Opinion

Sensible Gun Laws

Ever since the slew of school shootings in the American neighborhood, American awareness of gun control issues have skyrocketed.

On either side there are compelling arguments: Pro-Control advocates articulate that by removing the tools of the trade from possible criminals, we’ve eliminated some of the most dangerous ways to kill someone. Pro-Rights advocates refute that by saying the Second Amendment protects the lawful right of citizens to bear arms during a time of conflict. By having guns, citizens are able to protect themselves and create a safe space within American society when law enforcement (LE) isn’t around…The argument goes on and on, with no end in sight.

I believe that before an individual tries to make a comment and pitch in, he must have sufficient general knowledge about firearms – how they operate, the capabilities of each type of firearm, and most importantly, gun safety. Naturally, you have to have touched, seen, smelled, and shot a firearm to do so. If an individual does not understand all of the above, then I believe they are unfit to take a side and contribute to this delicate issue.

The current “hot topic” is the issue on whether to ban semi-automatic assault weapons from the general populace. Using the definition of “assault weapon” under the Assault Weapons Ban passed under the Clinton administration (which has recently expired) – a semi-automatic, full size rifle that possesses two or more of the characteristics of a fully automatic weapon OR a Title II weapon – we can then discern the pros and cons of each side. Currently the term “Assault weapon” is undefined by the federal government.

The Assault Weapons Ban functions on restricting cosmetic features on certain high powered weapons. However, the features and restrictions described have no effect on the actual destructive power of the gun itself. Restricting firearms based on cosmetic features will do nothing for reducing crime rate. A bullet .308 inches in diameter is still a bullet .308 inches in diameter. Changing the medium of firing the round will not alter the destructive power of bullets.

Hence, the point is moot already. In no way does it lessen possible crime using guns. Thus, we arrive at the conclusion – restricting weapons will not affect crime rate. By taking away a highly effective medium citizens can use to counter a gun-wielding attacker, the government is merely raising the possible casualty rate in an incident.

But, let’s look at the issue in a different light. National Review states that the relationship between gun regulation and homicide is by no means straightforward. Switzerland, which has a gun in every household (required for military service) has a lower homicide rate than heavily restrictive countries, such as the UK. Cuba, with very strict gun laws, has a higher homicide rate than the US – 5.0/100,000 vs 4.8/100,0000.

“Gun deaths” is also a misleading term. About two thirds of all gun deaths are suicides. The “assault rifle” also accounts for only 358 counts of homicides in 2010. Legally owned fully automatic weapons have been used in exactly two homicide cases in the modern era, one of them by a police officer with a department issued gun.

Once again, crime and guns are not interrelated. There are some places with very strict gun laws and lots of crime, some places with very liberal gun laws and very little crime and vice versa.

What about those shootings we’ve all heard about? Almost all of them were committed by an individual with severe mental issues. One way to prevent such incidents is placing proper precautions – intensified background checks to root out possible mental illness, proper education on how to handle a gun, and ensuring there are law abiding citizens around the nation can help prevent such incidents. The idea that a guy can just walk into a gun store and simply buy a gun is revolting, and yet Congress has just shut down a bill that simply required more in depth background checks.

One interesting aspect of American gun laws is that there are non-uniform laws across the 50 states. This makes even thinking about control and altering laws next to impossible, and individuals have to worry about different gun laws in different states. If this is one nation, then there should be one set of gun laws that everyone abides by. Not 50.

Gun control is clearly a sensitive issue, but I would imagine that the issue would be resolved a lot quicker if all citizens were educated in how guns work, how to use them safely, and what they are capable of. Additional laws will help, but only in making it more difficult for unsuitable individuals to own and purchase a firearm. For the rest of us, there should be no obstacles in having the freedom to own and operate a firearm. It may even contribute to a safer neighborhood.

JON CHANG ’14

Categories: Opinion

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