Gun Control: Reasonable or Restrictive?

By: Amanda Huberfeld  |  March 3, 2017


Republicans: Gun Control is Not Crime Control

There has been no shortage of gun-related crimes in the past few months, let alone in the last decade. Just like Democrats, Republicans recognize this fact. What distinguishes the views of the two parties on this controversial topic is the reason behind the crime. While Democrats view crimes specifically as gun crimes, Republicans tend to view crimes for what they are: crimes. We do not look solely at the tool used to perpetrate the crime but at the person who is committing it and oftentimes the criminal’s motives. A gun, like anything else, is a tool that can certainly be used to inflict pain and damage, but it can also be used to protect oneself. The person pulling the trigger is the sole determinant of how its power will be used: to destroy or to defend.

After each mass shooting, the hysteria begins again. The public calls for increased gun regulations and Congress has the same fight they have been having for decades. One side of the aisle claims the only option is to impose greater gun regulation while the other side responds that more regulation is counterproductive. Oftentimes, the public exaggerates the need for immediate action. While shootings are no doubt an issue that must be dealt with, the rate of deaths by guns is not as astronomical as one might be led to believe by the media. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than sixty percent of gun deaths a year are suicides. And according to a report released by the Pew Research Center in 2015, the murder rate in America in 1993 was twice as high as it was in 2013. Gun deaths specifically have decreased by a third. This means that shootings are not more common these days, we are just more aware of them due to advances in technology and the media’s increased ability to reach the public.

Regardless, several states have enforced stricter gun regulations than others. Those who are in favor of tighter regulations would expect to see an inverse correlation between gun control laws in a state and gun related homicides. In other words, stricter gun laws should bring fewer gun related homicides across the board. In some states it is true, but not in all of them. According to the Mises Institute, states like Idaho, Vermont and New Hampshire are known to have some of the country’s most lenient gun laws and also some of the lowest homicide rates in the country. Therefore, if there isn’t a definite correlation between strict gun laws and low homicide rates, it can be assumed that stricter gun regulations may not be the answer to mass shootings.

What then could the answer be? One possible response requires that we shift our focus from the gun to the one holding it. Some of the most recent deadly shootings include the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and in a church in Charleston in 2015. In both cases, the shooters were shown to have mental disorders. Before Dylann Roof’s trial in which he was indicted for killing nine people in a church in Charleston, The New York Times reported that a court-appointed psychiatrist diagnosed Roof with at least five different mental disorders. The New York Times also reported that medical experts at Yale “called for drastic measures to help Adam Lanza,” the shooter in the Sandy Hook incident. Not long after the Sandy Hook incident, Liza Long, a mother of a mentally ill child who often threatens to kill her and others, wrote in her blog, “In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.” Increased treatment for the mentally ill is certainly not the only way to prevent more shootings, but it is one place we could start.

Another similarity between the Sandy Hook and Charleston cases is how the guns were purchased. Adam Lanza stole the gun from his mother who bought the gun legally. Dylann Roof bought the gun himself, but should not have been able to. According to CNN, a clerical error prevented an agent at the FBI from contacting the police station where Roof had been arrested. Stricter gun regulations would not have prevented these two criminals from acquiring guns.

It is a myth that Republicans do not think any laws should be passed regarding guns. In 2016, Republican congressmen tried to pass a bill that would prevent suspected terrorists from purchasing guns. Democrats opposed the measure because they felt it was not strong enough. Republicans recognize that something must be done, but they also recognize the significance of defending the Second Amendment. They recognize that even if guns were outlawed, there are already so many in circulation that those who want one could easily find a way to get one. Laws meant to make it harder to purchase a gun will only hurt law-abiding citizens, since criminals will find a way to obtain a gun illegally if need be. This leaves the citizen vulnerable and unable to protect himself.

As the granddaughter of a gun seller myself, I have witnessed firsthand the legal process of obtaining a gun. Not just anyone can buy a gun. The gun regulations currently in place have already been successful in preventing countless potential criminals from legally acquiring guns. My grandmother, along with many other gun sellers, takes the regulations extremely seriously. For example, she once turned down a famous rapper when he attempted to purchase a gun outside of his home state not long after he was released from prison.

The next step is determining what else, other than more futile regulation, can be done to stop not gun crimes, but crimes. Maybe longer prison sentences? Maybe increased mental health treatment and awareness? Once we can separate the crime from the tool used to perpetrate it, we can find a better solution that will benefit both Republicans and Democrats alike.

