It’s been more than month since the shooting of 20 children and seven adults in Newtown, Conn. In that time, there have been many news conferences, letters to editors, web posts, etc. expressing widely divergent opinions on what to do about the prevalence of gun violence in the United States. Every time I open The Bulletin to the opinion page, I am reminded how divided we are on this issue.
Gladys Biglor wrote an opinion piece Jan. 10 supporting the NRA’s “National School Shield Emergency Response Program,” that calls for armed guards in every school. She also cited several examples of people who used handguns or shotguns to successfully defend themselves in their homes, and claimed that guns are “the great equalizer,” especially for women, and should big government ever forget, it is not our master. She reminded us yet again of the “right to bear arms.”
To be sure, the Second Amendment is frequently cited as the source of the “right to bear arms” argument to prevent any kind of control on the sale and distribution of firearms.
This is despite the fact that there is long judicial precedent, and physical evidence, in form of the words of the framers of the Constitution at the Constitutional Conventions, that the Second Amendment refers to the right of individual states to arm their own “well-regulated militias” rather than an individual’s right to buy any weapon he wants. Despite the fact that the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2008 expanded individual gun rights, even if more legislation instituting more background checks and restrictions on the type of ammunition and guns are passed, no one is coming to take your guns away.
Sane regulations on who is allowed to purchase a gun, the type of gun and the type of ammunition are not prevented by the Second Amendment. The examples cited by Biglor would still be possible and relevant because no one is coming to take your guns away.
In order to prevent another Newtown, Aurora or Virginia Tech, there is no question many things need to be addressed: mental health treatment, violence in the media, etc. However, instituting background checks on all gun sales and limiting high-capacity ammunition are very simple steps we can take to make it harder for someone to carry out mass murders. It makes me sick to hear people saying we need more guns instead of fewer. As much as I personally wish it to happen, no one is coming to take your guns away.
More guns do not make us safer, as claimed by Biglor and author John Lott Jr. We can correlate deaths by gun violence to the prevalence of guns in America, where with 4.5 percent of the world’s population, we own 40 percent of the firearms. According to the Huffington Post, “Adjusting for population, the U.S. death rate by firearms — which includes homicides, suicide and accidents — was 10.2 per 100,000 people in 2009, according to the Coalition for Gun Control. The closest developed country was Finland, with a firearms death rate of 4.47 per 100,000 people in 2008, less than half that of the U.S. rate. In Canada, the rate was 2.5 per 100,000 people in 2009. In the United Kingdom, the 2011 rate was 0.25 per 100,000 people.”
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, more guns equals more female violent deaths, more violent deaths to children, more homicide, more unintentional firearm deaths and more suicide. Firearms are used far more often to intimidate than in self-defense, and few criminals are shot by decent law-abiding citizens. Even so, no one is coming to take your guns away. But we can, as citizens, take some first common sense steps in reducing gun violence.