I don’t know how you feel about guns. I have friends who are very pro-gun control and I also have friends who are very pro-Second Amendment. As in, I have friends who believe nobody should have a gun, and friends who believe that the more guns you have, the better off you are and gun control means that the government wants to take your guns away. I probably fall somewhere in the middle. There is one thing, however, that I think we can all agree on:
Whatever we have right now, it isn’t working.
There was another school shooting last week, this time in Nevada. My heart is saddened by the violence, but my head is whispering, “At least it was only one fatality this time,” which is probably sadder than anything else. Someone is dead because a gun fell into the wrong hands. This has got to stop happening.
The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms. This provision has been hotly debated, but under D.C. v. Heller, the D.C. circuit court has interpreted this to mean that the average American citizen has the right to personal firearm ownership for whatever reason that citizen desires. (Provided, of course, that reason is not harm to others.)
I’m not against personal gun ownership. I’ve never shot a gun, but I’ve always wanted to know how. Do I think I could shoot it in a dangerous situation? Probably not, but I think that if guns are going to be around, I should know the basic working of one. I know my father has a hunting rifle which he has used to hunt deer. I have no idea where he keeps it. Never have. It was always kept away from us as children, as it should have been, and as I got older I didn’t really care. Concealed carry does make me nervous. Anyone can be carrying a weapon at any time, and I don’t know about it. I know people with concealed carry licenses who I have never considered mature enough to own one. I’m wise enough to know that guns aren’t going anywhere, and I don’t think they have to. I just think we need to be smarter about them.
The reason for the Second Amendment to the Constitution is so that the government can never suppress the average citizen’s right to protect herself from her government. This is an argument I often see made by gun enthusiasts. It’s a foolish argument, though, since if the government wanted to take you out, it has tanks. And drones. And the atomic bomb, to be quite frank. You might have an Uzi, but it really isn’t going to get you far. So protection from the government is, in my mind, a poor reason to have unrestricted gun ownership.
Another commonly used argument is that guns are for hunting. I would agree that sporting rifles are used for hunting. I grew up in a fairly rural area, and hearing guns going off all fall was no big deal. The use of a gun for hunting is really no different than the use of a pole for fishing. But handguns and sawed-off shotguns and high repeating rifles aren’t for hunting animals. They’re for hunting people, and are thus not covered by this argument.
A third argument is that the gun is necessary for protection, and if more people have guns, the bad guys are less likely to do bad things. I just can’t even fathom this. First, using a gun for protection is what they’re there for, but most people can’t shoot under pressure, unless they have had extensive training. I’m willing to bet that most gun owners have not had specialized training under simulated pressure situations. You’re probably not going to be able to get a clean shot off, meaning that you may harm an innocent bystander. As for the other half, mass shootings are becoming more likely, not less. Have you been watching the news? We’ve had a shooting in the U.S. every month for the last year. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I am tired of living in a country under siege.
Guns are an inherently complicated issue in the U.S. Balancing the personal freedoms of the American citizen with the rights to security of his friends and neighbors is fairly impossible. However, here are some gun controls that I believe we need NOW:
- Stricter background checks. You can still buy a high-powered rifle at a gun show with no background check. Cash on the table and you walk away. Federally licensed arms dealers are required to do a background check, but private dealers are not. You can buy them from online dealers too. It’s too easy for just anyone to get a gun. “Bad guys” usually get their guns legally, so we need to tighten up the regulations a little bit. And if tighter restrictions kick out somebody who isn’t intending harm, so be it. That’s what appeals processes are for.
- No more easily accessible high capacity magazines. Even if it only takes two seconds to change a magazine (which I scoff at, unless we’re talking about someone who has practiced at length), two seconds is a lot of time in a high intensity situation. It’s long enough to tackle someone with a weapon, or just get behind something for safety, or just move, since a moving target is harder to hit. And sure, shooters can just carry multiple weapons, but the more switching the shooter has to do, the more time victims have to get to safety.
- Change the culture regarding gun ownership. I know that this isn’t really a law, per se, but I think that we need to teach children about guns. We all know that telling a child, “That’s dangerous, don’t ever touch it,” doesn’t work. (See the D.A.R.E. program regarding drug use in the 1990s.) We need to teach them why guns are dangerous, and teach them to respect firearms. We need to teach them what to do when they see a gun, that they need to leave it alone, and tell a grown up immediately. And we need to teach adults that guns should be locked away and not put within the reach of children without adult supervision. If we, as a nation, are going to have access to firearms, we need to take some responsibility for their ownership, even taking responsibility for those who do it incorrectly. After all, we’ve created the need for this responsibility, and it is our job to make sure that everyone uses guns safely and properly.