10 USA Gun Rights Debate Facts - WMNews Ep. 33

10 USA Gun Rights Debate Facts - WMNews Ep. 33

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Angela Fafard

As the United States reels from the June 2015 mass shooting that took place in Charleston, South Carolina, it must once again confront its own gun legislation and culture. Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series from where we break down news stories that might be on your radar. In this instalment, we're counting down 10 crucial facts you should know about the USA gun right debate.

10 USA Gun Rights Debate Facts - WMNews Ep. 33

#10: Where Did the Debate Begin?
The Constitution

The origins of gun culture and its legislation in the United States began with the adoption of the Second Amendment to the Constitution on December 15th, 1791. This amendment granted Americans the right to keep and bear arms, which at the time was integral to a person’s survival. During this period, Americans depended on arms in order to hunt, to deter predators, and to protect themselves from foreign armies and Native Americans. Gun legislation was further enforced with the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment on July 9th, 1868, which banned separate states from making or enforcing any laws that would interfere with the privileges or immunities that were granted to citizens of the United States. These two amendments have worked in tandem to grant each U.S. citizen the continued right to possess guns for self-defense.

#9: What Is the NRA?
The Association

Founded in 1871, the acronym NRA stands for the National Rifle Association of America. It’s a nonprofit organization that promotes gun rights and has lobbied both for and against gun-control legislation throughout its existence. In May 2013, the association boasted 5 million members. It is considered one of the largest lobbying groups in the United States, with a strong influence on gun legislation and lawsuits, and has also supported and criticized various politicians. In 2013, 51% of the members of Congress had received funding from the NRA at some point in their political career. Although the association is nonprofit, it grossed nearly $350 million in revenue that same year, with a large portion derived from contributions, grants, royalties and advertising from various gun industry sources. It has been consistently criticized by newspapers, politicians and gun control advocacy boards for its advertising, its political relationships and its close ties to the gun industry.

#8: Who Is Purchasing Weapons in the U.S.?
The Mainstream

Gun culture in America is a mainstream part of society and as such, it has permeated every social class, race and gender. In fact, one of the biggest drivers of gun sales recently has been the adoption of weapons by women. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, from 2001 to 2013, the number of women who participated in target shooting increased by two-thirds. One theory that attempts to explain this increase connects it to the rise in women as head of the household, because those women might therefore also be in charge of acquiring weapons with which to protect the household. Furthermore, according to a PEW survey, released in July 2014, over a third of Americans with children under the age of 18 have a gun in their household. According to PEW research, as of 2015, there are between 270 and 310 million guns in the United States, approximately one for every citizen.

#7: Where Can You Purchase and Carry a Weapon?
The Legislation

In 1993, the United States passed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which requires gun buyers to pass a background check before purchasing a weapon at gun stores and pawnshops. As of June 2015, there are over 54,000 federally licensed firearms dealers in the country, and over 98% of the population lives within 10 miles of one. However, a loophole to the Brady Bill exists: known as the “gun show loophole,” weapons can be sold and purchased at guns shows without a background check. The Department of Justice estimates that there are 2,000 to 5,000 gun shows held annually, where people are allowed to buy weapons, ammunition, holsters, targets and accessories. When it comes to carrying weapons, varied state laws concerning the right to openly carry, or conceal carry a weapon with or without permits, exist. In states like Vermont, Arizona and Kansas, a person is allowed to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. By contrast, in states like Alabama, Colorado and Maine, a person is allowed to openly carry, meaning have their weapon in plain sight, and do no need a permit to do so either. However, gun control groups like the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, oppose the practice of open carry.

#6: How Profitable Is the Gun Industry?
The Numbers

Analysts have estimated that, as of 2015, the current legal U.S. small arms industry is worth about $8 billion annually. Meanwhile, overall, the gun industry has seen an annual growth rate of over 8% between 2008 and 2013, leading to almost $15 billion in revenue in 2013. There also appears to be a larger production of firearms during Democratic presidencies, as shown by the fact that firearm production increased over 30 percent in 2012, for a total of 8.5 million guns. The theoretical reason for this upsurge is anxiety by gun owners about the increased likeliness that Democratic presidents will enforce stronger gun policies and restrict sales.

