Fear is a common reference in gun control debates. Many gun supporters say those would want increased gun control are motivated by fear.
I agree. I’m afraid of guns. I’m afraid of walking down the streets of Wilkes-Barre and being caught in the crossfire of gun violence. I’m afraid of mentally-ill students shooting innocent bystanders on campus. I’m afraid of psychopaths storming into a crowded movie theater with assault rifles.
In light of the heinous crimes reported this year, we should all be afraid.
The numbers are chilling; According to CNN, there were 11,493 homicides by firearm in 2009 alone. That’s due to the fact there were there were 310 million nonmilitary guns reported in the U.S. in 2009.
Sure, it’s a constitutional right to own a gun. More specifically, the Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights 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.”
But let’s put this into context. According to About.com, this amendment was created in 1791. That was back when the most commonly used gun was the flintlock. In order to fire it, you had to load it with gunpowder, place a ball on a patch and used a ramrod to move these items down the barrel.
Nowadays, guns are more efficient and more deadly. Guns with rapid-fire technology and high-capacity magazines are freely available, even on the Internet.
Do we really need a 100-round gun to protect our homes from burglaries? USA Today states that even police officers usually only carry 10 to 12 rounds.
According to USA Today, a 100-round magazine gun is one type of weapon James Holmes used at the Aurora theater shooting. He bought it legally from a website.
Often times, criminals are not even the target of these advanced guns. An article on CNN stated that having a gun in the house basically doubles the risk that a household member will kill himself or herself. Americans are 50 percent more likely to fatally shoot themselves than be fatally shot by a criminal.
Yet, misinformed opponents of gun control cite countries like Switzerland, which has high rates of gun ownership couple with low rates of crime. They say, “if there were as many armed Americans as there are armed Swiss, America would be a much safer country.”
The funny thing is, there’s actually a larger percentage of citizens in America who own guns than in Switzerland. Yet, we still have crime rates that are worse than some developing countries. So, clearly, there is no correlation between the two.
As IBTimes states, the cause of Switzerland’s lower crime rates is more likely the lack of drug trade and social inequality, two major factors that increase violent crime frequency. I don’t see how our stockpile of firearms is helping with those problems.
Part of the reason there are some many guns in America is how easy they are to get. Typically you can walk in a store and pass an instant background check, unless you’re registered under the National Instant Criminal Background Check System as ineligible. Recorded mental instability is grounds for disqualification.
However, many states keep mental health records confidential, making it impossible to restrict mentally unstable customers. Even states that do report mental health background do not have an effective system.
Take Virginia, for instance. The FBI reported in 2007 that Virginia had released more mental records than any other state, but yet somehow a certain Virginia Tech student was able to legally buy a gun and kill 32 of his classmates and teachers. That shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, had been determined to be mentally ill and a danger to himself and others, but that didn’t stop him from being eligible to purchase a gun, leading to the massacre in 2007.
Some claim that even if you limit guns, murderers like Seung-Hui would still access them. By that logic, we should make illegal drugs readily available as well. Even if criminals would still access firearms illegally, restrictions would inherently make it more difficult, especially for those who are mentally ill and don’t have any connections to gangs.
The second amendment doesn’t provide any of these restrictions. In 1791, there was no need for limitations. But, because technology has made guns more dangerous and more accessible, our constitution should adapt to modern reality. Guns are advancing; It’s about time our laws start advancing too.