Let’s get the most important thing out of the way. Friday was an absolutely tragedy; in 21st century America there is nothing more horrifying than an unprovoked attack on an elementary school. But as others investigate, or try to heal, the rest of us are left wondering what this means for firearms in the United States.
Let’s start by taking a look at some not so well known facts about guns in the United States:
- Gun violence is on the decline: The US has seen a dramatic fall in gun related deaths from the peaks in the 1990s. This is directly correlated to a decline in overall murders in the US as well. By the same token, guns remain the weapon of choice for murder. (Wikipedia & SF Examiner)
- Children aged 5-9 are not likely to die from firearms: Aside from disease, the three major causes of death for elementary aged children are due to vehicles, fires, and drowning. A child that age is almost 3x as likely to drown than they are to die from a firearm. They are more than 12x as likely to die in a vehicle accident. (CDC)
- The US leads the western world in deaths by firearm: In addition to owning considerably more guns per capita, the US also experiences considerably more death by gun per capita compared to most of the western world. (Washington Post)
- Our rights to gun ownership are protected by the 2nd Amendment: The Bill of Rights gives Americans certain protections against the government. Our Constitution was written by a group of people that didn’t trust government and one way to make sure government doesn’t have too much control is to give people the ability to overthrow it. Scholars can dispute the language, but current Supreme Court rulings pretty much give people the freedom to own guns that we understand today.
- School shootings don’t lead to tighter gun control in the US: Despite what some may hope for, the fact that these shootings have occurred has done little to improve the situation. In fact, support for gun control only seems to be slipping in time with only small bumps after shooting tragedies. (QZ)
Now, none of these facts are meant to help build a case for or against gun control, though any can be cherry-picked to do such a thing. But there are certain realities that need to be faced. Guns are designed to kill and do it effectively. As guns have become even more effective and dangerous the need exists to make them more tightly monitored.
Mental health is one of the primary reasons. There’s a lot about the mind that we still don’t understand. It’s a lot like economics in that way. And because we don’t know everything about it we need to make sure we do what we can to protect those with mental health concerns from themselves and us. It to too easy to obtain a gun today, but it’s even easier for a troubled mind to go unnoticed. Regardless of gun control, more needs to be done with mental health.
When it comes to acquiring guns, the process does need to be more difficult. This should include proper training with each purchase. It is understood and agreed by many that more can be learned about someone’s intent with a weapon through a few hours of training than they would through similar time with therapy. Regardless, there is a duty of the entire gun industry to ensure these weapons are in the hands of responsible owners. It should be noted that for the most part, this does happen today. But it needs to be tighter, and universal.
The end of fear: The NRA has served two roles in the life of guns in the United States. They have systematically changed the view of guns in Washington through incredible lobbying. Politicians fear to speak up against the NRA because of their power. Even more powerful is the fear they’ve created in our gun loving Americans. Posts like this on their website help to perpetuate this fear. Whenever guns come up as a discussion, the NRA frames it as if freedom is being taken away. This has never happened and compared to where we were when the Bill of Rights was first written, we can arguably say that gun owners have more freedom today than ever. No reasonable American wants to take away the right to gun ownership. But we can’t create good policy until the fear of this is overcome.
Finally, we must accept that tragedies cannot be completely prevented. In order to stop all possible tragedy we must forgo all of our freedoms. No matter what we do, awful things will continue to occur in this country and elsewhere. Banning guns will only mean that those capable of doing the most dreadful things will still be able to obtain them. This is like our treatment of illegal drugs. It doesn’t stop people from buying and using them. Firearms must remain an obtainable but regulated product.