I mentioned before that sweeping, outright bans are generally not a good idea. Particularly on something that was originally considered legal.
I stand by that.
The minute you ban something, you’re opening the floodgates for a black market. People will profit under the table with no way to control or regulate the product. We tried that with alcohol. It was called Prohibition. It only lasted for fourteen years.
So what do you do with a potentially dangerous product?
You regulate it. You tax it. You do what you can to make sure people use it safely.
This is what I think most people mean when the term “gun control” gets bandied about. Of course, there are some that would like to see guns go away completely. I would be one of them. Then again, I’d also like to see global disarmament of nuclear weapons, universal healthcare, and severe repercussions for people who leave their Christmas lights up past January 15. I know we have to be realistic about things. I think it is realistic and reasonable to talk about gun control. Why shouldn’t we? We control other unwieldly, potentially dangerous objects. Take cars, for instance. We regulate the auto industry. Vehicles have to pass certain tests in order for them to be considered safe enough to drive. In order to operate said vehicle, drivers have to be of a certain age and have to pass a test to prove they would not be a danger to others while driving. By the way, most states will not issue a driver’s license or will require restrictions on people with certain medical conditions, i.e. visual impairments, epilepsy, etc. If you drive recklessly, we have laws in place to reprimand you and your license can be suspended or revoked. In most states, you are required to purchase insurance should you get in an accident. If you want to buy a vehicle, you have a license to mark the car and registration to prove that you did in fact lawfully purchase it and are authorized to operate it. Cars are useful but they are inherently dangerous, by both accident and design. We still see the occasional crazy person who purposefully tries to hurt someone with a car.
What would be so outrageous about applying similar types of regulations to guns? Guns, after all, are made to kill living things. Why shouldn’t someone have to pass a few tests (background check, mental health check, shooting/operations test) in order to receive a license to operate a firearm? If you want to purchase a firearm, the seller should be required to check that license, regardless of whether the gun is being sold at a store, online, or at a gun show. Why shouldn’t we restrict gun manufacturers and the type of weapons they can produce? Automobile makers are subject to rules and regulations. You can’t even have dark tinting on car windows. Why don’t we halt production of high-capacity gun maganizes? Why don’t we require liability insurance for gun owners?
Our government has been historically hesitant to place restrictions or regulations on gun usage and ownership. The problem lies with our U.S. Constitution. As great as it is, my friends, it is not a perfect document. If it were, it wouldn’t have 27 amendments. The most recent was passed in 1994. It’s a living document. Within that living document is a certain provision in the first set of ten amendments, also known as the Bill of Rights. It can be found in the Second Amendment and reads as follows:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
This has been interpreted in two ways: 1.) that the U.S. has a right to a standing army/militia and 2.) that the citizens of the United States have the right to own and use weapons. Some have (perhaps rightly) intepreted this as a provision to keep citizens safe from a potentially tyrannical government. This argument actually carries quite a bit of weight when placed in its proper context. The Bill of Rights was written when United States as a fledgling country which had just won its independence from England.
However, as we all know, the United States is no longer a fledging country of the late 18th century. Times have changed and we have changed, as our founding fathers knew we would. In the original document of the Constitution, they outlined the means of editing said Constitution (see Article V). This is how we were able to change that whole messy business of having to return slaves to their original owners (see Article IV, Section 3 for original text; see Amendments XIII and XIV for changes) back when slavery was legal and slaves were considered 3/5 of a person (see Article I, section 2; Amendment XIV). We even had to go back and tweak Amendment XIV. Twice. The first time we had to get rid of the gender restriction on voting (Amendment XIV, section 2; Amendment XIX). The second time we lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 (Amendment XXVI).
