Many say that the fierce argument over guns in the United States is a complicated issue. It is my opinion that it is not. We desperately need stricter gun regulations, and in this article I will lay out the reasons why. I will also address the argument of those who oppose stricter gun laws, because although it turns a blind eye to the many problems we face as a nation, it does not do so without reason. This does not mean, however, that their argument is valid.
Support for tighter gun laws draws momentum from many sources. We are, undeniably, an extremely brutal country. *As a side note, opponents of gun control will point out that nations like Guatemala or Venezuela, two countries with vast gun problems, show that the U.S. isn't really all that bad comparatively. Please recognize the insanity of this argument. Both Guatemala and Venezuela are developing countries. We don't compare our GDP to Kosovo or Nicaragua, or our unemployment rate to Somalia or Chad, to gauge our success, so why compare our gun rates to undeveloped nations? It is a weak argument that ignores the real problems.
And those problems are staggering. Among developed nations, we dwarf all others. We have more gun deaths per year (over 30,000) than the next 11 countries put together. We have the highest firearm homicide rate per 100,000 people by far (triple the second most). We have the most deaths by knives and and other means per 100,000 people (dispelling the notion that gun laws lead to more deaths by sharp weapons), again, by a lot.
We also have vastly more accidental gun deaths than any other developed country. In sum, many more people from children to elderly die, in greater numbers and percentages, in the United States than anywhere else in the developed world. In just the last 40 years, the total number of civilian gun deaths has eclipsed the total number of military deaths in our entire history. How is this not a serious problem?
The answer is plain and simple; it is a serious problem. Just take a look at this graph.
The entire gun murder rate of Hondorus is about equal to that of New Orleans. This is, in a word, crazy.
Opponents of stricter gun regulation will look at this craziness, and remain unswayed. Importantly, it's not because all of them are heartless rednecks who lack empathy for anything or anyone save their guns. I'm sure some Americans are like this, but most see the United States's gun problem as an unfortunate price of freedom, and I do not say this mockingly.
The 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution reads as follows:
"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."
The opposition to more gun laws argues that this amendment guarantees civilians the right to own whatever kind of weapon they want. They interpret "keep and bear arms" as such. It is important to the gun control argument that the Constitution protects this right. In the United States, we believe in the freedom of self protection, in the freedom to own a gun, to use it, to not be forcibly unarmed by a governmental entity. Thus, as the saying goes, freedom isn't free, and the cost of this right, to opponents of gun regulation, is unfortunately the associated death rate.
However, it is also important to note that the "right" itself is no more than an interpretation, and one of many. What does "keep and bear" mean? What about a "well regulated Militia?" What kind of weapons were the founders considering when writing this amendment? Many people, including most supporters of gun regulation, answer as I do. Assault and sniper rifles are completely different than the patchy muskets of the 1700s, and to compare the "right" to bear an AK-47 to that of bearing a musket and sword is completely insane. Moreover, the amendment specifically references a Militia, not your random Joe with a room full of military grade weaponry. Therefore, we really don't have to consider the deaths by guns in the U.S. as a "cost of freedom." We don't have to say that "well, the Constitution says so, so we can't do anything without changing the Constitution."
This is what makes me very, very mad. To say that 30,000 gun deaths a year is the "price of freedom" is disgusting enough. But when that "freedom" itself is simply an opinion, loosely inferred, it's downright shameful. Opponents of gun control have a selfish attitude towards their perceived "right," and refuse to help society.
"Do you really need a semiautomatic weapon in your home," I asked my friend once? "I know you want one, but there's a lot of things we want that we forgo in the name of safety and public good." But fine. I'm willing to let these crazy people hold onto their guns and their precious 2nd Amendment for dear life. We are, after all, entitled to our own (insane) opinions.
What, then, can the United States do to address the problem of guns? Legislatively, President Obama has passed executive orders increasing background checks, monitoring local gun sales, and expanding mental health services. This is a good step forward. The next step Obama could take would be one that goes right around the blockade put up by 2nd Amendment champions.
Take a look again at the 2nd Amendment. Do you notice a word missing? The one I'm thinking of is "buy." Nowhere does it mention the buying and selling of arms, nowhere at all. No matter your stance on the gun issue, everyone has to admit that the 2nd Amendment mentions nothing about the right to "buy" arms. I doubt the Founding Fathers even considered a civilian gun market as big as ours today.
Therefore, it is constitutionally acceptable, and indeed unarguable, that the government has every right to manage the buying and selling of weapons. I suggest that the U.S. government utilize this loophole to it's fullest capacity. We should start restricting gun purchases. Yes, people now will keep their guns. But after a generation or two, we can whittle down the number and type of guns that civilians own. Perhaps this will stabilize our gun deaths. Perhaps this will change our mentality and make us less gun crazy. Perhaps this will help us get on track with the rest of the industrialized world.
I really hope, though, that we don't have to look for loopholes in the law to convince people to change their mentality. I want Americans to stop being so thickheaded and start paying real attention to the problems with guns. I want Americans to realize that 30,000 gun deaths a year is not something we have to live with. I want Americans to say "enough" when a baby shoots himself and his brother with his dad's rifle. I want Americans to understand that we can still have the right to own guns without the violence, like many other nations do. It starts with mental health, and background checks, and gun restrictions. But it ends with a change in attitude.
It requires a change in heart.