OPINION: It’s time to revisit US firearm laws
Column Divided: From the Left
Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 15:01
The recent shooting in Newtown, Connecticut was an unimaginable tragedy. The loss of 26 innocent children and courageous staff members was a pain felt throughout the world. While we shouldn’t politicize any disaster, it would be an injustice not to do all we can to prevent such devastating acts from happening again.
The tragedy does not end with the 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary. Last year alone there were nearly 12,000 people whose lives were cut short by guns in the United States. That’s four times the number killed in the Sept. 11 attacks and more than double the Americans killed in the Iraq war. In the past five years, guns have killed more Utahns than car accidents. Frankly, the U.S. has a gun problem.
While there are extreme opinions on both sides of the debate and disagreement about the end goal, there are a number of responsible policies that need to be immediately enacted.
First, there need to be proper regulations and effective enforcement of gun laws. A number of laws have either expired or haven’t been carried out, including an assault weapons ban that existed until it was allowed to expire in 2004. Since then some of the most deadly massacres, including shootings at Virginia Tech and Aurora, Colo. have been executed with assault or semi-automatic weapons which were legally obtained. These are not guns for hunting or self-defense, but exclusively combat weapons.
Second, more extensive background checks need to be conducted and gun registration closely monitored, including closing the gun show loophole that allows many to circumvent the law. In effect, this is a way to separate the responsible gun owners from those who may be unstable or prone to violence. The amount and means of acquiring ammunition also needs to be more closely monitored.
Finally, there needs to be a widespread discussion on how to reduce violence in our society, extending even beyond gun crime. We need to address the basic causes of crime. For instance, countless studies show low levels of poverty lead directly to low crime rates.
Some argue arming more people would lead to a safer society. In 1981, Ronald Reagan, surrounded by armed secret service agents, was shot at close range. The best-trained security in the world couldn’t even prevent gun violence. Fortunately, the president lived and joined Republicans and Democrats in supporting an assault weapons ban.
Many cite the Second Amendment’s provisions for “a well regulated militia,” but they forget the immortal words in the Declaration of Independence, which guarantee all the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Nobody’s guns have been taken, but there are thousands of people who have lost their inalienable right to life as a result of gun violence. Victims come from all ends of the political spectrum and the pain is felt by all. It is my hope that responsible regulation and open-minded discussion will make it so we never experience the tragedy of Sandy Hook again.
– Mike McPhie is a senior from Toole, Utah, majoring in law and constitutional studies. During the spring semester, he interned in Washington, D.C. Send him comments at email@example.com.