Policy and Advocacy- The Gun Control Act of 1968

Policy and Advocacy- The Gun Control Act of 1968


Legal possession of firearms among United States citizens has been a controversial subject for the longest time. The United States is the most armed nation worldwide, with 270 million guns being owned by its citizens (Kleck, 2017). Due to numerous assassinations including that of Robert Kennedy, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Junior Among other important people in the United States, the Gun Control Act of 1968 was enacted. Gun Control Act of 1968 also known as GCA68 or GCA is Title 18 of the firearm laws of the United States (Laschever & Meyer, 2021). The law had several restrictions concerning owning and purchasing guns. Despite the Second Amendment guaranteeing citizens the right to possess guns, several restrictive gun laws have been imposed on firearms distribution and possession. In this paper, I will provide a summary of the Gun Control Act including its purpose and goal, legislators who supported and who did not support the law, reasons why I oppose the law, populations impacted, and the role of social workers in working with the impacted population.

Summary of the Law

The Gun Control Act of 1968 is a major Civic law in the United States whose purpose is to regulate firearm ownership and the firearms industry. As a result of constitutional restrictions, the law is majorly grounded on the regulation of interstate commerce in firearms through the prohibition of inter-State firearms except for importers, manufacturers, and dealers who have been licensed under the Act. President Lyndon Johnson enacted Gun Control Act on October 22nd, 1968 after the assassination of prominent people including John F Kennedy (Laschever & Meyer, 2021). One of the main goals of the Gun Control Act of 1968 was to ban regional ammunition and consignments of guns to American citizens and the selling of guns to drug addicts, minors, and the mentally. It also aimed to strengthen the record-keeping and licensing requirements of gun dealers. Another goal was banning the importation of foreign-manufactured firearms with exception of those used in sports (Cook, 2020). Gun issues have never been prioritized in the United States since the 1960s and 1968 shocked the nation with many political assassinations.

According to CDC, approximately 39, 773 people died in 2017 as a result of gun-related injuries with approximately 23, 854 being suicides, and 14, 542 being murders (Kleck, 2017). 553 resulted from law enforcement, 486 being unintentional, and 338 were undetermined situations. Of the gun murders, handguns were majorly used with approximately 64%. 30% of the gun-related deaths resulted from firearms classified as “type not stated or other guns” while 45 resulted from riffles commonly referred to as “assault weapons.” Research on the number of deaths resulting from legal possession of firearms inspired the Federal government to make efforts at State, Local and National levels to come up with legislation that would help reduce violence and crime (Winkler, 2018). Even with the Gun Control Act of 1968, findings show that firearm assault, homicides, and mass shootings have increased.

The legislators who supported and those who opposed Gun Control Act and their arguments.

The issue of gun ownership has been a divisive and controversial topic that assumed a tragic and new place in the history of Connecticut following the horrific mass shooting of 20 kids and 6 grownups in 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. In 1967, Dodd introduced a bill created to increase the regulation and fees of firearm dealers. Other measures were introduced later leading to the enactment of the Gun Control Act (Winkler, 2018). The law was supported by the Department of Justice, sportsmen’s groups, the Treasury Department, law enforcement, arms dealers, and the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association. However, the law was stalled in the Senate Commerce Committee by the end of 1964 but was later appealed by Dodd to Congress. Nonetheless, NRA’s Executive Vice-President Franklin Orth also supported the law especially the ban of mail-order gun sales. According to Orth, the law should have been passed since the legal possession of firearms led to the killing of the United States President. However, the bill was opposed by conservationists and outdoorsmen including Richard H Stroud, Harry R. Woodward, Howard Cater Jnr, and Robert T Dennis including industry groups and sportsmen (Laschever & Meyer, 2021). This is because the law would lead to a damaging and extensive consequence on shooting sports and hunting while failing to combat crime.

Reason for my opposition to the Legislation

One of my major reasons to oppose the Gun Control Act of 1968 is that possession of firearms has increased the number of deaths and nonfatal injuries in the county. Over the past few decades, the government could have prevented many murders and gun violence incidences if new laws on restrictions of guns were imposed. Nonetheless, school and public shootings have increased since many people possess and own firearms. This has made it easier for shooters to acquire guns without getting noticed by the law authorities. Gun ownership has been an issue with vast adverse effects in the country due to gun misuse and sometimes unintended murders, which is a risk to public security (Kleck, 2017). Therefore, gun laws have not been effective in lowering the incidences of violence, and restrictive laws against the possession of firearms can be useful in preventing more deaths.

