Regulations are the Only Answer

The history of American freedom is the history of guns. Early American colonists used their personal weapons to fight off the oppressive British, and the Second Amendment was built into the Constitution in order to prevent a tyrannical government from taking away the rights of its citizens. The cold steel barrels of firearms have created unimaginable destruction and death, but they have also planted the seeds from which liberty has sprung. The culture of America has romanticized and glorified guns, tying them to the ideas of bravery, freedom and adventure.

However, there is another side to guns, one that can sometimes be forgotten by the American public, at least until another mass shooting puts gun violence back on the national radar. Death, in all its horrible and sudden finality, is almost always the ultimate outcome of bullets flying at human beings. Some deaths, like those of soldiers in battle, are sad but can still be remembered as sacrifices for America and freedom.

Others, such as the deaths of the 20 elementary school students in Newtown, Connecticut less than two months ago, or the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado last summer, are absolutely senseless and mourned by all. What makes the loss of innocent lives in these situations even more terrible and disgusting is that they are completely preventable.

For too long now, politicians have intentionally avoided the issue of guns in modern America. Powerful lobbyists from the NRA have wormed their way into Washington, putting a stop to any meaningful legislation restricting firearms, and legislators have cried that their hands are tied by the words of the Second Amendment. It is time for Congress to stop making excuses and start saving lives. Let them squabble over fiscal cliffs and debt ceilings, politicizing and radicalizing those issues, but when it comes to life and death, politics needs to be put aside.

It is not feasible, in the America of today, to completely outlaw guns, however attractive that may be. The Constitution is too set in stone, as are the minds of millions of Americans who could not bear to part with the only thing they believe stands between them and a totalitarian state.

In some cases, certainly, guns are important. Take the guns away from rural Alaskans and they are left defenseless when confronted with angry bears or while hunting for the food they need to sustain themselves through the winter. There is the story of the mother in Georgia who was forced to shoot an intruder in her home while hiding with her nine-year-old twins. Instances such as these, where guns are used to protect innocent lives, do exist, but they pale in comparison to the damage caused by murders and mass shootings.

The gun controls that need to be implemented and enforced today have to do more with high powered rifles and assault weapons than handguns. Guns like the AR-15, a semi-automatic assault rifle usually equipped with a 30-round magazine, was designed to neutralize several targets within seconds, perfect for deranged individuals whose purpose is to kill as many innocents as possible before committing suicide or being shot by police. These guns, whose purpose is for assault, not defense, should not be legal.

Pro-gun activists argue that the only way to take out a well-armed attacker is with a well-armed defender. One of the NRA’s main talking points following the disaster in Newtown was to employ armed security guards at every school in America. Not only is this extremely cost prohibitive, but it also uses the same reasoning that led to the arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Though the lives at stake today are not quite as numerous, the issue remains the same. If it becomes impossible for would-be shooters to get overpowered guns, there will be no need for would-be defenders to have them either. And as arms reduction treaties have lessened severe tensions between   superpowers, new regulations will create safer environments in the schools, the malls and the movie theaters.

The most crucial regulations that need to be enacted, the ones that will have the  most impact on mass shootings, are more thorough background checks and laws on who can legally own guns. Today, although background checks are  in fact required when buying guns from licensed dealers, almost anyone can go online and buy anything from a handgun to an AK-47 without any questions asked. Legal loopholes like this one obviously have to be addressed, but just as important is the need for more in-depth checks, including mental health examinations. James Holmes, the suspect in the Aurora shooting, bought several of his guns from licensed stores. People like him must be stopped from doing the same thing, and since current regulations have failed, more stringent ones must be put in place.

At Miramonte, gun violence and mass shootings can seem irrelevant and far away. After the Newtown massacre, community members all expressed the same thoughts—they thought it was a safe town, a place where nothing like this could ever happen. But until America finally breaks free of its stubborn belief that more guns are the answer to violence and that regulations will lead to a weak and docile public, nowhere is entirely safe.