With the recent news about mass shootings down in Texas, the gun debate has only become more divisive; a problem in an already divisive American society. This has only led more people to question why we own these brutal, militaristic weapons in the first place. The fact of the matter is though, that people have guns right now, and are not at all likely to give them up. So, is gun control legislation the best way to solve this pressing issue? A divisive question for sure, but after digging into the information a little bit, it seems more likely that such legislation wouldn’t be as effective as common sense would suggest.
First of all, we need to take forced government buyback of guns off the table. Despite 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, Beto O’Rourke’s comments about “buying back AR-15s and AK-77s,” the fact of the matter is, buyback programs are simply not effective. Looking around the world, New Zealand comes up as a prime example, as its program was implemented at a similar timeframe (mid-2019) as now as a reaction to the Christchurch shooting. But so far, PM Jacinda Arden’s plan of buying back certain guns has failed to work. Despite that fact that gun owners New Zealanders could potentially face charges if they do not hand in recently banned guns by December 20, only 10% of the banned have been handed to the government a few months before the deadline. The fact that 90% of the banned guns have not been handed back, shows a distinct lack of a will from the citizens to give up their guns. And this is from a country that does not even have gun rights in their constitution.
Now imagine if such a buyback program were to be implemented in America. There is a serious doubt that people, especially in the South, would be remotely receptive to the idea. This is not even taking into consideration the immense cost of such a program. To buyback, almost 400 million guns would absolutely ratchet up taxes. Not really the solution we need for a society that not only values guns, but as pressingly, would not be willing to pay even more taxes.
Another argument that is brought up the idea of regulating gun companies to force them into producing only certain guns. Putting aside, the economic ramifications such as job losses, economic damage, and up-pricing of non-banned guns, such regulation infringes on the companies’ rights to produce products. Ultimately, a company should not be blamed for the intentional mishandling of its products, as by American law, the idea of product liability takes hold, wherein companies are protected from lawsuits if their product did not injure anyone through malfunction. Even on an ethical basis, companies are not supposed to be the masses’ moral guide, especially on the idea of guns. People would simply be blaming the wrong being if this is the idea of gun control that is potentially implemented.
As it is right now, the most common argument in America by pro-gun control legislators is to have the government simply ban all assault rifles and allow smaller guns. The problem with this is that it is actually the smaller handguns that cause two-thirds of all gun deaths. So banning guns that seem threatening won’t solve any of the issues plaguing America. But even if America unconstitutionally banned all guns, it would not address the major question: since criminals are people willing to break the law, so why would they care about gun control? If a criminal is truly willing to kill people, nothing will stop that person, especially not guns. Case in point: in the 37 states with the most gun control legislation, two-thirds of criminals stated that they procured their guns illegally. The fact of the matter is, if criminals want to kill someone, they will find a method to do so, whether it be by legal or illegal guns, or even if all guns were banned, by some other apparatus. I doubt any of us will be pining to ban knives.
Finally, among the more recent proposals for gun control, are red flag laws. Of course, red flag laws are laws that can allow the government to not allow certain citizens to own guns if they deem their personal history to be indicative of a potential criminal. It is worth noting though, that one of the earliest states to have implemented this law, Connecticut, afforded the Sandy Hook shooting. The laws clearly did not work in that case. Neither has it worked in this case, where the police shot an innocent man on the basis of a red flag law
However, even if red flag laws did work, these laws would simply be a way to take someone’s constitutional right to own a gun away. Ultimately, taking away someone’s constitutional right is setting a very dangerous precedent, because the fact of the matter is, even if a potential “red flag” is spotted, that said person would be charged under presumed guilt, not presumed innocence. That is fundamentally against any idea of justice.
If this piece is meant to show anything, it is that legislators and the general public should not make rash decisions about gun legislation, even in the wake of mass shootings. The gun control debate is extremely complex, and it is obvious that something needs to be done, but overreactions are not going to solve anything. This point can be encapsulated in one statistic: over two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides; suicides that can be done through any other means. The fact that less than a third of gun deaths are homicides show that while mass shootings are truly are horrific, America is prone to impulsive reactions. This statistic also proposes possibly the best solution to all gun deaths: greater care of mental health. Whether it be by having schools care more for students’ mental health, or reopening mental hospitals, caring more for mental health will likely reduce gun deaths. That aside, the other big way to reduce gun deaths would be to crack down on the illegal sale of guns. Ultimately though, there really is not any good answer to the conundrum of gun deaths in America. However, there are certainly bad answers, and unfortunately, gun control is often one of them.