Gun Control in the United States

It goes without saying that the United States has a gun problem. One of the most prevalent types of mass shootings in the United States are school shootings. According to the website BallotPedia, there have been a total of 153 school shootings in the country since 1990, the most recent being at Aztec High School on December 8th, 2017, where two students were killed ( Notably, this shooting barely made national news.

The current debate around gun control is generally split into two major camps. Those who are anti-gun control often choose to use an argument surrounding the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution. The 2nd Amendment is as follows:

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.

Often, those who are anti-gun control tend to have strong values around the culture and the symbol of the gun itself. According to scholar Kevin H. Wozniak, “people who favor private gun ownership and oppose gun control (especially efforts to ban gun possession) do so because they are skeptical of government power and believe in ‘rugged individualism.’”(260). These ideals of freedom and individuality reckon back to the 2nd Amendment.

Those in the other camp, pro-gun control, are of the belief that in recent years, the number of deaths by mass shooting or other gun violence is too high, and the ease of which people have access to these guns is frightening. (260-261) These people tend not to be gun owners themselves, and there is less of a cultural connection to the guns due to this.

Political commentator Dan Hodges put recent feelings concerning the pro-gun control party best when he tweeted: “In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.” The United States gun control debate is volatile and constant, yet the government seems to be at a stalemate surrounding these issues.

The comfort that the United States has with school shootings has reached remarkable levels. The NRA, the largest civil rights group working towards upholding the right to bear arms, reportedly gave over $800,000 dollars to political candidates in the 2016 election cycle. (

When the 2nd Amendment was written, the newly forming United States was fighting off an oppressive government. It goes without saying that without the use of the military technology at the time the founding fathers would not have had the opportunity to build this country, and it is natural that upholding the “right to bear Arms” would be important to them. However, the difference of bearing arms to protect and defend oneself for the country in a time of political strife and war seems vastly different than making guns easily accessible to those who have the intention of slaying children. Overall, the connection between the freedom that the Constitution mentions and those who are anti-gun control is valid, and the desire for protection is logical.

However, this argument does not take into account the violent and oppressive history that guns have had in some less than protective ways in the United States. Western expansion used guns against the Native peoples in violent manners. For example, the Massacre at Wounded Knee caused the death of upwards of 150 Lakota people, according to historian Robert Marshall Utley. Scholars Katherine L. Reedy-Maschner and Herbert D. G. Maschner state that “except for a single case of traditional weaponry winning over guns, those with guns were always on the offensive against those without guns,” (727). White frontiersmen used guns to oppress and steal land, not to defend.

Taking humans out of the equation directly, Western settlers were also responsible for the slaughter of up to 31,000,000 bison in the West (124), nearly eradicating a species and demolishing a food source for natives, according to scholars Dave Arthun and Jerry L. Holecheck. Although the gun control debate centers around hunting as well, the lack of regulations for hunting these bison did lasting damage to the environment and the native people’s culture. These settlers hunted for commercial purposes - the guns here were used in no way against oppressive government. There is a difference between owning a gun and hunting for sport than irresponsibly slaughtering millions of animals for profit.

The changing technology of guns from the time that the 2nd Amendment was written to today is also something to consider. Automatic weapons, which according to writer Robert Spitzer are defined as  - “those capable of firing bullets in rapid succession,” (59) - were not around until the beginning of the 20th century, when the World War pushed for the new technology. The increased ease of purchasing a more deadly weapon has only increased deadliness for Americans concerning gun violence.

In conclusion, the argument that guns are used to protect against the oppressed is not based in history. Although weaponry may be necessary for war, the history of the United States has shown that guns are used for violence, not for revolution.

Written by Abigail Sherlock, Film and Television Production, Class of '20.

Gun Control in the United States