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Gun Control Controversy

Updated on March 16, 2013

What is Gun Control?

Gun control is any law or policy that limits or restricts the possession, shipment, production, sale or use of guns amongst private citizens.

The Controversy

High-profile politicians and American citizens are engaged in heated debate about President Obama’s recent request that Congress pass a set of 23 Executive Actions which tighten the restrictions on gun-ownership and distribution in lieu of last year’s mass shootings. The debate is revealing and exploiting the nation’s paranoia about gun legislation and gun-ownership in general.

Gun control proponents argue that widespread gun ownership leads to widespread violence, and gun control opponents argue for their individual rights of self-protection and the freedom to own guns warranted by the Second Amendment. Because the Second Amendment is open to interpretation and because weaponry has evolved since Congress passed the Bill of Rights, the gun control debate is inevitable.

The Second Amendment

The Second Amendment, a part of the United States Bill of Rights, gives Americans the right to gun-ownership and simply states, “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.” Gun rights supporters believe that the amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. By contrast,gun control advocates
believe the Second Amendment was intended to protect only state militias, which today refers to the armed forces of each state, not civilians.

Gun Control History

Though gun rights supporters and gun control advocates have their differences, gun rights and gun control have coexisted in America since the birth of the nation. According to state constitutional law, Americans have always had the right to bear arms. Gun control has been around since the Founding Fathers instituted gun laws that denied gun-ownership to slaves, free blacks in general and white men who would not swear loyalty to the Revolution.

In 1968 after the assassinations of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. Gun control laws for much of American history were used to deny African Americans their rights until 1866 when Congress passed two laws: the Freedmen’s Bureau Act of July 1866, which gave ex-slaves the right to bear arms, and the first Civil Rights Act which made it a federal offense to deprive citizens of their rights based on race.

In 2008 during the District of Colombia v. Heller ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed for the first time that the government cannot completely disarm the citizenry, now or ever. Many gun rights groups and advocates believed that this ruling was a sure sign that they had won their war to end gun control but as of today neither the opponents, nor proponents have claimed victory in the dispute.

Glendale Citizens Engaged in a Heated Gun Control Argument Outside Glendale's Annual Gun Show

Politicians Involved in the Debate

This year gun violence is an issue that has sprung to the forefront of media frenzy. After a movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado and the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School which killed 20 children and 6 staff members, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have become key proponents and high-profile politicians in the current effort to enact gun control legislation.

President Obama has announced 23 executive actions on gun control that he is asking Congress to pass. These laws include: Requiring background checks on gun sales, restoring a ban on military-style assault weapons, and banning gun magazines with capacities of over ten rounds. Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York City is another high-profile advocate who voiced his opinion on the issue saying, “We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns.”

Despite all the powerful political figures who are currently fighting for tighter gun control legislation, the House Republicans will be the ones to decide whether or not Congress passes the gun control bill proposed by Obama and so far the key holders are dodging talks of gun control, hesitantly saying they will compromise, and all-out waging war on gun legislation or infringement of the Second Amendment.

Texas Rep. Steve Stockman is completely against the idea and has vowed to stop any executive orders regarding gun control saying, “by any means necessary, including but not limited to eliminating funding for implementation, defunding the White House, and even articles of impeachment.”

Key Terms

  • Assault Rifle: Generally refers to military-style, semiautomatic rifles which are magazine-fed and can be used in combat.

  • Semiautomatic: Guns that are semiautomatic eject on bullet per trigger squeeze but reload automatically between shots. Most modern guns sold in the U.S. are semiautomatic.

  • Fully-automatic: Guns that are fully-automatic can fire several bullets in quick succession per trigger squeeze.

  • Magazine: A container that encloses ammunition and feeds it into a gun.

Why the Experts Differ

Political motivations for the disagreement involve House Republicans feeling that it is their duty to defend the original Constitution and Bill of Rights by any means necessary. If a high-profile republican defended President Obama’s call for tighter gun legislation which involves the outright banning of military-style assault rifles, this could damage his or her right-wing reputation by supporting legislation that infringes upon the Second Amendment.

There is division on the gun control issue because opponents feel that there is no threat of the government taking over the citizenry if its citizens are armed; it is this same fact that has gun control proponents fighting vehemently for the implementation of gun laws. If arming citizens limits the control of the government, it also limits the control of government agents such as police, a scenario that gun control proponents fear.

By arming the citizenry, domestic defense becomes “privatized” and more responsibility is placed on citizens to defend themselves than is currently placed on the police force. Where one stands on the gun control issue depends largely on whether the concept of privatized domestic security makes him or her feel safer or less safe. In cases of extremity such as, if a riot broke out or a natural disaster occurred, privatized security would prevent police officers from protecting civilians.


The proposal of tighter gun control legislation has arguments with no substantive evidence surfacing, and in many ways the debate is revealing the nation’s paranoia. When gun enthusiasts are faced with the prospect of gun control, they envision a country with a totalitarian government waging war on its own citizenry. When gun control advocates are faced with the prospect of having gun laws vetoed, they envision a country run by a crazed citizens-militia that completely outnumbers government officials. Both visions are outlandish and in all likelihood will never occur.

With Congress deadlocked between Democratic majority in the Senate and Republican majority in the House, compromise holds the key to the nation’s debate. Banning guns is out of the question and so is allowing citizens to own military-style assault rifles without any regulations to control use and distribution. As history reveals, so long as citizens are given the right to own and use guns, gun laws will be in place. The real debate is the question of how much gun control legislation is too much; this question will need to be hashed out by the Senate and the House in the following months.


McMahan, Jeff. “Why Gun ‘Control’ Is Not Enough.” The New York Times. Web. 15 Feb. 2013.

Reeve, Elspeth. “What They’re Saying About Gun Control After the Newtown Shooting.”

The Atlantic Wire: What Matters Now. Web. 14 Feb. 2013.

Scarola, Corey. “Gun Control Debate Beyond Realm of Insanity.” The College Voice. Web. 15

Feb. 2013.

Weigel, David. “The Men Who Would Stop Gun Control.” Slate. Web 13 Feb. 2013.

Weinstein, Adam. “A Non-Gun-Owner’s Guide to Guns.” Mother Jones. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.

Winkler, Adam. “The Secret History of Guns.” The Atlantic. Web. 14 Feb. 2013.


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    • Chelsea Vogel profile image

      Chelsea Vogel 5 years ago from Bradenton Florida

      I doubt he will be able to get any of those executive actions past the House.

    • adambarker97 profile image

      Adam Barker and Dean Barker 5 years ago

      lets see if anything is changed by obama!

    • Alberic O profile image

      Alberic O 5 years ago from Any Clime, Any Place

      Good article. Assault rifles are rifles that can fire both semi automatic and burst/automatic. These rifles are heavily regulated by the ATF (along with machine guns, sub machine guns, automatic pistols, explosives and other dangerous arms) and you cannot own one with out paying special taxes and having a permit.

      Rifles that look like assault rifles but fire semi automatic only are not classified as assault rifles (under federal law and in many states) unless they mean the definition as stated in the first sentence in the 1st paragraph. Mechanically speaking, your civilian AR-15 is not that much different from a typical semi auto .22 rifle.