Narratives

Gun Control
Updated:
October 2, 2021
Published:
September 10, 2021

Introduction

The big historical events surrounding the gun control issue. Let’s try to stay away from simply listing all the mass shootings… obviously we should list the important ones but no need to do them all.

Narrative History

In 1791,  the Second Amendment gave citizens the right to bear arms and form a militia to fight against government tyranny. While both parties have stood firm in their beliefs on firearms, bipartisan support for certain gun restrictions exists. 

In 2012, the Democratic Platform stated, "We recognize that the individual right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans' Second Amendment right to own and use firearms." Before that statement, Democrats had not taken a decisive stance on the issue since 1994. That year, after the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, Democrats lost control of both the House and Senate during the midterm elections. Members of the Party attributed the loss to their new gun control agenda, which generated backlash from gun advocates and moderate Democrats. They rarely touched on this issue for the next almost two decades, viewing it as a political third rail. The Party's 2020 platform took a much stronger, more severe stance on gun reform, as it looked to implement stricter regulations on firearms and ban assault weapons.

One of the most important priorities of the Republican Party is the protection of the Second Amendment. That includes supporting all aspects of legal gun ownership (including constitutional carry) while condemning certain Democrat-supported restrictions. Their 2020 platform states, "We oppose federal licensing or registration of law-abiding gun owners, registration of ammunition, and restoration of the ill-fated Clinton gun ban." 

In the past, Democrats and Republicans were able to find legislative common ground, first in the 1980s with acts like the Brady Bill, then again with the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban. Soon after the assault ban, many members within the Republican Party began to staunchly oppose gun control laws -- except for background checks and red flag laws.

Over the last few years, in the wake of more mass shootings, the Right and Left have agreed on the need to decrease mass shooting deaths. While the parties go about this in different ways, they agree on taking steps to deny mentally ill individuals access to firearms and barring gun purchases to those on no-fly/watch lists. Two bipartisan bills regarding background checks have recently passed in the House, bills H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446. These look to expand background checks on guns being purchased or traded and lengthen the background check waiting period from three days to 10 days.

While the two parties remain somewhat polarized, the country as a whole is increasingly supportive of gun control measures. PEW research shows that 53% of Americans favor stricter gun legislation (down 7% since September 2019). A recent poll shows that 84% of all registered voters support implementing background checks for all gun owners. 

Over the last few decades, gun control has become a prominent issue for voters: In the 2020 election, 60% of Trump supporters noted gun policy as their top issue for the election, and 50% of Democrats said that would be an important factor.

As mass shootings and gun-related deaths continue to spike in the United States, it is important to understand both the Left and Right perspectives, evidence they believe in, and why it is hard for both to compromise their beliefs in order to pass unified legislation.

The debate surrounding responses to gun violence exists on a local, state, or federal level. The United States has significantly higher gun-related deaths when compared to other developed nations. In 2019, gun-related homicides accounted for almost 75 percent of all homicides, a number that is generally proportional to the level of gun ownership. The United States has the highest gun ownership proportion globally at 120.5 firearms per 100 residents (120.5%). In England, Canada, and Australia, that proportion was 4 percent, 39 percent, and 22 percent. Under stricter gun laws, other forms of crime do appear to be more prevalent, like knife crimes in London.

Despite the attention gun violence has garnered over the past decades, 2021 is on track to be the deadliest year from gun-related violence since the turn of the century. While it is yet unclear what has caused the rise in gun violence, it has been correlated with various factors: increases in gun sales, inequality, party-related policies, under-policing in cities, and unemployment.

Left Narrative

Narrative Foundations

1. Gun violence is a public health crisis in the United States that can be solved by implementing stricter regulations to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

2. Reducing gun violence, maintaining parts of the Second Amendment, and respecting responsible firearm owners are all possible.

 3. Americans should not have to live their daily lives in constant fear of a potential shooting. 

4. Gun control has been successful for other countries. It is high time we model their legislation and protect our citizens.

"The Left" refers to (and is interchangeable with) the Democratic Party: moderate Liberals and Progressives. While, in reality, the Left isn't a monolithic voting bloc, this topic guide views the Left as a middle-ground aggregate of Progressives and moderate Liberals.

If your news outlets lean left...

You have grown exhausted by the constant news alerts about yet another mass shooting, knowing the tragedy will lead to another failed gun control conversation that will fade within a news cycle. For years, studies and polls show that most Americans favor more substantial gun control; when will the Right compromise and pass proposed legislation? You are frustrated with the Right's constant narrative that you want to take away all of their guns, especially in the wake of shooting after shooting. You do not believe that the best way to mitigate gun violence is to bring more guns into the mix. In fact, that probably seems like a pretty ludicrous solution. The reality is that you may respect responsible gun owners but believe that passing universal background checks and restricting gun access is a higher priority.

