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Would stricter gun laws reduce gun-related violence? Why or why not? What is the central issue around this problem?
There have been a series of tragic events these past few years that have really brought the issue of gun violence onto the national stage. Most recently, the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut has reignited this debate. It was one of the worst mass shootings in American history, 20 of the 27 people killed were small children.
The question that comes up over and over about gun violence is whether we should have stricter gun laws in place. The main issue comes down to two points: maintaining our rights and ensuring our safety. Specifically, the issue is about the balance between Americans' constitutional right to bear arms - as it is written in the Second Amendment - and the desire that almost all of us share to live safely without the threat of being harmed by gun violence.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who has been a leading gun control advocate and authored an assault weapons ban in 1994, which lapsed in 2004, is now expected to offer an updated version of this legislation. "Now is exactly the time," says New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an advocate for gun restrictions, "Calling for 'meaningful action' is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before." There need to be controls over the sale of weapons and assault weapons do not belong on our streets – this is the clear position of gun control advocates.
But as KQED’s The Lowdown asks, what is it with America’s Love of the Gun? The article points to the figure that “there are 89 guns for every 100 civilians," according to the 2011 Small Arms Survey. That amounts to roughly 270 million guns owned nationwide, far and away the highest gun ownership rate in the world. Mitchell Rycus, a University of Michigan professor emeritus who studies violence and terrorism, agrees: "We've been a gun-toting society for hundreds of years," he said. But the focus on guns is misplaced. “The point," Rycus said in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle entitled Can We Do Anything to Prevent Massacres?, "is that America needs to look harder into the mental instability that often marks a mass killer, and to figure out how to address it.”
Gun-rights advocates, such as The National Rifle Association, claim that killings are caused by mentally deranged individuals, not by guns and people need to be able to protect themselves from mass murderers. Without this protection, there would be way more violence. The issue is about mental health and not recognizing the symptoms of unhinged individuals.
So, will stricter gun laws lead to a decrease in gun violence? The Lowdown’s Are States With Tough Gun Laws Actually Safer? presents some compelling statistics in its overview to this question which includes information from The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence that compares how states fare in terms of gun control laws and protecting communities from gun violence.
Watch Gun Control Debate Spurs Political Action Across the Nation on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.
PBS NewsHour video Gun Control Debate Spurs Political Action Across the Nation - Feb. 18, 2013
In the nine weeks since the Newtown shooting massacre, the gun control debate has spread far beyond the Beltway. Gwen Ifill and political editor Christina Bellantoni explore what steps American cities have taken to curb gun violence, and how opposition voices have attempted to fight these measures.
To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with@KQEDedspace and end it with #KQEDDoNow
For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.
We encourage students to tweet their personal opinions as well as support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people's ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets like memes or more extensive blog posts to represent their ideas. Of course, do as you can…and any contribution is most welcomed.
PBS NewsHour Extra article Lawmakers Debate Guns in Schools Proposals
From buzzer entrance systems to metal detectors, security at American schools is designed to keep guns out. But some state and local politicians are pushing for guns in schools, advocating arming teachers to stop a shooting from the inside.
PBS NewsHour Extra article President Obama Vows Action after Elementary School Shooting
At a memorial service on Sunday for the 20 students and 6 adults who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., President Obama offered words of comfort to the families of those slain. However, he also vowed action, breaking from the script of sympathies to say that he “will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens -- from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators -- in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.”
KQED's The Lowdown collection of articles about Gun Violence in America
Like so many other hot button political issues, the battle over gun control can be boiled down to a tug-of-war between maintaining our rights and ensuring our safety. A mass shooting in December 2012 at an elementary school in Connecticut that left 27 people dead, including 20 children, has revived calls for tighter gun control and President Obama has promised action. But opposition to any kind of gun regulations remains fierce.
PBS NewsHour Extra article Theater Shooting Raises Questions About Gun Laws
Tragedy struck small town America again when a gunman entered a packed movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and opened fire on a crowd gathered for the premiere of the latest Batman movie.