Separation of powers and gun control laws

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Separation of Powers

Separation of power, checks and balances, and federalism are some of the most fundamental components of the successful governmental framework that has made the United States the most powerful and productive country in the world. Although the doctrines are not 100 percent perfect or efficient, their features were not merely seen by the Founders of the country, but intended. A government that would work perfectly and efficiently would make it easy and swift for changes to be made to the law by the relevant branches. Nevertheless, these concepts determine which actors have the authority and responsibility to act on certain circumstances by providing for division of labor and rules of the processes. This part of the paper offers a description of these three doctrines and applies them to the formation and implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The doctrine of separation of powers aims at limiting the power of the national government by dividing its functions across three branches, the legislature, judiciary, and executive. The framers appeared to understand the oppressive nature of governments even in the presence of guaranteed rights. Therefore, they created a system that would block overreach, that is, where the government safeguards liberty by avoiding the entrapments of tyranny (Beckett, 2002). Constitutional authority was thus distributed among the newly created branches of the government and between the federal and state governments. This is the doctrine of checks and balances that seeks to control power and ambitions. The legislature is balanced by the executive veto. The Judiciary checks both Legislature and Executive by nullifying the acts of either branch. The Congress’s power of advising and consenting checks the Executive in terms of the power of appointment. Federalism refers to the distribution of power between the national government and the states. It reserves to the states the powers not granted to the federal government. The powers and limitations of both actors have been renegotiated in numerous instances throughout the American history from the traditional dual federalism to cooperative federalism and finally to what is now called regulated federalism.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) sought to enhance accessibility of coverage for Americans by implementing market reforms, establishing new health insurance marketplace, and expanding the Medicaid eligibility to include individuals of lower socio-economic statuses. The Congress played a significant role in the act’s development and implementation. The passage of any bill requires the approval of both the House of Representatives and Senate. The bill was approved on March 12, 2010 in a 219-212 vote. Congress has also been responsible for subsequent amendments and revisions to the law. President Obama signed the bill into law on March 23, 2010. The Supreme Court’s primary role has been adjudicating over the numerous lawsuits seeking to challenge certain provisions of the act. For example, in National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) v Sebelius, the Supreme Court made a significant ruling of upholding the constitutionality of the individual mandate. It also gave states the option of Medicaid expansion. Further, in King v Burwell, the majority saved the act from evisceration. The states have showed varied approaches in implementing the ACA. The primary role of the states is to develop new legislative or regulatory actions that addresses market reforms in the ACA, such as coverage of young adults, banning preexisting condition exclusions, and other critical consumer protections. Health Insurance providers including Aetna Inc, Anthem Inc., Cigna, and Human, have also been instrumental actors in the implementation of the ACA. The companies have had to offer wider ranges of services in order to fulfill one of the goals of ACA has been increased coverage.

Gun Control

The Las Vegas mass shooting of October 1, 2017 is the worst mass shooting in modern US leading to the death of 58 people and injuring 489 more. Unsurprisingly, the event may lead to more efforts on regulating gun policies. The incident shows that communities are too vulnerable to gun violence with the perpetrators living freely in the society. This has been enhanced by the easiness in which individuals can access weapons that that can kill a large number of victims within a short time. It appears that the trend in the numbers of casualties is increasing by each incidence. Prior to the Las Vegas mass shooting, the record was held by Omar Mateen whose mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub led to the deaths of 49 people (Bump, 2017). Prior to the Orlando shooting was the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting where 32 people were killed. There is an alarming near certainty that there will be another mass shooting incidence in which the number of casualties may be over 50. Other than the Orlando killing that seemed to target individuals of a particular sexuality, the killings have appeared to be indiscriminative. On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanz forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut where his shooting rampage resulted in the deaths of 20 children and six adults. Before, the shooting rampage, he had killed his mother at the home they shared and later killed himself at the scene.

One of the major causes of mass shootings is the lax gun laws in the country. The right of bearing arms, which proponents of firearms use as their backing is constitutionally guaranteed under the Second Amendment. Another cause is the power and fame that the perpetrators perceive they will achieve for their crimes. Psychiatrists have also associated mental instabilities with increased tendencies to engage in gun crime. This is as evidenced by the substantially higher murder-suicide among mass shooters than in any other category of shooters. .

Policy alternatives to deal with the problem of mass shooting would include gun control regulations. Federal laws would be more effective in gun control as states with few restrictions on gun accessibility would continue being sources of guns and illegally flow into the more restrictive states (Krouse, 2012). Efforts to this end would include background checks on private gun sales, bans on assault weapons, and putting a limit in magazine capacity. News media should also be limited in coverage of mass shootings so such perpetrators are not guaranteed of the fame and notoriety. Lastly, involuntary commitment to mental health facilities should be made easier to achieve.

An increase in community oriented policing services is an indication that communities are actively engaged in looking for techniques of curbing gun violence. Undeserved fame is a powerful flame in the fire of a mass shooter. When mass media and social media fess make a pact to not share, reproduce, or re-tweet information regarding the mass shooter, mass shootings would dramatically reduce. This should be evidenced by not naming them. More focus is on the victims rather than the shooter. For the third alternative, statistics can be taken when the incidences occur on the individuals that had previously exhibited signs of mental incompetence.

The best alternative among the three is limiting the news media coverage. The media rewards the killers. It is naïve to believe that does not hold the power to over calculated killers or even stop some of their crimes. This should be done in a way that does not limit the free flow of information, the freedom of the media, the freedom of expression, and other First Amendment’s protections. This can be achieved through reporting of other newsworthy content in the place of violent crime. Mass shooting news can be reported in a way that does not reveal the history, face, or motivations of the killer thereby their much craved infamous legacy.

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  1. Beckett, C. H. (2002). Separation of Powers and Federalism: Their Impact on Individual Liberty and the Functioning of Our Government. William and Mary Law Review, 29 (3).
  2. Bump, P. 2016).  America’s Deadliest Shooting Incidents Are Getting Much More Deadly. Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2017/10/02/americas-deadliest-shooting-incidents-are-getting-much-more-deadly/?utm_term=.a812ab79b448.
  3. Krouse, W. J. (2012). Gun Control Legislation. Congressional Research Service, 7-5700.
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