This article, ‘Gun Control in United States’ by Antariksh Anant starts with examining the gun debate in America which is often framed as a stand-off between two immutable positions with little potential to move ahead with meaningful legislative reform. Attempts to resolve this impasse have been thwarted by thinking about gun ownership attitudes as based on rational choice… Read More »

This article, ‘Gun Control in United States’ by Antariksh Anant starts with examining the gun debate in America which is often framed as a stand-off between two immutable positions with little potential to move ahead with meaningful legislative reform. Attempts to resolve this impasse have been thwarted by thinking about gun ownership attitudes as based on rational choice economics instead of considering the broader socio-cultural meanings of guns. In this essay, an...

This article, ‘Gun Control in United States’ by Antariksh Anant starts with examining the gun debate in America which is often framed as a stand-off between two immutable positions with little potential to move ahead with meaningful legislative reform.

Attempts to resolve this impasse have been thwarted by thinking about gun ownership attitudes as based on rational choice economics instead of considering the broader socio-cultural meanings of guns. In this essay, an additional psychological perspective is offered that highlights how concerns about victimization and mass shootings within a shared culture of fear can drive cognitive bias and motivated reasoning on both sides of the gun debate.

Despite common fears, differences in attitudes and feelings about guns themselves manifest in variable degrees of support for or opposition to gun control legislation that are often exaggerated within caricatured depictions of polarization.

Introduction to Gun Control

Do guns kill people or do people kill people?

Answers to this riddle draw a bright line between two sides of a caricatured debate about guns in polarized America. One side accepts that guns are a danger to public wellbeing, while the other accepts that they are a fundamental apparatus of self-defence.

One side can’t fathom why more gun control enactments have not been passed in the wake of an upsetting increase in mass shootings in the US and eyes Australia’s 1996 sweeping gun reform and New Zealand’s later limitations with envy.

The other, supported by the Constitutional right to remain battle ready and the incredible campaign of the National Rifle Association (NRA), fears the elusive slant of legislative change and will not yield an inch while undermining, “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my chilly, dead hands”. With the country at a stalemate, significant government gun enactment pointed toward decreasing firearm violence stays subtle.[1]

Discussions about mass shootings in the United States, especially school shootings, ought not be a transitory reflection. Maybe, these shootings should provoke persistent activity from residents until something powerful is finished. Quit rehashing past blunders, like zeroing in on who, for sure, to fault.[2]

Doubtlessly, the impulse behind the shootings can’t be found in a solitary reason yet is rather a crossing point of numerous issues: psychological wellness issues, a culture of violence, gun guidelines, the results of neediness, and so on Maybe the most major problem is the failure to build up an exchange between completely elaborate gatherings to discover sensible arrangements.

The Second Amendment

The right to keep and bear arms was added to the United States Constitution as part of the Bill of Rights, which was ratified on December 15, 1791. The precise meaning and purpose of the Second Amendment has been a subject of frequent debate.

Gun control advocates argue that when the newly founded country adopted the Second Amendment in 1791, each state maintained a militia composed of ordinary citizens who served as part-time soldiers. According to the amendment, these militias were “well regulated”—subject to state requirements concerning training, firearms, and periodic military exercises.

Fearing that the federal government would use its standing army to force its will on the states, the authors of the Second Amendment intended to protect the state militias’ right to bear arms.[3] According to some gun control supporters, in modern times, the amendment should protect only the states’ right to arm their own military forces, including their National Guard units.

Gun rights advocates interpret the Second Amendment as the guarantee of a personal right to keep and bear arms. They assert that the amendment protects the general population, who were viewed as part of the general militia at the time of the amendment’s drafting, as distinguished from the “select militia,” which would have been controlled by the state.

Colonial law required every household to possess arms and every male of military age to be ready for military emergencies, bearing his own arms. Therefore, in guaranteeing the arms of each citizen, the amendment simultaneously guaranteed arms for the militia.

Gun rights advocates further maintain that the term “right of the people” in the Second Amendment holds the same meaning as it does in the First Amendment, which guarantees such individual liberties as the freedom of religion and freedom of assembly.[4]

Is Mental Heath a Factor?

Mental health is a topic that requires more attention (not only) taking into account that avoidance ought to be the foundation of the pyramid of procedures. Financing for programs can’t be restricted to care, but should also focus on prevention, and projects for youngsters previously experiencing mental illness.

With this regard, there is a possibly wrecking hole in mental health administrations in the United States. A huge number of grown-ups have behavioural conditions, including no less than 3,000,000 with genuine mental health conditions that are not getting treatment.

In 2015, 63% of ~34 million grown-ups with gentle and moderate conditions were unattended and 89% of ~20 million grown-ups required substance misuse treatment. Services given to these adults demonstrate an absence of services in the earlier year with just 20% grown-ups (any mental health conditions), 40% (genuine mental health condition), and 90% (substance use administrations) getting care.[5]

Large numbers of these people need alternatives for mind and go to crisis administrations representing 3–4% of all crisis administrations gave. To blame violent acts up on mental health issues may be incorrect. Actually just 3–5% of all violent demonstrations are submitted by individuals with serious mental illness.

Also, people with mental health issues are multiple times bound to be survivors of a rough wrongdoing when contrasted and everyone[6]. Nonetheless, numerous individuals with mental health issues are right now detained. Jails have progressively become the country’s mental health treatment offices holding people blamed for smaller wrongdoings, for example, intruding, trespassing, or burglary.

Alongside restricted alternatives for care, there is a shortage of projects that take deterrent measures toward people where aberrations doubtlessly add to mental or social issues.

