The debate over U.S. gun control has waxed over time, prompted mostly by high-profile mass shooting incidents in public places. In particular, the shooting of twenty elementary school children in Newtown, Connecticut, last year renewed a national conversation about gun control. Although the Connecticut government eventually brought in a measure to increase gun restrictions, many states have yet to take action.
For some gun control advocates, the failure to regulate gun sales represents a bigger threat than the mere fact that no federal gun control legislation exists. That’s because the vast majority of mass shooters usually don’t register with local law enforcement or get required background checks before they carry out their shooting spree. Instead, they go straight to a gun dealer, sidestep a background check and easily purchase firearms. Since most firearm deaths are the result of a domestic incident rather than an international terrorist attack, such gun purchases remain largely unpunished.
Nevertheless, gun control advocates aren’t totally pessimistic about gun violence. “Stopping the madness is more important than restricting freedom,” argued a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association. The NRA believes there should be a ban on assault weapons and comprehensive background checks for all handguns. The organization also supports legislation to prevent gun sales to those on the terrorist watch list and to tighten up expired gun licensing laws.
The key difference between a rifle and a handgun is that a rifle can be kept in one’s home for protection and portability whereas a handgun can’t. Rifles can be concealed, enabling an individual to shoot the weapon quickly and effectively if necessary. Handgun owners must register the firearm with the state in order to obtain a license to own one. Also, a handgun can only be discharged within the shooter’s range of sight – generally about 100 feet.
Firepower is defined by Congress as any tool or instrument that is used to kill humans by means of a gun or other deadly firearms. In common use, the term refers only to the weapon itself. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms defines “firearm ammunition” as any cartridge or bullet that can be fired in a gun. Since firearms are divided into several categories, it’s difficult to track their usage across the states. However, three groups are recognized by the federal law: long guns, handguns, and shotguns.
Long guns include rifles and shotguns, and are usually more powerful than pistols. Rifles have a longer range than handguns, but can be less accurate. A shotgun has a shorter range than either a rifle or a pistol, but can fire shots more rapidly. For some individuals, a pistol is appropriate for personal defense; for others, a rifle is the more appropriate choice.