By Chris Shaddock
Due to the recent shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Oct. 1 in which gunman, Stephen Paddock, killed 58 and injured 489 people, debates have sparked over gun violence and gun control. These arguments tend to ignite whenever a large shooting occurs, as similar conversations were had after the Orlando nightclub shooting, on June 12, 2016, in which 49 were killed and 58 people were injured.
“One thing that is interesting to note is that people feel that mass shootings have increased in terms of number of incidents,” assistant professor of criminal justice, Michelle Bolger. “That may not necessarily be true, but what we are seeing is that they are becoming deadlier. People are finding new ways to maximize the damage.”
In an effort to better understand the situation, The Minstrel is going to attempt to explain the convoluted debate of gun violence and gun control, as well as present some differing opinions from the students and faculty.
The whole issue is centered on gun violence. According to Gun Violence Archive, the number of gun related deaths in 2016 was 15,080, and the number of injuries was 30,616. Based on recent years, the number of gun violence in both these categories has increased a gradual amount.
“I do not think there is a major increase in violent crime,” said Bolger. “If you look at Federal UCR, which is the Uniform Crime Reports, our violent crime rate, which includes gun crime, is still about half of what it was in the 90’s. There are a couple of increases here and there, but I do not think it is nearly as much of the epidemic that we might feel it is.”
When trying to solve issues of gun violence, gun rights gets involved. This is primarily where the issue becomes controversial. On the left side of the spectrum, are people who want to reduce the rights of guns and on the right side, are people who want loose gun rights, and essentially the 2nd Amendment is upheld.
Reducing gun rights would involve limiting certain guns from being on the market, such as assault weapons. The farther left a person is, the more guns they would want to restrict, to the point that there would no longer be legal guns in the country. Ideally, doing this would prevent gun violence, on the logic that less guns being circulated means less gun crime. Additionally, making gun licenses harder to obtain and having stricter background checks is favored in the left’s perspective. Background checks would essentially prevent criminals or other potentially dangerous figures from having guns. This goes into a sub-argument of how thorough these background checks should be and exactly what kind of people should be prohibited from obtaining guns.
“I think that gun rights should be reduced slightly,” said sophomore finance major, David Metz. “I feel that there should be some background checks that are required to be completed before one can purchase a firearm. Or at the very least, allow gun shops to have a database of people with criminal or mentally unstable backgrounds that allow the gun shop to have discretion when selling their products. Allowing gun shops to deny certain customers in this way is one possible remedy to the problem.”
There are sound arguments for gun rights as well. The 2nd Amendment states “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” meaning, it is a person’s right to own and carry a gun. There are justified reasons to why people would a buy a gun, such as for protection and hunting. People feel that if gun rights are reduced, they will not be able to use guns for the purposes they are made for. Another argument is that restricting or banning guns will not reduce gun violence. This is because there are black markets that allow people to obtain guns illegally. In the right’s logic, restricting and banning guns would only allow people who cause gun violence to have guns, while preventing those who do not cause gun violence to not, essentially defeating the purpose of having guns in the first place.
“Gun rights should not be reduced,” said junior criminal justice major, Vincent Amorosi. “When we reduce gun rights we are taking more firearms and accessories for those firearms out of the hands of the innocent and the good, and leaving them in the hands of those that would use it for evil. Criminals are going to get these guns and accessories illegally no matter what laws we put in to place.”
There are also arguments for where a person can carry a gun. This mainly depends on the state, but the common places in which a gun is banned are schools.
“In some states they have relaxed some of their concealed carry policies,” said Bolger. “They are allowing licensed faculty staff to have guns in case of a mass shooting.”
In recent news there has been a new legislation in the U.S. Senate favoring the banning of bump fire stocks in response to the Las Vegas shooting. These allow for semi-automatic weapons to fire faster, and making them more reminiscent to automatics. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is opposed to this. While they have stated they are in favor of bump fire stock regulation, they prefer it to be through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which they feel would make fairer regulations than the U.S. Senate and House. Republicans and Democrats are both in favor of the new legislation. House Speaker Paul Ryan stated it would be the “smartest, quickest fix.”
“I do not think that banning those bump stocks will help reduce gun violence,” said Metz. “Even if those types of guns are rendered useless, there are other guns that can still do that job, albeit not as efficiently. Firearms will always be able to do considerable harm, but getting shot either way, whether it be from a pistol or an assault rifle, the result is the same.”
All this really only touches the surface of gun violence and gun rights. There is so much that could be talked about such as carry laws, state laws on gun rights, hunting rights and gun safety. It is a complicated issue, and making a decision on anything involved can have unknown affects. When talking about guns it truly is an issue that is playing with people’s lives. A death behind loose gun rights, is the same as a death behind strict gun rights. There is seemingly no silver bullet to eliminate gun violence, as much as people want one.
“I think the world in general is in a pretty bad state right now and we have a long road ahead of us if we are going to change that,” said Amorosi. “However, for all the bad that is in the world there is twice as much good. I have faith in our generation especially, to start to make that change. Will shootings continue to get worse without a change to gun rights? There is a good possibility that they will, but is reducing gun rights really the answer? I keep trying to express the fact that the gun market is too deep to change what the criminals will do. On average, there are about 270 to 310 million guns in the U.S. I personally don’t believe reducing gun rights is the answer, but I really do wish it were that simple. … I hope we find an answer to ending these tragedies soon and my prayers go out to all those that have been negatively affected by gun violence.”