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A new Pew Research Center survey attempts to better understand the complex relationship Americans have with guns and how that relationship intersects with their policy views.The survey finds that Americans have broad exposure to guns, whether they personally own one or not. At least two-thirds have lived in a household with a gun at some point in their lives. And roughly seven-in-ten – including 55% of those who have never personally owned a gun – say they have fired a gun at some point. Today, three-in-ten U.S. adults say they own a gun, and an additional 36% say that while they don't own one now, they might be open to owning a gun in the future. A third of adults say they don't currently own a gun and can't see themselves ever doing so.To be sure, experiences with guns aren't always positive: 44% of U.S. adults say they personally know someone who has been shot, either accidentally or intentionally, and about a quarter (23%) say they or someone in their family have been threatened or intimidated by someone using a gun. Half see gun violence as a very big problem in the U.S. today, although gun owners and non-owners offer divergent views on this.Gun owners and non-owners are also deeply divided on several gun policy proposals, but there is agreement on some restrictions, such as preventing those with mental illnesses and those on federal watch lists from buying guns. Among gun owners, there is a diversity of views on gun policy, driven in large part by party affiliation.The nationally representative survey of 3,930 U.S. adults, including 1,269 gun owners, was conducted March 13 to 27 and April 4 to 18, 2017, using the Pew Research Center's American Trends Panel.
This report discusses the impact of gun violence on human life in America from a human rights perspective: the right to life, the security of person, health and mental health, the right to education, the rights of children, the rights of women, and the right to be treated equally under the law. Creating minimum standards for the regulation of firearms to prevent them from being used by individuals to abuse human rights is an important step forward.
The 10 principles provided here, with references for further research and documentation if desired, provide a framework for understanding and promoting sound policies regarding firearms in America.
The Founders of our republic did not think an armed citizenry was the product of a childish infatuation with guns or a response to life on the frontier, and the philosophers who guided them can help us to see why the right to arms continues to deserve its place in our fundamental law. The U.S. Constitution, including the Second Amendment, is a device designed to frustrate the domineering tendencies of the politically ambitious, and the right to keep and bear arms is a vital element of the liberal order that our Founders handed down to us. The Second Amendment also plays an important role in fostering the kind of civic virtue that resists the cowardly urge to trade liberty for an illusion of safety. Armed citizens take responsibility for their own security, thereby exhibiting and cultivating the self-reliance and vigorous spirit that are ultimately indispensable for genuine self-government.
In the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, President Obama and others have called for legislative measures to combat gun violence. So far, most of these proposals have focused on three principal approaches: (1) making all firearms transfers subject to National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) approval, (2) limiting firearm magazine capacity, and (3) banning models of semi-automatic firearms that possess certain "military purpose" features.We strongly support the first of these approaches, which would eliminate the "gun show loophole" and require background checks for private party firearm sales. Instead of bans on magazine capacity and "military purpose" features, however – bans which together are commonly known as an "Assault Weapons Ban" (AWB) – we propose a five-year, renewable "Restricted Firearms License" program for the ownership of handguns, centerfire semi-automatic rifles, and semi-automatic shotguns.
Ten years ago this month, a controversial "concealed- carry" law went into effect in the state of Florida. In a sharp break from the conventional wisdom of the time, that law allowed adult citizens to carry concealed firearms in public. Many people feared the law would quickly lead to disaster: blood would literally be running in the streets. Now, 10 years later, it is safe to say that those dire predictions were completely unfounded. Indeed, the debate today over concealed-carry laws centers on the extent to which such laws can actually reduce the crime rate.To the shock and dismay of gun control proponents, concealed-carry reform has proven to be wildly popular among state lawmakers. Since Florida launched its experiment with concealed-carry in October 1987, 23 states have enacted similar laws, with positive results.Prior to 1987, almost every state in America either prohibited the carrying of concealed handguns or permitted concealed-carry under a licensing system that granted government officials broad discretionary power over the decision to grant a permit. The key feature of the new concealed-carry laws is that the government must grant the permit as soon as any citizen can satisfy objective licensing criteria.Concealed-carry reform reaffirms the basic idea that citizens have the right to defend themselves against criminal attack. And since criminals can strike almost anywhere at any time, the last thing government ought to be doing is stripping citizens of the most effective means of defending themselves. Carrying a handgun in public may not be for everyone, but it is a right that government ought to respect.
Few public policy debates have been as dominated by emotion and misinformation as the one on gun control. Perhaps this debate is so highly charged because it involves such fundamental issues. The calls for more gun restrictions or for bans on some or all guns are calls for significant change in our social and constitutional systems.Gun control is based on the faulty notion that ordinary American citizens are too clumsy and ill-tempered to be trusted with weapons. Only through the blatant abrogation of explicit constitutional rights is gun control even possible. It must be enforced with such violations of individual rights as intrusive search and seizure. It most severely victimizes those who most need weapons for self-defense, such as blacks and women.The various gun control proposals on today's agenda--including licensing, waiting periods, and bans on so-called Saturday night specials--are of little, if any, value as crime-fighting measures. Banning guns to reduce crime makes as much sense as banning alcohol to reduce drunk driving. Indeed, persuasive evidence shows that civilian gun ownership can be a powerful deterrent to crime.The gun control debate poses the basic question: Who is more trustworthy, the government or the people?