Presentation on theme: "Dr Simon Boucher ~ Gun Control Government and Politics of the USA Week 2 TT:"— Presentation transcript:
Dr Simon Boucher ~ firstname.lastname@example.org Gun Control Government and Politics of the USA Week 2 TT:
Hillary Term Essays… As per Michaelmas Term essays, Hillary Term essays will be returned in tutorials in weeks 3 – 4 of term The Summer Exam… Worth 75% of year Summer exam will follow the very same format as the 2007 paper… –11 questions, all worth equal marks –Mix of questions from all 3 terms –Full year students answer any FOUR questions –Two-term and half-year students should answer THREE questions (and indicate their status on their answer book) Housekeeping
Trinity term schedule Wk 2 Gun control MHW chaps 12, 19 Singh chaps 19, 20 Capital punishment Wk 3 Race Singh chap 24 McKay chap 19 MHW chap 10 LGS chap 4 Civil liberties and civil rights Wk 4 War in Iraq? TBD End of year review / exam preview Plus final tutorial cycle run in weeks 3 & 4
Required reading… MHW Chapter 8: “Gun Control – the Right to Bear Arms” Singh Chapter 19: “Gun Control” Additional reading… Jan Dizzard, Robert Merrill Muth, Stephen Andrews - “Guns in America – A Reader” (1999) Robert Spitzer – “The Politics of Gun Control” (1995) Additional resources… www.nra.org http://www.csgv.org/ Readings on gun control
American gun ownership statistics Some facts on US gun ownership… 1 in 6 Americans own a handgun Approx. 50% of households own a gun Americans owned approx. 250 million guns in 2002 There are 28,000 licensed gun dealers in the US It is more difficult to get a driving license in America then it is to purchase a handgun “America possesses the most heavily and legally armed citizenry in the world” With what result?...
Impact of American gun laws The US suffers 2 handgun crimes per minute 38,000 gun-related deaths occurred in the US per year in the 1990s More Americans have died of gun-related violence since 1933 than died in every major war, including… –The War of Independence –The American Civil War –WW 1 and WW 2 –The Korean War and Vietnam –Afghanistan and Iraq “America possesses the most heavily and legally armed citizenry in the world”
Accounting for American guns A majority of Americans support stronger gun control laws… But little, if nothing is being done. Puzzle: WHY?
Accounting for American guns Several factors combine to explain America’s relationship with guns Institutional Structure The Pro-Gun Lobby Political Culture The Constitution
The Constitution and guns The Second Amendment A “supremely clear” justification for individual gun ownership in the 21 st century? “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep a bear arms, shall not be infringed”
The Constitution and guns “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep a bear arms, shall not be infringed” The Second Amendment Interpretation 1: “Collective” / “state-rights” approach Focuses on preamble Right to bear arms resides collectively in state militias? These militias must be well-regulated? …Therefore gun control legitimate?
The Constitution and guns “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep a bear arms, shall not be infringed” The Second Amendment Interpretation 2: “Individualist” approach Focuses on latter clause Wording in isolation apparently definitive John Ashcroft: “unequivocally confers an individual right to gun ownership”
The Constitution and guns Original rationale: concern for state tyranny, protection of individual liberty – “freedom’s insurance policy” How should this translate in 21 st century America? American public believe they have a constitutional right to a gun How absolute are Constitutional rights?
Political culture and guns Guns have played a mythical and factual role in the nation’s historical development Learning to handle a gun is a rite of passage for boys in many southern and mid-western states Americans generally consider gun ownership to be a reasonable method of self-protection Views on guns tend to divide along the fault lines of America’s “culture wars” Guns are closely associated with the concern for individual liberty at the heart of US political culture
Political culture and guns US politicians use gun imagery to appeal to conservative and rural voters
The pro-gun lobby “From my cold dead hands!” Charlton Heston
The pro-gun lobby The NRA is… Passionate – “almost evangelical” Large – 4m members, 300 staff Exceptionally well-funded - $100m budget PA Politically savvy, cut-throat, feared Highly organised Focused Well connected Has no serious anti-gun counterpart – passive, disorganised, small, poorly funded May 2001: NRA voted “most influential interest group” by Fortune Magazine
Arguments in favour of gun rights Almost all gun owners act responsibly. Why should their rights be trampled on by an irresponsible minority? America has very high murder and suicide rates regardless of guns Numerous crimes are prevented based on the deterrent affect of guns Gun possession has a central place in American history and culture The real problem lies in… –Parental neglect –The culture of violence encouraged by Hollywood –Improper ìmplementation of existing laws Stronger gun control is an undesirable, ineffective and unnecessary step
The National Rifle Association (NRA) “The subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat, fraud, on the American public by a special interest group that I have ever seen in my lifetime… The NRA have misled the American people and they, I regret to say, have far too much influence on the Congress of the United States”. - Chief Justice Warren Burger
Institutional structure and guns The US political system works in favour of the NRA… Weak parties frequent elections Candidate-centred campaigns The imperative of localism Make candidates risk-averse and “vulnerable to intimidation” Gives little incentive to challenge the status quo and a powerful and ruthless lobby group
Recent gun-related legislation Existing laws are weak and permissive. However although 54% of Americans want stricter gun control… It took 12 years for the “Brady Bill” to eventually be passed in 1992. The SC has since ruled elements of the Brady Bill unconstitutional Clinton and Tom Foley guided minor gun control laws through in 1994 – the Democrats promptly lost their House majority and Foley lost his seat. These laws had little impact on gun-death statistics Bush has strongly supported the gun rights lobby for the last 8 years; many states have actually passed laws increasing gun rights in this time. 9/11 further undermined gun control efforts
2008 candidates and guns Doesn’t say anything on his website. Historically pro-control – wants existing laws properly implemented & tighter restrictions imposed. Doesn’t say anything on her website. Historically pro-control – supported Bill’s policies, generally Strongly opposes absolute right to gun ownership. “ The right of law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms is a fundamental, individual Constitutional right. We have a responsibility to ensure that criminals who violate the law are prosecuted to the fullest, rather than restricting the rights of law abiding citizens. Gun control is a proven failure in fighting crime. Law abiding citizens should not be asked to give up their rights because of criminals— criminals who ignore gun control laws anyway.
A closing thought… There have been 114 gun crimes in America since the start of this lecture. 4 people have been shot dead.