Our country has evolved and must keep evolving if we are going to endure. If the founding fathers did not believe there would be unpredictable changes in our future, they would not have included the means to alter the Constitution to address those changes. When it comes to the right to bear arms, the founding fathers had absolutely no concept of the type of weaponry that would come about in the 200 years following the birth of the United States. Did they really intend for individual citizens to possess the same arms as the military? Perhaps they did, as many claim. Perhaps they did want the people to be able to stand up against the government if it turned tyrannical. But that’s the real question, isn’t it? Did our forefathers really intend for an armed citizenry or did they intend for an armed standing militia? And even if they did intend for an armed citizenry, where does it stop? Did they intend for citizens to have access to military-grade weapons? Do you think our forefathers would allow individual citizens to possess fully armed warships in their day? Thank about what that would mean for us now. Does the right to bear arms mean to the right to match the military’s arms? Does that mean citizens have the right to tanks and bombs? That’s insanely irrational especially when we look at how weaponry has advanced since the 1700’s. How could our forefathers even dream of the kind of military we would have and the weapons at their disposal? How could they conceive of drones, atomic bombs, mustard gas, land mines, and all of the other ways we have invented to kill each other? We don’t allow citizens access to those modern tools of war but we allow them modern military-grade guns. And you’re going to sit there and tell me that this is what the forefathers wanted? They had muskets which required 13 steps (and about 30 seconds) to fire a single shot. How could they imagine a Glock 19 or a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle with an extended magazine which allows 30 shots in the same amount of time? We are allowing 17th century fears to dictate 21st century realities. It just doesn’t make logical sense. If you are going to sit there and say that you need guns to protect you from the government and it’s your right, then you might as well argue your right to personal ballistic missiles as well. It’s not going to get you anywhere. It shouldn’t get you anywhere. And if it’s a revolution you’re looking for, let me tell you that modern-day revolutions have not been achieved with guns. Find me one revolution that has been won with rebels armed with assault rifles.
Many argue that guns are needed to protect citizens from each other. The more good guys with guns, the more people to stop the bad guys with guns. Let’s take a look at the international scene to try and dismantle that logic. The world has generally agreed that more nuclear weapons is bad for everyone. This is why we try to block new countries from developing them every chance we get. This is why the U.S. and other countries have committed to non-proliferation, meaning they won’t build any new nuclear weapons. You see, more weapons does not automatically make international tensions or conflicts better. Why shouldn’t this apply to guns? Why would more guns or more armed citizens automatically reduce crime or reduce mass shootings? In fact, other countries have proved that the OPPOSITE is true.
In 1996, Australia banned semi-automatic weapons, pump-action rifles, and shotguns, and bought back more than 650,000 of these weapons from existing owners. They also tightened licensing and ownership requirements. They estimated that they almost halved the number of gun-owning households in the country. According to a 2011 Harvard study, Australia has not had a mass shooting since that law was passed. The United States, on the other hand, has about 20 mass shootings per year.
The crazy thing is that people are trying to argue that mass shooting is not on the rise. As horrible as this year has been, this is actually the norm. I agree, the statistics show that it’s not on the rise. But you expect me to shrug this off as the norm? Are we really supposed to be comfortable with an average of 20 mass shootings a year? How is that comforting to anyone? These same people are also suggesting (as what happens with almost any gun tragedy), that deaths could have been averted or the shooting cut short had someone else been armed. Congressional Rep. Louis Gohmert told Fox News that he wished the principal at Sandy Hook had a gun in her office in order to stop the shooter. Former Arizona state senator Russell Pearce said something similar after the Aurora shootings (also earlier this year). Setting aside from the financial and logistical nightmare of providing guns and training school teachers and administrators, there is little evidence to show that mass gun violence has been stopped by another armed person. It happens, but it’s rare (as opposed to the 20 mass shootings that happen every year and are considered normal). The Tucson shooter was not stopped by another gunman back in January 2011 and Arizona has some of the loosest gun laws in the country. He was tackled when he stopped to reload, after emptying his 31-round magazine. Both the Sandy Hook shooter and the Aurora shooter were wearing body armor. Another gunman would have been pointless. The Sandy Hook shooter got his guns from his own mother: a registered gun owner. She was the first victim in last Friday’s tragedy. She owned guns. She was trained to use them. She could not stop what happened that day.
More gun regulations will not stop all gun violence. I know that. I already said that dealing with absolutes is unrealistic. But as Australia has shown, we can significantly decrease the number of deaths, especially from mass shootings. They tried regulations and it has worked well for almost 20 years. Where is the evidence to support the idea that more gun owners will stop these mass shootings? Let me tell you, I looked. I can’t find it. I could only find opinions and theories.
We can’t ban all guns. We also can’t stop all gun violence. But we can regulate and control the means through which dangerous people acquire weapons and wreak destruction. We can reduce the number of tragedies that occur. We can save lives.