The U.S. has the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. No civilian population is more powerfully armed on the planet. Yemen comes in second, but with a rate half that of the United States.
There are around 300 million privately owned firearms in this country, where most gun owners have more than one in their possession. That is a lot of protection for a lot of people. So why then are 100,000 Americans killed or wounded on average every year, and how can events like those in Newtown be avoided?
Whether through the heated streams tailing a Facebook status or in the journalistic media and blogosphere, I have been trying to make sense of the debate.
Much of the web discussion from gun-rights advocates indicate that there are regulations in place to prevent any Tom, Dick or Harry from buying a lethal weapon (it is estimated that 1 in 10 women are likely to own a gun and despite dropping numbers, statistics show that currently 1 in 3 men are gun owners). You usually need background checks and suitable training to get a license. However, one major concern is the “gun-show loophole.” With over 5,000 annual gun shows nationwide and 40% of gun-owners purchasing their firearms either at a gun show or through classified ads and private exchanges, with little or no regulation, there seems to be a need for Congress to step in and tighten the laws. Without denying a person the right to bear arms, stricter controls at these events are needed.
With the 1994 federal ban on possession, transfer, or manufacture of semi-automatic weapons now expired and the 2005 "Stand Your Ground" law being passed in Florida and similarly in 24 other states, the devastation of the Sandy Hook shooting could be a timely moment to readdress the law, both on a national and state platform, and try to prevent weapons getting into the wrong hands.
But is this congressional intervention even possible or likely?
When Lee Harvey Oswald bought a bolt-action rifle in 1963 for under $20 and killed President Kennedy, 5 days later, legislation was passed to restrict mail order sales of shotguns and rifles. Obama has been vocal before in the gun control argument, and now with a second term and the potential to elect up to 3 Supreme Justices, he has the power to make a huge difference on this matter.