A Comparison of Gun Laws in the United States and Sri Lanka
Definition of Public policy; “a system of laws, regulatory measures, courses of action, and funding priorities concerning a given topic promulgated by a governmental entity or its representatives”(MUSC,2000) Every moment of existence as a part of any society, absolutely any society is tremendously influenced by public policy. In the context of the American government and Public Policy, it is relevant make an assortment of such policies in order to run the nations governance more efficiently. Federal system and its officials decide on policies of safety while traveling, allocate resources and facilitate the battle against terrorism. They also make policies on the utility & conservation of natural resources. State & local governments through their functions decide which schools get which teachers, what resources are allocated to state emergency services, what public transport system prices are, and how much highway toll prices are. Every one of these decisions is a part of Public Policy. Public Policy decisions will remain a very important part of life for every citizen of every society for probably the rest of time. Public policy also, affects every single aspect of governance of a nation. A Gun “is a machine or tool, usually a weapon, that propels projectiles such as bullets. The projectile is generally fired through a hollow tube known as the gun 's barrel. The barrel 's diameter, determines the size of projectile used, which is usually designated in fractions of an inch or in millimeters.”(Wikipedia, 2008) Gun Law is a law that pertains to firearms. “Gun laws are highly dependent on date and location, as they have changed along with developments in weapons and societies. The issue of gun law has become a political and/or controversial issue in many societies. There are many differing views on how gun laws should be set up in a society. A typical disagreement is over whether guns should be prohibited in the interest of public safety, or whether citizen gun ownership improves safety and should be allowed.” (Wikipedia, 2008) Throughout history on the United States, Gun Law has been a much-debated issue. Gun Law, defined as “efforts to regulate or control the ownership and sale of guns” (The Free Dictionary, 2008) and “a law that pertains to firearms. Gun laws are highly dependent on date and location, as they have changed along with developments in weapons and societies”. (Wikipedia, 2008) Through my report on Economies of Public Policy, I analyze American Gun Law and influences of Public Policies have on those laws. While I also compare and contrast it to Sri Lankan gun laws. I will analyze these Gun Laws and their direct impact on the Gun Culture of these nations, their spillover effects, immediate and potential conditions, their direct and indirect costs and benefits.
Gun Law in the United States
In the United States, the protection against infringement of the right to keep and bear arms is addressed in the Second Amendment of the U.S Constitution. Almost all federal gun laws and amendments are spelled out in one of the following; (Wikipedia, 2008) • National Firearms Act (1934) • Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (1968) • Gun Control Act (1968) • Firearms Owner 's Protection Act (1986) • Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (1993) • Federal Assault Weapons Ban (1994) (now defunct)
In addition to federal gun laws imposed and amended as above, most states and some local jurisdictions have additionally imposed their own gun laws. The Second Amendment reads, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bare arms, shall not be infringed". However, this amendment bore a list of ineligible individuals.
Gun Politics which is defined as “a set of legal issues surrounding the ownership, use, and regulation of firearms as well as safety issues related to firearms both through their direct use and through legal and criminal use” (Wikipedia, 2007). The thought of gun law/gun politics being such debatable issue comes to no surprise, as statistical research shows that approximately half of the American population believes they have the right to own a firearm.
Private Firearm Ownership in the U.S. as of 1993/1994:
| |Households With a Gun |Adults Owning a Gun |
|Percentage |49% |31% |
|Total number |47,600,000 |59,100,000 |
(Just Facts, 1999)
The gun culture in America is very apparent in the research statistic shown below where America has the highest gun ownership ratios and as when viewing international research data on gun related violence and crimes and gun ownership of citizens of a few nations.
| |Gun Owenership |Homicide Rate |Gun homicide rate |
| |Per 100k |Per 1m |Per 1m |
|USA |85,000 |9.30 |6.40 |
|Switzerland |43,000 |1.50 |1.40 |
|New Zealand |29,000 |2.60 |0.49 |
|Canada |24,000 |2.20 |0.67 |
|Australia |19,000 |1.80 |0.36 |
|Britain |3,000 |1.30 |0.14 |
|Japan |400 |1.20 |0.06 |
|France |23,000 |4.90 |2.32 |
American Gun Culture In a quarter of a century, almost every group researched saw at least a minute decline in the in the enthusiasm toward firearms and a growth in the numbers that appose the loosening of gun laws in the United States.
