More Guns, More Problems

It’s official. The Senate has failed us.

Gun-control legislation aimed at curbing the tide of gun violence was always thought to be a long shot, with a slim chance of ever passing the House of Representatives and its Republican majority. Unfortunately, this still seems to hold true: The bill may never grace the floor of the lower house of our government.

The reason? In the United States Senate, 46 is a big enough number to block legislation. Even when 54 vote in favor of common sense gun regulation.

The facts are these: Gun violence is a radical and upward trend in our country. It led to the passage of an assault-weapons ban in 1994 that was meant to be renewed in 2004. The Republican majority in Congress and the Republican president at the time, however, failed to renew it. This allowed Adam Lanza’s mother to buy the Bushmaster rifle that eventually killed those students and faculty at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I don’t need to repeat the numerous horrific gun crimes that have occurred in this country. It is not something that can be fixed entirely with universal background checks, assault weapons bans or magazine capacity bans. It can’t. But it also can’t be fixed with more guns on the streets.

After the Sandy Hook shootings, the National Rifle Association (NRA), the main lobbying arm of the gun industry, proposed a School Shield program by which all schools would be protected by armed guards. Not only is this impractical, but it’s right up the NRA’s alley. How do we protect schools? Not by making dangerous guns harder to get, oh no, we need to buy more guns! That’s the answer.

Clearly.

Or we can, for two seconds, entertain the possibility that an assault weapons ban and a magazine limit would have lessened the impact of the Sandy Hook shooting. It would have made it easier for someone to fight back. It would have made it harder for that much bloodshed to have occurred that quickly. Maybe universal background checks would have kept guns out of the hands of James Holmes, the Aurora shooter. Maybe if we had a better system for tracking and helping mentally troubled peoples, all of these incidents may have been avoided. Perhaps we need to consider psychiatric evaluations for people who want to get firearms. Perhaps we want to ensure that everyone who needs psychiatric help has access to it. After all, the three men were all severely troubled.

Yes, law-abiding gun owners should not be subjected to crazy infringements on their Second Amendment rights. But the Second Amendment does say that guns need to be “well-regulated.” That’s the key there. It does not say that gun rights are unfettered. Nor should there be. 5.3 million Americans who cannot vote because they have committed felonies — that’s constitutional. I think it makes sense that felons shouldn’t have guns. And generally, they don’t get them. Federal law requires background checks and denies those people guns. That is, unless those guns are purchased privately, at gun shows or online.

There are some common sense things we can do to limit our gun violence problem. Universal background checks are a large player in this violent game. Before we, as many gun advocates demand, “enforce our existing laws,” let’s make existing laws that make sense.

Universal background checks are necessary and the fact that they have not been made law yet is ridiculous.

Many people have proposed studies that will allow us to understand it better and provide a more targeted approach to curing it. Understanding the problem better is a step in the right direction.

Mental health services need to be available to all people and encouraged, much like the government airs commercials asking people to not use meth. It’s just as dire a thing to tell people with mental illnesses that they’re not alone and to speak up. The stigma surrounding mental health needs to end.

We also must restrict military-grade guns from entering into everyday citizens’ hands. An assault-weapons ban makes sense. You don’t need it to hunt, or for recreation or for protection. I don’t need a semiautomatic gun to protect myself, nor do you need a magazine of 20 or 50 rounds for your gun. The only person who needs that is someone who can’t take the time to reload, like a soldier. Or, say, a school shooter.

More importantly, we need to send the message to Congress that they don’t work for the NRA; rather, they work for us. When vast majorities of Americans from all walks of life support these common sense measures, they don’t get to turn their backs on that for special interest groups’ endorsements.

Ninety-one percent of Americans support universal background checks. Eighty-two percent of Americans support increased government spending for mental health programs. Seventy-nine percent support increased training of school safety and law enforcement personnel. Seventy-five percent support stricter penalties for those who buy guns for those who failed a background check. Sixty percent support a federal assault weapons ban. Fifty-four percent support a ban on high-capacity magazines.

