Op-Ed: Gun Reform

Staffer discusses how to end gun violence in America like other countries have around the world

Two hundred and ninety school shootings since 2013. Averaging to one shooting per week with 18 since the beginning of this year, it is hard to suggest that there is not a grave problem facing America. Since the Columbine massacre in 1999, there has been little to no reform; begging the question as to why such a seemingly clear issue creates so many divisions in today’s society. As much as I understand the want and sometimes need for firearms, I believe there should be wide-spread gun bans enacted so that this type of tragedy stops being the norm.

After every gun-related attack on the populace, it seems as though people fall back to their party lines; liberals push for reform while conservatives repeatedly state that ‘it is not the right time for this debate’ while failing to mention the ‘correct’ time. Those that vouch for gun ownership state that we do not know the full story, that more can be learned and gun control is not the obvious answer. Is this really true?

Most point to Australia for their gun control laws since they had a deadly shooting in 1996 where one man killed more than 35 people and wounded 18. Australian legislature reacted by enacting bans on all automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns and implementing aggressive buyback programs while also making it mandatory to have a reason for buying a gun.

But even Australia is not the ideal example, for that I look to Japan. In Japan, there is a strict no handguns policy and there are very strict and lengthy procedures to get the only gun available to the public: shotguns. The thinking is that if it is hard to get a gun, then less people will have them, and this has worked very efficiently. Japan reported just six gun-related deaths in 2014, while America had 33.5 thousand gun-related deaths in the same year according to statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which amounts to an almost 5,583 percent difference.

Do I think that banning all guns would result in significantly less deaths? Yes. And the statistics compiled from multiple countries show that in nearly all countries where it is either harder to acquire guns or plain impossible to do so, there are less gun-related deaths. The obvious counter is that Americans have the constitutional right to bear arms, that the Bill of Rights guarantees this beyond reasonable doubt, does it not?

Not necessarily. Gun ownership was not selectively incorporated into the states until 2010 with the Supreme Court case McDonald v. City of Chicago. Until then there was a ban on handguns in the city of Chicago and the case resulted in the right to bear arms being extended to the general American populace, while before it had only been incorporated for state militias. While this would make it seem that guns are here to stay, it may not be that way. McDonald’s case overruled the previous precedent placed by United States v. Cruikshank (1875), which ruled that the Second Amendment did not pertain to the individual citizens. Supreme court decisions, therefore, are able to be overruled by subsequent cases.

Yet let us assume the premise that guns are here to stay, that there cannot be complete bans on guns, but there can be significant restrictions on gun ownership. If the defense to the right to own guns is for ‘self-defense,’ then how can one reconcile the fact that the AR-15 would be able to pulverize bone while a 9mm pistol would still do damage according to Wired? What is the need for weapons that have this much power when if self-defense is really needed than a 9mm would be more practical? Pistols allow for concealment while rifles such as AR-15s have no use in society.

Then there would still be more critics that would say guns have an integral part in American culture, selective incorporation or not. I then point to Germany. Germany, according to the Guardian, has one of the highest gun-per-capita counts in the world (at 17 out of 175 countries). Yet they have a gun homicide rate of 0.05 per 1000 people compared to America’s 3.34. After an attack in 2002, they instituted laws such as making anyone under the age of 25 wishing to purchase a gun undergo a strict mental evaluation to check for anger issues among other factors and those above 25 can be called in for mental evaluations if they are caught in irresponsible behavior such as drunk driving. This allows for guns to be kept by their owners while strictly regulating them and stopping further mass shootings.

An America without guns, or heavier restrictions, seems like a world away due to partisan politics. We must decide whether we will allow further tragedies to occur or change for the better; whether we continue to say ‘never again’ or we make sure that becomes a reality.