Gun control has become an election year political issue. Although the controversial subject is often debated during presidential elections, it looms even larger in 2016.
In January, President Barack Obama announced executive orders to, in part, enact more stringent background checks; however, most of the Republican presidential candidates have come out against any efforts by Obama to tighten U.S. gun laws.
Gun violence is an undisputed problem in the U.S., but the Democratic and Republican parties' differing visions on how to solve this issue have created a highly polarizing political arena.
Whoever the next President is, he or she must be able to carry out an agenda that both respects the rights of responsible citizens to own guns and keeps guns out of the hands of criminals.
Striking a compromise on those issues is much easier said than done, but such measures do exist.
One such measure would be to start a discussion about the value of individual state regulations on gun purchases.
There may be little political will to do this at the moment, but data compiled by National Journal last year show that states which require permits/licenses, background checks, and lack "Stand Your Ground" laws (such as Hawaii and New Jersey) have lower gun death rates than states which do not require permits or background checks and have established "Stand Your Ground" laws (such as Arkansas and Louisiana). In order to enact real change, citizens within the states with higher gun death rates must become part of an overall strategy to lower gun violence.
There are further measures that can be taken at the federal level as well.
Since it's unlikely the U.S. will undergo some kind of Australian-style disarmament -- whereby all private guns are sent to the federal government to be destroyed -- sensible gun regulations need to be maintained federally.
Expanding background checks is a reasonable solution which the President has already proposed, although enforcement of that initiative has become an issue as gun sales boomed around the U.S. after the President's announcement of the measures in early January.
One measure within Obama's executive orders which will help keep up with this development is the proposed hiring of an additional 230 examiners within the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and 200 new officers for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, CNBC notes. The President's administrative action has given these agencies a new workload to deal with, and congressional Republicans such as Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley have agreed that additional personnel may be necessary.
The NRA, known for its strident defense of gun rights, even appeared open to the proposition.
"If the addition of these agents are used to apprehend criminals — not to harass law-abiding gun owners — and (the examiners are used) to improve the broken NICS system, we would have no objection,'' NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker told USA Today, according to CNBC.
Thus, it's essential that this part of Obama's executive orders goes into effect immediately.
Exactly how the United States achieves less gun violence is still a question to be answered. But gun control needs to be a part of the solution, and there need to be efforts at both the federal and state levels aimed at reducing gun violence.