I finished my last final exam, and flew home to Houston, on Dec. 14—the date of the Newtown Elementary School massacre. I was in the Logan Airport terminal when news first broke of the horrendous tragedy. The previously palpable Christmas spirit of holiday carols and smiles that seem to fill every airport in America during December was immediately replaced with a loudspeaker of the news and mass despondency.
Now, after countless of these massacres, the conversation finally shifted to gun control. However, the gun control debate is unduly influenced by those who believe that any regulation of firearms is tantamount to a Soviet-style mass confiscation of the people’s rifles, and eliminating the right to carry the types of assault rifles that Adam Lanza used at Sandy Hook Elementary School is antithetical to the meaning of the Second Amendment.
Regulation is not tantamount to impending tyranny, and the banning of assault rifles are not antithetical to the Second Amendment. In fact, it is what needs to be done. The time is now for comprehensive gun control, including a ban of assault rifles, eliminating the gun show loophole (allowing looser regulations on purchasing firearms at gun shows), requiring stiffer background checks and keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill.
This strange alternate reality, that is, the one where people believe the government is perpetually one step away from taking away the people’s guns, has always been a mystery to me. I decided to engage it this break by attending the Pasadena Gun and Knife Show in Pasadena, Texas, the conservative southern suburb of Houston. Attending incognito (wearing my signature cowboy hat), I explored the world of guns and so-called gun rights. Because of what is called the gun show loophole, individuals may purchase most any type of assault weapons at these shows, free of any background check, waiting period or other restriction. The only thing stopping me, someone who has never held a pistol before, from buying a civilian-style AK47 was that I am not 21 years of age. Had I have been of age, I could have approached the woman in the corner who had brought her used assault rifle to sell, paid her cash and gone home immediately with the same type of weapon used in mass shootings and war.
This, summed up into a few sentences, is the most compelling rationale I can find for more gun control, being that almost anyone is able to purchase these guns so easily. The common cliché is that if guns are outlawed, “only outlaws will have them,” but the guns used in the Luby’s massacre of 1991, Columbine shooting of 1999, Tucson shooting of 2011 and the Aurora shooting of 2012, to name a few, were all purchased legally, as were those used by Adam Lanza in the Newtown shooting. Lunatics and psychopaths do not need to smuggle guns, it is already easy enough to acquire these murder machines through legal means.
While the Second Amendment to the Constitution most certainly protects the right for citizens to own firearms, including certain kinds of concealable weapons, there are most certainly limits. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put it most eloquently in his recent State of the State address, when he said, “No one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer.”
Just as the right to own a tank or a missile or an F-16 is not holy, there is no special protection to the right to own a semi-automatic rifle.
These newly discussed gun control reforms, like banning assault weapons and closing gun show loopholes, would aim to drastically cut the number of gun fatalities. Countries such as Canada, Japan and the members of the European Union have enacted these regulations, and because of said regulations, they boast much lower per capita violent crime rates. For example, The Atlantic magazine reported in 2012 a startling correlation between more gun ownership and gun violence. The Atlantic also reported in 2012 that Japan, a nation which has nearly banned all types of firearms, saw nearly no gun violence (11 deaths compared to 12,000 in the United States).
It is disgusting that our nation has become so prone to violence on such a mass scale.
I hope that the Christmas spirit of the quintessential December airport is not destroyed so violently ever again. Just as we have fought against common enemies before, we must work together, as Americans, to defeat this problem of gun violence.