Two mornings after the Las Vegas shooting, I went to the newsstand in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I found the covers dominated by news of the massacre. The articles included details of the event, histories of mass shootings in the United States, commentary on President Trump’s reactions (with some shade about his anti-foreigner views considering the perpetrator was American), and testimonies from witnesses. One paper, Clarin, even featured a comic about the incident: a picture of the statue of liberty holding a machine gun saying “¡Soy el peor de mis enemigos!” “I am the worst of my enemies.”
The rest of the world can see that the United States has a problem. However, current political divisiveness has created polarized bubbles, one side blindly condemning all guns, the other side unleashing torrents of vitriol at the mere whisper of “gun control.” Meanwhile our leaders tweet out “thoughts and prayers” and do nothing.
I support the Second Amendment. I’ve learned how to shoot rifles, shotguns, and handguns. I even have a Sharpshooter rank with the Winchester/NRA Rifle Marksmanship Qualification Program. I’m also a 20-year-old college student, studying abroad but enrolled at a small New England college. I believe people should be able to own guns for self-defense and hunting purposes.
I am also pro-gun control. There needs to be limits on what the Second Amendment allows. There is no reason for non-military and law enforcement personnel to own automatic weapons or tactical equipment such as the bump stock used in the Vegas shooting that can allow semi-automatic weapons to be fired as rapidly as automatic weapons.
It is ridiculous that in the United States of America, we require a license to operate a car but not a gun. We require citizens to prove they are familiar with the laws of the road and can properly operate a car before being able to drive; why don’t we require similar certifications and licensure for gun owners? A New York Times article from 2016 reported that between 2007 and 2012 the average rate of gun deaths in the U.S. was equal to that of car crashes. But the main purpose of cars isn’t to injure or kill.
We need to find a compromise between keeping people safe and allowing access to guns. There are limitations on the Second Amendment that are almost universally considered reasonable, like banning people who are on government watch lists from purchasing guns. Requiring universal background checks and a licensure program similar to what we have for drivers is not unreasonable and can be implemented without infringing on citizens’ Second Amendment rights.
The only thing those programs would hurt would be time, but not being able to plan for the time required to take courses, get a license, and undergo a background check prior to receiving a gun shows a lack of responsibility that might indicate an individual should not be entrusted with a gun to begin with.
Requiring background checks and licenses is less of a violation of the Second Amendment than the age restrictions set forth in the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. That act made it “unlawful” for licensed dealers to sell handguns to anyone under 21. The Second Amendment says “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Prohibiting the sale of handguns to people 18–21 seems like infringement to me.
Maybe licensure and registration won’t solve the gun violence issue we have in America, but the current spate of mass shootings demand that we do something. We have to get our legislators to do something. We have to show them that simply tweeting their prayers for the victims isn’t enough. They need to change the system and if the solution doesn’t work, change it again.
For example, the firearms section of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 was drafted and passed it in light of safety concerns revealed by the Kennedy assassination. While at times I complain about the age restrictions it put in place, I’m just chafed by the idea that I can’t buy a handgun, not my actual lack of it. Plus, that Act did a lot of good by placing restrictions on mail-order gun sales, which was how Kennedy’s assassin purchased the rifle used in the shooting. Thirty years later in light of the Stockton Schoolyard Shooting, Congress passed as ten-year ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and ammunition feeding devices in 1994. In both of these situations Congress responded to gun violence with legislation, not just “thoughts and prayers.”
We cannot let ourselves become distracted from the issue. Mass shootings and acts of gun violence reveal weaknesses in our country’s laws and we need to mend them.
Congress needs to start working on legislation now to ban assault weapons, implement universal background checks and registration, and close loopholes involving private sales. Regardless of what they do, not everyone will be happy, but stronger gun control will save lives by keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not have them and keeping guns no one needs out of society. Those benefits far outweigh the sting gun purchasers might feel when the process of obtaining a new gun become slightly harder.