This article is written by Varchaswa Dubey from the School of Law, JECRC University, Jaipur. The article highlights the issue of possession of firearms to the general public and the nations which have allowed possession of firearms to its public. The article further highlights the issues of allowing citizens to possess firearms.
The concerns of firearms have always continued to haunt the peaceful society and the innocent people residing in it. The consequences of allowing possession of firearms to the citizens is not only a matter of concern for the citizens but also for the State which seeks peaceful behavior of its citizens.
According to a report, more than 2,50,000 worldwide died due to firearms in 2016, and half of the deaths were reported only from 6 nations, i.e. Brazil, the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Guatemala.
Only three countries in the world have bestowed a constitutional right to possess firearms, i.e. The United States of America, Mexico, and Guatemala.
Origins of the State allowing its citizens to possess arms
The Greeks always considered arms with nuanced views and the Spartans always refused to hand over their weapons to a would-be conqueror, while the Athenians considered removing the arms from the citizens and the reason for such removal was demonstrated by political consequences. They considered arms as a lack of civil society and betrayal.
The origins of modern firearms can be traced back to 850 A.D. to China where it was initially used for firework purposes but the gunpowder later found its way to firearms when it was used for cannons and grenades. During the 13th Century, the expansion of firearms took place through the silk road when it expanded in Asia and Europe.
Which countries allow their public to possess arms?
The Second Amendment in The United States of America is the most significant law concerning the rights of citizens to possess firearms. The Second Amendment was drafted in the year 1791 under the Bill of Rights.
The Constitution of Mexico being adopted in the year 1917, gives its citizens the right to possess firearms at their homes, for self defence and protection of themselves with an exception of those arms which are exclusively used for the army of Mexico.
The Constitution of Guatemala, adopted in the year 1965 also allows its citizens to possess weapons but only for personal use, and at home. The citizens are not bound to hand over the arms except for the order of the competent court.
Other countries which allow possession of firearms
Numerous other countries allow possession of firearms to the citizens, however, such right is not guaranteed by the Constitution of such countries and citizens can only allow firearms after undertaking an established procedure by the respective state. Such countries include Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico, Australia, Austria, Canada, India, Germany, Britain, Brazil, Russia, Israel, China, and Yemen.
In all of these countries, one must first undergo a fitness test and then give reasons for demanding the possession of firearms. The place where such firearms are to be stored must also be within the knowledge of the State and such firearms shall not be possessed by any other person.
The issue of firearms in the U.S.
Individuals in the US can legally possess firearms in the public in all the states of the US but the citizens are only allowed to use the firearms during self-defence and not otherwise, however, the impact of possession of such firearms is already an issue in the US. It has been discovered that most of the firearms victims are African American and most of them are killed due to discrimination despite being just 13% in the general population, 58.5% of the African Americans are a victim of firearms.
The United States also witnesses several mass shootings in the country, which refers to the shooting by a firearm at a large group of people. According to a report, the incidents of mass shootings are found to be increasing. Such incidents are not only accountable for the lives of innocent people of the society and degradation of public health but also such incidents are an attack on the nation, its sovereignty, and its economy.
Firearms are also responsible for a large number of suicides in the US, according to a report, around 60% of the total deaths by firearms were suicides. The other impacts of gun violence include the loss of the economy of the country, permanent fear of firearms in the society, loss of medical resources, loss of state resources, etc.
What are the effects of allowing citizens to possess arms?
According to a report, Brazil has the highest number of deaths in the world due to firearms, with 43,200/250,000 in the year 2016, followed by The U.S. with 37,200 out of 250,000 in the year 2016.
Increased rate of homicide
The U.S. has 46 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns, according to a 2018 report and it also has the highest number of homicides in the world. The U.S. also has the highest suicide rate in the world with 39,707 in the year 2019. 14,861 people died in the year 2019 due to firearms homicide in the U.S. which amounts to 37% of the total deaths caused by firearms. The approximate per annum cost of gun injuries in the year 2012 was more than $229 billion, which is equivalent to 1.4% of the GDP of the United States. According to Amnesty International, more than 500 people die and another 2,000 are injured due to firearms every day and such violence affects the lives of many others.
Allowing citizens to possess firearms increases the incidents of mass shootings and lives of innocent citizens causing a heavy loss to the country and its economy by exhausting legal and administrative resources like hospitals and police. According to a report, the incidents of mass shootings are increasing at an alarming rate and the reason behind such an increase in the possession of firearms with the citizens.
