Perspectives from ISB

Tarun Gauba, IPS (Student of AMPPP Class 2023)

Secretary, Home Department, Government of Uttar Pradesh

In the wake of mass shootings and loss of innocent lives, it’s time to tighten regulations and prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands.

There have been several mass shooting incidents in the U.S, resulting in the loss of many innocent lives. Estimates suggest that more than 600 such shootings in 2020 resulted in over 43,000 deaths due to gun violence alone. The shootings took place in schools, shopping malls, and other public areas, leading to insecurity and anger among the American public. One of the recent incidents in a school in Texas where a student went on a shooting spree resulted in a loss of 21 lives and brought the various lobby groups and politicians to put up their views for and against the culture of guns.

The Dangers of Easy Access: Examining the Shortcomings of U.S Gun Regulations

One of the major reasons attributed to such incidents is the easy availability of guns in the country. The population of the U.S is around 323 million, and the number of firearms available is about 393 million, so, 120 firearms per 100 citizens. This is the highest per capita figure for any country in the world. The problem occurs when these guns fall into the hands of criminals, mentally unstable persons and those who are addicted to drugs posing a danger to the society.

Gun regulations in the U.S have many shortcomings. Certain States have no age bar for buying guns which are readily available over the counter. The requirement for a background check before purchasing a firearm arises only when it is bought from a federally licensed dealer. If it is a private purchase, no such background check is required, and there is no compulsion to inform such a purchase to law enforcement authorities. In certain States, gun shows are still allowed in which guns are sold by dealers who mask themselves as collectors so that no background checks are needed.

Lax Gun Regulations in the U.S: A Result of Pressure Group Influence and Constitutional Interpretation

There is no limit on the number of firearms bought or possessed by a person. Further, the regulation of online sales and purchase of guns is still missing in most states. Law enforcement agencies do not have a mechanism to ascertain how many firearms a person possesses and must collect such information, if needed, from multiple sources. When an applicant applies for a firearm license, the police authorities or the gun licensing unit doesn’t need to meet the person to have any prima facie estimate of the applicant’s mental health which is unlike many other countries like the U.K. and India where a medical officer’s certificate is required for verifying the mental health as well as the physical ability of the person to possess and use firearms. In these countries, police also check whether the applicant has a safe and secure place where he can store the gun.

Gun regulations in the U.S. have not been stringent because of the role played by many pressure groups. The gun control lobby has been actively promoting stricter gun regulations. Still, the pro-gun lobby led by the National Rifle Association has a strong influence not only in society but also among the political authorities. It has been allegedly pumping money into elections. The situation is further made grave by certain court judgements which have upheld that the second amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to possess arms.

A Call for Stricter Gun Control Measures in the U.S. to Combat Gun Violence

In light of the heavy loss of lives due to gun violence, including those of many innocent children in the schools, it has become imperative to remove the above lacunae in the gun regulations and bring about stricter gun control regimes to prevent the undeserving and dangerous people from getting guns. It is high time that stringent background checks are brought in, gun shows are banned, private sale of guns is prohibited, limit is placed on the number of firearms a person can possess, a database of weapons licensed by different authorities is put in place and police is directed to get the applicant medically checked for signs of ill mental health before he is given a gun permit.  These steps will go a long way in saving innocent lives and bringing a sense of security to the American people.

DISCLAIMER : “The views expressed in this blog/article are personal. Tarun Gauba is a student of the Advanced Management Programme in Public Policy at the Indian School of Business.”

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