This article by club presidents Will Skinner and Bobby Saxton was originally published in The Daily Californian on Friday, January 25, 2012.
Since the unspeakably tragic Newtown school shooting of Dec. 14, there has been an outpouring of media attention focusing on the problem of gun violence in the United States.
Many politicians, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, have called for a renewal of the so-called assault weapons ban, while others have advocated banning semiautomatic weapons entirely. In their haste to apply their chosen solution, gun control advocates too often fail to consider whether that solution would actually be effective. If, as the evidence overwhelmingly indicates, banning guns would fail to solve that problem, it should not be entertained as a solution.
Most of the gun control legislation currently being considered in Congress in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre has focused on reinstating an “assault weapons” ban. While the intentions of such policies are certainly noble, we must rationally consider whether the proposed legislation will truly have the desired outcome.
The major assumption behind the proposed bans is that they would prevent criminals from obtaining the weapons needed to commit mass murders. It is difficult to see how this could be the case, as around 300 million guns are already in circulation in the United States.
Therefore, even if we banned the sale and manufacture of all new guns, determined criminals would likely still have very little difficulty obtaining guns illegally in secondary markets. Already, the vast majority of gun crimes are committed using illegally acquired firearms, indicating that laws restricting access have little effect on criminals.
Because no law can truly prevent criminals and psychopaths from obtaining and using guns, attempting to prohibit law-abiding citizens from having the ability to defend themselves from these criminals is not only morally incomprehensible but will likely only worsen the problem of gun violence.
Given the impracticality (not to mention unconstitutionality) of removing all privately owned guns from American society, what can we say about the possibility of banning people from possessing guns in certain areas? Many have argued for designating areas with a high risk for mass shootings — schools, movie theaters and so on — as gun-free zones. In fact, such gun-free zones already exist, and it is no coincidence that these very places have been the setting for every mass shooting in recent memory, with the exception of the attack in Tucson.
Preventing trained, law- abiding citizens from carrying guns in such places only ensures that they remain entirely vulnerable to any psychopath with a gun. The minutes it takes for police to arrive at a crime scene are often the difference between life and death. While the idea that a citizen with a gun can stop a shooter in his tracks is indeed a common pro-gun trope, that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. There is little doubt that had the shooters at Newtown, Virginia Tech or Aurora been confronted by another person with a gun, fewer innocent lives would have been lost.
Attempts to ban guns are simply dangerous distractions from the real social problems that drive people to commit violent crimes. This moment of heightened awareness will be wasted if energy is directed toward a renewal of the ineffective Assault Weapons Ban (violent crime is down since 2000, when the ban was in full effect).
Guns may make it easier to kill more people, but the real problem is that there are people in our society who want to commit such acts at all. Maybe someday that won’t be the case, but in the meantime, people must be allowed to defend themselves.
Requiring background checks in order to prevent the wrong people from legally buying guns is certainly a good idea, but criminals are already able to easily obtain guns illegally.
Increased attentiveness to mental health would probably help as well, but we should be wary of simply allocating funding for some new program and then forgetting about the problem until the next massacre. Mass killings are a symptom of social illness, and we must work toward a world in which they occur with less frequency. As long as there is evil in the world, there will be guns and people who misuse them. The only sane policy is to protect the right of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves and their families, even if that means using a gun.