Legal possession of firearms has led to more crimes, and the Gun Control Act has been ineffective. This is because many cases of violence are reported across the country, even with the imposed laws. For the past six years, the government has had strict gun control laws, yet a lot of violence and is still reported. In 2017, Illinois was ranked among the top thirty cities with the highest homicide rates (Kleck, 2017). Since most criminals prove to break the law, other laws would not prevent them from committing more crimes. Instead, the main reasons that make them commit crimes lie solely on issues such as psychotic behaviors (Winkler, 2018). Another reason is that firearms mean revenue for a few and loss for many- especially those who lose loved ones, lose body parts, or become disabled. Letting human instinct of anger or revenge be communicated through destructive mechanisms like guns only fuel that negative emotion further and destroys any negotiation scope. To this end, legal possession of firearms has increased violence, and the government should seek other mechanisms for taming criminals.

Legal possession of firearms means that the police do not have jobs to do since American citizens can protect themselves from using guns. This is wrong; the police always want to protect the citizens, and if they happen to be around when a crime is committed, they will. Furthermore, they must be at a crime scene or arrive there on time. So, allowing the legal possession of firearms would leave many people as subjects to criminals’ whims. Furthermore, the CDC states, offenses from defensive guns often occur more than any other crime since criminals steal guns from gun shops and from those who legally possess them (Harris & Tarchak, 2019. Thus, it will be a wrong move if people are allowed to possess guns legally.

History of other Policies Intended to Address Problem

Apart from the Gun control act of 1968, there are other policies intended to solve the problem of firearm possession in the United States one of them is the Second Amendment. Because of the Second Amendment, gun laws until 1934 were exclusively state, county, or municipal (Winkler, 2018). There is are also other guns laws including the Ammunition Background Check Act of 2018 which enhances the ammunition sales background check process and the Assault Weapon Ban of 2018 which prohibits the importation sale, importation, transfer, manufacturer, and passion of assault weapons. Nonetheless, the Protecting Americans from Gun Violence Act of 2017 encourages the use of NICS in firearms transfers, requires reporting of stolen and lost firearms, and supports gun violence research by CDC.

In 1934 the first federal gun law was passed, but it was restricted to very specific types of firearms and passed as a tax measure. The second federal gun law was passed in 1968, which set restrictions on gun sellers, and methods of sale. With the relatively recent Supreme Court decisions of Heller v. District of Columbia and Chicago v. McDonald, a lot of that patchwork of laws have been rendered legally moot, but until they are challenged in court, or at least threatened with a challenge, they remain on the books (Laschever & Meyer, 2021). The Second Amendment Foundation is currently working its way through those laws as fast as it can and winning.

Alternative Policies that can be explored

While the Gun Control Act of 1968 remains ineffective in lowering gun violence, other alternative policies should be considered. First, the Federal government should de-list short-barrelled rifles, short-barrelled shotguns, suppressors, and “any other weapons” from the NFA. Machine guns and “destructive devices” (explosive weapons) should remain Title II, but all other categories should be defined largely by cosmetic features and, in the absence of handguns being included in the act as originally intended (Cook, 2020). Second, the government should repeal the Hughes Amendment. Statistically speaking, more crimes were committed with NFA-applicable machine guns after the Hughes Amendment passed than between the NFA’s passage and the HA’s passage.

Third, the government should create an exception to U.S. and State sovereign immunity in the case of damages arising from incomplete or incorrect NICS information. Plaintiffs should have the standing to sue any agency of the U.S. Federal Government or any State government for actual damages for which the proximate cause is either a “false deny” or a “false proceed” on a NICS query (Smith & Spiegler, 2020). Fourth the government should create a national concealed-carry licensing system. The system should be shall-issue and should require a firearms safety and legal instruction course, a practical qualification, fingerprinting and a comprehensive background check verifying the applicant is not a Federally-prohibited person. The permit should have national reciprocity pre-empting any contradictory State or local law regarding the legality of carrying, similar to LEOSA.

Noteless, the 2nd amendment should be amended. The 2nd amendment is doctrine and yet it makes absolutely no sense in the 21st century. All citizens should not have an unconditional right to bear arms, nor should they be granted a special privilege to form a militia and overthrow the government. Also, Guns should be regulated like other powerful and dangerous pieces of equipment. Hunters, law enforcement, military, and gun hobbyists should have to demonstrate that they are responsible enough to own guns through training and licensing (Cook, 2020). Guns themselves must be registered and tracked, and there are penalties if a gun goes missing or other shenanigans. Particularly dangerous guns should never be sold to civilians.

