This is getting out of control. Twenty first graders and six teachers dead; nobody does a thing. 173 mass shootings within 163 days of it being 2016; not a word and now this, the worst mass shooting on American soil in American history and what will we do in response? Nothing.
We’ll go through the same motions that we go through with every other mass shooting and not a thing will be changed to prevent these incidents from recurring. The far left will argue: “It’s time to ban guns, especially high powered assault rifles, in this country. Without out guns there would be no mass shootings like this.” The far right will rebut: “Obama ain’t coming to take my guns. The 2nd Amendment protects my right to unlimited access to firearms. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Congress, in typical fashion, will respond by providing their condolences to the families and victims, and condemning gun violence, yet do nothing about it back on Capitol Hill. I know I’m not alone when I say I want this to change and the best way to begin that change is by having a nuanced and factual discussion about the state of guns in the United States, not just spew extremist punditry until everyone forgets about the original incident.
Let’s first establish the history and the original intent behind the history of the firearm. The first recorded use of a gun was in 1364 shortly after the Chinese invented black powder, which they called huo yao. Naturally, this was soon weaponized and became ubiquitous in combat over the next few centuries. That being said, the original intent and main function the firearm was to kill. A lot of gun enthusiasts like to emphasize that guns don’t kill people people kill people, though it is true that guns themselves can’t pull their own triggers, they miss the crucial fact that the things they compare guns to weren’t designed with the sole purpose of end the life of another organism. For example, “Spoons don’t make you fat, but when you eat a lot of ice cream you get fat. Should we ban all spoons?” Well, no because spoons can’t kill fifty people in less than 20 seconds. Another common argument is, “Cars and planes can be used as weapons too. Should we ban cars and planes?” No, again cars and planes aren’t used to maliciously murder innocent people on a weekly basis, plus, cars and planes require extensive training to operate, have build in safety measures, require a valid license to operate, and have to actually be registered.
Now, to fast forward from the invention of the gun to Philadelphia, 1789, where the Founding Fathers are debating the adoption of the 2nd Amendment. What the original intent for this Amendment is and how it should be interpreted is an issue that still rages on today. Before a definitive answer is reached, let this be prefaced by saying the Bill of Rights is not set in stone. It has been amended 27 times in our nation’s history, when the dynamics and public discourse of our country changes, the Constitution changed with it. So why, then, do we allow the 2nd Amendment a special immunity from any kind of scrutiny? 13,286 gun murders in 2015 alone and one would think we would take even the slightest precautions to lower that number. Is this what the Founders had in mind when they drafted this amendment, laissez faire gun laws no matter the risk to public safety?
Not exactly, the 2nd Amendment was drafted at a time when the United States was still a brand new country, weary of a powerful and oppressive government (hence the Revolutionary War) and fearful of the prospect that the new federal government of the United States could devolve into a tyrannical oppressive force, similar to King George in England. Therefore it was written that:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free States, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
This allowed the States to form, arm, and regulate their own militias (slave patrols if you were in the South) and allowed the people, within their respective militia, to keep and bear arms in the event they had to assembled to fight a foreign attack or a tyrannical government. It does not say anywhere, however, that Cleetus down the street is allowed to build his own private arsenal with little to no oversight. Furthermore, when this amendment was ratified, 226 years ago, the two deadliest weapons on the planet earth were cannons and muskets; one has to wonder: if the Founding Fathers could have seen the devastation weapons like the AR-15 could cause or the frequency of mass shootings in their beloved country, would they have added a stipulation to keep weapons so destructive from being so readily accessible? And to the final point of the possibility of overthrowing a tyrannical government, which may have made sense 250 years ago when the government and its people were fairly evenly matched, today it is nothing more than a fantasy, a fantasy that gun manufacturers and the NRA exploit to get you to buy more of their guns. Even if this was to happen and a militia were to be formed, I’m not sure how effective 50 good ole boys from Alabama would be against the F-22, one MOAB, an M1 Abrams Tank, or a U.S. Navy SEAL.
