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Ethical Issues Concerning Gun Laws

On April 2, 2012, seven people were shot in Christian College in Oakland.

On July 20, 2012, 17 people were killed in a cinema shooting in Denver, Colorado.

On Aug. 5, 2012, six people shot during Sunday services in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

On Sept. 27, 2012, five people were killed by an employee working in a Minneapolis sign company.

On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 children were shot dead in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.

All of the above-mentioned shooting incidents just happened within one year and in one country alone- the United States. For a first-world country like the USA, this would indeed be very alarming, considering that one would normally expect a nation of this stature to have the structure and the machinery to prevent incidents of violence and crime. One would ask: doesn’t the US have laws to control the sale and possession of arms and ammunition? It has laws to regulate the manufacture, sale and transfer and therefore, the ownership of guns and ammunition. However, the gun laws vary from state to state. An authority on America’s gun industry mentions some salient points in the gun laws of the different states. First, they have the concealed carry law which allows all Americans above 21 years old to carry a gun in public, except in K-12 schools. Carrying guns in college campuses is left to the discretion of college heads. Some states leave the decision to give or not to give a permit to carry guns to its local authorities. Some also require background checks, but a number of citizens are able to evade this. Reporting of missing firearms is not required. Moreover, some states even prohibit registration of firearms. In addition, there are laws imposed on manufacturers of firearms. They are subject to tax, and are required to have the Federal Firearms License which prohibits them from selling firearms to criminals or those who have broken the law. Furthermore, they have to seek for ATF approval for selling automatic firearms. The agency which takes care of all gun-related transactions in the US is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or ATF.

On the other hand, there is a law, known as the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which allows any American citizen to keep and bear arms to protect himself/herself and his/her home. In view of all the shootings that have happened in this country in the past few years, the question now arises of whether individuals should still be allowed to buy and keep firearms. Nothing could ever justify the mass killings and carnage that have been perpetrated by emotionally or psychologically disturbed, or even mentally-deranged people. Even President Obama and other officers of the administration have been called on by citizens to strictly enforce existing laws and to do something to solve this problem in a recent Guns in America Forum.

We do not deny that all Americans have the right to defend their homes, their families and themselves, and one way of doing this is to purchase low-powered guns meant for protection, and nothing else. This is to control the untoward use of high-powered arms meant to kill or obliterate human life. Looking at the laws meant to regulate the procurement of guns, it can be seen that strict implementation of these laws would be easier if the country were to have a uniform set of laws , instead of having so many for the various states. While we recognize the uniqueness of each state, at this point human life is more valuable. It would also be important for the lawmakers to re-examine the gun laws, especially on the aspects of necessity for thorough background checks of buyers, compulsory registration of firearms and reporting of missing firearms. It would also not hurt were gun buyers be made to undergo psychological testing. This would minimize maniacal gun-wielders on the loose.

In a study made by the FBI of mass shootings over a three-year period, it has been found out that in some of the shootings, several offenders were minors. Some of these minors were emotionally disturbed, or had problems. It would be feasible at this point to make psychological testing part of middle school, high school and college student requirements. Moreover, to drive home the point that firearms are not for minors, maybe this is a good time as any to teach this in school.

While citizens have the right to defend themselves and purchase guns for this purpose, it would be wise to remember that a dispute between two parties may be settled by means of peaceful dialogue. We just resort to defend ourselves, when all peaceful means have been exhausted. On the part of government, it is imperative that it make the existing gun laws fool-proof and see to their strict enforcement. Perhaps this would mean an increase in the manpower and the budget for the agencies monitoring gun-related transactions. But no matter. Government has to set priorities along this line, if it wants to see an end to these senseless killings.

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