Wednesday, February 06, 2013


Gun Violence: What Can be Done to Save Lives

By: Brian Woodward

Barack Obama

"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed."- Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, 1787

These are eloquent words spoken by as educated of a man as there was at the time. Noah Webster is an American icon, an editor of the Federalist Papers, an eminent author, and an opponent of slavery. He also lived in a different era where different truths applied. The United States government has access to weapons far superior to the collective gun arsenals held by citizens. Tanks and fighter jets will quickly negate an assault rifle. One cannot argue with the fact that dictatorships have upheld themselves by the barrel of a gun. Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong took the guns from the people rendering them defenseless to brutality and genocide. While firearms would help in resistance against government they would ultimately fail in the face of the firepower of the United States military. Defense against an oppressive government is no longer a valid reason for owning guns.

The actual Second Amendment as passed by Congress states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Life is not the same today as it was in 1787. That is the unequivocal reality. The amendment specifically states that the reason citizens must be allowed to have guns is so that they can form a militia which is “necessary to the security of a free state.”

Where are the militias? Does anyone find it necessary or feasible for there to be well regulated militias? Sure there are some militias but what do we usually associate such membership with? These people are generally fringe characters with warped ideologies that would be better served holding a sign and selling pencils from a cup.

With no appearance of militias besides a few outliers what does apply from the Second Amendment? It does state that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. What is the definition of “arms”? Does that include any weapon? Should private firms be able to purchase tanks and fighter jets? Does it mean that you can own an automatic machine gun? What I am arguing for is a proper discourse on what is necessary to protect oneself while simultaneously combating gun crime. In my estimation there is no need for civilians to possess assault weapons. Whether or not the ban on assault weapons was effective or if this type of weapon is commonly used in mass shootings is in a way irrelevant. It is quite clear the potential of such weapons and if there is no societal need for these guns I think it is prudent to abolish the sale and manufacture of them. The right to bear arms does not mean unfiltered access to high powered weaponry.

When any entity begins to campaign for gun control it is greeted with a knee jerk reaction from the conservative right. Conservative talk show hosts and pundits insinuate that this is just the beginning and the endgame is to remove all weapons from civilian control. In addition, the left side of the political spectrum makes false assumptions as to how well gun control will tame violence. The government will never be allowed to remove all the weapons from the street, nor is there any good evidence that any administration would aspire to that. 

The best way to stop a person attacking another with a knife is to have a gun. Murderers will use any weapon to carry out their deed. Over the past two years there has been an epidemic of knife attacks on schoolchildren in China. At the core the individual is the killer, not the weapon used. 

Statistics indicate that violent crime has decreased by 22 percent in last ten years, and 18 percent over the last five. However, high profile shootings seep into the consciousness of observers giving the false impression that violence in on the uptick. Steven Pinker exhibits in his prodigious examination of human violence, The Better Angels of Our Nature, our impression of danger is indubitably perverted by isolated occurrences. Nevertheless, according to FBI statistics 8,583 murders (some news agencies have reported over 11,000) were caused by firearms in 2011. The United States has a problem, it cannot be denied.

Gun legislation should reflect the needs of the individual to protect himself. According to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, more guns lead to more homicide. Furthermore, states with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence. It is time to do away with the tired argument espoused by some conservatives that more guns correspond to less crime.

Tougher restrictions on who can buy a gun are necessary. The military does not allow anyone who is on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or any other related antidepressant to join their ranks. The drugs themselves come with a suicide warning for those ages twenty-four and under and have been positively linked with suicidal behavior in children and adolescents. It would be prudent to deny the rights of those on such medication to ownership. In addition, stricter background checks must be enforced to ensure every owner is properly screened. 

The Second Amendment is clear in its allowance of citizens to own guns. Which of these citizens and what type of weapons should be allowed? This is the question that needs to be revisited. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban has had inconclusive effects that are minimal at best. According to a study by Philip J. Cook, a Duke University professor, The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was purported to have no effect on gun violence.

It is unclear what compilation of legislation would be effective and yet still afford citizens the right to protect themselves. The argument that civilians need guns in order to prevent a government takeover is deficient. Guns do no good against tanks and fighter jets. It is correct to assert one’s right to bear arms, and it is appropriate to defend the Second Amendment vigorously. Nevertheless, it is reprehensible to spread this fallacious assertion that the government wants to disarm all of America. Furthermore, it is unacceptable to allow the status quo to continue. 

Violence will exist no matter what weapons are available. However, guns are the most efficient killing machines available to civilians. 8,583 gun murders are too many. It is time to do something about it. 

Photo By: RD/Kabik/Retna