Gun laws are a hot-button topic that is not going away any time soon. With the prevalence of mass shootings and armed, pro-gun rallies, the debate over gun ownership is only heating up. However, there is reason to believe a solution that pleases both sides of the debate is reachable.
While gun ownership is in the constitution, governments have a duty to keep their residents safe. The consequences of gun ownership are often overlooked by proponents and not stressed enough in the eyes of gun ownership opponents.
Consequences of Gun Ownership
Gun owners and ownership proponents often focus on their constitutional right to own a gun. Additionally, they often seize opportunities to display their gun ownership in public, exemplified at pro-gun rallies throughout the United States. What is not discussed by proponents are the responsibilities and consequences that come along with gun ownership.
While gun owners focus on their right to defend themselves with their guns, they fail to think about the victims of gunshots. The impact of a shooting goes past the victim and reaches the victim’s family and community.
A Solution that Meets in the Middle
The right to own a gun is a topic with an ocean-sized gap between the two sides, who are firmly entrenched in their positions. However, as Virginia recently demonstrated, it is possible to make communities safer while appeasing gun ownership advocates.
Gun laws do not have to ban the ownership of firearms completely. Instead, stronger gun laws can save lives by limiting who has access to own and purchase guns. Additionally, states may pass laws to strengthen domestic violence protections, limit where people may carry their weapons, and prohibit the sale of gun kits, which allow people to buy parts to build a gun.
Legal Consequences of Gun Ownership
“Despite having the legal right to own a gun, gun owners do not escape legal liability if they shoot somebody,” says Attorney Karin Riley Porter of Price Benowitz LLP. “While people are entitled to self-defense, that argument does not always justify a shooting.” Additionally, a wrongful shooting leaves the shooter with criminal and potential civil liability.
When attacked by another person, the defendant can respond with violence of their own to protect themselves. However, the severity of the violence may not exceed the potential violence they face. Therefore, the defendant is only able to shoot another person when their own life is in jeopardy.
The unjustified shooting of another person will lead to criminal liability, even if the victim does not die. The shooter can face charges ranging from assault with a deadly weapon, unlawful discharge of a firearm, and homicide charges if the victim dies.
Punishments for these penalties vary from state to state, but the defendants will generally face jail time for all of the above crimes. For the most serious murder charges, defendants may face life in prison or the death sentence in some states.
In addition to criminal penalties, the defendant may face civil liability for a wrongful shooting. The shooter does not have to be convicted of a crime to be held responsible in civil court. If the defendant is found to have wrongfully shot the victim, they are liable for monetary damages.
Finding a Sweet Spot for the Gun Debate
While gun advocates and opponents will likely never agree on gun ownership, states can work towards solutions that reduce the impact of gun violence. As Virginia demonstrated, gun ownership does not have to be all or nothing. However, gun advocates must recognize the responsibilities associated with gun ownership and understand the consequences.
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