Gun Control and Public Policy

Gun Control and Public Policy

Recently, gun control has been a hot topic and many are trying to find a way to please everybody with new laws or to just change or alter the old laws a bit. Gun laws are tricky because the same guns that are protecting us are the same guns that are killing us. Which makes this topic a great topic for review in public policy.

Nearly two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides The U.S. gun suicide rate is eight times that of other high-income countries. (Gun Violence in America, 2018) it is also shown that access to a gun will increase the suicide by a gun by three times because it is readily available. Which make sense that suicides by guns are concentrated in areas that have high gun ownership. (Gun Violence in America, 2018) Most people who attempt suicide do not die”unless they use a gun. Across all suicide attempts not involving a firearm, less than five percent will result in death.

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But for gun suicides, those statistics are flipped: approximately 85 percent of gun suicide attempts end in death. (Gun Violence in America, 2018)This is alarming because although the gun violence isn’t towards someone else, self-harm is still a great concern.
While thinking of gun control and public policy, to models automatically came to mind; the Process model and Incrementalism. The process model is when you analyze the process of public policy. It begins with identifying a problem before trying to move on to the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of the problem. In this case, the problem is gun violence.

During the problem identification, the problems are being brought to the forefront for policymakers. The problem with gun violence and gun laws are that a person is more likely to die from a gun then be able to effectively use a gun for self-defense. 21 of 420 homicides (5%) involved a victim who had unsuccessfully attempted to use a gun in self-defense. (Zuckerman,1996) This shows a very big issue because policymakers want to keep that door open to have a weapon for self-defense but if it’s not even being used in an effective way and typically used in a harmful way it can lead to laws that are not favorable to everyone. The next step is policy formulation which is when policy proposals come in to play, with us going through a major gun crisis right now this is where we are as a nation, we are in the proposal process. This model is a great representation of how policy comes about, however, the common criticism is that it has a narrow focus on process and that it can be ignorant to the content of public policy.

As stated before, we are in the policy-making process. We don’t exactly know what the laws will be but we are making small changes in the meantime. Currently, we are limiting what kind of guns can be bought by citizens. (Zuckerman,1996) Right now what is proposed is that we restriction who can own a gun or use a gun. The way they are doing so is by requiring a license to get a gun and while applying for that you would have to pass a background check, meaning no criminal would be able to purchase the weapon. Adding to this, a minimum age should be required to purchase (Zuckerman,1996). Another proposal would be to decrease the number of guns for sale and the overall availability. If that’s not possible to make it much more unpleasant to buy a gun by increasing the sales tax and raising the prices on ammunition. They also propose a ban on all lethal guns, such as the ones used by the military (Zuckerman,1996), if they can be used in war, we shouldn’t be able to access them. Lastly, they want to increase the information on gun use to people and the fatality likelihood would be similar to the existing program on car accident fatalities. (Zuckerman,1996)

The second model that fits in with Gun Control would be incremental policymaking, with having a fairly conservative president right now, incrementalism fits in perfectly. It emphasizes existing policies and programs and doesn’t typically favor new policy alternatives because it is looked at as threatening or inefficient. There are four reasons that incremental policymaking is done.

The first reason is the lack of resources which makes is very hard to identify policy alternatives. Second, usually a previous policy is already viewed as legitimate by policymakers, so why change it. Changing a policy can cause new threats and new or far worse challenges. Third, is the cost to implement a new policy. Heavy investments are put into policies so when the policy changes, many of those investments can be lost. Lastly, incrementalism is politically expedient. Incrementalism reduces conflict, helps to maintain stability, and preserves the political system.

I did want to note that I felt as rationalism model (which is a theory based on reason and facts) would probably fit better than incrementalism, based on my views. However, I wanted to show that there are opposing views on this topic and which model stands out to help us understand those views a bit more.

I personally believe incrementalism is a downfall in itself because we should want change. However, I can understand the reasons to keep a policy intact and possibly alter it a bit instead of changing it all together. As stated in the article Programs aimed at teaching children to resolve problems nonviolently have been developed and used in hundreds of communities across the country since their primary use has been in schools, they have depended on the support and interest of teachers and school systems for their success. (Zuckerman,1996) This is a good way to keep the current policy intact.

It allows for educating on guns at an early age, but not changing anything else about the selling and laws on the guns themselves. Another alternative to actually changing the policy on gun violence would be to reduce the violence that is shown to our children in the media. With hopes that it will reduce violence altogether.

Gun violence is a tricky topic because it goes between our amendment of the right to bear arms and our safety. On one hand, incrementalism comes into play because we don’t want to alter our amendment. The policy process says that we need to evaluate that amendment and see how we can change it. We are currently feeling this struggle. The biggest incrementalist is the NRA, they don’t want the laws to change because they are profiting off of gun sales. They are a great leading force that is hard to stop.

With the process model and incremental model being so vastly different, it’s easy to apply to a topic like gun control because there are a couple of opposing views on it. You can look at it in a more conservative way and apply the incrementalism model or look at it in a more liberal way and dissect the problem and find a solution which closely aligns with the process model.

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