane (1852-1903) featured in Edward Wheeler’s Deadwood Dick dime novels from 1877. The first American female superstar, Annie Oakley (1860-1926) was a sharpshooter from Ohio who toured the country from 1885 as a performer in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. (The musical Annie Get Your Gun (1946) was a fictional account of her life.) The archetypal cowboy hero was established largely by Theodore Roosevelt’s The Winning of the West (1889-95), a history of the early frontier, and by Owen Wister in stories and novels, most notably The Virginian (1902). The image of the swaggering, gunslinging cowboy was also popularized by early cinema, notably through such classics as The Great Train Robbery (1903) and A California Hold Up (1906), the most commercially successful film of the pre-nickelodeon era. Since the 1930s, gangster films have…

Gun Control: Gun Ownership and Gun Deaths

13 Feb 2013

On the afternoon of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, December 14, 2012, and after a spate of public mass shootings, President Obama said: “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” He did not say “gun control,” but there was little doubt that is what he meant. Five days later, Obama announced that he had asked Vice President Biden to lead a team to “come up with a set of concrete proposals” to “reduce the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country.” Obama talked about the need to make it easier to access mental health care as well as the need to “look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence.” Obama also talked about polls that show majority support for “banning the sale of military-style assault weapons,” “banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips” and “laws requiring background checks before all gun purchases.” In response gun rights advocates have begun to push back. Both sides offer statistics that appear to back their arguments. Statistics are inseparable from the gun control debate. Many are collected…

Gun Control Pros and Cons - Some history

08 Feb 2013

For my second post I’ve chosen to review some of the history of gun use in America, since the US unfortunately has the reputation of being the most violent of all developed countries. As a historian I believe that mapping how we got here is vital to charting our future, not least because history shows how the values and viewpoints people hold today have arisen. Like millions in America and worldwide, I was shocked and distressed by the Newtown, CT school shooting. I wept inwardly with the bereaved parents. Two of my cousins teach school. Will they be safe, I asked myself? America is the greatest country in the world, so why do we have this problem of gun violence? Why does nobody seem to notice the disturbed teens and young adults who mostly perpetrate these crimes and act to correct their violent tendencies before they get catastrophically out of hand? Or is it really not a problem but isolated violent outbursts by deranged individuals? What, if anything, can we do about it? Indeed, should we do anything? Don’t Americans have the right to bear arms? Aren’t the overwhelming majority of Americans decent law-abiding citizens? Won’t more gun control infringe…