Eminent Court Decisions

The US Supreme Court has heard a few cases concerning themselves with the Second Amendment and laws that endeavour to manage it. In 1934, Congress passed the National Firearms Act (NFA), the nation’s first significant federal gun control enactment, which was tested in the Supreme Court within five years of its passing.

The law required the enrolment of specific firearms, forced duties on the deal and production of firearms, and confined the deal and responsibility for hazard weapons, for example, automatic rifles and sawed-off shotguns.

In United States v. Mill operator (1939), the court maintained the NFA. The case included the highway transportation of an unregistered sawed-off shotgun, a most loved weapon of criminals during this time.

The court inferred that the NFA’s guidelines on the highway deal and transport of specific firearms, like the sawed-off shotgun being referred to, didn’t abuse the Second Amendment in light of the fact that such firearms don’t have a “sensible relationship to the safeguarding or proficiency of a very much controlled volunteer army.”

In two different decisions, the Supreme Court maintained New Jersey’s severe gun control law in Burton v. Ledges (1969) and upheld the federal prohibition on ownership of firearms by criminals in Lewis v. US (1980). The Miller administering set a trend for the court’s translation of the Second Amendment.

Through the rest of the 20th century, lower circuit courts referred to the Miller choice by and large, keeping up with that the option to remain battle ready identified with individuals in dynamic, controlled state watchman or volunteer army units.[7]

The Supreme Court reversed course in 2008, nonetheless, on account of District of Columbia v. Heller. In this case, the court decided that the Second Amendment denies the federal government from making it illicit for private individuals to keep stacked handguns in their homes.

It was the primary Supreme Court choice to unequivocally decide that the Second Amendment secures an individual, individual right to keep and carry weapons. The case meant a significant advancement in firearms enactment however left numerous inquiries unanswered.

For instance, defenders of an attack rifle boycott contend that the choice just applies to handguns, while gun rights advocates fight that the Constitution stretches out the individual right to all firearms. Gun rights advocates have likewise utilized federal courts to challenge state limitations, like necessities for giving permits to convey disguised weapons in broad daylight.

In 2014, a three-judge board for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided that California’s prerequisites for getting such a grant were illegal under the Second Amendment in Peruta v. San Diego. The case was contended a subsequent time, nonetheless, before a bigger board of judges. A similar court reversed its choice in 2016 and decided that the Constitution didn’t deny such limitations.[8]

Clashing decisions have prompted disarray over the law, which, gun rights advocates contend, requires the Supreme Court to make an authoritative decision. In January 2017, the offended parties recorded an appeal for the case to progress as needs be. The Supreme Court, nonetheless, reported in June 2017 that it would not hear the situation, permitting California to keep its limitations set up.


It is unclear if only regulations can resolve this complex problem instead it is necessary to have a dialog where all interested parties have a voice and an interest to solve the problem using a holistic approach. The best approach should place responsibility where it belongs and should not place the interests of a few over the benefit of all.

We need to support the movement that has emerged from the aftermath of the Parkland High School shooting and actively pursue solutions to mass shootings, regardless of ideology, profession, or financial interest.

This might include a multidisciplinary approach to the problem that brings different issues to the debate, such as mental health services and mental health prevention funding, programs to increase access to resources for at risk youth, and a reasonable approach to gun control.

Let us not to forget that we are obligated as society to provide our youth with positive role models, a sense of safety, and hope for the future.[9]

Coming full circle to the riddle, “Do guns kill people or do people kill people?”, a psychologically informed perspective rejects the question as a false dichotomy that can be resolved by the statement, “people kill people… with guns”.

It likewise suggests a way forward by acknowledging both common fears and individual differences beyond the limited, binary caricature of the gun debate that is mired in endless arguments over disputed facts.

For meaningful legislative change to occur, the debate must be steered away from its portrayal as two immutable sides caught between not doing anything on the one hand and enacting sweeping bans or repealing the 2nd Amendment on the other.


[1] Lemieux F. Effect of Gun Culture and Firearm Laws on Gun Violence and Mass Shootings in the United States: A Multi-Level Quantitative Analysis. International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences.2014;9.

[2] Morrall A. The science of gun policy: a critical synthesis of research evidence on the effects of gun policies in the United States. Rand Health Q 2018;8:5.pmid: 30083426

[3]Hemenway D. Private Guns, Public Health.University of Michigan Press, 2006.

[4] Reiss F. Socioeconomic inequalities and mental health problems in children and adolescents: a systematic review. Soc Sci Med (2013) 90:24–31.10.1016/ j.socscimed.2013.04.026

[5] Johnson SR, Muchmore S. Mental health and gun violence meet at a bumpy crossroad. Mod Health (2016) 46(2):10–1.

[6] John JM. Montgomery’s Mental-Health Courts Need More Support. (2017). Available Here (Accessed: February 26, 2018).

[7] Shah N. Bills advance on school security, mental health. Educ Week (2013) 32(28):19–21.

[8] Gius M. The effects of state and Federal gun control laws on school shootings. Appl Econ Lett (2018) 25(5) :317–20.10.1080/ 13504851.2017.1319555

[9] Kaufman EJ, Morrison CN, Branas CC, Wiebe DJ. State firearm laws and interstate firearm deaths from homicide and suicide in the United States: a cross-sectional analysis of data by county. JAMA Intern Med2018; 178:692-700. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.0190 pmid:29507953

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Updated On 28 July 2021 5:08 AM GMT
Antariksh Anant

Antariksh Anant

Antariksh is an avid researcher. Institution: RGNUL - Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law Patiala, Punjab, India.

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