by Clark Taylor
The tired refrain from gun advocates that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” pushes the wobbly claim that even without the easy availability of guns people would use other means to destroy life. Alan Gura of the Second Amendment Foundation, for example, writes in a piece for the Baltimore Sun, “The problem is that, regrettably, there are going to be criminals and crazy people ….”
Gura misses the point, and hopes others will as well. For it does not follow that violent-prone individuals like the Aurora, Colo. shooter could have used other means to commit their crimes, we should not bother to seek commonsense regulation of firearms. This is a false choice. Just because something will not perfectly solve a problem does not mean that policy makers should ignore the matter – the perfect should not be the enemy of the good.
In McDonald v. Chicago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individuals have a Second Amendment right to bear arms. What the Supreme Court did not hold, however, was that this right was an unqualified one subject to no regulation.
But the National Rifle Association however, continues to fight even existing gun regulations. It seeks to roll back existing background checks. It argues for guns to be sold at gun shows without background checks. (NRA members themselves are in favor of a certain level of regulation, suggesting that the NRA leadership is more extreme than the members they represent.)
Adam Ozimek, in a piece for Forbes, notes that the Aurora shooter had explosives – very likely illegally obtained -- in his home. The legal status of the shooter’s weapons, however, appeared to be of little consequence in choosing how to go about perpetrating his crime. The tragedy at the Colorado theatre was not committed by explosives, but by guns and ammunition bought legally, according to law enforcement officials. A compilation of statistics from Mother Jones, shows that over three quarters of the guns used in mass shootings since 1982 were obtained legally.
All of the mass shootings in recent memory, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Ft. Hood, were carried out by killers using firearms. The statistics show that people prone to violence do kill people, and more often than not they use guns. If there were a spike in mass murders committed by means other than firearms, then in all likelihood a serious discussion over the availability of such means would unfold.
The choice is not to forbid guns or hand them out to any and all Americans. The choice is how to regulate them while providing for individual rights and public safety. Given our recent history, it should not be seen as wholly inappropriate or radical to endeavor to make guns more difficult to obtain for those who would use them against their fellow citizens.
Sadly, since the Aurora tragedy there have been killings or attempted killings at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, at Texas A&M University, and at an office building in Washington, DC. All of the violence was perpetrated with guns. At various points in time or in various jurisdictions, as pointed out by Ethan Bronner in The New York Times, this may not have been the case, but in these instances they were all apparently bought legally.
[image via Joshuashearn]