Let us channel our frustration and grief into taking decisive action to prevent further suffering. Support gun control legislation and background checks, says Fausto Fernandez.
Often, a child often must undergo a mildly painful experience to substantiate his/her parents words of caution. When I was seven years old, after repeatedly hearing never to touch a light bulb, I decided to perform a controlled experiment in which I would briefly brush a filament bulb with my elbow, to see what all the fuss was about. The second degree burn taught me to avoid touching incandescent wires encased in a searing transparent glass container. Of course, perhaps in ten years such a warning is obsolete, as LEDs diffuse around the world.
In 2015 alone, figuratively speaking, the United States touched the light bulb 372 times – 372 mass shootings sliced 475 people’s lives short, almost none of which received the media coverage of the recent Orlando tragedy. In fact, the analogy would only be appropriate if I had burst into flames on contact with the lightbulb, because the victims didn’t take two weeks to heal their burns – they never will, and neither will their loved ones.
Too often is the issue isolated to individual insanity, corrupted or non-existent morals, and radicalism, instead of identified as symptomatic of a national flaw in gun control regulations (or the lack of them).
From San Bernardino to Sandy Hook, the murders are portrayed as the offspring of terrorism, or even, In Adam Lanza’s case, of an excess of violent video games. Such scapegoating is akin to seeing a patient with Ebola and blaming it solely on his deficient exercise routine instead of on poor sanitary conditions and a life threatening pathogen’s existence. As the rise of ISIS and Donald Trump warp and strain national cohesion on issues such as discrimination, foreign policy regarding Muslims, and immigration, the widespread xenophobia pandemic tempts one to ponder the issue of gun violence as a result of imported problems and ideologies – not as what it is: an organic, home-grown, American issue, no preservatives or artificial flavourings added.
At its very core, for many the issue is one of trust: we do not believe that law enforcement authorities are able to respond fast and effectively enough to ensure our safety in a crisis that threatens our lives. At its extreme, we may not even believe that our law enforcement will wield the weapons entrusted to them in our best interest. Such distrust leaves only one logical option: to take defence into our own hands. I have no doubt that there exist millions of qualified, righteous individuals who are perfectly able to responsibly handle firearms. Yet likewise, I have no doubt that a fraction of the weapons sold in the United States are not sold to such individuals, or that rash behaviour and impulsive emotions can lead a man to make an irrevocable mistake.
The issue has startling parallels to denuclearization: the possibility of one misuse outweighs the certainty of having it at our disposal, particularly when other non-lethal weapons like mace or Tasers. Nonsensically, civilian sale of Tasers is illegal in states where the sale of rifles and shotguns is not. If no one has a weapon, few threats would warrant the ownership of one. The power to take almost always too great to depend on individual judgement: that is why a legal system exists. But we are strongly convinced that if we somehow relinquish our right to bear arms, “the bad guys” will not be able to acquire them illicitly.
This is not to say that firearms should be banned from civilian possession in the United States. There may be well times when we encounter genuine human evil and need to neutralize the threat. Perhaps we encounter a rogue alligator, or are otherwise attacked.
Enter background checks: there is no logical argument for opposing gun control.
It is not a constitutional violation to prevent a known perpetrator or radicalized individual from exercising his right to bear arms because he cannot possibly act in the best interest of the Nation and hence cannot constitute a militia that ensures the security of a free state. As long as the guidelines are strictly regulated, isolated from arbitrary judgement and are transparent, the well-intentioned citizen should never fear the infringement of his rights.
And so we reach the second amendment, the heart of the legal counterargument to gun control. A clause intended to guarantee the safety of citizens from wildlife or perpetrators when the police was a fledgling institution and surveillance, the NSA and the digital age with all of its safety implications didn’t exist. Wolves and bears were very real threats for some, as settlers set off and fur trappers proliferated in a newly established Nation. They were very different times. Now, as American citizens shoot other American citizens, the issue isn’t one of protecting against tyranny or extraneous threats – it is a matter of protecting ourselves, and our children, who may mistake improperly stored guns as toys, with 278 unintentional shootings in 2015 – from each other. Perhaps smart guns, that incorporate biometric security to avoid misuse, are the way forward. Handguns, not assault rifles.
One should not be able to purchase assault rifles.
I firmly believe that just as one is unable to purchase a battle tank furnished for combat, or a fully loaded Black Hawk, one should not be able to purchase assault rifles. Unless one plans to be embroiled in a large combat theatre, their use as personal defence weapons seems ridiculous, even comical, as they cannot even be practically carried with you and concealed. They only empower potential perpetrators: the Orlando massacre was made possible by the use of an assault rifle.
The AR-15 isn’t the best defence against terror and crime, as stated by the NRA. That is why we have an army. It is the best tool to enact it. If the argument for their purchase is the defence against tyranny, there are already several military ordinances that cannot be purchased by civilians. We must trust in our armed forces to wield such weapons, and their sale must be firmly clamped down upon.
Chris Murphy’s recent heroic filibuster is a step in the right direction. The gun control issue cannot be ignored anymore, or dismissed, or rejected on a constitutional basis.
It is time to act and save lives. Gun violence is a tragedy that wracks the nation, and whether it targets members of the LGTBQ community or innocent children in school, there will always be insane individuals who harbour such hatred that they simply want to inflict harm on others, even they veil it by alleging themselves with a terrorist organization.
Tragedies like the Orlando massacre or Christina Grimmie’s murder instil a deep frustration in us: why do such atrocious things happen? Why do people have to die because vile scum willed them to? Most of the explanation is because they have access to guns.
It is statistically proven that stricter gun control laws lead to fewer firearm deaths: the United States has thirty times the number of gun murders per capita as the United Kingdom. In Japan, where enormous bureaucratic hurdles discourage gun ownership, the percentage of homicides committed with a firearm was 2%, vs the United States’ 60%. The facts are clear. Let us channel our frustration and grief into taking decisive action to prevent further suffering. Support gun control legislation and background checks.
The author would like to thank Michelle Yan for her comments.