The argument over gun control has been a defining issue for political parties in the US since there were guns.
In 48 states, gun ownership successfully predicted whether a household was going to vote for Trump or for Hillary. Gun ownership predicted voting in the 2017 presidential election better than any other dividing quality. It beat out race, marital status, religious affiliation, and even whether you lived in a rural or urban area. There are fewer issues that are more divisive in American politics, but in light of recent events, it’s time for people to unite and form policies that will save lives, not gun manufacturers.
The gun control debate shouldn’t be about political points or about winning elections. It should be about setting policies designed to save the lives of people. If there aren’t changes made soon, the blood spilled in the next massacre won’t just be on the hands of the gunmen, it will be spread among everyone who protected the tools of mass murders.
The mass shooting that occurred in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sunday, October 2 was unexpected, unthinkable, unbelievable, and unacceptable, but not unstoppable. Other countries have solved this; the United States stands only 28th in the world for the most gun homicides per capita. We are surrounded by countries incredibly different than our own. Spots up there are typically reserved for countries with crime, economic, political, and social problems much greater than the U.S. Compared to socially and economically similar countries, our gun homicide rate towers above them all. Countries like Finland, the UK, Germany, France, Australia and Sweden all have fewer than five gun homicides per 100,000 per year, in comparison to the U.S., which has 36. Combined, they all had nearly half as many gun homicides per capita than the US did.
It isn’t unknown why their firearm homicide rate is so low. This isn’t some miracle that scholars have been looking for like Indiana Jones looks for the lost ark. We know why their countries are demonstrably safer than ours. They regulate their firearms with the sort of regulation you would expect on a tool whose primary design is for killing. They dealt with their own gun issues, but unlike the US, they took action. They saw guns for what they are– tools designed for murder–and acted on that clairvoyance. Now, they reap the benefits.
For example, in 1996, after Thomas Hamilton used legally attained firearms to kill 16 kids and a teacher, the UK parliament took swift action to rework the system around their licensing system and ban handguns. Since then, the UK has had only one mass shooting, the US has had forty-two, twelve of which resulted in the deaths of nine or more people.
Another example is Australia, where, after a gunman killed 35 people with a semi-automatic rifle, their prime minister fought to champion sweeping changes in his country. These changes included gun buyback program, along with new gun regulations, such as lengthy background and identification checks and a ban on automatic and semi-automatic weapons.
Now, in the US, it is highly unlikely that we would be able to see similar changes that the UK and Australia saw. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is a massive political powerhouse, with a finger in the pie of many congressmen and women. The second amendment gives a constitutional backing to gun ownership. And the US is a much more diverse and varied state with a variety of different problems than the UK and Australia have to deal with. But this doesn’t mean that there isn’t simple, effective legislation that can heal the United States and get rid of our gun violence issue.
I am by no means saying get rid of guns entirely. For one, I couldn’t. There’s a constitutional amendment and a 241-year precedence against me on that one, let alone the gun supporters. But I am saying we need to change the way we think about guns, and especially the way we regulate them.
Guns need to be regulated like cars. Guns and cars play a similar role in the US culture. They act as symbols representing the power, freedom and individuality that embody our zeitgeist. And they can both be incredibly lethal; however, the number of car fatalities per capita have halved in the past 6 decades. Regulations, like ones requiring a driver’s test, license, car insurance, and banning certain modifications, have caused this incredible change. These are all regulations that guns do not have. The gun show loophole that exists in many states allow people to buy guns without any background check or identification. In many states, there are no tests to buy a gun. And there are no flat-out bans on categories of modifications, only on the individual modifications themselves, allowing new modifications to be sold legally, even if they had the same purpose as one previously banned. This allowed the Las Vegas shooter to turn his semi-automatic rifle into a fully automatic one.
Guns are not a toy. They are not something to play around with, and we all know that. We’ve been taught that since we were little babies. Yet, there are many who seem to forget this. These people and companies playfully find attachments that turn the civilian “friendly” AR-15s into their military counterparts. These attachments turn semi-automatic rifles with a magazine capacity of 10 to fully automatic rifles that can carry over 100 bullets. Guns need to return to their place in home-defense and hunting. They need to be respected for the power over us and our lives that they have. No hunter needs more than 3 shots at a time to hunt. No one would need more than a pistol or shot-gun to defend their home. These superfluous attachments treat guns like toys and they need to be banned. Not one by one like in the past but by category. The same way it is broadly illegal to “modify” your house by tapping into your neighbors’ utilities. The same way it is broadly illegal to remove your car buckles. Until they are, until Congress gets a handle of itself and makes decisions to protect its citizens, I’ll save this article for the next time a mass shooting happens. Hopefully then, we can see a change.