There are two ways to solve gun violence: take away guns or get rid of people. Since both scenarios are utterly impossible, the true issue at hand is rather how to most effectively mitigate said violence.
First and foremost, to understand gun violence, one must grapple with the purpose of firearm possession as a whole. It is twofold: self-defense/home protection and hunting/sport. There are no other legitimate reasons to own a gun. Moreover, self-defense as reason for gun ownership may have more to do with human psychology than fact — gun ownership actually decreases one’s overall safety.
Just as with any other right, one’s right to gun ownership ends when it infringes on the rights of another. Therefore, although the right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Constitution, it does not supercede each person’s ‘unalienable’ right to life. This most fundamental right has been violated for every one of the 96 average Americans killed each day by gun violence.
Perhaps, one might argue, the Founding Fathers intended gun ownership to be an impediment to government tyranny. This made sense in 1791; soldiers used muskets in the army. The capability of civilian muskets matched the capability of army muskets and, therefore, formed a formidable preventative measure against repression comparable to what was experienced under the British monarchy.
In the 21st century, the United States Armed Forces employs aerial bombs, rockets, tanks, and other previously secret, weapons that are perpetually kept hidden and then disclosed to the general public. Even an AR-15, the most extreme and warlike of all civilian firearms, holds no comparison to a precision drone. Firearms are not the tool of last resort in resistance to a totalitarian takeover; our governmental system of checks and balances and civilian control of the military are much more effective barriers to authoritarianism. However, despite both of these institutional obstructions to a seizure of power facing a daily barrage of threats, those so keen on maintaining militant resistance to tyranny ignore the very threat itself.
After tragedies such as last week’s shooting in Parkland, Florida, Republicans have been quick to point to a failure of mental health care as the culprit of gun violence. Be that as it may, at every opportunity to affect meaningful change on issues of mental health, Republicans have either taken no proactive measures or worked to undo policies imposed to prevent the mentally ill from getting their hands on guns.
Furthermore, reforming mental health care policy as it relates to gun ownership does not go nearly far enough in confronting the defective system of purchasing firearms in the United States. Not only must we demand stringent mental health screenings of potential gun owners to prevent the mentally ill from ever getting access to a loaded firearm, but also mandate broad and uniform ‘universal’ background checks on all individuals seeking to own a firearm. Additionally, educational courses for all gun owners that delve into proper gun ownership, maintenance, and safety must be a mandatory step in obtaining a gun. The national age limit of gun ownership must be immediately raised to at least 21.
On the manufacturing side, all new guns must be made with preventative safety measures, such as fingerprint activated gun locks. It is an outrage that children are still able to accidentally fire guns left unattended in their homes.
The U.S. is host to most of the developed world’s gun-related homicides, even though there are many developed nations that matinatin low rates of gun-related homicides along with moderate rates of gun ownership. Some, including Governor Mike Huckabee, claim that Israel is the prime example of a significant correlation between gun ownership and minimal gun-related violence. They misrepresent the facts: Israel imposes strict regulations on gun ownership. Not only are 40% of gun permits rejected, but gun owners must prove to the government sufficient need to own a firearm and pass medical screenings. Suspected terrorists are unable to buy guns, unlike in the U.S. Look no further for proof of the value of Israeli gun regulations than Israel’s 33% lower rate of gun related homicides.
If we wish to see a decrease in gun-related deaths in the United States that comes anywhere near that of Israel, we must move past calling for such basic notions as universal background checks and the banning of assault weapons. Gun owners should be asked to do more to help prevent tragedies of gun violence. Just as in Australia, where 51,000 guns were voluntarily turned over to the government as that country worked to effectively eliminate the issue its gun violence, so too should law-abiding Americans be asked to give up their assault rifles — weapons of war — in service of the safety of our nation as a whole.
Gun violence is not endemic nor is it entirely unsolvable. The monitoring and regulation of the firearms allowed onto our streets as well as the individuals who may possess and wield such deadly instruments is of paramount importance to addressing this untenable epidemic.
Zachary Freiman PO '20 is a Music and Public Policy Analysis double major from Sleepy Hollow, NY. He dreams of one day meeting Oprah Winfrey.