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Source Information: http://www.faqs.org/health/topics/9/Gun-control.html

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Gun Control
The headlines could not be believed: two teenage boys had opened fire in their Colorado high school, killing 12 fellow students and a teacher. That incident at Columbine, on April 20, 1999, following a number of other shootings in schools and workplaces, has led to an increase in the number of people calling for strict gun control legislation. Gun control is a term that describes the use of law to limit people's access to handguns, shotguns, rifles, and other firearms, through passing statutes that require, for example, gun purchasers to undergo background checks for criminal records, for guns to be registered, or a number of other methods. In the United States, gun control is a hotly contested political issue that can make or break the careers of politicians. The use of firearms is also a health issue, because more than 35,000 people die each year after being shot.
Statistics

The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, keeps track of injuries and fatalities resulting from firearms. The NCIPC reported that in 1994, there were 38,505 firearm-related deaths. These included: more than 17,800 homicides; more than 18,700 suicides; more than 1,300 unintentional, firearms-related deaths related to firearms.


Nationwide, approximately 70 percent of people who commit suicide do so with a firearm. Among young people, the impact of guns is huge. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each day in the United States, fourteen people under the age of 19 die in gun-related incidents. The rate of firearm-related deaths for Americans age 14 and younger is twelve times that of children in other industrialized nations combined. In addition, the NCIPC estimates that there were approximately three gun-related injuries for every death--a rough figure of 115,515 injuries for the year. Also according to the NCIPC, in 1990, firearm injuries cost over $20.4 billion--directly, for hospital and other medical care, as well as indirectly, for long-term disability and premature death, and at least 80% of the economic costs of treating firearm injuries are paid for by taxpayers.
How the U.S. Compares to the Rest of the World

The United States is home to a tremendous number of guns. Current estimates place the number of guns in the United States at between 200 million and 250 million. In the period between 1968 and 1992, gun ownership in the U.S. increased 135 percent--and during that same period, handgun ownership increase 300percent. The 17 million residents of Texas alone own 68 million guns.

The United States has one of the highest murder rates in the world, and leads western nations in homicides. More Americans are shot in one day than Japanese are shot in an entire year. Whereas other nations, such as Great Britain, have moved to ban handguns and assault rifles after shooting incidents, the United States has not done so. In Australia, just two weeks after a shooting at Port Arthur that killed 35 people, the nation's various levels of government agreed to ban weapons like those used in the attack. Similarly, Great Britain banned handguns after a man broke into a Scottish school and opened fire, killing 16 children.
Other nations treat gun control as a public health issue, Robert Spitzer of the State University of New York at Cortland, told ABC News. "There is general agreement in other nations that the government has the right to engage in regulation that is good public policy protecting the health and safety of the populace," he said. However, in the United States, strong political interest groups such as the National Rifle Association oppose gun control and say that the Second Amendment guarantees the rights of Americans to own weapons.
History of the Issue

Americans are fiercely protective of their right to own guns. The founders of this country believed that this "right to bear arms" was so important that they made it the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. "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," the founders wrote. Today there is considerable argument over just what the founders intended by their words. Did they mean to provide only for armed units, such as the Army and National Guard, to protect us from invasion, or did they mean that each individual has a right to a gun? Both gun-control supporters and gun-rights advocates have their legal arguments to support their side, but the federal courts have upheld all laws regulating gun ownership when the laws have been challenged on the basis of violating the second amendment.

In the early days of the American colonies, nearly every settler owned a gun; guns were a more obvious necessity for members of an expanding nation. However, as the European population became more settled here, as the frontier was driven westward and the native populations driven out, fewer people owned guns. As historian Michael Bellesiles notes, during the time between the American Revolution and the Civil War, no more than one-tenth of the American population owned guns. They became more a part of American culture due to the marketing efforts of gun manufacturer Samuel Colt, who played on the fears of the middle-class to sell weapons for "self-defense"; the end of the Civil War also played a role in the increase of gun ownership, as many soldiers returned home with their weapons in hand.
In 1876, the Supreme Court ruled, in United States v. Cruikshank, that neither the Constitution nor the Second Amendment grant the right to bear arms; rather, the Second Amendment restricts the power of the federal government to control firearms. Several other Supreme Court cases (notably U.S. v. Miller, 1939) spoke to gun control during the late 1800s and first half of the 1900s; but overall, gun control was not a major issue or concern. However, that all changed in the 1960s. After the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Congress passed the 1968 Gun Control Act, which banned mail-order gun sales and instituted more stringent licensing requirements for dealers.
After John Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, gun control became the hot issue it is today. Congress passed several laws concerning armor-piercing bullets and automatic weapons. In 1993, President William J. Clinton signed the Brady bill, which requires a five-day waiting period for all handgun purchases. The following year, Congress and President Clinton passed a ban on assault-style weapons and a number of semiautomatic weapons.




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