Think of the Children
Gun control has a muddy history, from the 1939 United States v. Miller to the superseding 2008 DC v. Heller case which declared gun ownership an individual right. America is a unique country, which faces a unique problem.
Purchasing new fully-automatic weapons has been illegal since 1986. These have never been used in a mass shooting. Assault weapons, described by model or cosmetics, were banned in 1994.
This ban was sunset in 2004, as it was ineffective in reducing violent crime. Semi-automatics include most handguns along with certain rifles. Reloading takes 1-5 seconds for most weapons, even in stressful situations. Women, the elderly and those with less physical stature benefit the most from defensive gun use. Lastly, background checks are always required for purchases from authorized dealers.
Addressing a common proposal, bans based on cosmetics (e.g. pistol grips) unsurprisingly wouldn’t reduce gun abuse. A blanketing semi-automatic weapon ban is unrealistic and impractical, since semi-automatic handguns are the best guns for self-defense.
Gun buyback is unfeasibly expensive, with conservative estimates at $30-60 billion for refunds alone, while examples such as Australia’s gun policies primarily reduced gun-related suicide rather than homicide. Targeted control of either rifles or calibers is impotent, as the typical semi-automatic pistol effective range is 75 feet—plenty for a mass-shooting since most victims are shot within two feet.
High-capacity magazine bans are solutions to non-existent problems. Less than 10 shots are fired in most homicides, and shooters with small magazines are just as brutal (e.g. one Columbine shooter brought 13 10-round magazines, bypassing the assault weapons ban). It’s clear that ‘who’ matters far more than ‘what’ when it comes to gun sales. Unlike ineffective gun restrictions, solutions like private sale background checks, gun licensing contingent upon mental health evaluation and mandatory safe-storage training address the cause of misuse.
Since the common thread throughout all mass shootings is mental instability, accessible mental health care at all economic levels would be ideal. In the worst-case, Homeland Security is now advising “run, hide, fight” over sheltering-in-place, which stands to substantially increase survival rates.
Regarding other gun-crime, childhood gang membership and repeated violent offences can be mitigated through school and prison programs. Resources for impoverished and single parents to encourage both self-esteem and school performance would assist in all cases. Over-zealous gun control is an immoral overreach of government power and will rarely change tragic outcomes given the circumstances of gun abuse.
With the constant progression towards authoritarianism each election cycle, the forfeiture of freedom is increasingly risky. Think of the children, defend your rights, defend liberty.
James Clague is a senior studying computing and engineering.