With the recent examples of gun related violence, especially the West Webster Fire Fighter tragedy occurring 12 miles from UR, discussion of the topic and how to address it are obviously on many students’ minds. Without attempting to mitigate facts that inflame the situation, I would like to propose the beginnings of a constructive discussion on ways to address this pressing issue.
First, I would like to point out important things to remember when discussing the Second Amendment. The right to bear arms is not about hunting and sport shooting any more than free speech is about frat party banter and arguing about the BCS championship system over lunch with the swimming team. Second, most people have no knowledge of existing gun control legislation or of data about violent crime rates not involving guns compared with those that do. Finally, guns do not make people evil.
Those who have been following the actions of Governor Andrew Cuomo, especially those with knowledge of our system, should realize how poorly crafted his gun control legislation is and the economic impact it will have. Regardless of the need for more secured access to weapons, especially those with more abilities, this legislation does not move to prevent future tragedies from occurring.
Here is a different proposal that addresses the societal issue in a logical manner. First, instant background checks can and should be employed. For a small fee, all Federal Firearms License holders could conduct the background check for all transfers, effectively ending the “gun show loophole” with no rights infringements and ensuring that all sellers aren’t selling a firearm to a “blacklisted” individuall. Second, we need to tie a national mental health registry into the background check database. If a person isn’t sane enough to buy a gun, it shouldn’t be up to that individual to fill out a Form 4473 attesting to his own mental sanity and a medical history devoid of any mental health issues. This is not about a person who needs short-term counseling but is instead targeted at issues concerning serious mental disorders. Third, we need to establish legislation preventing the private sale of weapons to unknown individuals.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where it is impossible for the law enforcement community to proactively enforce every law, and criminals exploit that. In all of the recent tragedies, the assailants procured their weapons through illegal means. Specifically, the Connecticut shooter who killed his mother to get her weapons, and the West Webster shooter procured his weapons through illegal means.It was illegal for him to possess the weapons in the first place due to the fact that he was a convicted felon (for killing his grandmother with a claw hammer).
Simply put, legislation that makes firearm ownership illegal can only hurt those who follow the laws of our society. Persons who are willing to commit crimes with a weapon are no more likely to regard a law making it illegal to possess a firearm than they are to respect the law and refrain from committing the crime in the first place. Again, guns do not make people evil. Evil people do bad things with guns.
Wideman is a member of the Class of 2015.