Now, how have these gun laws played out over the subsequent 240 years? Between the years 1968 and 2011 there were more gun deaths, in that time period, than from every war the U.S. has ever fought combined, 33,636 gun related deaths in 2013, including homicide, suicide, and accidental discharge according to the Center for Disease Control, 300 million guns in circulation, a gun lobby that won’t allow the CDC to perform scientific research on gun violence, exclusively, nor allow any politician to have a sensible discussion or pass sensible laws regarding guns, and a Harvard gun ownership study that concludes a positive correlation between gun ownership and homicide, suicide, accidents, binge drinking, and a negative correlation in a general feeling of safety within a well armed community.
What can be done to combat this epidemic that won’t involve a Constitutional Amendment? I don’t think banning guns in this country is the proper solution, instead I, along with 55% of the American people according to Gallup, want stricter laws in regards to purchasing firearms. The first step is changing the context of the gun conversation entirely and realizing this is an issue of public health and safety. Think about it in any other context; if 30,000 people were being killed per year by faulty iPhones blowing up in their faces, not only would Apple sales drop dramatically, but there would, more than likely, be a push to create legislation that prevents Androids, and further generation iPhones, from doing the same. Improperly funded Mental Health programs also cause an elevated risk for violence where: severe deinstitutionalization keeps those who need the most help untreated and on the streets. 60% of adults suffering from a mental illness did not recieve treatment due to a lack of funding and resources in their state, after $5 billion in mental health cuts from 2009-2012, and of those 60% left untreated 45% cite cost as the main reason for not seeking treatment, all according to research conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Once this is framed into the proper context, we need to restrain the NRA. Because of their stranglehold on Congress and incessant fear mongering, any attempt at an intelligent conversation about gun policy devolves into, “Obama is coming to take your guns and abolish the 2nd Amendment, buy a gun and become a member today!!.” As a direct result of the gridlock they’ve created on Capitol Hill, we can thank them for: the death of the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act in 2015, Washington D.C. looking the Voting Rights Act, the,Charleston Loophole, the dilution of the Brady Bill, Wayne LaPierre, the indisputable logic of “the only thing that stops a bad guy with gun is a good guy with a gun” after the fallout of Sandy Hook, and the spit in the eyes of the 55% of the American people who are sick and tired of watching events like Orlando, Aurora, Newtown, San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, Charleston, and the countless others that don’t make national news take place every week.
Now the big question: What could common sense gun reform look like? A good first step would be to make it so that every seller of firearms is required to have license including:
a person who makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms,
Private sales of this nature account for 40% of all gun sales in the United States per year. From there we can move to universal background checks, for all gun buyers regardless of venue, without a flat three day, or 72 hour, waiting period, meaning if a background cannot be properly completed within those three days it will be extended until able to be properly and thoroughly completed. Combined,these moderate regulations could eliminating notorious loopholes such as the “Charleston Loophole”, which provides a 72 hour waiting period before the transfer of a firearm, even if the background check was not completed, the “Gun Show Loophole”, where individuals can buy or sell guns without a license or background check, and the “Online Loophole”, pretty much the gun show loophole on the internet. Perhaps the most obvious measures,first, would be DON’T LET PEOPLE ON THE TERRORIST WATCH LIST PURCHASE FIREARMS, didn’t think that would ever be a controversy, and start manufacturing smart-guns that are child proof, user authorized and activate, and deactivate if an unauthorized user attempts to operate the firearm. Just put two and two together, the technology, policies, and public support already exist, it’s just a matter of implementation and standing up to the NRA leadership.
The proposals listed above are in no way radical. There are already gun control laws, to a certain extent, in the United States. For example, law abiding citizens can’t buy a missile, or a tank, or a machine gun, or a fighter jet, or a nuke, or a rocket launcher, so why protest laws that keep suspected terrorist from being able to purchase a. simple handgun. A common response to any level of gun reform is, “All it will do is make it harder for law abiding citizens to purchase a gun, meanwhile making it easier for criminals to get their hands on those same guns.” Though stopping crime entirely is nothing but a pipe dream, there is a pesky little thing called statistics, and if we can make it considerably harder for criminals and the mentally ill to able to buy and operate firearms then we, statistically, reduce the odds of you or a loved one being affected by gun violence, accidents, or suicide, and what’s the trade off? You have to wait an extra day to get your gun so a background check can be properly vetted? Seems like a no brainer to me.