Violation of international treaty
The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty reflects a duty and responsibility of the State to provide its citizens with public safety and human security, however, the possession of firearms by the citizens themselves is a violation of the objectives of the said treaty.
Other impacts on the state
According to a United Nations report, the direct impact of firearms on the State includes lost productivity, increased costs of treatment and rehabilitation, financial costs at household, community, municipal, and national levels. The indirect impacts on the State include increased armed crimes and increased number of armed homicides, attacks on healthcare and education workers, child mortality, increase in transport and shipping costs, degradation of the infrastructure of the country, loss in the economic sectors of the country, minors being indulged in criminal activities, including armed gangs, security threats, an unstable and insecure environment of the country, etc.
Violation of human rights
The impacts of firearms caused by the possession of firearms is a violation of inalienable human rights enshrined in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights especially Article 3 which provides with a right of life, liberty, and security of person.
How can casualties by firearms be decreased?
Violence by firearms is an issue every country in contemporary times has witnessed, however, most of the countries have banned the possession, manufacturing, transportation, buying, selling, etc to its citizens except for defence purposes. The death rate in countries like the United Kingdom, Norway, and Japan are the lowest because these nations have enacted very strict laws concerning the possession and practice of firearms.
The Australian policy
Australia is often considered as a shining example of gun laws and has restrictive policy i.e. the applicant of the license of the gun gives satisfying reason for allowing him to possess firearms instead of authorities being required to show why such applicant was not given license to possess firearms.
The Australian firearms policy is considered as the most comprehensive regulation internationally which is governed by the National Firearms Agreement, 1996 which restricts the possession of automatic, semi-automatic weapons, etc. The person applying for the license of the firearms must have a genuine reason to possess such firearms and the person applying for such a test must undergo a test consisting of criminal background, mental and physical health, residence, etc. The policy also has a buyback provision according to which the government would buy back the firearms at the market price of prohibited firearms.
The Japanese policy
Japan has the lowest gun homicides in the world and the credit to such a low rate is their Firearm and Sword Possession Control Law, being written in Japanese and English, the Act aims at prevention of harm related to the possession and use of firearms and swords. According to a report, Japan only witnessed 9 gun deaths in the year 2018 and the reason behind such a low mortality rate by guns is the strict law Japan has adopted concerning possession of firearms to the citizens.
To obtain a license for firearms in Japan, the applicant must attend an all-day class and then pass a written exam and then pass a shooting-range test with at least 95% accuracy. The applicant must also pass a mental health evaluation which shall be performed at a hospital and a background test is conducted of the applicant and such procedure is being repeated every three years.
The Australian policy and the Japanese policy are considered as one of the most efficient firearms policies in the world due to their compulsory procedure which determines the reason behind possessing firearms in their respective country.
What are the advantages of gun control laws?
- Decrease in the incidents of a mass shooting: Most of the incidents of mass shootings take place by a firearm legally purchased by misusing the State policies. If the laws control the possession of firearms to the public, incidents of mass shootings will fall resulting in saving lives of many people at the same time.
- Deduction in the violence rate: Most of the contemporary violence is conducted by firearms and if there is a lack of availability of firearms to the general public, the incidents of violence shall fall. Easy access to firearms is one of the top reasons for numerous firearms fatalities each year.
- Reduction in the injuries relating to firearms: Most of the time, legally purchased firearms do not take the life of an individual and lead to fatal injuries, but if there are gun control laws, such injuries will fall.
- Decrease in the suicide rate: More than 50% of firearms death are suicide and to decrease the number of suicides, gun control laws must be enforced.
- Improved human conditions: The decrease in the atrocities of firearms shall witness the improvement of the human living conditions in the society and shall boost up the morale of the society, which is living in the fear of the use of firearms daily.
- Rise in the economy of the country and saving of other resources: The gun control laws will not only benefit individuals in the society but also the nation which allows its citizens to possess firearms easily. Gun control policies shall improve the economy of the countries and shall assist in saving other resources including health, police, etc.
Most of the nations in contemporary times do not guarantee possession of firearms through their Constitution, and those nations which do, are witnessing many issues in their country, including loss of innocent lives and falling of the economy. The nations which allow their citizens to possess firearms especially, the US, Brazil, and Guatemala witness more firearms casualties compared to nations that allow citizens to possess firearms after undergoing the established procedure.
The firearm injuries are on the edge of being declared a pandemic and the nations which allow their citizens to possess firearms must take a relook on the firearms policies and must adopt better policies so that the firearms atrocities can be eliminated.
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