In the past year alone, according to The New York Times, 6,000 Americans were
murdered by guns, and another estimated 28,000 were killed through accidental and suicidal gun use. The growing concern over gun violence in our country has captured the attention of world leaders and caused a significant amount of political and social tension. To solve this pressing issue and end the taking of innocent lives, our country must follow in the path of other nations which have successfully reduced gun violence through regulation.
In recent times we have seen the devastation that unrestricted access to weapons can
cause. The 2012 Sandy Hook School shooting is perhaps the most powerful example of this.
Twenty six- and seven-year-olds, as well as six adults, were fatally shot by a man bearing semiautomatic rifles and handguns.
Sandy Hook was the sixteenth mass shooting of 2012, preceding fifteen others, including the “Batman Shooting” in which a man opened fire in a crowded Colorado movie theatre, killing 12 and injuring 70.
Despite the tragedy and shock that pervaded the national mood following these tragedies, efforts to unite and move in some way towards prevention were in vain. President Barack Obama’s response to these instances aimed to put in place reasonable gun regulations such as universal background checks. However, citizens intent on protecting their Second Amendment rights stopped all of his attempts.
Yet the same regulations that Obama and other gun control advocates are pushing for
have been successful in reducing the gun violence in other nations such as Australia and Canada. In 1996, following the historic “Port Arthur Massacre” which took the lives of thirty-five people, the Australian government put in place the “National Firearms Agreement.” This legislation banned automatic rifles and shotguns, as well as enabled the government to buy back more than 640,000 firearms nationwide. Then Prime Minister John Howard, who was known for his conservatism and ties to President George W. Bush, stated, “All the credible research both in Australia and elsewhere shows that the gun control laws have markedly reduced gun related deaths.” And in fact, ever since the legislation was put in place under his leadership, gun related homicides decreased by 7.5 % per year. Canada is another country known for its strict gun legislation and peaceful reputation. This is not to say that Canadian citizens with a passion for hunting or a desire to feel secure cannot own a gun; it is just that the process required to obtain one is much more extensive. According to Business Insider, in Canada, it “takes sixty days to buy a gun . . . and there is mandatory licensing for gun owners. Gun owners pursuing a license must have third-party references, take a safety training course and pass a background check with a focus on mental, criminal and addiction histories.” It is these precautions which keep guns out of the wrong hands and keep citizens safe. In the United States, on the other hand, people who have been deemed unsafe to fly on airplanes are still able to purchase guns. The New York Times reports that the number of homicides in relation to the national population of Canada is nearly six times fewer than in the United States. Despite the repeated tragedies and consistent evidence in support of gun regulations, the resistance from pro-gun lobbyists continues to prevent the U.S. Congress from passing any restrictive legislation. For example, in May 2013 the Senate rejected the Manchin-Toomey bill which proposed extending background checks to internet and gun show sales, and as of right now, anyone is able to purchase weaponry through these means. One of the strongest arguments from the opposing side is that guns are essential for self-defense and home security. The idea put forth by the National Rifle Association that the “only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is good guy with a gun” has become a popular argument for those in support of gun freedom. However, FBI homicide data shows that for every one justifiable gun homicide ( in other words an act of self defense), thirty-four innocent people are murdered by guns. In addition, gun enthusiasts maintain the conviction that any movement to enact stricter regulations is an infringement upon their Second Amendment rights. This amendment states “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” and questions under what circumstances and with what restrictions the amendment should be interpreted, have been the subject of much debate. In 2008 as part of a Supreme Court case guaranteeing Americans the right to have a handgun in the home for self-protection, Justice Antonin Scalia made a point to add that “nothing, in our opinion, should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” This statement, given by a conservative justice, implies that even people from the opposing side acknowledge that the right to bear arms does not conflict with regulations meant to ensure the safety and well being of the citizens.
To prevent the loss of more innocent lives, our country needs to unite in imposing stricter regulations on firearms.
As President Obama once said, “We’re a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I believe in the Second Amendment. We’ve got a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen and people who want to make sure they can protect themselves.
My belief is that we have to enforce the laws we’ve already got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes to enforcement . . .weapons that were designed for soldiers in war… don’t belong on our streets.” This quotation articulates the argument of many who feel that asking for stricter enforcement is not asking too much, especially when the end goal is protecting the lives of innocent people.