Gun Control and the Concern from Both Sides

Alice Tan and John McDowell

Conservative

John McDowell

Whenever I hear the words ‘common-sense gun control,’ I, and many other conservatives, cringe a little bit because we know that the phrase ‘common sense’ means nothing in this context. When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they had just come out of a struggle against the tyranny of British rule, a British rule that had denied them the ability to represent themselves and had restricted certain freedoms in the name of control. Our Founding Fathers were well aware that conflicts such as this were likely to occur in the future. And they have, in many parts of the world, from the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 to the Angolan War of Independence, to Nat Turner’s Rebellion here in the US, for example. Our Founding Fathers wanted to ensure that the new Republic they established with the ratification of the Constitution would never grow into a tyrannical government similar to the one from which they had just separated. 

They commissioned James Madison to author the Bill of Rights, which provided a set of thoughtfully written rights that the American government was not to infringe upon. The Bill of Rights was not granted to the citizens by the government – quite the opposite. Instead, the Bill of Rights, and the 2nd Amendment, in particular, were rights from the people. They were granted to us by virtue of being members of humanity. And in order to ensure that this Bill of Rights could not be infringed upon, the Founding Fathers included an amendment that they considered quintessential. They considered it so quintessential to the defense of the American people’s rights that they placed it second in the original Bill of Rights, and included the phrase ‘shall not be infringed.’ This is the only amendment to include this clause. 

It is for this reason that Conservatives fear new gun control legislation whenever it comes out because we fully understand the concept of tyranny. Every single dictatorial nation-state that has existed since the turn of the 20th century has made it a point to restrict the means of the people to defend themselves. In Germany, the Nazis restricted the ability of non-Aryan citizens to own firearms, starting with the Jews and the Communists. By seizing all privately owned firearms in Venezuela during the Chavez Era, the Chavist Maduro regime had a serious advantage over protesters fighting for political and economic freedoms. Even here in the United States, during the Jim Crow Era, Southern Democrats passed bills preventing African-Americans from owning firearms, knowing that an armed black citizenry would seek to obtain full political rights, guaranteed to them in the Constitution. Though I do not doubt the morals of the average Liberal citizen who seeks gun control, I do doubt the morals and intentions of the politicians who use tragedy as a justification to restrict our liberty.

Now, the Conservatives of this country understand the serious issues that tragedies like school shootings pose. We aren’t heartless. Conservatives care just as much about the victims of gun violence as everyone else. However, we don’t believe that the measures that have been put in place and are trying to be put into place to stop mass shootings are efficient or effective. Perhaps the most prominent example is the ‘gun-free zone.’ The idea of a gun-free zone is as the name implies. It is a ‘zone’ where people can’t carry guns, not even to defend themselves. Rather than stopping mass shootings, they have actually enabled mass shooters who know that they will have no one shooting back at them once they begin firing. A study from the Washington Post finds that over 85% of all mass shootings occur in gun-free zones. Because of this, Conservatives believe that the complete restriction of guns is not the answer. Instead, more guns might actually be the solution, as was proven by the West Freeway Church shooting in 2019. In that horrific shooting, casualties were minimized when the shooter was struck down by parishioners who brandished their own firearms.*** 

We, as Conservatives, want to find solutions to mass shootings just as much as our friends on the Left, but we believe that these solutions cannot be found by restricting the rights of others. Why should we pay the price whenever a mass shooting occurs? Why should millions of Americans be punished and demonized for the actions of a select few?

 

 

Liberal 

Devin Hill

The Bill of Rights is one of the first subjects I studied in my eighth grade U.S history class. As a rebellious teenager championing Western ideas, I remember fervidly arguing with my parents over the importance of free speech, freedom to assemble, and the right to bear arms against foreign and domestic tyranny. One of the hardest things to process since I moved from China to the U.S. has been accepting the unintended negative consequences of the Bill of Rights. I learned to accept the fact that the First Amendment protects hate speech or the right for a group of Neo-Nazi extremists or white supremacists to hold a rally. Yet, I can never accept mass shootings to be a necessary consequence of the Second Amendment. 

The Las Vegas massacre, the Orlando nightclub shooting, the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting, the Virginia Tech slaughter, and the Sutherland Springs church shooting are five of these highest-casualty mass shootings, and they all have one thing in common: a shooter with a semi-automatic weapon fired into crowds without reloading.* During a shooting, high-powered, military-style weapons are proven to be more dangerous than other weapons. As modern weaponry has advanced, the U.S. has moved away from the muskets and flintlock pistols the Founding Fathers used while writing the Constitution. Liberals who advocate for gun control are not trying to completely take away the Second Amendment from Americans. We are trying to seek a solution that both curbs the deadly effect of modern weaponry and protects our right to bear arms.  As a high school student, this solution is of particular importance because over the last decade there have been 356 deaths out of 177 school shootings.

What are some measures that would prevent gun violence and mass shooting? First, we want to ban weapons of war. In 1994, there was a piece of legislation passed called “The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement.” It outlawed the sale of certain types of semi-automatic guns and large-capacity magazines, but the ban expired in 2004. Partly due to its loopholes, the ban was determined by a federal study of having little effect on gun violence, reducing only 1% – 2% of gun deaths. However, the ban did seem to reduce the flow of assault weapons in many cities, mass shooting casualties dropped during the ban, and there was a decrease in the number of assault weapons recovered by police at crime scenes.* While some people might argue that gun bans are ineffective, it’s important to remember the purpose of banning large-capacity magazines is not to dramatically reduce overall gun death but to reduce gun death from mass shootings.

From stricter background checks to longer waiting periods, to mandatory buy-backs, there are lists of proposals to improve gun violence in the U.S. Gun control is not an infringement on liberty, it’s a step towards public safety. For example, Liberals want to prevent adolescents’ easy access to guns by introducing safe-storage laws that require gun owners to securely store firearms in locked containers or with tamper-resistant mechanical locks. Federal studies show that 68% of school shootings were perpetrated by minors who obtained a gun from their home or the home of a relative. Taking measures to prevent young people from illegally obtaining guns would be a step against high school shootings. The Second Amendment does not guarantee citizens unlimited rights to own guns, therefore it’s crucial for the government to monitor the flow of guns to maintain public safety. 

No matter where someone lies on the political spectrum, we can all agree that mass shootings are horrific, and there needs to be a solution. I read Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government. I understand the importance of the right to bear arms and our Founding Fathers’ concerns regarding tyranny. However, mass shootings cannot be the accepted byproduct of the Second Amendment, and a reasonable restriction of weapons should be put in place to prevent catastrophic loss of life.