Democrats: Shooting Ourselves in the Foot

In the last hour, 500 people in the U.S got married, 2,600 pies of pizza were eaten and 450 babies were born. In the last hour, three people were killed with a gun. One of them may have been a suicide. Another one may have been in self-defense from a mugger. The third may have been accidental. But there are now three more grieving families, three more police investigations and three more caskets filled than there were an hour ago. And in the next hour, 500 more people in the U.S will get married, 2,600 more pies of pizza will be eaten, 450 more babies will be born, and 3 more people will die.

According to the CDC, 36,252 people died in 2015 from gun violence. That’s an increase of over 2,500 deaths from the previous year. Some of those guns were bought illegally, but many were not. Furthermore, for every one person who is killed by a gun, two more are injured. That could be someone who literally shot themselves in the foot, or someone who became paralyzed from the waist down because of a stray bullet from a violent robbery.

People on both sides of the aisle could argue that right now isn’t the time for a debate on gun control. Many Republicans would say there is never a time to debate gun control. Other Republicans—and most Democrats—would probably say that the issue isn’t pressing right now, that we have more immediate concerns to deal with, like immigration policies and healthcare reform. And while that may seem true, we cannot ignore the danger that we face due to a lack of gun control laws.

Since January of 2015, there have been twenty major attacks on U.S. soil, ranging from terrorist attacks to police officer shootings and hate crimes. Those twenty incidents left 118 people dead and 185 injured. Of those twenty attacks, fourteen were carried out through guns. Dylan Roof killed nine people in a church with a personal handgun, which he had bought legally. The San Bernardino attackers had semi-automatic rifles, similar to the M-16 guns used in the military, also purchased legally. Omar Mateen killed forty-nine people in a nightclub using a handgun and semi-automatic rifle, both purchased legally.

In the past few years, one of the central discussions has been how to protect ourselves from terrorism, whether from abroad or homegrown. In that time, elections have been won, World Series curses have been broken, memes have been created and lions and gorillas have been killed (with guns). Yet, in all that time, the only consensus that has been reached is that preventing terror attacks is hard. In the end, the solution will probably be multifaceted, and one of those facets should address the methods with which terrorist attacks are carried out. Whether the terrorists who haunt our nightmares were radicalized in a training camp in Yemen or sitting at their computer at work, they’re not attacking with a bomb, and they might be attacking with a machete, but most likely, they’re coming after us with a gun.

Many people look at these stories and statistics and say, “This only makes me want to buy a gun more. I need it for self-defense.” Though the people who respond this way most likely know how to use a gun and would only use it in an emergency, I have to ask in response, who else is going to use that gun? That person may be someone you don’t know. One doesn’t assume that something will be stolen when they buy it, but when one buys a gun, it’s something they have to consider. 1.7 million guns were stolen across the US in the past ten years, and 80% of them were never recovered.  It’s hard to gauge, but law enforcement officials find correlations between rises in gun thefts and rises in homicides. Alternatively, that person also might be someone close to you. Every week, five children shoot themselves or someone else with a gun. And the most common age of that shooter is three years old.  

Aside from the emotional argument, there is a legal side. Although the Second Amendment grants citizens the right to bear arms, the intention of the amendment was that citizens should have the arms necessary to overthrow the government if it became tyrannical. The “arms” referred to were muskets or perhaps canons if one was being generous. Today, muskets sit in glass cases in museums, canons are painted shut, and the US government does a large portion of its fighting via unmanned drones. If one wants to perfectly follow the Second Amendment, then Americans have the right to 9,00 aircrafts and nuclear missiles.

The question that remains is, why is this relevant now? Isn’t Congress busy with tax reform, healthcare and yelling at constituents in red or pink hats? They are. But they also had time on February 2nd to overturn a rule that prevented many mentally-ill people who are not stable enough to live on their own from buying guns. And there is more regulations to come.

I know that many people reading this article are here for the other half of it, the Republican argument. They’re only glancing at my part to see what arguments I’ve made. I’m not under a delusion that I can convince you, Republican-siding reader. You’ve made up your mind on the subject, and that’s okay. Others—if you are here because you already agree, and you’ve opened this article to reaffirm your position, thanks for dropping in. There’s a third category of readers here, and to be honest, I’m not sure why you’re here. Maybe you know me and want to support me and my writing (not likely, but I can hope). If so, thanks! But if there’s a slight chance that you started reading this article because you didn’t yet have an opinion on the subject and wanted to learn more, you should know—you’re the reason this article exists, and I think my Republican counterpart would agree. I hope you feel more informed, and maybe even passionate about gun control.