Sale of weapons to civilians in the United States

The market of guns is with no doubt one of the most flourishing in the US. Referring to a rough analysis carried out by the Washington Post in 2015 based on data reported by the Congressional Research Service (1998-2009), ATF manufacturing and import/export data (2010-2013) and the U.S. Census, it is clear that the number of civil weapons (357 million) exceeds the total number of the American population (317 million). In other words, starting in 2013, the Unites States had more guns than people. Furthermore, current statistics show an increasing sales trend in the sector confirming this phenomenon considered aberrant by a lot of people.

Historical hints.

The reasons for this phenomenon have historical and geographical origins. Following the American Revolution that led the country to the liberation from the oppressive British colonialism, the Declaration of Independence of 1776 marks the birth of the United States. From the very beginning, the political and social structure of this new State differed profoundly from that of the European countries. The entry into force of the Federal Constitution in 1789 represents the de facto creation of a nation based on: the concept of equality right among citizens without an aristocratic class legitimised by the right of birth, political and religious freedom coming from the clear separation between State and Church, and finally an embedded inclination for self-government. These elements partially justify all the amendments included in the “Bill of Rights”, and particularly the second amendment:

“The Second Amendment gives citizens the right to bear arms.” (Bill of Rights, 1789).

The right to posses and carry a weapon is granted to American citizens not only for self-defence reasons, especially in the most isolated and wild border territories, but also as a guarantee of a form of government which respects citizens’ rights. When the government assumed a tyrannical connotation, as in the case of European colonialism, the population itself could have rebelled.

Buying a weapon in the Unites States.

The second amendment of the American Constitution still represents the element of greater legitimacy to the possession of weapons by civilians. Laws aimed at regulating the purchase and transportation of weapons are different according to the US State to which reference is made, even if there is a procedure generally adopted before the purchase of a gun in stores, the so-called “background check”, which consists in the customers filling in a simple questionnaire provided by the ATF. Within the questionnaire, they must provide their personal data and answer to some questions about criminal records, the use of drugs and their mental health condition. Subsequently, the store manager will verify the information provided to him through the authorities in a few minutes and then obtain an authorisation for the sale. This simple and quick procedure allows them to carry out a check on the person before purchasing the weapon, but unfortunately it is used exclusively during the sale in a store. Indeed, in the case of purchase from a private citizen during exhibitions organised in many States, there is no federal law that obligates preventive checks, highlighting a legislative void which is highly discussed in governmental offices. According to some people, it would be necessary to adopt more limiting laws aimed at regulating the sale of weapons, but often it is exactly the distinction between the laws of each State on this topic that hinders the emanation of a stricter federal law.

Weapons in the American popular culture.

Weapons have a prominent, almost legendary, place in the American popular culture. Just think of any move of the American director Quentin Tarantino, or to other cult films as “Taxi driver” and “Scarface” to see how the use and the abuse of weapons is often romanticised. What sticks the viewer the most is the reason that pushes characters to take up weapons, while the violent use they make of them takes a back seat if not justified. Even in the musical sphere, especially in the Afro-American rap environment of the metropolitan scene, the writing of the possession of weapons is kind of a respect indicator, symbol of the liberation from the condition of slaves. This happens because during the period of slavery in the Unites Staes, the right to own weapons was granted only to white people. Therefore, it is possible to highlight that weapons are part of the daily life of a normal American citizen, even though in different aspects. The countless cases of crime news, more and more frequent, caused by shootings, definitely move the American public opinion as mush as the international one, however, this is not enough to change citizens’ habits on the possession of guns, which derives from a historical and cultural inheritance typical of the Unites States, which is often unclear and incomprehensible to other countries.

Translated by Lucica Oana Maris

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  • L'Autore

    Graziana Gigliuto


    Graziana Gigliuto è nata e cresciuta in Sicilia. Al momento è una studentessa del percorso di laurea magistrale in Relazioni Internazionali Comparate, curriculum Global Studies presso l'università Ca' Foscari di Venezia. Ha conseguito la laurea triennale in Lingue,Culture e Società dell'Asia e dell'Africa Mediterranea, curriculum Cina presso il medesimo ateneo.

    Durante i suoi studi non solo ha sviluppato un forte interesse per l'apprendimento di lingue straniere, consolidato durante i soggiorni di studio all'estero, ma anche una spiccata curiosità verso tutto ciò che riguarda la cultura, le dinamiche sociali e la politica estera, in primo luogo dell'Asia, per poi estendersi ad altre aree geografiche.

    All'interno della stimolante realtà di Mondo Internazionale ricopre il ruolo di autrice per l'area tematica Legge e Società.


    Graziana Gigliuto was born and she grew up in Sicily. She is currently a student for a Master degree in Comparative International Relations, curriculum Global Studies at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice. She obtained a Bachelor Degree in Language,Culture,Society of Asia and Mediterranean Africa, curriculum China at the same university.

    During her studies, besides developing a strong interest for the process of learning foreign languages, consolidated during her periods of studies abroad, she also developed a particular curiosity regarding culture, social dynamics and foreign policy, initially of Asia, and later of others parts of the globe.

    She is working as an author for the thematic area of Law and Society in the stimulating reality of Mondo Internazionale.


From the World North America Sections Culture Society


America USA Weapons civilians society law and society Culture

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