Left Narrative

The Democratic platform asserts that to "make gun violence a thing of the past," America needs comprehensive legislation that addresses gun violence related to mental health, suicide, and neighborhood crime. Democrats respect the Second Amendment for responsible gun owners but believe the right to bear arms was intended for militias. There is simply no need for an everyday American citizen to own a military-style weapon. Democrats agree with the decision in D.C. v. Heller that the right to bear arms is not unlimited and should be regulated.

In the past, the Democratic Party has advocated for upholding the Second Amendment rights of responsible gun owners. Recently, they have slowly shifted away from this position to demonstrate their dedication to implementing stricter government policies to protect American citizens from becoming victims of gun violence. Democrats are committed to ending the gun violence epidemic by...

  • Viewing gun violence as a comprehensive, pressing public health issue. This means tackling suicide rates, expanding mental health accessibility, protecting domestic violence victims, and reducing neighborhood gun violence. 
  • Implementing universal background checks and ending online sales of firearms to close various purchasing loopholes.
  • Reinstating a ban on assault weapons to reduce the potential damage a shooter can inflict.
  • Combating crime and violence with restrictive gun legislation rather than with more guns. As the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, gun sales skyrocketed due to personal safety fears. The FBI processed 39.7 million firearm background checks in 2020 alone, the highest number ever recorded. Adding more firearms to the mix will only create more fear and violence.

Studies show that gun restrictions like buyback programs and automatic and semi-automatic weapon bans are effective in other countries. In Switzerland, legislation reduced the size of the Swiss Army and created a gun license requirement. It made it harder to purchase weapons after discharge, and firearm suicide rates of men between ages 18-43 immediately decreased. In 1997, 81 gun deaths in the U.K. led to the Firearms Amendment Act, which banned all handguns, later allowing them with strict licensing. In 2017, gun deaths had dropped to 15. It is not just in other countries, though; U.S. studies have found that stricter firearm laws will save American lives as well.

  • Harvard University's School of Public Health published a study addressing rates of firearm ownership and suicides. The study found that in states where firearms were more common, suicide rates were 3.7 times higher for men and 7.9 times higher for women. Suicide rates were lower in states where citizens did not own as many guns. 
  • A report from Everytown, a gun-control organization, found that 32% of all mass shooting deaths (2008-218) were the result of an assault weapon. If the Federal Assault Weapons Ban had been renewed, it could have prevented 314 of 448 mass shooting deaths after 2004, or 70% fewer deaths overall.
  • Another 2019 study analyzed 25 years of national data on ten different state laws across the country. States with universal background checks on all gun sales saw homicide rates decrease by 15%, and laws prohibiting convicted felons from owning firearms correlated with an 18% drop in homicides.

The other side...

The Right says that guns don't kill people; people kill people. They argue that most perpetrators in mass shootings were mentally unstable. The Right thinks the Left's attempt to restrict guns will not lower gun-related deaths. A study researching the correlation found that out of 35 mass shootings studied, 28 of the shooters had an untreated mental illness. While the study acknowledges that most violent people are not mentally ill, untreated mental illness should nonetheless be taken seriously and addressed whenever possible. Democrats have a comprehensive plan, as part of their Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gun Crime and Ensure Public Safety, to encompass accessibility and funding for mental health through the American Resule Plan Funds as well as to implement gun restrictions, like H.R. 1446, so that the background check waiting period is extended. That extended period allows for a "cool off" period to limit impulsive, violent responses and actions. While it is crucial to get firearms out of the hands of those with a mental illness, gun restrictions like background checks are necessary to mitigate that problem before it even arises. Aiding treatment to those who need it will not sufficiently mitigate gun violence in America today.

“The Right” refers to and is interchangeable with the Republican Party: moderate Conservatives and Traditionalists. While, in reality, the Right isn’t a monolithic voting bloc, this topic guide treats the Right as a middle-ground aggregate of moderate Conservatives and Traditionalists.

If your news outlets lean Right...

You  feel that left-leaning voters are attacking your fundamental right to keep and bear arms. You utilize guns to protect yourself, your family, and your property.  You may be sympathetic to certain restrictions that might prevent mass murders -- such as magazine restrictions and bans on automatic weaponry/bump stocks -- but are upset that the Left uses the deaths of individuals to try and restrict your rights.  You probably agree with a Republican or Libertarian stance regarding the Second Amendment and dislike any significant attempts to restrict gun ownership.

