Ensuring Safety is Imperative in a Country that Permits Citizens to Carry Guns
This article was submitted in response to an assignment on opinion writing.
November 16, 2018
Imagine sitting in class. You’re most likely talking to your friends instead of paying attention to the teacher lecturing. Maybe typing away on your phone, Snapchatting or scrolling through Instagram. Or maybe you’re frantically trying to cram for the test you “forgot” about that’s next hour. Whatever you are doing while sitting in this classroom, you are oblivious to the person being let into the school. And so is every other student and staff member sitting in a classroom or office. Until that person completely skips signing into the front office as a visitor and heads to the first classroom they find, pulling out the legally-obtained AR-15 semiautomatic rifle they were hiding underneath their coat. You’re oblivious until you hear the pop, pop, pop of a gun, sounding like fireworks on the fourth. You’re too shocked to move as everybody else goes into a panic, and someone from the office comes over the phone, announcing a lockdown. Yeah, you watch the news and see tweets on Twitter about school shootings, but you never thought it would happen to your school. Within the five minutes it took for the police to reach the school, several of your friends and classmates are dead or injured. Many of whom were just talking, texting, Snapchatting, scrolling, or cramming five minutes ago. All because one person took it upon themselves to come into your school with their legally-obtained gun.
The Second 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.” Yes, it does protect the rights of individuals to bear arms, not just a state militia’s right, but these rights are written under the assumption that the weapons are being used for lawful purposes, not for murdering innocent people. It is also under the assumption that the government may put restrictions on what guns people may own, how they obtain them, etc. You might say, “you’re just trying to take away our guns and strip us of our rights as Americans” when that is simply a misconception made by far-right lobbyists. As someone whose family owns guns and often shoots them for fun at my family farm, I believe that guns should stay. The nation needs stricter gun policies to prevent the devastation of gun violence we see daily. Notice how I said prevent. I am fully aware that restrictions won’t stop everyone, but it will certainly avert some with malicious intent. In Kentucky, the only requirements to obtain a firearm are that you are eighteen and not a convicted felon. There is no required permit for open carry and they only require a permit for handguns, not long guns, which are often the weapon of choice for mass shootings. You don’t have to register your gun, background checks in private gun sales aren’t required, and there is no magazine restriction. Need I say more?
The first step to gun reform is not stronger background checks; it is ensuring that background checks are required. Since the Brady Law was signed in 1993, it has stopped more than three million guns transactions to dangerous individuals. The Brady process is described as, “When an individual goes to a retailer to purchase a firearm, the retailer contacts the FBI to run a background check on each gun purchaser. The FBI checks the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to see if they are a prohibited purchaser. Prohibited purchasers include felons, fugitives, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill.” Though the law is effective, one in five guns are sold without checking the person’s background, essentially handing guns to those prohibited purchasers. Once background checks are expanded to all gun sales nation-wide, then we can focus on strengthening them. The sixteen questions take just minutes to fill out and only two percent are rejected for personal history. It takes just minutes for the wrong person to obtain a weapon.
Another step in ensuring the safety of people is making people wait for their guns.NICS instantly decides if a person can own a weapon as deadly as a gun. If a person is cleared, they can be given the firearm the same day as they filled out the form. And you don’t know that person’s mental state at the time. They may be angry, depressed, etc. They may be seeking revenge. Or they may just be having a bad day. The next thing you know, this person is on the news because they shot and killed or injured multiple people. I believe making people wait ten days will allow them to cool off from whatever happened that day, and it will allow the FBI to extensively check if they are eligible to be a gun owner. Also, once they get permission to own the gun, they should be required to register it, so it is easily traceable in case it is used in illegal activities.
The final reform to gun policies that should be implemented is magazine size restriction. A magazine is “a holder in or on a gun for cartridges to be fed into the gun chamber.” Only ten out of the fifty states have these restrictions. Large capacity magazines are typically used in mass shootings; most shooters using thirty or more rounds. I believe there should be a limit of ten rounds per magazine for all firearms. Restricting these would reduce the number of fatalities in a shooting by allowing more people time to get away and police more opportunity to disarm the shooter.
Overall, gun reform is attainable and will not be detrimental to Second Amendment enthusiasts.