Gun Control is an Ethical Obligation, not an Infringement of Civil Liberties

When I first arrived for my semester abroad in London, England, I was shocked to see one or two of my peers begrudgingly handing our program supervisors small but generic casings of pepper spray, or mace.

Why couldn’t we have pepper spray? we asked.

As Americans, we could effortlessly purchase this at almost any gas station in the US. (A few states such as New York and Michigan have restrictions but it is nonetheless legal in all 50 states). However, in the UK, pepper spray is very much illegal and is officially classified as a ‘firearm.’

Indeed, gun control laws are much stricter in the UK than in the US — in fact, most front-line British police officers do not carry guns (though each police force does have its own firearms unit to dispatch). The police believe that remaining unarmed encourages approachability and dissuades illegal civilian arming. It also encourages safer exchanges between the police and the public, something the United States seems to struggle with. In 2015, 986 people were fatally shot by police in the US, while in the UK… that number was three.

After the growing (and wildly disconcerting) string of police brutality and shootings in the US, many Americans argue that civilians need firearms in order to defend themselves from the police. More guns to protect us from guns? This just sounds like a recipe for even more violence.

Given that even the police, a force that exists to protect us, struggle to appropriately (and responsibly) handle a device capable of such harm… how can we confidently (and quite easily) place firearms into the arms of countless Americans, some of whom are mentally unstable? In 2012, the most recent year for comparable statistics, the number of US gun murders per capita was nearly 30x that of the UK. Clearly, gun control measures have an effect on murder rates.

When our forefathers penned the Second Amendment, declaring the right to keep and bare arms, I doubt they (as none of them were fortune tellers) could predict the massively deadly effects of a modern-day assault rifle, or just how many “mass shootings” there are across the US every day. Time reveals, as well as changes things…and when significant amounts of people are dying due to the mishandling of weapons, then, logically, reform should be implicated.

In 2015 alone, a mass shooting, where at least four people are struck by bullets, occurred every week but one. In total, there were 372 mass shootings in the US that year, killing 475 and injuring 1870.

The death toll from gunfire in the US, between 1968 and 2011, is so high that it eclipses all deaths from wars ever fought by the country. And yet… the US is the only country that seems to loosen gun restrictions instead of enforcing them.

Debate concerning stricter US gun control laws has intensified in face of this increasing death toll. In fact, off the top of my head, I (along with any number of Americans) could name a number of tragic massacres caused by gun violence: Sandy Hook; Aurora; the Oregon college; Orlando — instances where many innocent lives were lost because a gun fell too easily into irresponsible hands.

No one can comprehend the impact of one life lost, unless you are ready to experience that loss of life yourself. Even just one life ended too early is one too many. And though I don’t understand others’ motives behind violence, I fiercely believe that it’s common sense that stricter gun control laws will lead to fewer guns, which will in turn lead to fewer deaths. This is something that everyone, Republican or Democrat, should be able to get behind.

And yet, even despite the growing number of victims to gun violence, the US has been sloth-like in implementing proactive change. Republicans and institutions like the National Rifle Association oppose gun control because they believe it to be a civil liberty… but, even in terms of self-defense, when is murder ever okay?

Australia and Britain tackled gun-violence decades ago, after incidents of mass gun violence shocked the nations. These two countries implemented serious reform through things like stricter gun restrictions and national gun buy-back programs. Though (like anything) it took time for the effects of reform to implement change; today, Australia has had no mass shootings in the past 19 years — as opposed to over 300 in 2015 alone in the US.

On January 5, at a White House news conference unveiling a series of executive action, including expanded background checks, President Obama was moved to tears while discussing the Sandy Hook massacre, where twenty children were fatally shot. The President can’t understand why his efforts to protect innocents and save lives are so disputed, and neither can I.

Some argue that stricter gun control won’t affect the amount of guns in America, as people will still find a way to arm themselves. However, I believe that reform will reduce the number of guns that fall into unsafe hands, and over time, diminish the overall amount of guns in America.

Obama supports the Second Amendment; by no means does he wish to “take everyone’s guns away.” Instead, he hopes to reduce the amount of gun violence rampant in the US — a harsh reality no one can deny once they begin to understand the sheer numbers of US gun violence. By expanding background checks, and closing loopholes (which should be reasonable to anyone) that would allow people to acquire guns even more easily, gun control advocates hope that the insane numbers of US gun violence will diminish.

Significant change requires time, patience, and persistence. Though implementing safer gun measures might not equal immediate change; over time, stricter gun control would undoubtedly lead to less guns; it’s common sense. A number that might seem overwhelming today can dwindle down significantly in a generation or two.

If living in a world with fewer guns means fewer Sandy Hooks or San Bernardinos… then, by all means, I am happy to support it. Obama pleads; “We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence.” With stricter gun control, we can begin to make the US a better, safer place by ensuring that guns are not given freely nor easily to those ill equipped to operate them. Though I am not going as far to say we should outlaw all guns like the UK, we ought to take responsibility for the amount of gun-related deaths and injuries, and make a proactive change to prevent any more.

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