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Gun control

The gun control issue in the United States is a highly contentious one (see gun politics).

The wikipedia has no position on this issue and will use the most neutral terms available.

The term "gun control" refers to attempts by society (generally by government or "the State") to limit the possession, production, importation, shipment, sale, and/or use of "guns" -- in this context, generally personal firearms[?]: handguns and long guns. Weapons normally produced and intended for military and paramilitary (e.g. SWAT team) use, such as fully-automatic weapons, are especially contentious.

It appears that many on both sides of the gun control debate do not realize that fully automatic weapons have been highly restricted in the United States since 1934, available only to police, military personnel, and individuals willing to pay a $200 tax. Further, no new fully automatic firearms have been manufactured for the civilian population, causing the economic rules of supply and demand to drive the prices of existing fully automatic weapons well above the cost of manufacturing and distributing them. [Note to readers: the manufacturing ban on class III weapons for sale to civilians was imposed more recently, not in 1934, and there were various loopholes present until the mid 1990s, allowing for example a private person to legally construct a fully automatic weapon from parts.]

Both sides actively debate the relevance of self-defense in modern society. Some scholars, such as John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime, claim to have discovered a positive correlation between gun control legislation and crimes in which criminals victimize law-abiding citizens. Lott asserts that criminals ignore gun control laws.

Non-defense uses of guns, such as hunting and varmit control, are often lost in the debate despite being the most common reasons for private gun ownership.

In the U.S., the major federal gun control legislation is the 1968 Gun Control Act, passed shortly after the asassination of President John F. Kennedy. The act required that guns carry serial numbers and implemented a tracking system to determine the purchaser of a gun whose make, model, and serial number are known. It also prohibited gun ownership by convicted felons and certain other individuals. The Act was updated in the 1990s, mainly to add a mechanism for the criminal history of gun purchasers to be checked at the point of sale.

A patchwork of laws exists at state and local levels, with the state of Illinois and the city of New York having among the more restrictive limits. Many states implemented criminal background checks or "waiting periods" for handgun (pistol and revolver) purchasers in response to the gun control lobby in the 1980s. More recent lobbying efforts have resulted in the passage of laws making it a crime to leave guns in locations accessible to children.

Recent changes in the political landscape have brought about legislative initiatives to make it legal for common citizens to carry concealed guns with them for defense. Florida was the first such state and many others have followed, with over half the states now having such laws on the books.

The numbers of lives saved or lost by gun ownership are hotly debated. Problems include the difficulty of accounting accurately for confrontations in which no shots are fired, and jurisdictional differences in the definition of "crime". For example, some have argued that American statistics tend to over-count violent crimes, while English statistics tend to under-count them.

Proponents of gun control frequently argue that carrying a concealed pistol would be of no practial use for personal self-defense. Opponents argue that in the US, there are up to one million incidents per year in which a lawfully-armed citizen averts a crime by confronting a would-be attacker with a loaded gun. Those who advance these statistics point out that the deterrent effect would disproportionately benefit women, who are often targets of violent crime.

Gun control advocates insist that personal guns are an avoidable source of domestic accidents. The number of domestic accidents involving handguns is hotly debated, however. For example, a commonly cited statistic concerning "child gun deaths" in actuality includes fatalities of individuals up to 25 years of age, including gang members and armed criminals.

There may be a historical regularity in that totalitarian regimes pass gun control legislation as a first step of their reign of terror. The sequence is supposed to be gun registration, followed some time later by confiscation. Nazi legislation is the most famous example of this sequence, but it also occurred in Marxist regimes.

However, this does not indicate that gun controls inevitably lead to totalitarianism. Gun control advocates point out that countries such as the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia have strict controls on gun ownership with democratic systems of government and low crime rates.

Some persons oppose registration or guns or licensing of gun owners because if captured, the associated records would provide military invaders with a means for locating and eliminating law-abiding, (i.e. patriotic) resistance fighters. Location and capture of such records is a standard doctrine taught to military intelligence officers. The likelihood of invasion is often dismissed.

In the U.S., some of the controversy surrounding this issue is based on interpretation of the Second Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, which (according to gun control advocates) protects the "right to keep and bear arms" only as it relates to "a well-regulated militia," and (according to gun rights advocates) is an absolute guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms.

In fact there are many positions, including those who wish to regulate guns without banning them.

Various terms have been used to describe each side, ranging from positive to neutral to (deliberately?) uncomplimentary:

  • gun control advocates
  • victim disarmament advocates
  • gun control lobby
  • gun control freaks
  • gun nuts
  • gun lobby
  • gun rights advocates


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