By: Jeff Knecht, JS Student
In July of 2012, Aurora, Colorado experienced a terrible tragedy in the form of a premeditated shooting in a theatre during the screening of “The Dark Knight Rises”. The event brought the issue of gun control to the forefront of the media and politics. The shooter was able to gain access to several weapons and explosive devices and executed killing several and injuring many more. How did someone get an assault rifle, tear gas grenades, and other pistols? Why is it that none of the gun control policies designed to keep weapons away from deadly persons were so ineffective? Then in December of 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, killed 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. The Aurora shooter surrendered immediately to police when they arrived and Adam Lanza committed suicide by shooting himself when first responders arrived.
These two shooting incidents are not the first to occur in the United States. There have been several previous school shootings such as the Columbine shooting and the Virginia Tech shooting. Only since a shooter has taken the lives of children has gun control really made any sort of movement in legal policies. Two main schools of thought on gun control have engaged in combat through discourse: legal right to arms vs. necessity of right to arms. The legal rights to arms argument starts with the idea that the 2nd Amendment is a constitutional right and that firearms are not to be blamed for the violence from their use. The necessity of rights to arms argument states that firearms should be under far stricter control because of the harm that firearms cause. This camp of thought believes that taking more guns off the street AND out of people’s homes will decrease gun-related crimes and deaths. The right to firearms camp believes that keeping the right to firearms will allow people to keep themselves safe. Their logic states that if there are guns in people’s homes, their presence will deter crimes.
In the discourse of gun control, there is one thing that is often left out of the back and forth in policy arguments. While the firearm rights camp often uses the phrase “guns do not kill people, people kill people”, there is truth in the statement. A gun sitting on the table will not aim and fire at anyone nearby. Yet, a gun is still far more dangerous than a cup of coffee. So there are two parts to the issue of gun control: the person and the gun. A gun will not be fired without a person to fire it. Current gun control arguments address the gun as the primary issue. Unlike other crimes, gun violence is blamed on the gun. The person involved with the gun-related crime is responsible for the crime, but methods to prevent further crimes with guns are focused on the weapon itself. While this is not a bad strategy, it leaves out an important question: Why? Why have these seemingly random acts of violence occurred? Why did these people make the decision to kill without specific reason? In many cases, the shooter is claimed to be mentally ill or insane. In other cases, the presence of the firearm allowed the trigger of violence. The killers also kill at random; no specific person is targeted and many become victims. Their methods of execution are premeditated. So why is it that the reasons behind their violence, their purpose or their motives are not explored? Given that it could be mental illness, why is it that more resources are not being used to help target and combat mental illness? If there are other motives for their violence, why are they also not addressed? The reason for violence is equally as important as the methods used to enact the violence. If we as a society wish to rid ourselves of gun violence and killing, we must not simply decrease the proliferation of firearms, but also find the reason why such violence occurs. If we take away all the firearms, violence will take other forms such as explosives or other weapons of destruction. We do not prevent further acts of violence from firearms by simply taking away the firearms. We must also take into account the human aspect of this social phenomenon, as we do in all other aspects of social interactions. Failure to address both the gun problem and the human aspect will result in further death. Do not forget that the guns do no fire themselves, we must find out how prevent people from causing such harm, not just the bullets from firing and the casings from falling.