Con: the great gun control debate

In my lifetime, starting from December 19, 1993, there have been 187 school shootings in the United States. There were many instances where there was only one fatality or even just one or two wounded. However, within our generation, we have also witnessed the shootings at Columbine (15 fatalities, including the perpetrators, and 24 wounded), the Virginia Tech shootings (32 fatalities, 17 wounded), Sandy Hook Elementary (20 child fatalities, 6 adult fatalities, 2 wounded) and the Aurora Theater shootings (12 fatalities, 70 wounded). My heart sinks as I write these facts.

Our generation has lived through the trauma of the deadliest shootings the United States has ever seen in its 223 years since the addition of the 2nd Amendment to the Bill of Rights. And yet, I hear so many people complain about how the government is controlling gun sales. Perhaps, given the facts, it’s time to review why the Obama administration is looking to have greater gun control.

The Obama administration has proposed a few methods of gun control. And no, they do not include total prohibition of weapons in the United States. These have come in the forms of, according to the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures, “23 executive actions and three presidential memoranda.” These still need to be reviewed by Congress; however, the proposals seem reasonable given the current state of our society.

If approved, there would be much more in-depth background checks, monetary incentives for the availability of criminal and mental health records, smaller magazines, a total ban on assault weapons (which still hasn’t really been defined) and special training for schools to protect themselves in case of an attack.

But that’s not to say that nothing is currently happening in regards to gun control. According to the FBI’s webpage, The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, has held possibly over 100 million background checks and has led to the denial of 700,000 guns. That’s countless lives saved and many more counting.

Is banning assault weapons contrary to the 2nd Amendment? Is all of this a blatant disregard for 2nd Amendment rights? Not necessarily. What does the 2nd Amendment say? “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

In the most recent cases in American gun control laws, the Supreme Court has favored the right for any American citizen to own a weapon. But what kind of weapon? In United States vs. Miller in 1939, the Supreme Court made it illegal to purchase or own a sawed off shotgun because the weapon did not suggest, “some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia….”

In 2008, the Court also decided that there was other weaponry “that cannot be used for law-abiding purchases as laws that would not implicate the Second Amendment.” The Court was unclear about what kind of weapons, but one may posit that assault weapons could be included in that category in the future.

According to the Council of Foreign Relations, the United States has 35-50 percent of all civilian-owned guns worldwide—the most in the world. We also have the highest homicide rate for firearms in the world. I’m not saying that we should ban all guns—that would be pragmatically impossible in such an enormous country—I’m just saying we need to look at ourselves as a society and culture that maybe, just maybe, has gone too far.

Bowen is a junior majoring biblical & theological studies. He can be reached at bowenmj@jbu.edu.