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It’s time to do something about guns in America

Adam Newman | Thursday, January 17, 2013

At 9:35 A.M on December 14, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, wearing military armor and equipped with a rifle and two handguns, shot and killed 20 children and six adults. The carnage was horrifying, with the medical examiner confirming that each dead child sustained between two and 11 bullet wounds. Words cannot describe the evil and horror that occurred, but I use words in this letter to conservatives that something has to be done about guns in America.
Sandy Hook is just one of the 61 American mass shootings since 1982, most notably Columbine in 1999, Virginia Tech in 2007, Fort Hood in 2009, the shooting of a Congresswoman in 2011 and the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora this past summer. Sadly, America does not just have a major problem with mass shootings, but overall homicides by firearms as well. America has 3.2 murders per 100,000 people as a result of firearms. To some this may not seem like many, but it does in comparison to other industrialized countries, such as France (0.1), Canada (0.5), the UK (0.2) and Switzerland (0.8), the second highest country. Not surprisingly, America also leads the world in guns per 100 people with 88, nearly double as the next highest country, Switzerland (46). According to the Children’s Defense Fund, 2,800 children die every year as a result of gun violence, which is the equivalent of a Sandy Hook shooting every other day.
Gun laws will not prevent every shooting and it is possible that gun laws would not have prevented Sandy Hook (although most of the children were killed by an assault weapon that was purchased legally). Sandy Hook symbolizes the horror of America’s gun violence epidemic and the need to do something about it. If there was ever an event that called for new controls on guns, it is Sandy Hook.
Without doubt, the safest and most efficient way to prevent another Sandy Hook is to enact common sense, reasonable gun laws that allow people to purchase certain handguns and shotguns, but do not allow them to buy assault weapons, limit the number of guns one can purchase and end purchases to the mentally ill. This must occur on the federal level, because city and state gun controls are weakened by guns that pour in from places with less strict gun laws.
As what usually happens after a mass shooting, conservative politicians refuse to take any major steps about restricting access to guns or steps to prevent mass shootings (even if they may say differently in public).
Conservatives usually reference the Second Amendment of the Constitution as an argument against new gun controls. Americans do have the right to bear arms, but no democracy can have a right without restrictions. In America, the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech, but the Supreme Court has ruled one cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theater, nor can one defame someone’s reputation. There have to be limits. And as the Supreme Court has ruled before, gun controls can coexist with the Second Amendment.
What is perhaps the most perplexing is how many conservatives simultaneously identify as “pro-life” and oppose common sense gun controls. NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman perhaps put it in perspective the best: “In my world, you don’t get to call yourself ‘pro-life’ and be against common-sense gun control – like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare, that was used recently in a Colorado theater … ‘Pro-life’ can mean only one thing: “respect for the sanctity of life.” And there is no way that respect for the sanctity of life can mean we are obligated to protect every fertilized egg in a woman’s body, no matter how that egg got fertilized, but we are not obligated to protect every living person from being shot with a concealed automatic weapon … The term ‘pro-life’ should be a shorthand for respect for the sanctity of life. But I will not let that label apply to people for whom sanctity for life begins at conception and ends at birth. What about the rest of life? Respect for the sanctity of life, if you believe that it begins at conception, cannot end at birth.”
Sandy Hook was just one of a string of mass and solo shootings that comprise America’s gun violence epidemic, which without question is partially due to the high prevalence of guns in our society. But even with scenes of crying parents and cold, hard numbers, conservatives still refuse to do anything to prevent gun violence. Whether it be out of courage or conviction, guilt or anger, I ask my conservative friends to support common sense gun controls that still allow people to bear arms, but could help lower the high prevalence of gun homicides and the mass shootings in America.

Adam Newman is a senior political science major. He can be reached at anewman3@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.