Gun Safety in the United States

The recent United States’ mass shootings, in Atlanta, Georgia and then a week later in Boulder, Colorado have jolted many Americans, and reignited the controversy over gun safety policy in the United States. Congress has (as of this writing) introduced 30 bills that include some kind of gun legislation. The debate over gun safety has been simmering a long time, and it can be a contentious, emotional issue to explore in classrooms across the country.  Nevertheless, the Second Amendment, and dispassionate discussions about gun policy, are an important part of students’ civic education.

This week, the current events selections are a little different. In order to facilitate discussions in the classroom, instead of news articles, Civics Learning Project has curated a list of non-partisan websites to help teachers and their students explore facts about guns in America, the texts of all of the current congressional bills, and information about Supreme Court decisions regarding gun laws. These sites can help teachers plan and achieve classroom discussions that are inclusive, fact-based, and allow students choice with which facet of the current conversation they would like to engage.

Instead of the usual news analysis documents, teachers will find a copy of the detailed steps to plan a Structured Academic Controversy method of discussion. The Structured Academic Controversy model is designed to ensure all student voices are heard, and to support students in engaging in rich, meaningful discussion based on facts; included are sentence starters and frames for students to use to help ensure that their conversations are respectful and inclusive of all perspectives. Teachers who want to extend this lesson could consider working with their students on a Community Action Project through which students can research gun laws in their area, and draft a policy to address issues that they identify.  Teachers can find the full Community Action Guide at CLP’s website.

Civics Learning Project is here to support teachers. We welcome your feedback on this week’s Current Event, and if you have any questions about strategies of engagement for difficult topics, please contact Program Manager Beth Cook at [email protected].


Essential Questions:

  • How are the latest mass shootings influencing Congress to enact more legislation for gun safety?
  • How has the Second Amendment shaped gun legislation in the United States?
  • How has the Second Amendment been interpreted by the Supreme Court?
  • Why do gun laws vary so much within states and between states?
  • How have Americans’ views on gun safety changed throughout history, and why?



Websites for Facts on Guns and Policy:

Britannica Pro Con, Should More Gun Control Laws Be Enacted?

Britannica, Gun Control/Laws, Debate, Pros, Cons, & Facts

Just Facts: Gun Control

ATF Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Gun Control Act

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, What Do We Know About the Association Between Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Injuries?

Council on Foreign Relations, US Gun Policy Global Comparisons

Gale, Scholarly Articles on Gun Control: History, Legislation and Issues

Fact Check, The Gun Debate

Websites for Polls on Gun Ownership and Policy:


Pew Research, Facts on Gun Ownership

Websites for Second Amendment, Supreme Court Decisions and Explanations:

Constitution Annotated, the Second Amendment

Library of Congress, United States: Gun Ownership and the Supreme Court

Oyez, Supreme Court Cases:

United States v Miller

District of Columbia v Heller

McDonald v Chicago

New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. v City of New York

Current Gun Legislation in Congress:

Oregon Firearms Laws and proposed Legislation:

Oregon Proposed legislation 2021 Regular Session

Explanation of Different Types of Firearms:

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime