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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.”