The murder of Hadiya Pendleton made national headlines Jan. 29. The indiscriminate killing of Pendleton, who performed at President Obama’s inauguration only a week before, comes during a tumultuous period marked by other instances of violence: the murder of a bus driver and subsequent kidnapping of a child by alleged Alabama gunman Jimmy Lee Dykes and the massacre of 27 teachers and children at Sandy Hook Elementary. January also marked the highest murder rate that Chicago has seen in over a decade.
This violence has prompted the escalation of a larger battle, one being fought not with bullets, but with rhetoric and legislation. The battle over gun control has been sweeping across the nation ever since Obama’s re-election.
While almost everyone should be able to agree that the wave of violence is tragic, there are a multitude of differing opinions on how to combat this epidemic. Here is what some students had to say.
“Although they can be awful in the wrong hands, used properly I think guns are a vital component of personal protection,” said Ryan Hazel, a future U.S. Army recruit.
“I don’t understand what the purpose is of assault weapons are if not to harm another human being,” said Liam Mackin, who is a member of the human rights organization Amnesty International at DePaul. “I don’t necessarily buy into the self-defense theory.”
“Reactionary politics can get out of control,” said Brendan Newell, a member of the DePaul College Republicans. “There’s too much focus on banning guns rather than controlling them.”
In January, Obama proposed a number of new gun laws, which included a complete nationwide ban on assault weapons and a limitation of 10 rounds for ammunition magazines. These have been criticized by some as an attack on the rights of responsible gun owners, some of whom supposedly carry these types of weapons for non-criminal purposes.
On the contrary, there is some evidence that local gun bans alone may not be adequate enough to combat violence. Currently, Chicago has some of the most stringent gun policies in the nation. Not only does the city ban assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines, but it outright bans gun stores within city limits. Yet Chicago still had more guns confiscated and more murders within the last year than New York City, which has a population more than three times that of Chicago.
Stringent local laws are simply not enough to stem a problem that continues to terrorize the city every year. The New York Times recently released data on the place of purchase of all the guns confiscated in Chicago from criminals between 2001 and 2012. Fifteen thousand guns were purchased in stores located just outside of Cook County limits.
In addition, more than half of the total guns originated outside of the state, with an abnormally large portion coming from Mississippi through a trafficking route known as the “Dixie Pipeline.” As Mayor Emanuel’s office once stated, “We’re only as strong as the weakest gun law in surrounding states.”
In order to properly combat gun violence, a more uniform national gun control policy should be pursued. It is important for liberals and conservatives to push aside extremist propositions and focus on no-brainer policies that everyone could concede as nationally beneficial.
Other parts of Obama’s proposals have been less contentious. In addition to bans on the weapons previously mentioned, Obama called for universal background checks on the criminal and mental health history of potential gun purchasers, an elimination of loopholes in the record-keeping of firearms and an increase in penalties for legal firearm purchasers who subsequently supply criminals, known as straw buyers.
Statistics show that the majority of people support this type of action.
For example, a survey by the Pew Center shows that over 80 percent of the American public supports background checks and banned sales of weapons to the mentally ill. In other words, these types of gun control are widely recognized as common sense by the American public, both liberal and conservative.
Yet the National Rifle Association continues to speak out against these widely accepted propositions. Regarding government background checks, Wayne LaPierre, the vice president of the NRA said, “I just don’t think law-abiding people want every gun sale in the country to be under the thumb of the federal government.”
The statistics say otherwise. In this case, the words of the NRA run contrary even to the beliefs of many conservatives. In this case, the NRA did not even accurately represent the opinions of gun owners.
Forget controversial issues such as assault weapon bans. In the end, these issues are relatively inconsequential, especially considering the harsh fact that approximately three-quarters of the shootings in America are committed by easily attainable handguns. Methods such as criminal background checks would be the most important tools in keeping guns out of the wrong hands.
Many of these proposals are dependent on Congressional approval. It is vital that Congress bypasses extremists and obstacles, such as the NRA, in order to approve these proposals.
Only then can the American people get what they want – basic tools to help lower crime rates, prevent senseless shootings, such as that of Hadiya Pendleton, and increase the day-to-day safety of millions of law-abiding citizens in the nation.