Gun Control Debate

Gun Control Debate

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Updated Jan 28, 2020 at 07:50AM EST by Y F.

Added Jan 07, 2016 at 11:51AM EST by Don.

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The United States Gun Control Debate is an ongoing political discourse between those who advocate American citizens’ constitutional right to bear arms and those who demand stricter regulations for possession of firearms, with the primary disagreement resting on the role of the federal government in overseeing the sale of firearms in the interest of public safety.


The Second Amendment

On December 15th, 1791, the First United States Congress adopted ten amendments to the United States Constitution, otherwise known as The Bill of Rights, the second of which guarantees the right for citizens to “keep and bear arms,” or more simply put, personal possession of firearms. At the time of its passage, the second amendment was seen as critical for providing Americans with the ability to defend themselves, organize militias, participate in law enforcement, deter invasions, suppress insurrection and counter tyrannical government.


  • In 1813, the earliest known gun control law was passed in Kentucky to prevent citizens from carrying concealed weapons, which provoked opposition from those who criticized the law as a violation of their constitutional rights.[1]
  • In 1871, the National Rifle Association of America (NRA) was founded, which serves as an advocacy organization for American gun rights. Throughout the 19th century, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment only prevented Congress from implementing firearm restrictions, but not individual States.
  • In 1934, Congress passed the National Firearms Act, which regulated machine guns, short-barreled rifles and shotguns under the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) law enforcement agency.
  • Following several high profile assassinations in the 1960s, the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) was passed, which prohibited interstate sale of firearms for non-commercial purposes and prevented “prohibited persons” from purchasing firearms.
  • In 1986, the Firearm Owners Protection Act was passed which reversed parts of the GCA but banned civilians from owning or selling fully automatic rifles.
  • In 1993, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was passed to establish national background checks for those wishing to legally purchase guns. The following year, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was passed, banning the production of certain semiautomatic rifles and large magazine clips.In September 2004, the ban expired, followed by several failed attempts at renewal.

Notable Incidents

A number of major gun violence incidents occurred in years leading up to the 2010s, including the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 and the Tucson mass shooting in 2011. Each event was typically accompanied by a surge of interest in gun control.

Liberator 3D Printed Gun (2012)

On June 4th, 2012, 24-year-old University of Texas law student Cody Wilson founded the organization Defense Distributed with the intent to create a completely 3D-printed, open source gun, which was inspired by gunsmith Michael Guslick’s partially printed rifle. The staff launched the official website that July and released a video (shown below) detailing their ideas to create a “wiki weapon” that would be accessible to anyone. In May 2013, blueprint for the "Liberator" fully 3D printed gun were made available online on May 5th, 2013, they were downloaded more than 100,000 times within four days. On May 9th, 2013, the US Department of Defense Trade Controls requested the files be removed from the database, but were quickly mirrored on various torrent sites.

Aurora Colorado Theater Shooting (2012)

At around midnight (MST) on July 20th, 2012, a masked gunman opened fire during the premier screening of the 2012 superhero film The Dark Knight Rises in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. According to multiple witness accounts on the scene, the shooter used gas or smoke-emitting canisters to distract the audience before opening fire with a semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and a handgun. The attack killed 12 moviegoers and injured 59 people and the gunman was immediately apprehended after the police arrived on the scene. The shooter was later identified as a 24-year-old James Holmes.

Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting (2012)

On December 14th, 2012, Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old resident of Newtown, Connecticut, entered the premise of a the Sandy Hook Elementary School and fatally shot 20 children and six adult faculty members before killing himself. According to the police investigation, Lanza showed up at the school around 9:35 a.m. (ET) dressed in black fatigues and a military vest with two hand guns, two rifles and a semiautomatic rifle , all of which were purchased legally and registered under his mother’s card. Following the incident, many called for new gun control restrictions as a preventative measure against school shootings. In January, President Barack Obama announced plans to curtail gun violence by closing background check loopholes, renewing assault weapons bans and improving mental health services.

Christopher Dorner's Shooting (2013)

On September 4th, 2008, Los Angeles Police Department officer Christopher Dorner' was terminated from the Los Angeles Police Department for filing a false report against officer Teresa Evans alleging excessive use of force. Beginning on February 3rd, Dorner fatally shot and killed four victims across the counties of Southern California over the course of nine days. During the manhunt operation that ensued thereafter, police officers shot several by-standing civilians after mistakenly identifying their vehicles as Dorner’s. The incident led some Los Angeles residents to wear tongue-in-cheek signs proclaiming they were “not Chris Dorner.”

Isla Vista Killings (2014)

On May 23rd, 2014, a 22-year-old University of California student named Elliot Rodger went on a mass killing spree near the Santa Barbara campus in Isla Vista, California, killing seven people, including himself, and wounding 13 others. After engaging several police officers on the road and crashing into a parked vehicle, Rodger was found dead in his vehicle with a self-inflicted bullet wound to his head. The next day, Richard Martinez, the father of one of the victims Chris Martinez, made an emotional plea against gun violence in a press conference. That same day, D.C.-based Italian journalist Antonella Ciancio expressed her solidarity with Martinez’ call for action by tweeting out the hashtag #notonemore.

Reynolds High School Shooting (2014)

On the morning of June 10th, 2014, Jared Padgett, a student at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon, entered the gym at his school with an AR-15 assault rifle and a handgun, fatally shooting 14-year-old freshman Emilio Hoffman and injuring physical education teacher Todd Rippler, shortly before ending his own life.

