Growing up here in Texas, I have taken many history classes about Texas’ government and the United States’. I have always found them interesting, but political science really goes into depth on the topics I didn’t learn too well: The Bill of Rights, the three branches of government, and how lobbying works. These are the three topics I will be discussing throughout the paper with a focus on the Bill of Rights, more specifically, the second amendment and the current issue regarding it.
Being a student athlete here at Lamar on a team full of internationals has opened my eyes to different ways to govern, various laws, and just an overall different lifestyle based on these. This has made me reflect on our own government and how it works.
Lobbying is something that I had heard about but never knew exactly what it was. This made the topic extremely interesting for me to research. Lobbying is done by a lobbyist who is “someone who represents the interest organization before government, is usually compensated for doing so, and is required to register with the government he or she lobbies” (Krutz 368).
Basically, this means that an oil company may have an interest in getting a certain bill passed. The lobbyist is someone this company hires to speak to government officials on their behalf to see what can be done.
The three branches of government were written in the Constitution after the Articles of Confederation failed in granting the federal government enough power to keep the states united.
These branches operate with a system of checks and balances so one branch cannot overpower another. A super basic understanding of the branches are as follows: The Legislative Branch is in charge of making laws, the Executive enforces them, and the Judiciary interprets them.
Now a closer look at the Legislative Branch and its powers includes the two houses. The Senate is composed of 2 senators from every state and the House of Representatives is comprised of members based on the state’s population. This was introduced when states like Connecticut felt they were not accurately represented with a small population. During the Constitutional Convention, they fought to have a two-house system that would enable them to have an equal number of votes in one of the houses. This was known as the Great Compromise and “soothed the fears of the small states…[and] protected the interests of the large states” (Krutz 405). This is what we have today. Currently both parts of Congress have checks and balances too to avoid any possibility of tyranny.
The Executive Branch is the President that we vote for. When Congress passes a law, it goes to the President to be signed into action. Lastly, the Judiciary Branch is the court system. Most people associate this with the Supreme Court, nine judges appointed by the President that review constitutional law for major cases. Each branch has some power over the other to, again, avoid any possibility of dictatorship. At the time of the Great Compromise, the American people had just won their freedom from a King, they made sure this new government they would install would not be the same.
When the Constitution was written, the fathers of our current government decided there needed to be certain rights that every American citizen should be granted from birth, the Bill of Rights. This document listed out the first 10 inalienable rights that we have. I will be discussing the second one, particularly the right to bear arms portion, in detail further in this paper. The textbook we use touches on the second amendment in chapter four briefly, but does not go into too much depth.
The second amendment added to the Bill of Rights reads 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” (Strasser). This has been a highly debated topic in several Supreme Court rulings solely based on the wording. In the United States vs. Miller case, the Supreme Court ruled that they “could regulate a sawed-off shotgun…because evidence did not suggest that the shotgun ‘has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia’” (Strasser). This ruling introduced an adaptation to the amendment. Yes, the second amendment states people can keep and bear arms, but this ruling shows how the Constitution has been interpreted differently as time passes. The United States has changed a lot since it was founded over two centuries ago. One adaptation since the writing of the Constitution is that states can have stricter gun laws than federal ones.
The problem we have today is that there are too many shootings. In the last half-decade alone there have been countless school shootings that I can personally remember. The problem I will be discussing is one that is highly debated from all sides of the aisle: what can we do about gun violence that won’t infringe our second amendment right?
The federal and state governments have already put in place various gun restrictions. The 1968 Gun Control Act passed “stricter licensing and regulation on the firearms industry, establishes new categories of firearms offenses, and prohibits the sale of firearms and ammunition to felons and certain other prohibited persons” (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives). This Act regulated age to buy, required a background check, and had various smaller amendments dealing with type of gun purchased.
The solution I propose is along the lines of what the Australians did. Australia has had one mass shooting since 1996, when the law was passed. In 1996, “after the Port Arthur massacre, all six Australian states agreed to enact the same sweeping gun laws banning semi-automatic rifles and shotguns” (Beck). Now this solution would not work in this extent in the United States as there are many more guns here and Australia does not have a law like the second amendment. I am talking about a version of this. I think if the federal government raised the age to buy a semi-automatic rifle or shotgun, less mass shootings would happen. This, along with more regulation on what is permissible as a gun used for self-defense or hunting purposes, could be the answer. The Washington Post published that “you have to be 21 to buy a handgun from a federally licensed dealer. But if you’re 18, you can buy the same gun from a seller who doesn’t have a license” (Winkler and Natterson). This is ridiculous. The way that anyone can get around buying a gun is too easy.
There are many steps that would need to be taken to reduce the number of firearms in the United States. Raising the age to buy certain legal firearms is the first step. Australia completely did away with shotguns and semi-automatic rifles. If we regulate those more and ban some that are purely recreational, along with raising the age of them and every firearm, the staggering amount of mass shootings would decrease. The next step would to then raise the penalty for people operating without a license to sell. This allows everything to be regulated more efficiently. The solution to decrease gun violence in America cannot be pinned down to one easy idea. It would take decades and multiple steps to achieve even a fraction of what other countries have done simply due to the fact United States citizens own a preposterous number of guns. I believe it can be reduced with cooperation from citizens and the right approach to the making of laws.