The gun control debate is complicated to say the least. I’m not a bleeding-heart liberal who wants to ban all guns from every aspect of American life. As much as I’d like to say that this country can consist entirely of puppies and rainbows, I know that if any progress is to be made on this issue, realism and open-mindedness are key.
Nevertheless, it’s far past time for America to take action on gun control. I’m a staunch supporter of the Constitution; the Second Amendment guarantees citizens the right to arm themselves against tyranny. The amendment, however, was written in a time where firearms were not as efficient, not as easily accessible, and certainly did not have near the capacity for mass murder as modern guns. So, like any constitutional right, the interpretation needs to change in accordance with the times.
The bill introduced by Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein covers only a small portion of what really needs to be done to prevent mass killings. The bill would ban around 120 guns, classified as “assault weapons,” which is a loose definition that doesn’t include any of the 900 exempted guns that are used for “hunting and sporting purposes” even though most of those guns could easily be used in mass murders with the right accessories. The bill would also ban high-capacity magazines that can fire 10 or more rounds.
Unlike “banning assault weapons,” banning high-capacity magazines would substantially diminish a shooter’s ability to inflict mass casualties in seconds. High-capacity magazines have been used to carry out almost every mass murder committed in the United States over the past decades, including the 2011 Tucson shooting that injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six people, including a nine-year-old girl. The shooter, who does not deserve the notoriety that comes from being named, fired 31 bullets in 15 seconds. Had the man not modified his Glock 19 handgun, which has a capacity for only 15 rounds, bullets 16-31 would not have been fired so easily, and at least one life would likely have been saved. Opponents say that it is easy to change clips and takes very little time, but in the Tucson shooting, bystanders had enough time to take down the shooter as he was changing clips, and that finally ended the carnage.
A popular argument by gun control opponents is that “guns don’t kill people – people kill people.” While a gun by itself will not go on a shooting rampage, when a person with evil intentions picks it up, then it does become an inherently dangerous tool. Could a person with a hammer walk into a public place and kill 30 people before he or she was taken down? Since the right to own guns is guaranteed and will not be taken away without another constitutional amendment, America should pay very, very, very close attention to whose hands that our guns fall into. That doesn’t strictly mean more limits on the guns we are so reluctant to relinquish – what we need is enforcement of sensible limits set on gun ownership. Currently, it is possible for people with no criminal background in states like Virginia to purchase and transport guns to a state with stricter gun laws, such as New York, and sell them to people who would not pass the requirements to own a gun there. According to a 2010 investigation, Virginia is the number one supplier of illegal guns to New York. In many states, including our own, anyone – anyone – can buy any type of gun at a gun show from a private dealer without even giving his or her name. That is the loophole that allowed the Virginia Tech shooter, to buy a gun despite his known mental health issues. This country needs to close these loopholes by enacting a federal gun trafficking law, requiring every gun purchaser to pass a mental health check and a thorough background check, and amping up state and federal laws and enforcement that deal with private gun sellers. That is gun control. That is what we need.
Yes, even with effective laws and enforcement, there will still be those that slip through the cracks. As long as these weapons are available, they will find their way into the wrong hands. Still, we owe it to the people of Newtown, of Aurora, of Tucson, of Fort Hood, of Blacksburg, of Columbine and of too many others, to try and stop future tragedies, to stop another town from achieving that kind of notoriety, to save innocent children. The fascination with violence in the media will never end, and neither will violence. All the guns and bullets in the world, however, will never be worth even one human life, and no one – no one – should have to die because we are too proud to compromise.
~Fiona McCarthy, staff reporter