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Gun law in the United States
2.1. Stand-your-ground law
The gun culture
3.1. The mentality towards guns today
3.2. The origin
4.1. Pro gun rights
4.2. Contra gun rights
4.3. Changes in the past
Impact of guns on crime rate
5.1. Comparison between the states
5.2. Comparison with other countries
List of references
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I've chosen the subject Gun law and the thought of freedom in the USA“
because I was always interested in al the different cultures that exist on Earth.
Since German society is very biased on guns and violence in general, the
complete opposite of such a culture, like the one in the USA, is especial y
interesting for me.
Furthermore the recent gun rampages in German schools made me think of
possible reasons and one similarity between them was, that the families all
Due to the fact that guns are an everyday life object in the USA, I want to find
out how strong they influence the tendency for violence.
During my assignment I will try to find out if it is true that the USA are such a
gun-loving society as their reputation says and how this gun culture influences
the crime rate.
un law in the United States
Before starting to explain the laws on owning guns, it is important to know that
the laws are different in every state. One problem about this is that laws are
always changing, as example: later this summer of 2010, Arizona will change
their laws and will al ow citizens 21 years of age and older to carry a concealed
firearm without a permit.
Of the 50 states, 44 states allow to use guns for self-defence and 40 states
al ow to carry a gun with varying restrictions . The currently available laws can
be divided into five groups. The first ones are the 37 states with a “shall-issue”
law, they have predetermined standards of who is allowed to get a carry permit.
Two have only fairly-administered systems and the decision for getting a permit
is based on the individual institution. In three states you can carry a weapon
without a permit. Eight states have a strong administered system and every
trade with guns is time-consuming. The last two states have no permit system
at all and so carrying a weapon is forbidden1. Furthermore I will only focus on
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the 37 states with a “shal -issue” law, since they make out the clear majority.
In most states, the gun laws are the same, the main differences are the age
restrictions and exceptions for special events like hunting. Everyone can
purchase and posses a rifle,shotgun or handgun without any state permit. But if
you want to carry a weapon with you, you have to own a state permit or engage
in an activity in which bearing a weapon is needed for protection or the activity
itself.2 The National Firearms Act of 1934 has restricted fully automatic weapons
for private usage a lot. To buy such a weapon you have to get a permission by
the US Treasury Dept. and wait trough a long background check. The weapon
also has to be ful y registered and the owner's address has to be updated al the
A special treatment on gun laws can be found in Florida and meanwhile in
several other states, since they adapted that law. This law or Castle Doctrine
gives everyone the right to use deadly force if they or people in the same
residence are in danger of a violent attack or an intrusion which may lead to
violent attack. This residence can be not only the own home but also a car, boat
or work place, you just have to be legally in there. This, just for itself isn't so
unique since many other countries give you the right for self-defence. As the
name already says, in some states you are al owed to stand your ground, which
means even if you could retreat to a save place you won't be convicted if you
don't. You are allowed to defend yourself as long as the intruder is acting
against the law. To illustrate this, I will give an example: If you're at work and
someone enters the office who has no right to be there and if he looks
dangerous, you are allowed to kill him with the justification that you where afraid
that you or someone else could be attacked by him.
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he gun culture
he mentality towards guns today
The citizens of the USA are in a constant struggle regarding the mentality
towards guns in their homeland. This can be recognized by several factors, one
very obvious fact is that the gun laws in every state have been changed several
times during the past. But because more and more states simplify the laws on
weapons it is clear that the majority favours owning a gun for self defence. The
history of the USA makes them change their opinion often, one very drastic
event was of course the terror act of 9/11 in which an act of terror destroyed the
world trade centre. Since then the people where in a state of fear and had the
urge to defend themselves more than ever. In addition to that, there were
several gun rampages in High-Schools, especial y the one at columbine in
which two senior students killed 12 students, one teacher and injured several
other people. A big shock was that the two students bought their gun legal. After
this event the people started to get sceptic about the laws.
Another important thing are the prejudices that a lot of people sil have against
African Americans, this can be clearly seen looking at the fact, that a lot more
white people own guns and black people are more often victims of murder
cases with weapons involved3. Nevertheless, guns are a central point of
Americas identity and shape the view of how the rest of the world views them.
The “wild west” past also shaped society, most of the western motion pictures
came from the USA and the toy manufacturer made huge profit by selling
vintage weapon toys. This also gives another hint about the American society
because children start to become accustomed to guns in young years. Another
important fact is, that hunting is a very popular sport in the USA and because of
this, weapons are not only seen as a way to defend yourself but also as just a
tool for their hobby.
The gun culture can be traced far back into history, starting around 1776 or to
be more specific, after the American revolution against the Kingdom of Great
3 J.R.LOTT: More guns, less crime: understanding crime and gun-control laws. Chicago. 2000, Edition
2, S. 38-39
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Britain. But even if they have gotten their freedom they stil composed the
Second Amendment to the United States Constitution which is the part of the
United States Bill of Rights that protects the right to keep an bear arms.4
After many years in which America enslaved African people a rebellion started,
which was the origin of the first weapon that could be fired several times without
reloading. But soon all black people where free after the civil war that ended in
1865. In the same year the Ku Klux Klan was founded, but several years later
this organisation was temporary stopped again by federal government. During
the same time the National Rifle Association was founded, “it is committed to
preserve the right of al law-abiding individuals to purchase, possess and use
firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to
the U.S. Constitution.”5 At the same time the first changes in gun laws began, in
that time especially that black people aren't allowed to carry guns.
