Gun violence is a serious problem in the United States, that much we can all agree on. Many people see a correlation between the nation’s second amendment — which grants private citizens the right to own firearms — and the uncommonly high frequency of mass shootings.
Some argue that the availability and legality of firearms causes these violent crimes, and that the problem can be reduced by regulating gun laws, if not getting rid of guns altogether.
A frequent justification for this argument is that criminal ownership notwithstanding, the laws themselves normalize gun ownership and contribute to the overall availability of firearms. Gun violence is virtually non-existent in Australia due to restrictive laws put in place after the shooting Spree in Port Arthur in 1996.
An objective, fact-oriented examination of these types of events reveals that the legality of guns has little to do with their misuse. During the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Devin Kelley used guns obtained through fraud before being thwarted by two gun-slinging heroes with legitimately owned and registered firearms.
Stephen Willeford, 55, along with Johnnie Langendorff, 27, shot Kelley and, by many accounts, stopped him from killing more victims. Willeford is a former NRA instructor and experienced marksman and Langendorff, in his cowboy hat and longhorns tattoos fits the bill for second amendment supporters. When asked by CNN why he involved himself in the chase and shootout between Willeford and Kelley, Langendorff nonchalantly replied “because that’s what you do.” Willeford has had a similar attitude, stating in numerous interviews since the event that he is not a hero, while thanking God and his AR-15 for being able to stop the murderous rampage.
In the hands of a Johnnie Langendorff or a Stephen Milleford, a gun could never be a tool for murder or terrorism, because they simply don’t have it in their hearts to commit those sorts of crimes. Conversely, deadly crime, including mass murders and lethal terrorist attacks, continue to rise, undeterred by laws restricting gun access in Europe, and yes, even Australia.
If guns don’t make people more dangerous or more violent, that still doesn’t explain the mass shooting epidemic in the United States. The evidence points to two major problems: insufficient background checks and mental illness.
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Kelley was allowed to purchase his weapons by committing fraud on gun purchase forms. That’s not an impossible problem to solve. Considering how dangerous automobiles can be when misused or put in the hands of unqualified operators, it’s no wonder that a person has to have a license to drive. It’s also not common for people to drive with falsified licenses. If we treated guns the same way, then the conversation might shift toward catching up to vehicular regulation in regards to effective policy. The argument to eliminate guns outright is nonsensical, and has only served to distract the conversation away from finding real solutions.
The system would work if it were taken seriously. Kelley had been convicted of felonies previously, which means that he legally shouldn’t have been able to purchase a firearm. He was able to because, as Senator Ted Cruz pointed out, “the Obama Administration didn’t report those convictions to the NCIS database“. The problem lies in failing to enforce existing laws and, instead shifting the blame onto law-abiding patriots.
The link between mental illness and mass killings is undeniable. Many such crimes spanning over two decades have included many perpetrators taking psychotropic medication.
Personal liberty and responsibility are a tried and true method for ensuring personal safety. I would feel more safe living in an environment where heroes like Stephen Willeford and Johnny Langendorff are likely to drive by, and likely to be carrying firearms. We know that places such as New York City and Chicago continue to be unsafe despite having the most restrictive gun laws in the country.
The argument against gun ownership contributes nothing toward solving the problem of gun violence.