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Causing an effect: The incoherence of gun control

John Minster

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Stephen Paddock opened fire on hundreds of innocent people in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, killing 59 people and wounding 527. It was an absolute travesty. It is difficult to put into words the enormous sense of loss people have felt across the nation. Tragedies like the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting should not happen—ever.

Following the shooting, calls have once again gone out for new gun control measures as a solution to mass shootings, especially among those leaning left. Late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel was prominent in this outcry.

“It’s too much to even process — all these devastated families who now have to live with this pain forever because one person with a violent and insane voice in his head managed to stockpile a collection of high-powered rifles and use them to shoot people,” Kimmel said.

Whether it be universal background checks, banning “assault” rifles or creating a national gun registry, anti-gun advocates are looking for anything to limit the Second Amendment.

(Ally Zacek/The DePaulia)

Indeed, as many have pointed out, the Vegas shooting is repeating a pattern. Gun violence occurs, calls for gun control go out and nothing happens. The political left would have us believe inaction comes from the omnipotent National Rifle Association (NRA), stifling any sort of legislation. As Kimmel puts it, apparently they have Republicans “balls in a money clip.”

However, reality is quite clear. The NRA has near 5 million paying members, but has donated just $4 million to congressional races since 1998 — a tear drop compared to many other large interest groups and the NRA’s own available funds.

“Gun rights have become one of the litmus test issues for Republicans and a move to restrict or regulate guns would provoke significant opposition, especially those in rural congressional districts or states with significant rural populations.” said political science professor Wayne Steger.  “Even Democrats in these areas cannot easily consent to gun control without facing significant electoral opposition—both in terms of opposition advertising and voter wrath.”

Almost none of the proposed solutions like an increase in gun regulations or creating a national gun registry would have any actual effect on what happened in Las Vegas or most gun violence. Automatic rifles are not legal — possession of new automatic rifles has been banned since 1986.

Paddock went through background checks to obtain his firearms. Perhaps the only small fix, banning the bump-stock Paddock used, has been embraced by the NRA. Many manufacturers are considering pausing their production.

  “The case for the (gun control) policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence.” said Leah Libresco, a writer at FiveThirtyEight.

Libresco is right. Popular gun control arguments continuously come up short when put to the test. Although gun violence was already low in Australia and the U.K., the gun buyback programs in both countries brought no significant change to their gun violence rates.

At the same time, mass shootings almost always occur in gun-free zones. According to the Center for Disease Control, from 1993-2003 while gun ownership increased 56 percent, gun violence decreased by 50 percent.

According to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. gun-related homicides dropped 39 percent from 1993 to 2011. Over the same time, non-fatal firearm crimes decreased by 69 percent. Further, a 2013 Pew Research Center study found gun-homicides have decreased nearly 49 percent since 1993.

These studies only focus on the negative aspect of firearms. As Florida State criminology professor Gary Kleck has found, there are over 760,000 defensive gun uses annually. Just take Spokane, Washington’s 17-year-old Kimber Wood’s story: in July, Wood used the family gun to drive away a home invader in the middle of the night. Without that firearm, she would have had no avenue for self-defense.

“If campus rape culture is as prevalent as some argue, limiting the right to own or carry guns threatens many young women’s security,” said junior Abbie Wade

These are the facts. Gun control advocates, while most certainly well-meaning, are choosing to ignore them.

Americans have a unique affinity for firearms. We are the only country in the world that has anything remotely approaching a Second Amendment; the right to keep and bear arms is at the very fabric of our society. It is not a tool of racism, as some would have you believe, but a fundamental, institutional right.

Samuel Adams, who was no friend of slavery, once called the practice a “total extension of morals” that would threaten the very fabric of liberty. Adams believed the Second Amendment ensured “the Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” The Founding Fathers, slave-owners and not, were united in the belief the Second Amendment ensured the people’s ability to maintain their freedom. Their experience, our revolution, makes that clear.

“Guns are about freedom, and the responsibility it requires to maintain that freedom,” said sophomore Nick Gricus. “Taking away that responsibility for ourselves puts more power, too much power, in the hands of the government.”

Ultimately, gun control is not stopped because of money, or disorganization or corruption. It’s stopped because Americans do not want gun control. Based on the truth, they shouldn’t.

What drove Paddock to commit the unspeakable acts he did is not something that can be solved by gun control legislation. It’s probably not something that can be solved by any legislation. It’s something deeper, more at the core of who we are as human beings.

Uprooting fundamental American institutions, the ones that have made us the greatest country in the history of the world, will not solve that problem, no matter how much some may want it to.

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Causing an effect: The incoherence of gun control