America is the land of Freedom, Liberty and Mass Shootings. According to the Second Amendment of the United States of America’s constitution; ‘A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the Security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’ Twenty-seven words that gave its citizens the right to own guns, but also established a culture of more deaths by fellow citizens armed with guns. More than in any other high-income nation in the world.
Gun Laws of the United States of America, found in many federal statutes enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF). In addition to this, all the individual U.S. states, including local governments, have laws regulating firearms. Americans own nearly half (48%) of the estimated 650 M civilian-owned guns worldwide. According to a 2009 National Institute of Justice report, the number of firearms available to American civilians is the largest, estimated at around 310 million. India is home to the second-largest civilian firearm stockpile, estimated at 46 million.
Americans own the most guns per person in the world, about 4 in 10 saying they either own a gun or live in a home with guns, according to a 2017 Pew Centre Study 48% of Americans said they grew up in a house with guns. According to a survey, a majority of 66% of U.S. gun owners own multiple firearms, with nearly three-quarters of gun owners saying they couldn’t imagine not owning one. The U.S. has less than 5% of the world’s population, between 35% to 50% of the world’s civilian-owned guns. Most states have either forbid or adjusted laws surrounding ‘open carry’, the carrying of guns in public. But most have weakened their laws in recent years.
In February 2011, Swiss citizens voted in a referendum calling for a national gun registry, and the public arsenal should be used to store firearms owned by members of the military. Switzerland’s rate of gun ownership is subsequently lower than America’s. According to Gunpolicy.org, the rate in Switzerland is roughly one gun per four people, whereas in the U.S. it’s more than one per person.
Back in the U.S., 31 states allow the open carrying of a handgun without any license or permit, although in some cases the gun must be unloaded. 15 states require some form of license or permit to carry a handgun openly. States like California, Florida, and Illinois and the District of Columbia prohibit people from openly carrying firearms in public. Whereas New York and South Carolina prohibit openly carrying handguns but not long guns, while Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Jersey prohibit openly carrying long guns but not handguns.
Some states have laid off when it comes to gun restrictions. These include Arizona, Alaska, Wyoming, Kansas, Vermont, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Nevada. According to the Law Centre to Prevent Gun Violence’s 2016 Gun Law State Scorecard, these states (excluding Nevada) have the fewest gun restrictions. Let’s look at what they are.
- There are a few restrictions on gun ownership and sales in Arizona. You don’t need a permit to purchase a handgun or rifle, and the state doesn’t require ownership registration. You can carry a handgun, either concealed or openly without a permit.
- Alaska residents can carry a gun openly or concealed without a permit. Local governments don’t have the authority to regulate firearms. According to the Law Centre to Prevent Gun Violence, there are no limits on the amount of the number of guns you can purchase at once or waiting periods before gun purchases.
- Wyoming earned the ‘F’ rating on the Law Centre to Prevent Gun Violence’s scorecard due to their loose gun laws. (It’s one of 26 states that received a failing grade from the organisation.) The fact that you can carry a concealed weapon without a permit is the lesser of two evils. The state is one of the few that does not have a law requiring information regarding mentally ill individuals to report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or an in-state database. Wyoming’s governor vetoed a bill in early 2017, allowing people to carry concealed at government meetings. He did sign into law a measure that allows schools to decide whether employees can carry weapons.
- According to Guns & Ammo, Kansas has become one of the strongest states for gun owners in the nation. It doesn’t require a permit to carry a concealed weapon; open carry is legal as well. Public employees (except for those who work in schools) are now permitted to carry concealed weapons while working, but students can carry concealed weapons on campuses of public universities and colleges. Gun buyback programs funded by taxpayers are prohibited. The state ranks 48 out of 50 on the Law Centre to Prevent Gun Violence’s state scorecard.
- Vermont has a reputation as a liberal state but is the second most gun-friendly state in the U.S. according to Guns & Ammo. It’s the only state where people as young as 16 can purchase certain types of guns, and no law prevents people from bringing guns into places of worship, bars or restaurants where alcohol is available, or polling booths. Unlike most other states in the Northeast, there are no laws regulating firearm sales at gun shows. In fact, recent efforts to impose more restrictions on guns received strong opposition.
- Kentucky ranks fifth on Guns & Ammo’s list of firearm-friendly states. While you do need a permit to carry a handgun in the Bluegrass State, state laws state a permit to be issued to anyone who fulfils the basic requirement. Kentucky doesn’t have laws banning people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanours or subject to domestic violence protective orders from possessing firearms (Federal Law does permit them from owning guns).
- Mississippi ranked last on the Law Centre to Prevent Gun Violence’s state scorecard because you don’t require permits to carry a firearm, either openly or concealed. Despite this, the state has recently loosened some of its restrictions on guns.
- Utah’s loose gun laws earned the state an ‘F’ rating on the Law Centre to Prevent Gun Violence’s state scorecard. It doesn’t require the reporting of mentally ill individuals to the database used for firearm background checks and forbids local governments from enacting gun laws it also doesn’t require the reporting of lost or stolen firearms.
- South Carolina ranked 14th on Guns & Ammo’s list of firearm-friendly states and received ‘nearly top marks in every category, with no restrictions on what types of firearms can be owned or possessed in the state.’ It also earned an ‘F’ rating on the Law Centre to Prevent Gun Violence’s state scorecard. It also denies law enforcement discretion to deny a concealed handgun permit.
The state of Nevada has some of the most relaxed laws in the country according to the National Rifle Association. Not only do gun owners not need a permit to purchase rifles, shotguns or handguns and they don’t need a licence to obtain or register said weapons. It’s legal to carry while drinking alcohol, up to a blood alcohol concentration of .10 and it’s legal to carry in a restaurant. No permit is needed to carry rifles or shotguns; just handguns, it’s legal to own a machine gun if it complies with federal law. And we wonder why the Las Vegas shooting happened last year.
What does the president have to say about this? Trump has always been a supporter of the Second Amendment and made it part of his election campaign to protect people’s rights to own and carry guns. He has repeated the National Rifle Association’s assertion that the best way to combat a bad guy with a gun is to put more guns in the hands of the good guys. Recently there has been more pressure on Trump to change the gun control laws after the Florida shooting and Trump tweeted saying that he would be strongly pushing to end the sale of bump stocks, which allows faster firing and raise the purchase age to 21. Immediately after this tweet, he was seen lauding the NRA, which opposes both.
People always say America is a land of greatness, but for a while now people only know it as the land of mass shootings and terrible gun control laws. 317 mass shooting took place in 2017 alone. How many more lives must be lost under a strict gun control law to be implemented? How many kids must lose their innocence before there’s an even better system in place? To truly make America great again, it first must be rescued from the grasps of gun violence. Click the links below to find out about gun control laws and help support an important cause.
The Land of Mass Shootings is part 1 of a 3-part series. Stay tuned for the second part; out next week.