Federal gun regulation should follow in Massachusetts’ steps

November 29, 2018

Every time I check the news, there always seem to be two topics that I always read about: the Trump administration and another mass shooting. I’m not surprised by the former; President Trump always has some scandal going on—whether it be a shady employee or the new buzz in his Twitter feed, he never ceases to entertain me. The latter, mass shootings and gun violence, strikes far too often.

The definition of what a “mass shooting” is varies by the source, but it is generally referred to as a shooting in which four or more individuals are shot and/or killed in a single time frame, excluding the shooter. Even though four does not seem like a very large number, that is almost the average number of individuals in the average household, which sits at 3.14. That puts this into perspective: if a deadly fire burned one household, that would equate to a mass shooting at its bare bones.

Still not convinced that gun violence is a prevalent issue, and arguably just a matter of American life now? According to a survey done by The Guardian back in February of 2018, there were 1624 mass shootings in just 1870 days. That’s roughly nine out of every ten days that a mass shooting happens. So out of every month, there are approximately three days where a mass shooting DOESN’T take place. Granted, we don’t hear about the majority of them because many are minor. Cities like Chicago rarely have a day that goes by without someone being killed.

So what has our government done to combat such gun distribution? Let’s go back in time. The following summary of information is from a Time article. Following the ratification of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, giving citizens the right to “bear arms,” gun control went without a hitch for over a century. The Nationals Firearms Acts (NFA) was passed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934, which placed a tax on all purchases of firearms, including distribution, manufacturing, selling and transporting.

Following bits of trial and error, including a failed act and a revolutionary court case, “United States vs. Miller,” the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968 was passed. This occurred after the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and increased the restriction on individuals who can purchase guns by increasing the minimum age and having stricter licensing and regulatory requirements.

Near the turn of the century, the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986 gave more protection to gun owners, and the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 amended the GCA, requiring background checks for any individuals who decided to purchase a gun. This forwent the previous notion to uphold the anonymity of gun owners by not having a national database.

While the restrictions for individuals to purchase a gun have significantly increased over the years, the process clearly still isn’t enough. If it was, we wouldn’t be hearing so much about mass shootings in the news. But the way to control anything is never 100 percent foolproof. There are always loopholes to be found and utilized to slip things through the cracks.

The methods for obtaining guns varies across state lines, which is the main root of the problem. In New Hampshire, obtaining a gun is arguably easier than getting a driver’s license once you actually drive yourself to the gun shop, which granted would be difficult if you didn’t have a driver’s license. But at the store, all that’s needed is an I.D. and a short background check that looks at your criminal record and some mental history. Easy as that. No wait, no registration, no training.

No wonder owning a gun is so prevalent and easy in most parts of the United States. But luckily, it isn’t that easy in every state. In Massachusetts, an individual has to obtain a permit from the police department before even stepping into a gun shop. And getting the permit is no easy task. The applicant must go through an extensive application process that includes a good amount of paperwork, an interview process, a background check and the discretion of the police chief. So say you’ve done some shady things in your lifetime—probably not going to get the approval.

If by chance you pass of all these barriers, then enter the gun store and join the Massachusetts Gun Transactions Portal that contains every individual in Massachusetts that legally possesses a firearm. It’s almost like owning a car; everyone has to have their own license and registration or else they’re not allowed to operate the vehicle legally. Through this method, Massachusetts boasts on the lowest gun death rates in the United States.

The logic behind this is a very obvious trend. More guns means more gun deaths. So by creating a large number of hurdles for potential gun owners to go through before getting their firearms draws them away from buying, given all the extensive work that goes into applying.

The strong regulations should not be seen as a hindrance but as an opportunity of growth, and pride, for the country. It is extremely difficult to control the black market, but if the regulations get a little stricter and the government gets a little smarter on defining the right to “bear arms,” we can hopefully be at peace once again.

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