As seen above, in a comparison of Republican and Democratic gun owning Males, we see that the Democratic Party has a rather drastic drop from the mid ‘80s to this decade of about one third in comparison to the minimal decline of Republican gun owners which drops approximately one tenth. .
In female gun owners of both parties we see a proportionately equal drop from the mid ’70s onward. The United States sees probably a single nation’s most diverse gun laws as each state passes its own law. Hence, states with high gun violence have rather strict gun laws while other states may have lenient laws. These state-by-state varying gun laws sometimes, have minute differences between them and are enforced at different levels of purchase, ownership and exchange. I.e. some states allow unlicensed ‘open carry’ of a handgun that has a capacity of twenty rounds or less, unthreaded barrel and no collapsible stock. (Most handguns fall under this category). Open carry is defined as the gun 's true nature is not "hidden from common observation”. (VA State Police website, 2004)
In Some states it is a felony to possess a firearm if u are; • Felon • Committed a felony as a juvenile • Not guilty of a felony by reason of mental disease or defect • Committed under mental health laws and ordered not to possess a firearm • Are the subject of a domestic abuse or child abuse restraining order (VA State Police, 2004)
In Wisconsin carrying a firearm onto school premise or within 1,000 feet of one is felony. However, this statute does not apply to people who; • Have private property not part of school grounds • Are individuals licensed by the local government body to possess the firearm • Have unloaded and encased firearms • Are individuals with firearms for use in a school-approved program (Wikipedia, 2008) There is an endless list of detailed and differentiated gun laws from one to another. However, my native land Sri Lanka has very strict gun law but has its fair-share of gun culture and an even better component of gun violence. Below is an analysis of Sri Lankan gun law and the cultures it holds.
Gun Law & Gun culture in the context Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a nation that presently is in a raging civil war based on ethnic issues. Under British Colonial governance till 1948, Gun Law only became an issue when the rise and fight for freedom by the Island’s native people started. The first amendment to the Firearms ordinance of the nation was made in 1917. This amendment made Gun ownership rather difficult while penalties for illegal possession, and transport of firearms were increased. However, beyond independence and the occurrence of a few failed attempts of insurgencies and now a full-scale ethnic conflict, Sri Lanka, which is currently under “Emergency Law”, has continuously seen drastic change on the government’s policies on private gun ownership. In 1971, with the nation in chaos of a communist insurgency, which was unsuccessful, saw the government take all registered guns in to safe custody and later released. Once again, 1983 saw the nation’s first uprising of an ethnic minority where, gun laws were further tightened. The amendment in 1983 saw even the use of Air guns, (which are almost toys that used air-compression and discharge for projectile propulsion) were banned. These policy changes throughout the years and the setting up of the National Commission against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (NCAPISA) have made legal gun ownership and exchange almost impossible. Right now, gun enthusiasts and pro-gun groups have almost absolutely no provision for being gun owners. Currently, there are only five gun licenses that are issued to the public, which are: • Issue of License for Firearms for the Purpose of Crop Protection. • Issue of Licenses for Firearms for the Purpose of Self-defense and the Protection of Property. • Issue of Licenses for Firearms for the Purpose of Sports. • Issue of Licenses for Firearms for Private Security Agencies & the Public Institutions. • Issues of Licenses for state-owned firearms for Parliamentarians. (Ministry of Public Security, Law and Order, Sri Lanka 2004)
Going into details of the mechanics of these licenses are issued we see that obtaining them are not in anyway effortless;
Issue of License for Firearms for the Purpose of Crop Protection, are to individuals and private organization that have a minimum area of cultivated land. A request for license of this sort must prove all the fact of ownership for agricultural purposes and the threat of vermin to those crops of cultivation. Beyond the government agencies evaluating and identifying these traits, a landowner is issued a gun for his crop protection purposes. In this case, a single barreled, single loading, 12-guage Shotgun is issued to the licensee. The Licensee is then issued 20 rounds of ammunition semi-annually. A gun issued under this license can only be transported within the district. The only vermin to agriculture in Sri Lanka are defined as the Indian Porcupine, the Blacked Naped Hare and the Common Wild-boar. Shooting this vermin is permitted within the perimeter of the license holder’s premises only under natural light. Transportation or commercialization is not permitted in any manner.