#5: How Frequent Are Gun-Related Crimes?
The Deaths

Every year, there are tens of thousands of firearm-related injuries and deaths in the United States. According to the FBI, there were over 8000 firearm-related homicides in 2012. About two-thirds of deaths from guns are suicides. The following year, the United States ranked fourth on the UN Office of Drugs and Crime’s list of worldwide homicide rates, with only Mexico, Turkey, and Estonia ranking higher. Also in 2013, Liberal commentator Mike Shields declared that more Americans have died from firearms in the United States than those who have perished as part of all the wars the country has participated in since 1968, with 1.4 million Americans having died from firearms compared to the 1.2 million who died in warfare.

#4: What Is the Impact of Gun-Related Violence?
The Sales

Increased faith in gun control legislation and the occurrence of gun-related violence like mass shootings actually benefits the gun industry, as these typically lead to a surge in gun sales, with citizens stocking up before regulators can clamp down. The day after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which saw the deaths of 20 children and 6 adults, not including the perpetuator, gun sales rose by over 180% in Connecticut – the state in which the attack occurred. Gun retailers across the United States also saw increased sales of ammunition and firearms. As for the effects of shootings on the victims, witnesses and the community: according to a Princeton report, children who are exposed to gun violence are more likely to experience negative short and long-term effects, such as posttraumatic stress disorder, and these can feed into a violent life cycle.

#3: Is There a Race-Related Gun Divide?
The Racism

According to a July 2014 PEW survey, a troubling paradox has emerged when it comes to gun violence. Although African-Americans are significantly more likely than Caucasians to be killed by guns, they are only half as likely as Caucasians to have a weapon in their households. This is further exemplified by the fact that between 2000 and 2010, the death rate due to firearms was over 18.5% in African-Americans, while it was only 9% in Caucasians. From 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri to 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland Ohio – both in 2014 – to the June 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, the United States has been home to a series of controversial, racially charged deaths.

#2: Why Is the Charleston Church Shooting So Important?
The Spotlight

On June 17th, 2015, a mass shooting occurred at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The attack resulted in the deaths of nine people, including senior pastor and state senator, Clementa C. Pinckney. 21-year-old Dylann Roof was later arrested and charged with nine counts of murder and one count of possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. Unconfirmed reports state that Roof wanted to spark a race war. The shooting has instigated a nationwide debate on the Confederate Flag and whether or not it should remain on statehouse grounds. Previously a symbol of Southern pride and used as a symbol to remember the fallen soldiers of the Civil War, the flag’s meaning has since changed; it is now more of a divisive symbol, with many white supremacist groups adopting the flag as their own. On June 22nd, 2015, the governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, called for the removal of the flag and stated that it “did not represent the future.” Furthermore, the shooting has once again highlighted the racial tensions that have continued to exist in the United States since the colonial era, despite the election of an African-American President in Barack Obama. In fact, a study conducted by ABC News in 2007 found that 1 in 10 Americans admitted to holding prejudices against Hispanic Americans, while a quarter held prejudices against Arab-Americans. Additionally, there is an ongoing debate as to whether or not the Charleston church shooting should be labeled a hate crime or an act of domestic terrorism. As various media outlets quickly pointed out, the term terrorism has not been used by the media when describing this crime, whereas it would have most likely been applied if the alleged shooter had been African-American or Muslim. As of the end of June 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice was still conducting an investigation into the shooting. It was left up to the prosecution to decide whether or not the actions of Dylann Roof qualified as a domestic act of terrorism under U.S. law. On the other hand, pro-gun lobbyists argue that mass shooters typically attack soft targets such as schools and churches, and therefore the only way to stop this from happening, is to arm the staff at these locations. NRA Vice President Wayne Lapierre states that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Nonetheless, the fact that there have been more American lives taken at the hands of armed white American citizens compared to Islamic militants on U.S. soil brings up the issue of the double standard that exists when such acts are seen as lone wolf incidents, and not “terrorism” as well.

#1: Will There Be Stronger Gun-Related Legislation in the Future?
The Future

In the wake of the tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina, President Obama spoke about the NRA’s extremely strong grip on Congress, and said that he did not foresee any legislative action relating to guns being taken in the current Congress. Yet other countries have had similar tragedies with different outcomes: in 1996, Australia suffered a mass shooting in Port Arthur that saw the deaths of 35 people. This led to the passing of stricter gun ownership laws by Prime Minister John Howard, and a subsequent 50% drop in the risk of dying by gunshot. The issue of gun control and gun ownership continues to be a polarizing issue, as it has become inextricably tied to the identity of Americans. The debate will undoubtedly continue to rage as Republicans and Democrats fight in Congress, while trying to appease their political base and campaign supporters.

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