However, if you’ll look at the United States Senate, only 54 percent supported the first thing. What a depressing time in American politics when 91 percent of the people can get behind something and 46 percent of the Senate can say “no thanks.”

I say: let’s make sure they don’t get away with this. The Manchin-Toomey amendment is a bipartisan bill that scratches at the surface of the gun debate. Universal background checks are the least we can do. The fact that it’s not being done is an utter travesty that should be remembered come November 4, 2014.

Vijay Reddy is an alumnus from Emory University from Fayetteville, Ga. 

Cartoon by Mariana Hernandez

  • Mitchell

    “Yes, law-abiding gun owners should not be subjected to crazy infringements on their Second Amendment rights. But the Second Amendment does say that guns need to be “well-regulated.”

    You grossly misunderstand what well-regulated means. A well-regulated MILITIA is well disiciplined and trained in the use of arms, not subject to magazine limits and cosmetic feature bans. What kind of military operates with reduced capacity and limited feature arms?

    “To oblige the great body of the yeomanry and of the other classes of the citizens to be under arms for the purpose of going through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well regulated militia, would be a real grievance to the people and a serious public inconvenience and loss.” Federalist Paper #29

    “Resolved , That this appointment be conferred on experienced and vigilant general officers, who are acquainted with whatever relates to the general economy, manoeuvres and discipline of a well regulated army.” Journals of the Continental Congress, Saturday, December 13, 1777.

    “…that the only effectual mode of acting against the said Creeks in case they should persist in their hostilities would be by making an invasion of their country with a powerful body of well regulated troopsalways ready to combat and able to defeat any combination of force the said Creeks could oppose and to destroy their towns and provisions.” Journals of the Continental Congress, Saturday, December 13, 1777.

    “If your present numbers should be insufficient for that purpose, I would then by all means advise your making up the deficiency out of the best regulated militia that can be got.” The Writings of George Washington, pp. 503-4, (G.P. Putnam & Sons, pub.)(1889
    You’ll see here that well-regulated doesn’t mean gun control, but disciplined and practiced.
    The Oxford English Dictionary has this to offer: A definition of the word “well” in the Oxford English Dictionary is “satisfactorily in respect of conduct or action.” One of The Oxford English Dictionary definitions for the term “regulated” is “b. Of troops: Properly disciplined.” One example of usage is: “1690: Lond. Gaz. No. 2568/3 ‘We hear likewise that the French are in a great Allarm in Dauphine and Bresse, not having at present 1500 Men of regulated Troops on that side.’” The Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition (Clarendon Press, Oxford 1989).

    “Federal law requires background checks and denies those people guns. That is, unless those guns are purchased privately, at gun shows or online.”

    This is not a point I wholly disagree with you on. The logistics of adding background checks to private sales must be considered.
    REMEMBER that these sales are typically between friends, neighbors and family, who have some inkling of the criminal history and character of the sellers. These sales are often gifts. The people should retain the ability to do these kinds of transfers, but this complicates the implementation of the law- Who is a friend? Who is a stranger? How does one demonstrate this in court?

    I think, instead, if the bill would simply allot 3x the funding to the NICS background check used by the FBI by FFLs, and let citizens utilize the service for a nominal fee (say 5 dollars), as well as ensuring that this will not in anyways violate the Firearm Owner Protection Act’s prohibition of registries (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/926) by recording these purchases and requests, and then consolidating the records.
    As the bill stood, the firearms would have had to go through an FFL, which in some states have extremely costly transfer fees(~100 dollars).
    Furthermore, this must be asked: What law that retains some semblance of privacy can be introduced that will STOP, not threaten to stop, private sales without background checks from occurring? How can you stop that?
    Rather, I suggest, you give firearm owners the tools to ensure the recipient is not a violent felon. If the sale is completely successfully, then he is absolved of liability. If he completes it in an unlawful manner, then both parties are liable.

    This is a lot to ask the common gun owner, who has taken private sale of firearms for granted. The “pro-gun” clauses included in the Toomey bill included a “support” of the FOPA registry ban. But this was not so- the “ban” on registries only mandated that the AG could not consolidate records into a registry. By the legal precedent of exclusion unius, inclusion alterius, this means that any other party of the united states could lawfully create a registry under the law.

