Gun Control: History of the Debate and Current Status

Gun control has been a ferociously debated subject in American life and has grown to become one of the main issues in every election at both the local and federal levels. Similar to abortion and maternity leave, the U.S. faces unique challenges that often complicate the debate. We’ll try to give some of the history, arguments and rebuttals to the various arguments while attempting to maintain as objective a stance as possible. Please let us know if we make any errors, leave out any popular arguments (for or against), or have failed to include recent information. We will attempt to make this page a useful resource for people interested in understanding the gun control debate.

Constitutional Justification and History

Any attempt to recount the history of gun control in the United States will invariably start with the decade following the countries founding. Particularly December 15, 1791 because that is the date when the Second Amendment to the constitution was officially ratified. Let’s state it clearly, in full, and then we’ll go over it. The second amendment states:

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.

You’ll notice quite a few commas which The Atlantic deemed the “most consequential comma in U.S. history.” Essentially Thomas Jefferson, the resident genius among the countries founders, was out of the office the day the amendment was written and sent out to the states to be ratified. Upon reading it he lost his mind and tried to correct the mistake but it was too late, the amendment had been sent out to be ratified, and the nonsensical overuse of commas stayed in the first amendment. Here’s the difference between the two:

Original: 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.

Jefferson’s attempted fix: 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.

Obviously the original, and the one we’re currently working with, is grammatically incorrect. The question is whether Jefferson was trying to make explicit the right to bear arms with the keeping of a well regulated militia. Even then, what ramifications would that exactly have if a militia is composed of private citizens who are civilians and not enlisted men? There’s no mention of weapons needing to be stored in an armory or outside of the citizens home.

Alright enough of this constitutional analysis. Just note that if you’ve read about there being controversy caused by the comma’s, this what they were talking about.

Bump stocks, Assault Rifles and the Current Debate

Prior to 2017, most of the debate over banning assault rifles was more of an appeal to intuition rather than any statistical data. As most gun violence, including the vast majority of school shootings, were carried out using handguns and small firearms that can be easily concealed. That was until October 1, 2017 when a 64 year old Nevada man opened fire on a crowd in Las Vegas. Murdering 58 people and wounding 413. The incident was the deadliest mass shooting in American history carried out by a lone gunman and immediately created a litany of unaddressed issues related to gun control. The perpetrator, whose name we’ll avoid, utilized a bump stock to increase the rate of fire. For those that don’t know, bump stock’s make it possible to fire a semi-automatic assault rifle at the same rate as an automatic rifle by leveraging the recoil created by firing a shot. **It is important to note that automatic weapons are illegal in the United States.

Prior to the shooting, the Justice Department ruled that an assault rifle with a bump stock was still classified as a semi-automatic rifle and therefore was not illegal. By December, just two months after the shooting, bump stocks would be illegal by federal mandate. The debate over bump stocks evoked concerns from conservatives who believed that this was yet another attempt by the left to utilize public hysteria to ban the ownership of weapons. However even conservative commentators such as Ben Shapiro, agreed that bump stocks should be made illegal. It should be noted that NRA spokesman Colion Noir was one of the few voices that opposed that bump stock ban. 

As we sit in Covid ruined 2020, this was the last major action by the DOJ at gun control reform in the United States.

Suicide Rates and Gun Control

Another sub-issue of the gun control debate has been the question of suicide and whether attempts to curb gun control would lower the suicide rate. This is an extremely controversial and hotly debated aspect of the debate so we’ll just try to give the facts. Within the United States (important to underline that), there is a correlation between access to firearm and the suicide rate with Wyoming, for example, where 63 percent of residents own a gun and they posses a very high suicide rate compared to the rest of the country. However if one looks at say, Japan, that has an extremely high suicide rate yet virtually no guns.

However such a comparison is to make an inaccurate inference. As we tried to explain in an article about Jordan Peterson and the gender pay gap, no one is depressed because they have access to guns. Rather it is that people who are depressed and have access to guns are, theoretically, more likely to kill themselves.

Complicating matters even more, the above claim about access to guns being a crime of opportunity (to commit suicide) may not be as clear as it sounds. Research on the impulsivity of suicide that asks the question: “if you stopped someone from committing suicide in the moment, would they not go through with it?” have been fairly inconclusive. It appears that people who commit suicide are very deliberate about their wishes and it’s not clear that creating a barrier to doing so will prevent suicides. That said, this does not mean that gun control as a whole would be a fruitless endeavor.

Facts About Gun Control 

According to Pew Research Center, about four-in-ten U.S. adults say they live in a gun-owning household. 

  • Grew up in a house with guns 48% 48%
  • Say at least some of their friends own guns 59% 59%
  • Have shot a gun 72% 72%

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This