A month ago in Oregon, a mass shooting on a college campus was the catalyst that reignited the conversation regarding gun control. In the end, it is usually only empty rhetoric about what we should do, but there are the few times that reforms are actually enacted. This was the case in Colorado following the Aurora theater shooting. Policies were created on the state level that included bans on magazines exceeding certain capacities, and requiring universal background checks. Even with states having varying levels of gun control, nationwide policy is still mixed. The primary argument is that you should not punish law-abiding gun owners by creating reforms that make it harder for them to own a gun, despite the fact that research has shown that the majority of shootings are done by people who obtained their guns legally.
Some people believe that every time a mass shooting occurs, we must do something, usually involving new legislation, to make society safer by making it harder for people to commit crimes with guns. Although this argument is valid and we should do something about gun-related crimes, it does not mean we should necessarily be passing new laws.
Gun control continues to be a misunderstood issue with no clear consensus. On one hand, we have predominately liberal groups advocating for more control and restriction on gun ownership. On the other, we have the National Rifle Association (NRA) that claims there is a war on gun owners every time gun control is simply debated. Both sides are toxic to the debate. It is true that the Founding Fathers guaranteed a right to bear arms in the Bill of Rights. A literal interpretation, however, would reveal that citizens were only allowed to bear arms for the purpose of having a well-regulated militia; however, our modern view of gun ownership tends to leave out that clause. This is perfectly understandable, but some people believe that the right should be completely unfettered.
A sane approach to gun control would be to restrict avenues to acquire a gun, and not on the types of guns you can actually buy. A majority of Americans support universal background checks for both private and gun show sales. This is a simple reform to enact, but interest groups like the NRA restrict passage of legislation because they view any restriction as a grave assault on their “freedom.” A majority also supports restricting people with mental illnesses from purchasing guns. The past few major mass shootings were committed by mentally ill individuals, but how would we have restricted their access to a gun? Should we require people to go through a psychiatric evaluation prior to being allowed to purchase a weapon? In my opinion, that would put an undue burden on the system and delay gun purchases an unreasonable amount. It sounds good in practice, but I don’t think you can reasonably implement such a system.
Another popular issue is the creation of a federally administered database of registered firearms. This is a more controversial issue, but Americans support it 67-30 (Department of Justice). This database would allow for the tracking of gun ownership and purchases, and make it easier for law enforcement to track down how and where someone purchased a weapon and the legality of the sale. Another benefit of this database is that it could help to absolve gun owners from being the subject of an investigation if their gun is stolen. However, opposition to this issue usually claim that the federal government could use the database to alienate, oppress, or discriminate against gun owners. While this is an unfounded concern, a compromise could be to have a third party administer the registry and require law enforcement to get a warrant to obtain records from it.
Despite having some majority support on certain aspects of gun control, the issue is still sharply divided and passing increasingly restrictive regulations on acquisition and ownership is not the answer. We need more meaningful reforms, but we also need further research into how criminals obtain guns and what kinds of people they are.
There are millions of law-abiding gun owners in America that don’t deserve their right to own and purchase firearms to be infringed upon. It’s important to protect the rights of gun-owners while also protecting the public from gun violence. The path towards doing that is unclear, but if we can all come to the table and have a sane conversation, we might be able to come up with a solution. It is necessary to set aside the partisan entrenchment, and special interest groups, in order to reach this consensus.