From the objectivist point of view, a social problem is a social phenomenon or particular behavior that negatively impacts individuals, groups, or society. The subjectivist side of social problems focuses on reasons that drive society to recognize a particular issue as a social problem. Although more Americans were killed at home via gun homicide than terrorist attacks, there is a lack of consolidation among people to demand gun regulations (Zevallos). Nevertheless, gun violence currently constitutes a social, political, and human rights crisis in the US that should be addressed both by the government and society. While Democrats and Republicans struggle to agree on a joint solution, the easily accessible weapons claim the lives of more than 38,000 Americans annually (Amnesty International Report). Changes to legislation and regulations regarding firearm ownership, storage, and possession, together with extensive social work, are the most promising solutions to this day.
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Why Is It Important?
Lack of state regulations and uncontrolled gun circulation are the main risk factors of the firearm violence crisis. Events of mass killings, attacks, suicides, and the mere presence of guns threaten people’s physical conditions and their long-term psychological state as they constantly fear for their lives. Women and communities of color suffer a disproportional impact of violence committed using guns. What is more, firearm violence has negative correlations with human rights to health care and education. Often, individuals who live in vulnerable communities are afraid to attend public facilities due to the threat of gun attacks.
The related statistics prove the notion that the US currently suffers from a gun violence crisis. For instance, in 2016, more than 116,000 Americans were non-fatally injured using firearms (Amnesty International Report). The report also highlighted that gun violence is a leading cause of death among males representing communities of color aged 15-30. They are also 20 times more likely to be shot dead compared to their white peers.
Easy access to legal or illegal guns, especially assault rifles, often results in mass shootings that psychologically battered the whole community. The deadliest one in US history occurred in Las Vegas in 2017 when a lone gunman shot down 59 people and injured more than 500 (Jenkins). It was identified that the shooter customized his AR-15 with a bump stock converting it into a fully automatic rifle. According to Berlinger, during the past week, at least seven mass shooting events took place across the US, reviving the debate over gun control measures. For instance, on March 22, 2021, the supermarket shooting in Boulder, Colorado, claimed ten lives, including a police officer (Berlinger). It was also revealed that approximately 40,000 were killed due to gun violence in 2019.
It seems to be a tough challenge to find a solution as political powers continue their fierce debate over the issue. Republicans and their supporters claim that any gun control would violate the rights provided in the Second Amendment. For that reason, the Trump administration was reluctant to address the gun violence issue adequately. The only significant legal change under Trump was a prohibition of already mentioned bump stocks. Democrats, on the contrary, are in favor of extensive legal control of guns to protect the most vulnerable communities. For instance, the Democratic majority of the Senate passed two gun-control measures regarding the background check process back in 2019 (McPherson). However, it should be mentioned that Senate had already rejected two bills designed to enhance background check measures for purchases of firearms in 2015 and 2013.
Despite the current political dominance of Democrats, balancing gun rights and gun safety will be a severe challenge to Biden and his administration. The list of most appropriate solutions includes sensible gun laws, mandatory licensing and training for owners, the establishment of a national culture of gun safety, and the implementation of community safety plans. In terms of the legislature, the first step should prohibit military-grade weapons, particularly semi-automatic assault rifles. The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 1994 which expired in 2004 must be revised and reinstituted immediately. Despite the loopholes in the text, the Department of Justice identified that ten years of the ban resulted in a 17% drop in the number of crimes involving automatic firearms (Keneally). The US is also known for the lack of licensing and national registration measures.
For that reason, there is a need for a national law that regulates registering and licensing of firearms accompanied by comprehensive background checks. The literature research revealed that the evidence that background check measures reduce the total homicides and violent crimes is inconclusive (Morral). Nevertheless, there was moderate evidence confirming that dealer background checks decrease gun-related homicides. What is more, fugitive status checks and mental illness checks are positively associated with lower numbers of homicides and violent crime arrests. Community safety plans that involve such measures as reducing alcohol outlet density, economic development of neighborhoods, safe park creation, and increasing youth employment can prevent shootings and killings. For example, Blueprint for Action to Prevent Youth Violence resulted in a 62% decrease in Minneapolis youth gun violence victims (Morral). It also reduced the number of arrests of young people caught with guns by 76%.
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To conclude, gun violence is a current social problem that, if not addressed, will claim more lives of innocent people and terrorize vulnerable communities. Changes to federal legislation and the implementation of gun control measures are the best solutions available. Social activists should exert pressure on the government to initiate needed bills to establish proper licensing, registering, and background check systems. Although there is no evidence of background checks’ impact on total homicides, other measures significantly reduce gun-related crimes.
“Amnesty International Report Declares Gun Violence in the United States to be a Human Rights Crisis.” Amnesty International, Web.
Berlinger, Josh. “The Colorado Attack is the 7th Mass Shooting in 7 days in the US.” CNN, 2021, Web.
Jenkins, Aric. “Many Mass Shootings in America Have 1 Thing in Common: AR-15 Rifles.” 2018, Web.
Keneally, Meghan. “Understanding the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and Why it Ended.” ABC News, Web,
McPherson, Lindsey. “The House Passed 2 Gun Control Bills, but Democrats Aren’t in a Rush to do More.” Roll Call, Web.
Morral, R. Andrew. “Effects of Background Checks on Violent Crime.” Rand Corporation, Web.
Zevallos, Zuleyka. “Defining Gun Control as a Social Problem.” Othersociologist.com, 2016, Web.