The Debate on Gun Control

Shootings over the last few months in places like Vegas and Barcelona were horrific, to say the least. Mass shootings of this nature almost always bring about a nationwide dispute on gun control and regulation — never really ending in any significant change (for good reasons).

There’s always a lot going on with any kind of controversial debate like this one, usually with people taking a lot of different sides as well. With so much to process in such little time, let me try my best to break it down for you.

The importance of gun ownership is a very touchy subject for many Americans for a number of reasons. One of the most prominent arguments put forth is that our Second Amendment “right to bear arms” is one of the foundations our country was built on. The American Revolution happened because dedicated civilians, who happened to own muskets, mobilized to fight against the British army. A lot of people recognize the ability to organize and battle against overbearing authority as essential to American culture. Not only is it a Constitutional right, but it’s also a significant part of a lot of households in America who rely on guns for safety and protection.

On the other hand, many argue that our society is at an entirely different time and place than it was in the late 1700s, to which I would agree. Guns may have been essential back then, but our arsenal has grown immensely to include more than just simple muskets. Many believe that what once may have been a symbol of strength and independence, now represents something much more sinister and dangerous. As we can see in past occurrences such as what happened in Las Vegas, guns can be very hazardous especially in the wrong hands.

What gun control advocates call for is regulation. They want to see stricter access to guns, especially in gun shows, so people who are at a risk of using them unsafely can’t get one. They would like to see weapons that are used in legitimate war not available for civilian use (ex. automatic weapons)—something that we have been almost successful in as laws have been passed. They would like to see more thorough background checks and higher standards for gun ownership. Lastly, they would prefer upgrade mechanisms and devices be banned so someone can’t turn their semi-automatic weapon into an automatic, as the Las Vegas shooter did.

One major proposition that can’t and shouldn’t be done is the banning of all guns. There is a fairly large segment of the population that believes this would be a valid idea. Something along the same lines as this idea was implemented in Australia in 1996, where they offered a buyback program and enacted a ban on several semi-automatic weapons. Although this did actually decrease the number of mass shootings and gun-related violence in general, the United States has a lot of cultural and legal differences that would make a law like this incredibly difficult to pass.

The biggest difference between us and almost every other constitutional government in the world (with the exception of Mexico and Guatemala), is that our Bill of Rights specifically states in Amendment II that we have a “right of the people to keep and bear Arms” that can't be infringed by the federal government and has to be protected by the United States Supreme Court. Even if Congress proposed such a bill and the majority voted in favor of it, if the President didn't veto it then there is pretty much a guarantee that the Supreme Court would challenge and prevent it from being fully ratified. States are also included in this guarantee, as exemplified in the court case McDonald v. Chicago (2010) where the Supreme Court majority ruled that the Second Amendment fully applies to states as well as the federal government. Basically, time and time again our country has shown that any breach on our right to bear arms will be met with extreme difficulty.

Apart from the constitutional constraints that would make abolition impossible, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has made it almost impossible to even mention gun control in a legislative agenda. As one of the largest interest groups in America, it also has the greatest lobbying influence and influence on government agencies. Because it is so massive, the NRA is also able to contribute tremendous amounts of money to politicians and dedicate funds to media campaigns for and against certain people or groups. Following one of the main principles of politics, re-election is a main goal for almost all politicians. The more money and reach, the better. So if the NRA is willing to give contribute to your campaign just make sure gun control legislation doesn't pass, why not? Although this is a mainly Republican-backed organization, most would be surprised to see how many Democrats also take money from the NRA. With a combination of all these factors, it’s honestly not shocking that gun regulation rarely moves past the Committee stage into tangible bills in the House or Senate.

While I agree that reasonable gun control legislation needs to be implemented as soon as possible, I’m also glad that our country holds our Constitution to high standards and respect. If we somehow managed to completely uproot the Second Amendment, the chances of our Bill of Rights losing a significant amount of legal stronghold is very, very possible. That is a path that our country should NOT go down. For now, continue being politically active and calling your Members of Congress to remind them not to forget about this issue.