The Practice of Gerrymandering and Gun Regulations in the Elections

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Gerrymandering is the practice of “dividing an area” into “political units” which ultimately helps one political party (Merriam-Webster). However, these divisions are typically unfair and leave one political party at a disadvantage. The philosophy behind gerrymandering is to not give an overwhelming amount of safe seats to the person who is probable to win, but to give the opponent a number of safe seats. While the person who is probable to win will still likely win, the playing field is leveled out (Ingraham). This philosophy is rarely practiced, as there are a significant amount of examples that do not practice this, and instead, Congressional districts are drawn without being compact like they are supposed to be. In 2012, 51 percent of North Carolina voters cast ballots for Democratic congressional candidates. Yet because of gerrymandering, Republicans won nine of the state’s 13 seats (Kiger). Also in 2012, Republicans won a majority of 33 seats in the House despite getting 1.4 million fewer votes than their Democratic opponents. Gerrymandering is also changing from election to election. The political party that controls state legislatures gets to redraw congressional boundaries every 10 years after the results of the most recent Census. This allows politicians to select their voters rather than the voters to choose their representatives. In addition to this, with the help of technology, gerrymandering has only become more effective. Computer programs get detailed information on the voter’s location and political preferences by “cracking” and “packing” (Short).

Cracking refers to diluting the voting power of the opposing party’s supporters across many districts whereas packing is concentrating the opposing party’s voting power in one district to reduce their voting power in other districts (“Gerrymandering”). Furthermore, the Supreme Court allows this practice ruled by the 1986 court case “Thornburg vs. Gingles.” This ruled against a Democratic legislature’s attempt to spread minority voters among seven new districts in North Carolina. Ultimately, the ruling helped create districts where minority voters were concentrated, which only encouraged the packing of voters. Unfortunately, ending gerrymandering or resolving these issues are not simple. There are several ways to prevent the extent of gerrymandering, but each solution lacks aspects that are critical to the voting process, such as recognizes minorities or taking geography into account (Short). However, if there is a solution to gerrymandering, it could potentially create less extreme partisans and help the amount of diversity in Congress. Gerrymandering also makes elections less competitive and the people in these districts would be more connected to their representative, as there would be less of a cultural divide and would hopefully represent the minorities better as well. This would ensure both populations to be represented more equally than in previous elections and each person would feel as if he or she could make a difference within the federal government.

Regulating guns has been at the center for controversy over the past few decades. While Republicans say gun control infringes on the Second Amendment, Democrats feel as if it is vital to establish more rigorous laws for current and future gun owners. The Constitution was written during a time where firearms were not as technologically advanced as they are today. Nowadays, it is unnecessary for people to own semi-automatic firearms and assault weapons; banning such weapons would help prevent future shootings. As of 2014, there are 319 million people living in the United States and there are 371 million firearms owned, with 3% owning about 50% of the total amount of civilian weapons (Agresti, Smith, Guerra, et al. Regoli, “10”). The process to obtain a gun seems fairly simple. One can purchase a gun at a local store, online, or at a gun show. Then a background check is done, which includes presenting a government-issued photo I.D. However, using fake driver’s licenses had a 100% success rate in purchasing firearms in five states that met the minimum requirements of the federal background check system (Agresti, Smith, and Guerra). “A 2001 report of this investigation states that the federal background check system ‘does not positively identify purchasers of firearms,’ and thus, people using fake IDs are not flagged by the system” (Agresti, Smith, Guerra). Also, because of an expired federal ban of assault rifles in 2004, it is now left up to the states to enforce their own laws. This means that states do not have to ban assault rifles if they do not feel it is necessary to do so. Some states are choosing to do a “grandfather” policy whereby a person who owns an assault rifle as long as certain requirements are met for the gun owner (Giffords, “Assault Weapons”).

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Within the past year, three out of ten of the deadliest mass shootings in modern American history has occurred and they have specifically been carried out with semi-automatic rifles (Giffords, “Regulating”). After looking at 70 mass shootings in the United States, around 75% of rifles used are legally purchased (Regoli, “21”). Ultimately, guns should be regulated by the National Firearms Act, the manufacturing and sale of assault weapons should be banned, a more extensive background check with a mental health screening, and a tax to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives should be implemented so they can enforce this new amendment with the NFA (Giffords, “Regulating”). By regulating guns, the government would save money as well. The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation found that the average cost per person of gun violence in the United States was about $560 per year. In addition to this, the government lost over $5 billion in tax revenues because of these violent acts, with the majority of the costs due to the need for court proceedings. Also, 84% of the people treated for gunshot wounds do not have insurance so reliant on taxpayers (Regoli, “21”). Having gun control would decrease the number of mass shootings, create more revenue for the federal government, and would ultimately make the United States a safer country. By implementing a new amendment that enforces a more extensive background check, a ban on assault and semi-automatic weapons, and if stores had to register with the government such as ABC stores, many lives and money would be saved.

The support for the environment has also become one of the most powerful movements within the past few years. With more studies emerging, concerns for the environment have taken over social media and news outlets. The average American has double the carbon footprint compared to a non-American (Earthlyperspec). However, large corporations are primarily responsible for the amount of pollution in the world today. Industry causes a large amount of air emissions, especially through factories (Ministry). Factories cause the emission of pollutants, including “organic solvents, respirable particles, sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOX)” (Ministry).

These air emissions contribute to climate change, the greenhouse effect, the ozone hole, and increasing desertification. Water is also being polluted by these businesses as well, and they add to effluent water. Sewers, industrial outlets, and treatment plants contribute to the pollution of groundwater reservoirs, damage of transport and wastewater treatment systems, and the degradation of treated wastewater and sludge that prevents the water from being used in agricultural processes. Land pollution is another problem, as leakage from fuel, hazardous materials, and energy are the main causes of land and soil contamination. Soil contamination is caused by direct exposure to the pollutant, leakage of toxic gases into buildings, and groundwater pollution. Examples of soil pollution sources are oil refineries, pipelines transporting gas, oil depots, gas stations, metal treatment and coating factories, chemical plants, dry cleaning businesses, printing businesses, the textile industry, and sites where hazardous materials are stored. The properties of soil retain materials, so it is difficult to clean up (Ministry).

If humans want to improve the quality of the environment and therefore their lives, then large corporations need to be regulated by using renewable energy, more recyclable materials such as plant fibers, installing a water dispensing system, using less paper, better-insulated buildings to help with temperature regulation instead of relying on AC and heating units, mandating energy-efficient appliances, and switching to LED Light bulbs (Kulkarni and Denchak). A constitutional amendment would increase the role of the federal government, control pollution, would give Congress and the courts the clear authority to take strong action to protect the environment, and recognize a clean and healthy environment as a constitutional right. This will also help the economy by creating more by increasing the number of jobs (National Constitution Center). Once again, this amendment would please everyone as it creates revenue for the government and helps the future of both United States citizens and everyone else in the world.

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