On Gun Violence in the US

Guest Commentary by Joseph Ryan, Class of 2021

Ten minutes. Fifty-nine dead. Over five hundred injured. In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in American history, the issue of gun control is once again at the forefront of our national conscious. For too long, the issue of gun control has been diluted and derailed by a small faction of the public supported by the National Rifle Association and other corporate interest groups. The views of these powerful special interest groups are not those of the nation. While most Americans do believe in the right to bear arms, a right established by our Constitution, over 60% of Americans believe that our current gun regulations need to be revised to protect our citizens from the dangers of mass shootings and everyday gun violence.
Many in opposition to gun control assert that the free possession of such weapons is an inalienable right of any American and that any effort to protect against guns falling into the wrong hands is a part of an effort to completely dismantle the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. This, however, is not the case. The text of the 2nd Amendment itself contains the phrase “a well regulated Militia”, which establishes that the authors of the amendment recognized the need for regulations to oversee the possession of arms in the nation. The Constitution may prohibit the Government from outlawing and confiscating firearms—an unpopular idea on both the left and the right—, but it certainly permits it to determine what kind of person may possess what kind of weapon. This constitutional prerogative should be utilized by the Congress to enact commonsense gun legislation for which there is already widespread public support, reaching over 90% support on certain proposals.
The proposals for commonsense gun legislation are not complex schemes to end American gun ownership. However, they are not impossible or even impractical. Laws that would end the gun show loophole or require universal background checks would make it harder for those wishing to do ill to possess a high-capacity weapon. Similarly, permit-to-purchase laws have shown in several states to lower gun violence without causing a substitution counteract, wherein criminals, rather than using a firearm, will resort to other weapons. These proposals have had great impacts in the states where they were enacted like Connecticut, which saw a 40% reduction in the state’s firearm homicide rate and a 15% reduction in firearm suicide; bringing them to the national level will stop people from simply having to cross state lines to find less stringent gun laws and, perhaps, prevent future tragic mass shootings like Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, or Binghamton.
Being the only civilized nation on Earth to experience these large scale attacks annually and equally brutal small scale gun violence daily, when will our lawmakers act on the public’s call for gun control that still honors the American traditions of freedom and liberty? The data shows that the solution is clear. The easiest way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to prevent him from having that gun in the first place. No reasonable person is seeking to confiscate Americans’ guns, for our nation has a strong cultural connection to these objects. But that is all they are, in the end, objects that can end one or many human lives. Surely the latter is worthier of protection than the former.

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