The population(s) this law impacts.

The Gun Control Act impacts the general population this includes every United States citizen. Gun-related violence threatens every individual in the country and over 500 individuals die of gun-related injuries every day (Sperlich et al., 2019). Every person can be affected by gun violence but in specific situations, it disproportionately affects minorities, children, women, and marginalized populations. In some cases, the presence of firearms makes people feel fearful for their lives and threatened. It may also lead to long-term and severe psychological effects not only on individuals but also the entire communities. The availability of firearms can negatively people’s right to healthcare and education since they will be too afraid to attend healthcare facilities and schools. Children from minority communities are the major victims of firearm industries and deaths in the United States. Among black children, the second leading causes of death are homicides which account for 65% of the killings. There are also school shootings and public shootings that tend to leave psychological and emotional effects on people. As the Gun Control Act remains ineffective in solving these issues the general population specifically the minorities and children significantly suffer the outcomes.

Social Worker’s Role in Working with the Impacted Population.

Social workers have a crucial role to play in fighting the issue of firearms that impacts children and minorities. They can work towards prevention by counseling these populations on limiting access to lethal means. Given, their engagement with children and minorities, social workers have the effective skills to solve and address the issue of the gun problem and the inactive Gun Control Act (Johnson & Barsky, 2020). Today more than ever, there is a need for social workers especially in schools to support children in times of crisis and help prevent school violence. They are trained to identify warning signs and understand the risk factors. Social workers need to focus on alternative policies and ensure the policies are advocated.  But any solution starts with asking about the issue, problem, and then, with robust, honest, good debates with all the government officials, they will formulate implementation of the policies and address the issue of firearms. According to the NASW Code of Ethics, social workers are required to pay attention to the needs of vulnerable people. Victims of gun violence are vulnerable and social workers should focus on advocating for their needs (Sperlich et al., 2019). Social workers should approach the conversations on firearms issues with competence, integrity, human relationships, and respect to ensure that Gun Control Act is amended to solve the issues of firearms.

A Summary of Knowledge Gained

Throughout the course, I have learned how social work policy and social work practice influence each other. The main aim of social work practice is ensuring economic and social justice within the social environment is achieved to enable people to have opportunities for achieving success for themselves and their families no matter their cultural preference social status, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation (Johnson & Barsky, 2020). Both social work practice and social work policies work together but in different settings and contexts. However, social workers’ role to advocate for effective social policies remains a significant aspect. Social workers engage in policy practices that lead to the amendment of existing legislation or initiates new legislation by lobbying with politicians and communities. Social workers should also be aware of the policies they advocate for and how it impacts the population they serve (Sperlich et al., 2019).  Nonetheless, I have learned that social work is about navigating all the systems to bring about the best possible outcome for the vulnerable population is tremendous work. It is certainly social, it is certainly about justice, it is certainly about education, it is certainly about economics, it is certainly about race, it is certainly systemically embedded in the culture.







Cook, P. J. (2020). Thinking about gun violence. Criminology & Public Policy, 19(4), 1371-1393. https://doi.org/10.1111/1745-9133.12519

Harris, R., & Tarchak, L. (2019, November 11). Discussing Guns in America Is Difficult. Let’s Try It. from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/11/opinion/gun-control-laws.html

Johnson, D., & Barsky, A. E. (2020). Preventing gun violence in schools: Roles and perspectives of social workers. School social work journal44(2), 26-48. https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/preventing-gun-violence-schools-roles/docview/2549949718/se-2?accountid=201395

Kleck, G. (2017). Point blank: Guns and violence in America (First Edition). New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Laschever, E., & Meyer, D. S. (2021). Growth and Decline of Opposing Movements: Gun Control and Gun Rights, 1945–2015. Mobilization, 26(1), 1-20. https://doi.org/10.17813/1086-671X-26-1-1

Smith, J., & Spiegler, J. (2020). Explaining gun deaths: gun control, mental illness, and policymaking in the American states. Policy studies journal, 48(1), 235-256. https://doi.org/10.1111/psj.12242

Sperlich, M., Logan-Greene, P., Slovak, K., & Kaplan, M. S. (2019). Addressing gun violence: A social work imperative. Health & Social Work, 44(4), 217–220. https://doi.org/10.1093/hsw/hlz022

Winkler, A. (2018). Is the Second Amendment Becoming Irrelevant? Indiana Law Journal 93(1), 253. https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/indana93&div=18&id=&page=


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