Gun control is not one issue, but many. To some people gun control is a crime issue; to others it is a rights issue. Gun control is a safety issue, an education issue, a racial issue, and a political issue, among others. Within each of these issues there are those who want more gun control legislation and those who want less, on both sides of this issue, opinions range from moderate to extreme. Like most topics relating to government and its ruling ability, the topic of gun control is based heavily on political affiliation. Since the 1950’s the majority of the Republican Party have strongly opposed gun control efforts, and have been aiming to shoot down legislation enacted at the local, state, and national levels. The republican viewpoint of anti-gun control has strong backing by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and many other gun control-lobbying organizations. The party insists on increased enforcement of laws already in place and stronger penalties for those who disobey, rather than creating entirely new gun control measures. On the other hand the popular view among the Democratic Party is for the enactment of new legislation for gun control. This party bases their argument on a loose interpretation of the constitution believing that the individual has the right to bear arms but under reasonable regulation.
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The Brady Campaign and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) are organizations that back the Democratic Party’s views of pro gun control. Guns are not for everyone. Certain individuals cannot handle a firearm safely, and some individuals choose to use firearms inappropriately. Our society has passed laws regulating the ownership and use of firearms, and more legislation is being considered. Most of this legislation restricts, to some degree, the rights of individuals to possess or use firearms. Some restrictions may be necessary, but some recent legislation may have gone too far. Society benefits from firearms in the hands of responsible citizens and attempts to keep firearms away from these citizens whom do more harm than good. The Brady Bill is one example of an attempted solution to the problem of gun control. The Brady Bill is named after James Brady, who was shot by John Hinckley during an assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981. Supporters of the Brady Bill used that incident to gain support for their gun control legislation, claiming it would reduce crime and save lives. In November 1993 president Bill Clinton signed the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act, otherwise known as the Brady Bill, into law. This bill required a 5 business-day waiting period for licensed dealers so that law enforcement may conduct background checks on the potential handgun buyers. The idea behind this bill is to screen out felons and other dangerous people from acquiring handguns. This required waiting period also subsequently stops enraged people from buying guns in the heat of the moment, and gives the individual time to cool down and think about their actions.
The Brady Bill was essentially an improvement of the 1968 Gun Control Act, which laid out the types of people that should not be armed like felons, youth, and the dangerously mentally ill, but it did not implement a system of verifying that people were telling the truth when they purchased guns at gun dealers. During the 1990’s Richmond Virginia’s homicide rate was among the highest in the nation for cities with 100,000 plus people. Unsurprisingly 85% of the homicides in 1997 were committed with guns, with 40% being drug related, and 60% of the crimes were committed by prior offenders. To counteract this rising homicide rate republican governor James Gilmore teamed up with the NRA in order to create a program that increased the penalty entailed with the illegal use of firearms. The federal program, Project Exile, formally initiated in February 1997, shifted the prosecution of all gun crimes immediately to the federal level, rather than the state. Illegal gun possession offenders are subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison without the possibility of parole.
Project Exile also mandates a 15-year prison sentence without the possibility of parole for felons caught in possession of a firearm during the transaction of the crime. Offenders are “exiled” to federal prison and with such a bold prison sentencing this law became well known on the streets. The program was an instant success. In the first 10 months of 1998 homicides in Richmond Virginia were down 36% and the number of firearm related homicides were down 41%. 196 people were sentenced to an average of 55 months in federal jail and 440 guns were seized. Since this program began, it has now been set to place in cities such as Baltimore, Chicago, Miami, and Philadelphia. Because of the Republican Party’s involvement they use Project Exile as a model suggesting that the party doesn’t ignore gun control issues. In the District of Columbia there was a law that made it illegal to carry unregistered firearms and prohibited the registration of new handguns. This law also required any previously owned firearms to be kept at a disabled state which means the guns had to be unloaded and dissembled or bound by a trigger lock.
The only exception was that the individual could be granted one-year licenses by the police chief. Special D.C. policeman Heller applied to keep a handgun in his home and was denied the right. So he took his case to the court basing his argument on the second amendment. In 2008, in the Supreme Court case 554 of The District of Columbia Vs. Heller, there was a 5-4 decision stating that the second amendment protects the right of the individual to posses a firearm unconnected with service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. The court found that the total ban on handguns, and the requirement to keep them disabled, violated their right. The second amendment states: “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.” With militia meaning all males physically capable in acting for common defense, the founding fathers included this in our Bill of Rights because they feared the Federal Government might oppress the population if the people did not have the means to defend themselves as a nation and as individuals. Aside from approving legislation that allows firearms in national parks and Amtrak trains, President Barrack Obama has virtually stayed silent when it comes to the topic of gun control. This may be result of the anti-gun control policies of previous president George W. Bush or because of the lack of votes from pro gun areas like the rural South and the Midwest. In his presidential campaign leading up to 2008 the president stated that he was in favor of gun control policies, including reinstating the assault weapons ban and creating new legislation against concealed weapons.