    And why are American gun owners so afraid of Gun registries? The argument may be a logical fallacy, but that doesn’t make it any more plausible- “Registration leads to confiscation”. If our government has a list of all the gun owners and what they own, then a rogue government has a list of whose doors to knock down first. Our government has a list of people who should be given preferential treatment. With greater transparency perhaps provided by freedom of information or misbehaving hackers/robbers, or otherwise oppressive governmental agencies bent on disarming the populace (one springs to mind…), the registry can be abused.

    For some Americans, who don’t want the cops targeting them because they bought the same model gun some suspect is reported as using, or don’t want thieves targeting them because they just brought home a 3000 dollar range toy, purchasing through private sales makes sense.

    Additionally, the Toomey bill also sought to strengthen the peaceful passage provisions under FOPA. As the law stands, if I want to bring my long range target rifles with me from state A to state C, but state B bans my evil plane hunting deadly weapon I’d intended to use on paper, then I would run into problems when I ran into the cops while refueling my car, seeking lodging, or otherwise NOT driving my car from A to B. See how it can get problematic?
    Similarily, if I took a flight from state A to state C with my super fun toys, but the plane has a malfunction and had to stop in state B, I was suddenly in trouble again.

    The Toomey bill attempted to provide for my ability to refuel my car and seek lodgings, etc. It messed up in that it made it so that the firearm in question needed to be legal in the state I was currently in.
    That ruins the entire point of peaceful passage. If my firearm is legal in state A, and in state C, I should have no problem just driving through B. But no so under the Toomey bill.

    It’s a good thing that the Toomey bill got shot down. It was full of problems. I support, begrudgingly, so-called universal background checks, not the way that most people think, but in a way that they would do something for the American gun owner, AND protect his rights. Unfortunately the bill that was sent to the senate did neither.

  • Mitchell

    “Or we can, for two seconds, entertain the possibility that an assault weapons ban and a magazine limit would have lessened the impact of the Sandy Hook shooting. It would have made it easier for someone to fight back. ”

    If I may- of course I may, posit this- WE DID ENTERTAIN the possibility. For 10 years, under the ’94 AWB. It didn’t do a whole lot, because Columbine happened in ’99. With reduced capacity magazines. No one tackled anyone, No one stopped them.

  • Kiera

    Taking the gun out of the violent American shooter’s hands does not remove the desire to commit violence.

    Take the Boston tragedy for example, homemade bombs maimed so many innocent people. We need to adjust the mindset if anything is going to change. When shooters stop becoming these glorified entities on the news that get mass media coverage, maybe then these people will recognize that nothing comes of that horrific kind of violence, not even infamy.

  • Jason

    Here’s an idea: since assault weapons are almost never used in crimes, and are the most common form of modern sporting rifle for target range shooting, how about you get off telling me what I do and don’t need as a justification for limiting my 2nd Amendment rights? And so it’s ok to have everyone in the school be completely defenseless? Don’t worry, once we pass this law EVERYONE including the 99.99% of gun owners that will never use their gun against another human being will only be able to hold 10 rounds! So Lanza can only shoot 10 of you! Then hopefully, one of the surviving teachers can suicidally charge him as he reloads and hope to god he doesn’t use the butt of the rifle as a club and beat the living hell out of them. Don’t worry, the police will be there with guns soon to stop him!

    Oh, sure, that’s a much better solution than concealed carry.

  • Vijay Reddy

    Say whatever you like. I’m sure that the Japanese (who are disbarred from carrying guns by law) and the Australians (who had sweeping gun control in 1996) are just being shot in droves. Oh wait, no? Oh. Never mind.

    Stop talking about your rights being violated. How about the right to live? How about the right to go to school without worrying about a madman shooting you? How about the right to watch a freaking movie without being shot up? How about the right to see your Congressperson without being shot?

    ~3,000 people were killed by terrorism in the past 30 years. ~900,000 were killed by gun violence. And yet the latter is pointless to try to stop (because of our second amendment rights), and the former requires us to give up our first amendment rights? Give me a break.