By: Thomas Moore, Staff Writer
I remember watching the news in my living room with my mom on the tragic day, June 12, 2016. “At Least 49 Dead,” said the headline at the bottom of the screen on Fox News as Orlando became not a city but the name of a massacre. It was at that moment that I instantaneously revoked my stance on the right to bear arms.
Sure, I had questioned it before. My progressive high school government teacher had presented us with the facts about the issue and the wonders gun control has done in countries like the UK and Australia. I jokingly went along with John Oliver on his criticism of the NRA (and the Democrats in Congress who were too afraid to stand up for what is right and pass legislation). But it was not until the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, that I felt the emotional impact of gun violence. Not only that, but the massacre of people at a gay nightclub was further evidence of the persecution the LGBTQ+ community still faces.
I began to question my beliefs even further once I went to college. While emotion is one of the traits that defines us as human beings, acting on impulse rather than reason can lead to rash decisions that have negative consequences. I now prefer to think everything out more rationally. Therefore, I came to realize that we must examine each side of the gun control debate before we choose our course of action.
In 1996, Australia enacted sweeping gun control laws in response to recurring instances of mass shootings. Since then, no mass shootings have occurred (mass shooting is defined in this instance as the killing of more than 4 people). Until then, Australia had an average of one mass shooting per year. These gun control laws allowed the government to buy back semi-automatic firearms from people. Clearly, gun control has worked in Australia. So why is this not possible in America? How can this country, as educated as it is, simply ignore the results that happen in a relatively like-minded country?
The common argument against gun control is the ever-repeated mantra, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” We have all heard it many times, but we must admit that it is a true statement. A gun sitting in a closet collecting dust will not kill anyone. However, it must also be acknowledged that the statement is still lacking. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people— with guns. The more guns, the more likely incidents are to occur.
A quick rebuttal of that argument is the following: even if guns are illegal, people who really want a gun to harm someone will find a way to inflict harm. While maybe true, this calls into question all laws in the first place. With this logic, is there also no point to any drug laws? After all, if someone really wants cocaine, they will find a way to secure it illegally. Further, the logic for the laws condemning cocaine is that if it is illegal, less people will feel inclined to use it. If we are to be consistent, we should continue to apply this logic to guns.
I will concede, however, that there is a cultural aspect we must address. I am from Watkinsville, Georgia, where the chances of becoming a victim to a violent crime are 1 and 10,000. Even so, almost everyone owns guns, but despite this, no one is trying to kill each other. Trust me, people despise each other where I am from; it is an uppity, condescending area. Luckily, however, people are more content suing one another than shooting one another. If everywhere in the world has as much sensibility as Oconee County, perhaps there would not be gun violence.
I must confess, however, that people arguing for gun control often neglect to mention that Austrailia restricted owning semi-automatic weapons in an effort to persuade people that all guns are bad. But the point is, the stakes are ever higher nowadays. In the wake of the recent shooting in Las Vegas, we must realize that the threat is more serious than we once perceived.
This massacre was more tragic than most. The killer was not a standard domestic terrorist, but a seemingly average citizen. To an extent, this started to redefine the way I think about gun violence and the perpetrators of shootings. Gun violence is not always committed by anti-American extremists. The threat of these massacres can also come from within.
This means that average people in America with no criminal background and no affiliation with terrorist groups can simply buy weapons and use them to harm others if they wish. If Americans care about our safety, we must do something about this problem. Perhaps a legislative change needs to occur. Perhaps a cultural change needs to occur. At the end of the day, I do not care what route this administration decides to take, so long as it is one that effectively addresses the problem.