With yet another American tragedy resulting from gun violence, the debate begins anew regarding gun control versus the constitutional right to bear arms. When these horrific acts occur people flock to the forefront with a lot of misinformation, rhetoric, and blame, but nothing is ever solved because neither side is willing to listen to the other and both are acting out of fear. Stock markets fluctuate, the left and the right both point fingers and shout about the Constitution, fundamental rights, and the NRA. Gun sales sore over the fear that some rogue politician may try to ban gun sales entirely. Then time passes, new concerns arise and the debate dies down until the next unspeakable event, then the cycle begins again.
I worry every time my children walk out the door that something could happen to them and I would give anything to protect them, but will increased gun control actually make them safer? Is that the solution? And what do we sacrifice because of these violent, criminal, and sociopathic individuals?
To have this discussion it is important for us to understand the laws and principles at stake. The Second Amendment of the US Constitution gives the citizens of the United States the right to keep and bear arms. This is often what citizens against gun control cite to protect their right to buy, own, and stockpile all the firearms and ammunition that they can get their hands on. But the reality is that the Constitution is a law, and like any other, it is constantly in flex. It must be interpreted so as to best protect its citizens. It is important to remember that this same constitution also gives the right to life, liberty, and the pursuant of happiness. The right to have a family has long been recognized as a fundamental right, yet it has only recently been interpreted to allow for same-sex marriage. The right to bear arms is no different. It must grow and be interpreted and balanced with the needs of the people. Both state and local government also play a large part in gun control by implementing additional restrictions and protections.
There are a lot of misconceptions regarding one’s ability to obtain a firearm. It is not as straightforward as walking into a store and saying, “I want to buy a gun.” Retailers are REQUIRED to have a Federal Firearms License (FFL), which is overseen by the ATF, who have very rigid requirements in order to get, maintain, and keep their FFL. As a requirement of having an FFL it is a mandate that everyone fills out a form called a 4473 that asks for a great deal of information, requires that the applicant submits to a background check, and many times does result in a denial or waiting period. Depending on the state and municipality additional checks, waiting periods, and licenses may also be required. Furthermore, reputable firearms dealers give their staff the right to deny any firearm purchase for any reason. The system isn’t perfect, but it is a balance between a law abiding person’s Constitutionally protected right as well as the right of the general public to feel safe. The problem is that when things like this happen, the public doesn’t feel safe anymore.
We are still reeling from the heartbreak of this massacre and want these tragedies prevented. Because of what one man did at Sandy Hook my kindergartener has lockdown drills at his school. I have to submit to a fingerprint scan to enter my toddler’s daycare center. Because of one man and the Aurora movie theater shootings I jump every time I hear someone get up when I take my kids to a Disney movie. Because of another man, I will be afraid to take my kids to concerts as they get older.
I am not okay with any of this, but is banning or further restricting the sale of firearms to law-abiding citizens the answer? I really can’t answer that.
All of the safeguards in the world cannot read into a person’s intent. There is no test that can determine whether an individual is mentally ill if they are currently behaving sanely. There is no questionnaire that can determine whether a person is likely to commit suicide if they are smiling and calm. No survey can determine if a person has criminal intent when they have never exhibited a propensity to break the law. I also know that even if we ban all automatic weapons, those who wish to modify hunting rifles and handguns into assault-type weapons will find a way to do so. Restrictive gun control legislation in places like Australia has done nothing to impede the black market firearm sales, so why would it be any different here? People who have the intent to violate the law will find a way to do it, no matter what restrictions or penalties are put in place. So the question becomes is there a reasonable amount of restriction that will prevent these types of tragedies?
We need to take the emotion out of it. It is a bipartisan issue that needs to be approached rationally, and without interference from outside special interest groups or lobbyists. We owe it to our children to find a solution that balances fundamental Constitutionally protected rights with the basic human variety. Most of all we need to stop placing blame on anyone but the perpetrators and work together to find a workable solution that protects every human’s right to feel safe and secure in this UNITED States of America.