Since the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut last December, the conversation about what role government should play in regulating private firearms has taken a new sense of urgency.
I’d like to make a proposal for tighter firearm regulations that gun owners and non-owners alike might be able to appreciate, one that hinges on a need for responsibility on the part of both citizens and our government. If we want to build a safer society, one where city streets and schools aren’t blanketed by a fear of disaster, we must ask ourselves what means we should take to do so.
A focus on responsibility means ensuring that in order to own a firearm, an American citizen must prove that they are capable of handling it properly and in accordance with the law. Regulations founded on the principle of responsibility would respect the privileges of those who wish to own guns for self-defense while denying access to those who cannot or do not intend to use guns without injuring themselves or others.
The most effective and responsible path towards reducing gun violence is to address the roots of the problem, rather than allowing further armament without considering the consequences. Advocates of unlegislated ownership, such as the NRA, have called for more guns to be used in self-defense as a solution to gun violence. This argument is flawed in principle because an untrained owner cannot be expected to defend themselves and others using a firearm.
Arming teachers will not prevent school shootings. If a teacher has taken self-defense classes throughout their life and has grown up surrounded by responsible gun culture, they still would not have the hard-wired experience needed to react in a moment of serious danger. Subduing the imminent threat of a gunman by using deadly force requires rigorous training, the likes of which can only be found in the military or police force. Even trained security or police officers won’t eliminate the possibility of a massacre – there was an armed security officer at Columbine High School during the 1999 tragedy, and he numbered among those who fell to the work of madmen.
So I say to Wayne LaPierre that calling for more guns in schools is both irresponsible and ineffective. As for the gun violence that occurs each day, I would make the same argument that supplying more guns to civilians will do no good without dealing with the roots of the problem first. In the past few years, close to seventy percent of all murders were committed with firearms, according to statistics reported by the Guardian. The numbers are even higher for cities with concentrated areas of people living under the poverty line.
Dealing with the roots of crime and mental illness goes far beyond the subject of gun crime reduction, but we can also limit the amount of damage by making sure that only those who can responsibly handle firearms are allowed to buy and sell them. Universal background checks will evaluate those with a history of criminally violent behavior or mental instability before they procure lethal weaponry. I also think that a person should have to pass an exam akin to a driver’s test before they can acquire a gun license. If someone wants to use a firearm for self-defense or hunting, they should have to prove that they are responsible and skilled enough to ensure that they don’t pose a threat, accidental or malicious, to others.
With that in mind, I hope that we all come to respect the importance of protecting human life. Let’s not have any more needless death that could have been prevented by firearm regulation. Let’s live in a responsible nation.