The Maneater

Column: Gun control is a political talking point, not a strategy to fight gun crime

It’s good to talk about finding a solution after a mass shooting, but it isn’t helpful to make an argument for a solution that wouldn’t be constitutional or effective.

Brandon Bartlett is a freshman political science major at MU. He is an opinions columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater.

In America, the weeks after a school shooting are a time of around-the-clock argument about firearms and the Second Amendment. Members of Congress propose different bills, the media runs constant coverage of new information and it's nearly impossible to scroll through social media without seeing some sort of debate in the comments of a post on Facebook. I don’t mind any of this. It is always good to exchange ideas and try to come together and think of some solution to solve the problem at hand.

However, coming together to solve a problem is not what happens since gun control is a highly polarizing topic that tends to bring forth some very lazy and unsubstantiated arguments. This isn’t productive in finding a solution to the problem we are facing and it only serves to further divide the country. If we want to have a substantial and effective conversation as a society then we need to base it off of two things: our proposed ideas’ effectiveness and their constitutionality.

The argument made by many on the left is that gun control is the one and only response to gun violence. Those who would make this argument differ on how broad of gun control they want, but it seems that the left is leaning more toward a large-scale gun ban and confiscation with some recent proposals. Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed during the shooting in Parkland, Florida, exemplified this during CNN’s town hall, where he said to Sen. Marco Rubio, “Tell me guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids in this school this week. And tell me and you will work with us to do something about guns.”

When Sen. Rubio later tried to explain that an assault weapons ban would be ineffective as it makes about 220 models of guns illegal but doesn’t include 2,000 other guns that can inflict just as much damage, Guttenberg’s only response was “Are you saying you will start with the 200 and work your way up?”

Rubio then said that his idea on how to minimize gun violence would be to “instead should make sure that dangerous criminals, people that are deranged cannot buy any gun of any kind.” Unlike the statements made by Guttenberg — which all received great applause — Rubio was booed. How is it a better idea to make sure that no one can get a gun rather than making sure no criminal can legally get a gun? The only way you can make such an argument is from a stance of misinformation and emotion rather than logic.

We are constantly told that we just need some “common sense gun control,” but the proposed measures are anything but common sense. The legislation proposed after nearly every mass shooting is some sort of assault weapons ban. Most of these proposals are stricter versions of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. This legislation banned the sale of semi-automatic firearms that could accept a detachable magazine and had at least two of the following: a folding or telescoping stock, a pistol grip, a bayonet mount, a flash suppressor or a threaded barrel designed to accept a suppressor and/or a grenade launcher. It also banned semi-automatic pistols with certain characteristics as well as magazines which could hold more than 10 rounds.

One would assume that since this is “common sense” that this ban had a great effect on the amount of gun crime, but it didn’t. Gun violence did fall while the Assault Weapons Ban was in effect but was probably because of other influences. The Washington Post’s Brad Plumer cites a study from the University of Pennsylvania, which states, “We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence. And, indeed, there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence." This is why liberal media and politicians prefer to instill fear in those watching with words rather than to show the facts. An entire column could be written about this alone, but let me sum it up quickly.

An assault rifle is a military rifle that the shooter can select to shoot either semi automatically or fully automatically. An automatic weapon is also a weapon that can shoot fully automatically meaning it will continue to shoot bullets as long as you hold down the trigger. No, an AR-15 is not an assault rifle or an automatic weapon. The “AR” in the name actually refers to the manufacturer of the gun, which is Armalite.

This goes back to making sure our solutions are effective. A ban wasn’t effective in 1994 and it wouldn't be now because the vast majority of homicides in the U.S. are committed with something besides a rifle. According to the FBI, 374 people were murdered by not just the AR-15 but by any type of rifle in 2016. 7,105 homicides were committed with handguns, 656 with hands, fists, feet, etc. and 1,604 with knives and other cutting instruments. While lots of school shooters use rifles such as the AR-15, the most deadly school shooting remains to be the one that happened at Virginia Tech in 2007, in which the shooter used handguns.

Of course, this doesn’t mean we should ban handguns because banning handguns, just as banning rifles, is unconstitutional. The Second Amendment makes it clear that it is unconstitutional to limit or undermine the possession of and the carrying of weapons and ammunition by stating “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Some would say that the Founding Fathers couldn’t foresee the invention of modern weapons because all they had were muskets, but this is simply not true.

There were several guns which were more advanced than muskets such as the Belton flintlock, which could fire 16 shots in as few as 20 seconds. This weapon was invented and presented to the Continental Congress before the Second Amendment was adopted in 1791. Also, semi-automatic rifles are not a new invention and have actually been around for over 100 years. The first was invented in 1885 by Ferdinand von Mannlicher. While it’s true that the Supreme Court has ruled it constitutional to impose limits on the Second Amendment and circuit courts have ruled assault weapons bans are constitutional, the courts are not always correct. Just remember the Supreme Court once ruled that racial segregation was constitutional in Plessy v. Ferguson.

It’s a good thing the Second Amendment is included in the Constitution because it ensures that U.S. citizens can defend themselves in all situations and that is what guns are very commonly used for. According to a study performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that guns are used for self-defense at least 500,000 times annually. However, according to the same study, guns could be used as many as 3 million times. All that would be accomplished by banning certain weapons would be disarming law-abiding citizens because criminals who want to kill people do not care what laws they break in the process of doing so.

Gun control and the solution to stifling the amount of gun crime in the U.S. are two different things. We must harden soft targets like schools. The Crime Prevention Research Center found that 98 percent of mass shootings have happened in gun-free zones. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, so naturally we need to have more good guys with guns. Whether it is teachers or extra resource officers in schools it doesn’t matter as long as they are well trained people who are comfortable with firearms and prepared to defend the defenseless children. Guns aren’t the problem; they are part of the solution.

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