Charleston Church Shooting (2015)

On the night of June 17th, 2015, a lone shooter embedded among the prayers suddenly opened fire in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the oldest black congregations in the Southern United States, during a Bible study session, killing six women and three men all of whom were identified as black. After about 14 hours of an intensive manhunt for the suspect, a 21-year-old man named Dylan Storm Roof was arrested and taken into police custody during a traffic stop on U.S. Route 74 in Shelby, North Carolina.

WDBJ-TV On-Air Shooting (2015)

On August 26th, 2015, news reporter Alison Parker and camera operator Adam Ward were interviewing Moneta Chamber of Commerce employee Vicki Gardner during a live broadcast on the CBS affiliate WDBJ near the Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, Virginia. During the interview, former WDBJ reporter Vester Lee Flanagan II walked up to the group and began firing upon them, killing Parker and Ward while severely injuring Gardner.

Umpqua Community College Shooting (2015)

On October 1st, 2015, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office received the first 911 emergency call about a gunman walking through several campus buildings and shooting people indiscriminately at Umpqua Community College in Roseberg, Oregon. The gunman, later identified as 26-year-old UK-born immigrant Chris Harper-Mercer, killed nine people and injured seven others before he died during a shootout with police officers who arrived on the scene. According to multiple witnesses, the shooter reportedly asked several students their religion before shooting them.

Black Lives Matter Protest Shooting (2015)

On November 20th, Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis, who had been in the midst of protesting a police shooting of a young black man named Jamar Clarke, posted that some white supremacists had attended their protest the previous night. They had suspected that the men were scoping out their protest for a future violent action by their behavior, which included filming the protests. Later, the activists found a video made by the men where they brandish guns and threaten the protesters with racist terms, including Dindu, and made a couple of references to 4chan’s /pol/ (Politically Incorrect) board. The activists also found a Pastern where the men were coordinating their plans for violence.

San Bernardino Shooting (2015)

On December 2nd, 2015, the married couple Syed Rizwan Farook and wife Tashfeen Malik left their six-month-old daughter with Farook’s mother before traveling to the Inland Regional Center wearing ski masks, camouflage and armed with two AR-15 rifles and two semi-automatic pistols. The two opened fire on people in attendance of a holiday party for the San Bernardino County Department of Health, killing 14 people and injuring 21 others. The pair fled the scene and were pursued by law enforcement, ending in a shootout on East San Bernardino Boulevard approximately 1.7 miles away. Both suspects were killed and one officer was injured in the conflict.

Thumbs and Ammo (2013)

Thumbs and Ammo is a single topic blog featuring photoshopped movie stills in which firearms have been replaced with a thumbs-up hand gesture. Following its launch in March 2013, many news sites highlighted the blog as a commentary on the national debate on gun control.

#NotOneMore (2014)

#NotOneMore is a hashtag campaign inspired by an emotional plea against gun violence made by Richard Martinez, the father of a victim of the Isla Vista Killings in May 2014, in which he urged Americans to contact their local lawmakers and ask for stricter gun-control legislation in a press conference held on the day after the tragedy. The hashtag quickly evolved into a grassroots sign-holding campaign on Twitter with participation from celebrities, survivors of gun violence and other advocates of gun control in the United States.

Ai Weiwei's Leg Gun Pose (2014)

On June 11th, 2014, renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei uploaded an Instagram of himself holding up his one of his legs with both hands while sitting on a chair in nothing but a pair of shorts, socks and a straw hat. The accompanying caption in Chinese read: “Beijing anti-terrorism series.” Due to the lack of context provided by Weiwei as to the meaning of his picture, many of those who saw the image offered their own interpretations, with Chinese bloggers speculating it as a subversive tribute to the Chinese propaganda ballet program Red Detachment of Women in remembering the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, while American followers instilled a message of anti-gun violence using the hashtag #endgunviolence in the wake of the recent school shootings in the United States.

Some of You Guys Are Alright (2015)

"Some of You Guys are Alright, Don't go to School Tomorrow" is an expression uttered by a 4chan poster believed to be Umpqua Community College shooter Chris Harper-Mercer, warning /r9k/ board readers not to attend school the following day if they lived in the Northwest United States. Following the shooting, many 4chan users posted mock warnings using variations of the phrasal template "Some of you guys are alright, don't go to X tomorrow."

Online Presence

[this section is currently being researched; feel free to request editorship]

On Reddit, several communities related to firearms and gun control have been created, including /r/guns,[2] /r/firearms,[3] /r/gunpolitics,[4] /r/progun,[5] /r/guncontrol[6] and /r/trueguncontrol.[7] On 4chan[8] and 8chan[10] many gun enthusiasts congregate on the /k/ (weapons) boards. The political website ProCon[9] contains a detailed section with information about both sides of the gun control debate.

Search Interest

External References

[1] Wikipedia – Gun politics in the United States

[2] Reddit – /r/guns

[3] Reddit – /r/firearms

[4] Reddit – /r/gunpolitics

[5] Reddit – /r/progun

[6] Reddit – /r/guncontrol

[7] Reddit – /r/trueguncontrol

[8] 4chan – /k/

[9] Procon – Gun Control

[10] 8chan – /k/

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