Issue of Licenses for Firearms for the Purpose of Self-defense and the Protection of Property, in obtaining this license, an individual must prove that his/her life is at risk. A license applicant must prove facts such as assets in his/her possession, risks one might be faced with, designation of employment, his rivalry of function, police reports etc. Pertaining to this issue of a gun license, obtainers are issued a 6-shot Revolver with 40 rounds of ammunition that will be replaced on production of fired shells and police clearance at the Government Agent’s office.
Issue of Licenses for Firearms for the Purpose of Sports, The National Rifle Association (NRA) of Sri Lanka is the controlling body of all sport shooting in Sri Lanka. Through the NRA, sports shooters are able to acquire sports rifles.
Issue of Licences for Firearms for Private Security Agencies & the Public Institutions, The criteria in this aspect are the transportation of cash of the institutions that the services are provided by the relevant security agencies. Accordingly, a very limited number of new firearms are authorized annually to Security Agencies who engage in cash transport.
Issues of Licences for State-owned Firearms for Parliamentarians, authorization of official firearms to the Government Representatives for the purpose of their self-defense is a long practiced procedure. Individuals considered to at high-risk are permitted to request and have issued more gun licenses depending on the circumstances of their security. These stringent Gun Laws, terror, civil war and violence of Sri Lanka have made the illegal gun-trade grow. The nation also seen a heavy rate of gun-violence, in ratio to legal gun ownership. The civil war’s direct and indirect influences on the population make illegal guns accessible to the public. Even on the streets of Colombo, the capital of the nation, illegal guns, and ammunition are sometimes available at a price. Without researched information of the real gun culture of Sri Lanka, the Policy makers are unable to ease/amend these stringent gun laws efficiently. However, in 2004 the national government gave a Presidential Amnesty of pardoning and licensing all illegal firearms. This was not very successful.
Unlike America, the Sri Lankan constitution has not mentioned a citizen’s right for gun ownership. However, illegal use of guns and gun-violence keeps growing on the nation.
Impact of Gun Law is Tough to Determine.
Whether the mass public of a nation knows it, accepts it and even acknowledges it or not, Gun Laws directly and indirectly affects the entire nations. As a culture highly influenced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, an individual’s right to bear arms conflicts with the now imposed Gun Control laws. The uncertainty is if Gun controls Laws reduce crime? Do they save lives? Is it possible they even cost lives?
"The upshot is a set of studies and counter-studies that, at most, could leave a judge uncertain about the proper policy conclusion. Over the five years ending in 1997, there was an average of 36,000 firearms-related deaths a year. (51% suicides, 44% homicides.) Determining whether particular gun control laws would have, on balance, prevented some of those deaths is difficult.” † (Breyer, 2008)
The costs of Gun control.
In measuring costs of gun control, it’s all about a comparison of a systematic attempt to have less people with guns prevent violent crime or reduce the rate of violent crime? In fact, does it reduce the rate of violent gun crime?
Recently there were several murders in New York that were attributed to gun violence. And FOX News analyzed information on gun crimes in America. The truth is that even though gun laws seem to be getting more stringent globally, gun violence has escalated dramatically. So the question is if gun control laws, gun cultures and gun policies of the world are in par with each other and really help make the world a more peaceful place.