Right Narrative

The Republican platform states, "Lawful gun ownership enables Americans to exercise their God-given right of self-defense for the safety of their homes, their loved ones, and their communities." The Republican Party stands behind the Supreme Court decisions in Heller and McDonald and supports constitutional carry in every state. The primary position of the GOP is a staunch stance against depriving individuals of their firearms without due process. The Republican Party opposes "federal licensing or registration of law-abiding gun owners, registration of ammunition, and gun bans."

 To ensure the safety and freedoms of the United States, the Republican Party's priorities include:

  • Fortifying school security to deter criminal shootings. This includes allowing teachers to practice concealed carry and eliminating "gun-free zones." 
  • Promote constitutional carry in every state, preventing the unnecessary arrests of individuals who struggle to obtain a legal firearm. Strict gun laws turn many Americans who wish to protect themselves into criminals for simple possession.
  • Promote the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act to allow individuals who have a permit from one state to carry a firearm legally in another. This Act will prevent legal gun owners from being arrested for crossing state lines.
  • Focus on a mental health crisis, not a gun crisis. Many mass shooters are on antidepressants and have shown signs of mental degradation. 

The truth is that guns save lives and are an excellent deterrent against crime. Gun ownership has prevented millions of crimes and was instrumental in cases such as the Sutherland Church shooting and Roof Koreans. Gun ownership does not just prevent crime; it makes Americans feel safe. In 2020, gun ownership surged 64% (nearly 23 million guns sold) amidst lockdowns and uncertainty. Some states saw an even more significant increase: Michigan firearm sales shot up by 300%. 

The Foundation for Economic Education recently published a report that examined gun crime in greater detail:

  • Guns prevent an estimated 2.5 million crimes a year, or 6,849 every day. Most often, the gun is never fired.
  • Every year, 400,000 life-threatening violent crimes are prevented using firearms.
  • Sixty percent of convicted felons admitted that they avoided committing crimes when they knew the victim was armed. Forty percent of convicted felons admitted that they avoided committing crimes when they thought the victim might be armed. 

 America does not have a problem with gun violence; it has a problem with poorly run liberal cities with rampant crime. Firearm restrictions will not prevent mass murders from occurring but will prevent lawful citizens from defending themselves from mass murders. Enacting restrictions on private ownership of firearms contrary to the Second Amendment leaves individuals at the mercy of mass murderers. As a result, their only recourse is to wait for authorities to arrive after irreversible damage has been done.

The other side...

The Left’s narrative of "common sense" gun control is based on the non-partisan, rational objective to end gun violence, prevent tragedies and keep Americans safe. However, their policies focus on the wrong aspects of guns, such as appearance rather than the caliber or capacity.  The Democrat party and the media often point towards guns as the cause of mass shootings rather than the perpetrator.  In similarly tragic mass killings, such as the deaths of at least 207 people and the injury of at least 1,133 others from vehicular terrorist attacks since 2006, the driver is blamed, not the truck.  This fundamental divide makes finding compromises between the parties incredibly difficult.

Left-wing arguments can be uninformed, such as CNN releasing a  video on "full-semi-automatic," although "full-semi-auto" does not exist.  Another instance of the “guns are scary” narrative comes from USA Today’s unreasonable video on chainsaw bayonet attachments.  Stories like these do not help solve gun violence but instead cause upsurges in divisiveness.  This divisiveness is then perpetuated by activist groups such as March for Our Lives when they controversially would not let a victim's brother speak because he sided with Republican politicians who were blamed by activists for the shooting.

Republicans agree that mass shootings are tragic events that must be stopped but disagree on the effectiveness of Democratic proposals. Right-leaning individuals are also wary of trusting Democrats on gun issues due to the inaccuracies in the media and rhetoric of the politicians. Republicans care about the facts of how guns operate, the unrealistic nature of restrictive firearm laws in a country with over 400 million guns, and measures to stop mass shootings quickly or before they start without infringing on the rights of lawful gun owners.

Right Narrative

Narrative Foundations

1. "The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."

2. Historically, the United States has experienced government tyranny that an armed populace could have prevented.

3. The armament of US citizens is fundamental to national security and the deterrence of foreign invasion.

4. Firearms are the great equalizer for self-defense. They provide equal opportunity for Americans to defend themselves against aggressors who could otherwise overpower them.

5. The proper policy solution to gun violence is to "let good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns." Security originates when citizens can arm themselves and prevent wrongdoers from breaking the law.

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