The Gun Control Myth
On February 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School wielding an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, and killed 17 people. Following this tragedy came the usual: thoughts and prayers from the politicians, calls for action from the people. But then, something unprecedented happened: survivors of the shooting, almost overnight, forged a nationwide movement to call for stricter gun laws. The power of these voices manifested itself in the form of the National High School Walkout on March 14th, 2018, and the March For Our Lives on March 23rd. Understandably, the protesters blamed the guns, and called on Congress to restrict gun ownership and tighten gun control laws. While this is the obvious emotional response to any mass shooting, to call for gun bans because the killer used a firearm as a tool to kill, we must stop and ask ourselves: is this the correct response, grounded in fact, or is it just a byproduct of the mass media glorifying the survivors?
Well, for one, the mass media has made the survivors sacrosanct. To the point where the public feeling has become, if you even dare to criticize the kids that survived the shooting, if you even dare disagree with them, you must be a cold-hearted maniac with a gun fetish. I respectfully digress. I have the utmost sympathy for the kids that survived the shooting. But that doesn't make them immune to criticism, especially when they enter the political realm. If you are going to make political statements, you should expect that people are going to disagree with you, and you definitely shouldn't be using survivor status to shield yourself from differing opinions. Which is why I am criticizing the entire movement for entertaining a knee-jerk reaction to gun violence which will have literally no effect on the state of affairs in this country in the long term.
Let's start with the ubiquitous "assault weapons ban." On paper, it sounds reasonable: the weapons our military uses to kill people in war shouldn't be on our streets! The problem? Just about everything. First off, "military style" weapons are already not on our streets. Many of those that use the term "assault weapon" haven't the slightest clue what it means. An assault rifle, by definition, is a fully automatic firearm that has the capability to rapid fire as long as the trigger is being held down. These are already illegal, as of 1986. The AR-15s that we have seen in recent mass shootings are semi-automatic, not fully automatic. The difference? A semi-automatic weapon, while automatically chambering the next round into the barrel as the trigger is pulled, will still only fire one round per trigger pull (i.e. just about every normal firearm). So right then and there, an AR-15 is not an "assault weapon." (Note: I am putting the term "assault weapon" in quotes because it is a legal term, not an actual firearm classification. It serves no use beyond legislative purposes, and has been often criticized because you can commit "assault" with just about anything. Assault is an action, not an object).
Secondly, an AR-15 is not even "military style," beyond borrowing design elements from its military sibling, the M16 assault rifle. The AR-15 was specifically designed as a civilian firearm, a civilian version of a military rifle. And today, it is the most popular rifle in America, with over 10 million such rifles in civilian hands. If their only purpose is to kill people, why are they so popular? Maybe because their only purpose isn't to kill people. The AR-15 is the most popular sporting rifle in America due to its light weight, versatility, and low recoil. If chambered for the right round (.308), it can be used as a hunting rifle. Its low recoil makes it a great choice for first-time shooters to practice at the range and become better. And its reliability makes it a perfect home-defense weapon. In light of the fact that the AR-15 can be used for a multitude of strictly lawful purposes, it makes no sense to brand it as a "dedicated people-killer" due to its abuse by a select few mentally disturbed individuals.
And if these protesters would take the time to analyze the intent of the Second Amendment, they would realize that there is nothing wrong with having "weapons of war" in civilian hands. Why? Because the Second Amendment was written with the purpose of making sure that the people were as armed as their government, so that they would have a means of resistance if the government became abusive and tyrannical. So if our military has fully-automatic M16s, maybe we should entrust responsible civilians, following a background check, with fully-automatic M16s. Because if the day ever comes that a tyrant takes over the government, it will become the responsibility of armed citizens to set the government back on the right track. As far-fetched as this may seem, the possibility of a murderous dictatorship in America, keep in mind that our government isn't exactly going down the right road, even today. Government agents routinely perform "no-knock raids" on civilian homes without warrants, looking for drugs that in many cases don't even exist. Our government has sent Japanese Americans to concentration camps without due process. Our government disarmed Native Americans and forced them to live on designated reservations, 100 years ago. So yes, our own government has shown that it is more than capable of oppressing Americans if it wants to. So perhaps, we should end the ban on fully-automatic weapons and allow responsible gun owners to bear arms that keep them on equal footing with their own government.
I can hear the responses in my head already: "all these kids died merely a month ago, and you're calling for making machine guns legal? You monster!" Well, no gun law on Earth will keep our children safe. Criminals, by definition, break laws. So if you put a gun law into place, they'll find a way around them too. The people who will be actually restricted by the laws will be the law-abiding gun owners, who now will not be able to arm themselves to the extent of criminals, who will get guns anyways through the black market. High schools are already "gun free zones." Nikolas Cruz didn't care. In fact, the "gun-free zone" designation probably made his killing spree easier, as there was nobody inside the school with a gun to stop him. So you want to keep kids safe? Allow anyone who has a carrying permit to exercise that permit on school grounds. If we can trust someone with a concealed carry permit outside a school, we can trust that same person with a concealed carry permit within a school. And teachers, especially, if they have a gun permit, should be allowed to carry on school grounds. This will allow them to stop a mass shooter before he or she kills innocent kids.
Whenever there is a drunk driving incident, we blame the driver, not the car. When someone stabs someone else, we blame the person, not the knife. Why, then, whenever there's a mass shooting, do we blame the gun, and not the shooter? A gun is a tool. It isn't "good," "bad," or anything else. It is merely as good or as bad as the person behind it. Which is why we have background checks in place. So that only good people can get guns. While a case can be made for strengthening background checks, it is utterly senseless to limit the types of guns that law-abiding citizens can buy. Because no gun is more dangerous than another. It all depends on the person using it. The anti-gun sentiment that is being spread by the Parkland survivors is understandable. But it is also dangerous, because it threatens our founding liberties. We cannot renounce our fundamental rights as an emotional response to fear and anger. We must remember that making good people defenseless will not make bad people harmless, and that the only solution to gun violence is trusting responsible citizens to use their firepower to protect themselves and the people around them from evil.