Here we are again. As is usual, with the occurrence of another mass shooting comes the debate over gun control. Yet with the plentiful opportunities there have been to discuss this topic, anti-gun control advocates seem unable to come up with any new or original arguments. I continue to see the same tired arguments flood my Twitter and Facebook feeds; once and for all, I’d like to put the top arguments to rest. Too often I see these debates fought with emotion or confused logic, but with some hope to finally move past this, I’ve decided to address the most commonly used arguments:
People always break rules/Gun laws don’t work
Pessimism like this reign over the pro-gun cries on Twitter. This argument is often times followed with the examples of drugs and alcohol, arguing that underage drinking and illegal drug use exist despite laws against them. While the logic is understandable, it falls short in that it excludes an acknowledgement of any successful laws. The Clean Air Act lowered the percentage of children with elevated levels of lead in their blood and is estimated to have saved 11,700 lives between 1968 and 1998 due to reducing carbon monoxide emissions; the Endangered Species Act saved hundreds of species on the brink of extinction; there is a 30% drop in smoking among people whose workplaces are smoke-free. With these examples, we have tried out multiple laws to suppress harmful effects, yet this argument against gun control has given up before anything has been done. We are throwing in the towel and accepting defeat before even making an effort to solve the issue. Much of this pessimism is rooted in the doubts of people breaking rules that don’t exist and in the next point that gun laws don’t work.
Many are quick to doubt without looking at the results from nations of similar development and population. After a 1996 school shooting, the UK banned all cartridge ammunition handguns except 22 caliber single-shot weapons and has only seen one mass shooting since. Following the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 in Australia, semi-automatic rifles and shotguns were banned in addition to enacting stricter background checks and as a result there have been no mass shootings in the 20 years since. Normally, the United States is the one to set the precedent for the rest of the world, but in this case, we are falling behind.
The Second Amendment
The Second Amendment guarantees your right to bear arms, but for some reason seems to get special treatment as compared to other amendments in the Bill of Rights. So many other freedoms guaranteed have been restricted. The rights listed in the Bill of Rights can be restricted to protect the national interest. If we can exclude hate speech from the First Amendment or we can make an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure for stop and frisk, then why is it that the Second Amendment seemingly gets invincibility? There are no absolute rights and the Second Amendment is free to be altered just as any amendment would. Some focus on this argument from the perspective of needing a militia to rise up against a government. While the amendment does indeed include this, it was also written eleven years after the United States had become an independent nation. They had just finished fighting a war for their right to live free of persecution and were fearful of having to do it again under their new government, the structure of which was released in the same document as the Second Amendment. Such a fear is not as reasonable today and makes justification for collecting guns to fuel your hobby under the guise of the need for a militia unsubstantiated.
If someone had a gun, "this" wouldn’t have happened
Recently President Trump tweeted in favor of giving “concealed guns to gun-adept teachers with military or special training experience”, following a line of precedent generally set by pro-gun advocates who argue that the latest mass shooting wouldn’t have occurred if someone had had a gun. This theory was tested by multiple simulations which demonstrated that most people, if placed in an active shooter situation while armed, will not be able to stop the situation, and may in fact do little more than get themselves killed in the process. The idea of more armed citizens also runs into trouble when looking at data that suggests that more guns leads to more gun-related deaths. When controlling variables such as socioeconomic factors and crime, places with more guns simply have more gun deaths. To put how many guns Americans already own into perspective, the country with the second most civilian-owned firearms in the world is Yemen, a quasi-failed state torn by civil war, and there are around 30 less guns per 100 people there as compared to the U.S. Some will point out that included in these number of gun-related deaths are instances of self-defense. But if you break these numbers down, for every 1 justifiable gun homicide, there are 34 criminal gun homicides, 78 gun suicides, and two accidental gun deaths. This theory lives within a hypothetical that comes nowhere close to reality. Maybe instead of focusing on what to do when someone opens fire on helpless civilians, we should be focusing on why that person has the means to do so in the first place.
Guns don’t kill people, people kill people
Possibly the most popular argument, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is a phrase that has long been the kneejerk reaction to any gun incident. With the information presented in the arguments above, I don’t think there’s much more I can do to emphasize the fact that guns kill people. But let’s entertain the notion and break it down. If people kill people, then invest money in mental health, which has been thrust into the spotlight with mass shootings. Interestingly enough, in an analysis of 235 mass killings, only 22% of the perpetrators could be considered mentally ill. Overall, mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent 1% of all gun homicides each year.
Furthermore, Republicans seem to jump on the bandwagon of blaming mental health, and yet have done nothing to support the treatment of it. President Trump’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget cuts hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicaid which covers 21% of adults with mental illness and 26% of adults with serious mental illness, with about 10% of the total spending budget for Medicaid going toward mental health. Additionally, Republicans attempted numerous times to repeal Obamacare within the last year, with one of the cuts to the program being in the essential health benefits which includes mental health and substance abuse disorder treatments. If they are going to blame deficiencies in the mental health system for why we have gun violence, then they should certainly put their money where their talking points are.
And if we’re going to be looking at the people who perpetuate these shootings, then let’s accept who these people are: white men. Since 1982, the majority of mass shootings (defined as an incident in which the motive appeared to be indiscriminate killing and a lone gunman took the lives of at least three people) were committed by white men. These men are not “thugs” from other countries and building a wall won’t keep them out. Many Republicans and publications prompt images of white shooters as “abandoned by the system” and shame the public for politicizing mass shootings for their own anti-gun agenda. But the few times that mass shooters have been Muslim or a person of color, the entire race or religion comes under fire, falling under a blanketed statement of hatred and terrorism. I don’t want to hear about how Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock “liked to gamble, listened to country music, and lived quiet retired life” or how Charleston shooter Dylann Roof “became a loner in recent years.” I want to stop rationalizing these murderers and hold them accountable for the heinous crimes they have committed. So sure, follow the flawed logic behind “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”, but then learn the truth about who these people really are and take some real action.
These arguments are lazy excuses for policymakers and gun-owning citizens alike to shield themselves from the harsh reality that some rights need to be given up to ensure the protection of all. Dozens of children, teachers, bystanders, and overall upstanding citizens have had their lives destroyed by gun violence. Legislators like Steve Scalise and Gabby Giffords have been the targets of gun violence. How much more has to happen for this shield to come down and action to be taken? I don’t want to wait around for another publication of The Onion’s “’No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens” to find out.