Guns and gun violence was very present in both of these nations. With or without the influence of the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, it is apparent that guns are present everywhere in every segment of modern society. The negative impact of the word ‘Gun’ pertains to the ‘Gun’ itself but literally what matters is the person behind the trigger of it and his/her responsibilities and mindset. Once again, as the Second Amendment of the American constitution states, all have the rights to bare arms and protect themselves. In the case of a confrontation with an armed assailant, many of the population would rather be the victor than the victim. I.e. Salt Lake City, Trolley Square shooting in February 2007, I cannot but conclude that at least a few lives were saved because one shopper was armed. In a war torn nation like Sri Lanka, the availability of illegal guns and the presence of gun violence is not all that surprising. In the purpose of personal protection of oneself, having a gun may be able to level the playing field if the possessor of it is disciplined enough to make the right call at the right time and maybe not any call in relevance to his/her gun at the right time. As stated in Mr. Thomas R. Dye’s publication, Understanding Public Policy,. Dye, states “Gun laws including purchase permits, waiting periods, carrying permits and even complete prohibitions, seem to have no effect on violent crime or even crimes committed with guns. Indeed gun laws don’t seem to have any effect on gun ownership and violence”. The common argument by pro-gun interest groups is the fact that regardless of the complete absence and heavy enforcement of stringent gun laws, violent crimes reign. This is probably a reverse action that occurs because illegalities have no responsibility. However, if legal and with the right authorities keeping records, gun owners brings about responsibility and would limit gun violence. Beyond all the direct and indirect costs and benefits of gun laws, what a nation may need to look at is on a better society where the people who might be behind the triggers of the nations guns are responsible enough to make a better call of when to pull that infamous trigger that is at their finger tips.
➢ Dean G. Kilpatrick, Ph.D, Definitions of Public Policy and the Law, 2000 http://www.musc.edu/vawprevention/policy/definition.shtml
➢ A Gun, 2008, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_Law_and_Policy
The Free Dictionary, Gun Control, 2008
➢ Gun law, 2008, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_Law_and_Policy
➢ Gun Law in the United States, 2008. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_law_in_the_United_States
➢ Gun Politics, 2008, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics
➢ Gun Ownership, Justfacts http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp
➢ Comparative Statistics for Gun Ownership, Homicide and Suicide rates, Everithing2 http://everything2.com/e2node/Comparative%2520statistics%2520for%2520gun%2520ownership%252C%2520homicide%2520and%2520suicide%2520rates
➢ Gun Politics, 2008, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics
➢ VA State Police, 2008 http://google.virginiainteractive.org/search?q=open+carry&sitesearch=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.vsp.state.va.us&proxystylesheet=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.vsp.state.va.us%2Fvsp.xslt
➢ Gun Law in the United States, 2008. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_laws_in_the_United_States_(by_state)#Wisconsin
➢ Ministry of Public Security, Law and Order, - Sri Lanka, 2004 http://www.moi.gov.lk/Direct_Services.htm
➢ Justice Stephen Breyer, 2008, International Herald Tribune http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/06/29/america/guns.php
➢ Home Office, Crime & Victims. http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/crime-victims/reducing-crime/gun-crime/
Bibliography: ➢ Dean G. Kilpatrick, Ph.D, Definitions of Public Policy and the Law, 2000 http://www.musc.edu/vawprevention/policy/definition.shtml ➢ A Gun, 2008, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_Law_and_Policy The Free Dictionary, Gun Control, 2008 http://www.thefreedictionary.com/gun+control ➢ Gun law, 2008, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_Law_and_Policy ➢ Gun Law in the United States, 2008. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_law_in_the_United_States ➢ Gun Politics, 2008, Wikipedia http://everything2.com/e2node/Comparative%2520statistics%2520for%2520gun%2520ownership%252C%2520homicide%2520and%2520suicide%2520rates ➢ Gun Politics, 2008, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics ➢ VA State Police, 2008 http://google.virginiainteractive.org/search?q=open+carry&sitesearch=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.vsp.state.va.us&proxystylesheet=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.vsp.state.va.us%2Fvsp.xslt ➢ Gun Law in the United States, 2008. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_laws_in_the_United_States_(by_state)#Wisconsin ➢ Ministry of Public Security, Law and Order, - Sri Lanka, 2004 http://www.moi.gov.lk/Direct_Services.htm ➢ Justice Stephen Breyer, 2008, International Herald Tribune