Of course, this gun culture is not only based on the war history of America but
also on the time in which hunting was the source for food. The tradition of
owning and using a gun has been a ritual for boys entering adulthood ever
In the past years, gun laws where always one of the main aspects in political
debates, starting with the already mentioned changes about the racial
discrimination of who is al owed to own guns. The discussion often revolves
around the Second Amendment and how the sentence “A well regulated Militia,
being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep
and bear Arms, shal not be infringed. “ should be interpreted. Some defend the
opinion that only official individuals that are under control of the government,
like the military or police officers are affected by this. Others insist that it
guarantees the right of every individual to protect themselves. But this point is
only cursorily because the US Supreme Court never decided which
interpretation is the correct one and also never changed or supported any law
changes under the aspect of the Second Amendment. Clear losers in the
4 P. J. CHARLES:The Second Amendment: The Intent and Its Interpretation by the States and the
Supreme Court. North Carolina. 2009, S. 5
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debate are often non-defensive users of guns like hunters or sportsmen,
because they are often lost in the debate even if they are the most common
owners of guns6.
ro gun rights
The people in favour of an open gun policy have in general a harder time,
because regardless of which arguments you have, a gun is still dangerous and
able to kill people within seconds. The biggest advocacy is the National Rifle
Association, in the past they always showed that they handle weapons
responsible by operating firearms safety and marksmanship training courses.
This makes them a valuable support in the fight for gun sympathiser.
But they don't only do this by representing a community that handles weapons
peacefully, they also spend 50% of al lobbying money. With the NRA spendings
of $1,500,000 the complete spendings from the Pro-Gun groups add up to
$3,000,000 and exceed the Gun Control groups spending of $90,000 by a ratio
Proponents of gun rights hold that criminals always have a way to smuggle
weapons, a ban on guns will therefore only affect people that own weapons just
for self-defence or sport. Furthermore, statistics say that most criminals will run
away if confronted with an armed civilian, rather then start a life threatening fight
for a pity criminal act like stealing a car.8 Another argument is, that calling the
police takes to long for the most part, if threatened by a criminal you may not
even be able to use you're mobile phone.
ontra gun rights
This is the group most people would logical pick by common sense. You don't
have to be a politician, a professor in criminology or a highly educated student
to know or understand that if everyone is walking around with a deadly weapon,
an accident could always happen. But this isn't so easy to proof since both
sides are able to bring apparently empiric evidence that the crime rate rises or
lowers according to the gun law in different states. Humans are emotional
8 J.LUDWIG, P.J.Cook: Evaluating gun policy: effects on crime and violence. Washington, D.C.. 2003,
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creatures, gun control activist say that in a weak moment every human could be
able to snap and accidental y hurt someone if they are in reach of a gun.
Another point is that the biggest supporter of the pro site, the National Rifle
Association is way to big and able to use false information and propaganda with
help of their big lobby and financial power.
The contra group also has the power of shock and fear on their site, one
incident like the columbine massacre and they feel themselves approved of
hanges in the past
During the past, gun control experienced many changes. In 1934 the National
Firearms act started to control the usage of automatic weapons. The Federal
Firearms Act of 1938 made it possible to register every normal person who
owns a gun, because gun sellers had to get a Federal Firearms License and
where then obligated to hold the name and address of everyone who buys a
gun. The Gun Control Act of 1968 has regulated the terms of who has the right
to buy a gun, people that have a criminal record, are mentally not in the
condition or are addicted to drugs won't be able to gain a weapon the normal
way any more.
But the changes aren't only in the past, nearly every year a state changed and
will change their gun law. In 2010 it will be Arizona and a change for 2011 is
also already in planning, Lowa’s “shall issue” law takes effect on the first
I mpact of guns on crime rate
omparison between the states
Rather then compare every state and their law and crime rate, the changes a
states made during a change of laws will be pointed out here.
If a state changed its law so that concealed guns could be carried the crime rate
developed positively. Murders fell by 8 percent, rape by 5 percent and strong
physical assault fel by 7 percent. Not only did the crime rate decrease but the
accidental deaths from weapons didn't raise. Only 200 people died in 1988 in
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accidental handgun deaths, from which 178 deaths occurred in states without a
concealed gun law. But there is an increase of 2.7 percent of property crimes in
states that passed those laws. The explanation for this is that criminals would
choose less risky crimes like robbery in which they very rarely have to be
involved with the victim.9
omparison with other countries
The crime rate in USA is way higher than in other countries. A small graph is
able to show it.
Gun deaths per 100,000 population (for the year indicated)10:
Homicide Suicide Other (inc Accident)
But why is it like this ?
Poverty can't be the reason, the poverty rate of Canada is twice as high in
comparison to the USA. The already mentioned Wild-West past also seems to
be of no relation, since other democratic countries with low gun deaths have
also a violent past. In Germany there was the National Socialism, Japan
occupied China in World War ll and France had the war in Algeria.
Therefore the reason has to be the huge quantity of weapons, but this isn't very
likely either, since again, Canada has more weapons but a low gun related
9 J.R.LOTT: More guns, less crime: understanding crime and gun-control laws. Chicago. 2000, Edition
2, S. 14-16
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During my assignment I was able to find a sufficient answer for al my questions
and I have now a pretty good idea of the American Culture.
One thing I can conclude is that the gun law in the USA stands in no relation to
the the crime rate, or in fact decreases crimes.
It was very interesting to see how most Americans insist on their individual
freedom. But it is also sad to see that many people don't only own guns
because of hunting or sport activities, but rather because of their immense fear
of terror, rape or other criminal actions against them.
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ist of references
J.R.LOTT: More guns, less crime: understanding crime and gun-control laws.
Chicago. 2000, Edition 2, S. 14-16, S. 38-39
P. J. CHARLES:The Second Amendment: The Intent and Its Interpretation by
the States and the Supreme Court. North Carolina. 2009, S. 5
J.LUDWIG, P.J.Cook: Evaluating gun policy: effects on crime and violence.
Washington, D.C.. 2003, S. 77