No one praises senseless violence. No one encourages the desire to harm others. No one wants children to be murdered. These are facts that reasonable people can agree on. However, the consensus dissolves once the conversation turns to the role of a particular type of weapon, the gun, in such violent acts.
Recent legislative proposals and recommendations by our president concerning the expansion of gun control must be critically examined. Of course, anyone with any semblance of empathy is distraught in light of the recent tragic mass shootings at Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Tucson, Aurora, and Newtown. However, reactionary legislative measures fueled by an emotional response to such horrors must be tempered with rationality. Blame and responsibility need to be properly assigned.
The appropriate context and perspective can help identify the real root of gun violence. Murder, war, genocide, and torture are acts of violence that have existed in every culture. Whether it is by fist, stone, poison, cannon, knife, hammer, sword, nuclear warhead, or bullet, any person bent on destroying others will find the means to do so. There is an undeniable truth to the saying, “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” No one knows what infernal hatred leads a person to slaughter innocent strangers. But the gun, being inanimate, did not commit the violence.
Unfortunately, the flurry of recent political activity surrounding gun control will result in hardly more than a symbolic denunciation of mass shootings. Effectively, those who intend to do harm may have to jump through more legal hoops to obtain firearms as background checks become more thorough. Yet those dangerous individuals with no record of past criminal activity, like James Holmes, will not be identified. More importantly, however, the choices of those law-abiding citizens who wish to protect themselves with a gun will be limited.
Criminals will commit crimes regardless of the law. The existence of black markets that provide unregistered guns is inevitable. Federal attempts to stymie the drug trade are a perfect demonstration of the government’s inability to legislate morality. Prohibition failed. The Drug War is failing. And the trend is consistent. Despite having some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, Chicago ended the year with one of the highest homicide rates per capita in 2012 with a total of 506 murders in 2012, according to CBS Chicago.
The responsible side of gun ownership merits respect. I plan to obtain a gun in the future, especially if I am going to be living alone. As a woman, I am constantly aware that I am physically weaker than most men. If I were unarmed and physically assaulted by a man, the odds tip overwhelmingly in his favor. Carrying pepper spray in your purse or a rape whistle on your keys is lauded as an empowering act for women. Why not carrying a gun? A gun is the great equalizer, eliminating physical strength from the equation. As such, restricting my rights to own one puts me in danger. If someone else is going to possess a gun, either a police officer or a gang member, I have the right to one as well. Furthermore, assigning an arbitrary limit on the number of bullets a gun can hold is absurd. No bureaucrat can know how many bullets a person will need to defend herself, her family, or her property.
The humbling fact is the way contemporary America is shocked by massacres like Aurora. Our generation has not experienced conscription, global war, or holocausts. Our outrage is understandable but misplaced. Instead of implementing strict gun laws, we need to promote the principles that created such a prosperous and relatively peaceful place, and bring about harsher punishments for such atrocities. It would be disgraceful for America to become like Norway, where Anders Breivik murdered 77 people, including children, and was subjected to the maximum penalty, a mere 21-year prison sentence.
Banning assault rifles is just one response of many to the recent massacres. But by the same logic, why not preemptively prevent young men (ages 16-25) from owning guns? This demographic committed the most mass shootings and the majority of homicides nationwide last year. Such a proposition illuminates the infringement of rights that gun control measures create. Most young men in this age group will never commit a crime by the barrel of a gun. Why punish the whole group for the violent actions of a few? Why restrict the liberties of all Americans and prevent them from owning certain weapons because of the murderous actions of a minority?
More deaths occur from prescription drugs and automobile accidents than gun violence, but no Senator will propose a ban on pills and cars. They have valuable uses, and so do firearms. A gun in the home is akin to a lock on the door. For some, it is just another measure of security. Admittedly, guns are dangerous if handled improperly, but so are kitchen knives, bleach, and matches. Safety training and appropriate storage is a better solution to reducing accidental deaths than the problem created by not having one in a threatening situation. Restricting legal possession of guns by regular citizens will not cure society’s ills. In fact, I fear concentrating the legal possession of firearms in government agencies will result in increased armed criminal activity, as killers will be emboldened by the knowledge that decent people will not own guns. In reality, murderous intent is the menace to civilization. And the targets of this brutal intent maintain the right to defend themselves with a gun of any capacity.