It began with 23 executive orders and President Obama’s call to action for Congress to enact stricter gun laws throughout the United States-that led to today’s never-ending mudslinging debate over what exactly should be done for current and future gun owners.
Or so it seems.
Perhaps the country’s wake up call for the seriously overlooked issue of gun control happened once the mass shooting took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. A semi-automatic AR-15 and pistols were used to kill 20 six- and seven-year-old students and six adults at the school.
Americans went from shocked to outraged and gun control became a top priority for many in the United States. One month later, President Obama signed orders that dealt with issues like mental health for potential and current gun owners and expanding safety programs in schools.
But the proposals that caused the most buzz involved Obama’s call for Congress to enact universal background checks for every gun buyer, limit magazine rounds in assault weapons to 10 and to reestablish the assault weapons ban, which was last in place in 2004.
Enter gun lobbyists, the National Rifle Association (NRA), who characterize the President’s actions as a direct threat against their Second Amendment rights and say that attacking gun owners won’t effectively change alarming homicide or mass murder rates-seeing that most privately sold guns are done so illegally, making a law irrelevant.
“It’s a fraud to call it universal,” Wayne LaPierre, chief executive officer and executive vice president of the NRA, said in a recent “Fox News Sunday” interview. “It’s never going to be universal. The criminals aren’t going to comply with it.”
LaPierre isn’t far off the mark though. In a recent report conducted by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, investigators found that 62 percent of private gun sellers-77 of 125 online sellers contacted-agreed to sell a firearm to a buyer who said he probably couldn’t pass a background check.
However, suggesting that the government sit back and do nothing and let criminals run rampant because we think they won’t comply is a definite cop-out. Let’s call things for what they are.
There’s no denying that a universal background check won’t completely weed out all the potential dangerous characters out there, but it can definitely aid in reducing crime if reports are accurately filed and kept up-to-date by the government and if laws are strictly enforced for private gun sellers and at gun shows.
Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center (VPC), agrees that the proposed laws are essential. He says that the gun industry needs to be brought into the 21st century.
“Right now the gun industry is the only industry in America that makes a consumer product that is not rated for health and safety under federal law. The bottom line is that if you make a gun that’s 50 caliber and that’s not fully automatic-under federal law you can make anything you want,” he said.
Still, the NRA is calling anything that threatens the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms unconstitutional. But honestly, no one’s saying that the million-plus-member advocacy group for guns has to lock all their weapons away, so there’s no infringement upon their right to keep and bear arms.
The President’s push for Congress to pass some gun control measures has definitely ruffled a few political feathers, however.
“The NRA is essentially a gun industry trade association, so anything that will affect the potential for sales of guns in this country Wayne LaPierre’s answer is going to be no, no, no-because that’s what his gun industry benefactors want him to say,” Sugarmann said.
But with gunpolicy.org citing the 270,000,000 privately owned firearms in the United States, how can any regulations for how these guns are acquired continue to be ignored?
Eighty-five percent of Americans support universal background checks, while 80 percent agree that mentally ill people shouldn’t be sold guns, according to a recent report released by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
Federal law only requires background check through licensed dealers. According to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, criminals can buy guns at gun shows without the current National Instant Criminal Background Check System in 33 states in what is called the “gun show loophole.”
But what seems like a national disregard for life is not a recent American problem and can be seen in major cities like Chicago, which reported 506 homicides last year.
“It’s disheartening, and you don’t want to be blind to the fact that the numbers are out there. It’s sad that people are killing each other off. I think the universal background check is a possibility that can deter some people from getting guns in this city,” said 24-year-old Chicago native Ryan Mills.
And according to research done by the VPC, 86 Americans die every day from firearms. Imagine if Americans took the precautions to prevent or reduce the depth in that number.
Even if passed, laws limiting the amount of times that a potential shooter can reload a gun or putting restrictions on how easy it will be for them to buy one will not be enough if Americans don’t invest in social change.
While debates on mental health, aggressive images in movies and video games and harsh music are discussed, it is important to evaluate the society that we live in. Working on gun control is an issue that America needs to tackle from the inside out. The violence in America is not just a mere matter of the availability and access to guns.
Establishing good support systems in neighborhoods around the country can help also. Providing afterschool programs for youth is vital as it gives them something productive to occupy their time with. This, along with familial and community encouragement, can help to give them a sense of direction and teach them key skills.
Legislation alone, while necessary, will not alter the course of violence around the country.Until, we are willing to accept our responsibilities collectively, we won’t be able to proceed with a safer agenda.