More than three weeks have passed since a deranged gunman in Las Vegas took the lives of 58 innocent Americans. A travesty on this scale deserved to be in the news rotation more than the average story, and nearly everyone who has a platform to share their opinions has done so. With this being said, I am well aware that I have nothing new or groundbreaking to add. However, I find myself falling somewhere between two warring factions regarding the issue of gun violence that, in some ways, seems to be a particularly American phenomenon.
Clear is the divide between many Americans. Some folks believe that taking guns away from citizens does nothing but render the law-abiding populace defenseless in the face of danger. Others posit the relatively straightforward sentiment that fewer guns and less ammunition leads to fewer gun-related incidents. Personally, I believe both of these groups offer opinions that fall short of adequately addressing the complexity of America’s issue with gun violence. The former group is dogmatic, refusing to be open to tweaking the current laws because of a blind devotion to the Second Amendment, while the latter group jumps to drastic action, ignoring the nuance of the issue at hand.
Clearly, there is a problem that need be addressed. Chance can only be responsible for so many deaths. One would be daft to ignore an obvious pattern of massacres in the United States. Whether one blames guns or mental illness, claiming that an amendment to the Constitution precludes any action being taken is to shirk moral responsibility. The Constitution does indeed have a limit beyond which it cannot stretch, but the Second Amendment, as it is written, certainly does not entirely prevent the nation from exploring solutions. However, banning guns outright or arbitrarily deciding which models are legal do not strike me as particularly helpful proposals.
Out of all of the solutions that have been proposed by intellectuals and politicians, I find those geared towards accountability to be most compelling. In other words, it is important to focus on cutting down the number of persons who have “black market” access to firearms. That includes gun shows, personal sales, and illicit street sales. While I do sympathize with those who believe the Second Amendment is crucial to our nation’s founding, I do not see a tenable constitutional argument that can be put forth regarding the monitoring of firearm purchases. Think of the metaphorical hoops through which one must jump to ascertain a driver’s license, adopt a child, or open a small business. Mandating that firearms be purchased in accordance with similarly strict guidelines which hold the seller and the buyer accountable seems to be a very simple policy proposal that could save lives. According to The Economist, the 19 states that mandated background checks for every handgun sale see 47 percent fewer spousal gun homicides, 53 percent fewer law enforcement personnel deaths, and 47 percent fewer gun-related suicides.
In the wake of a tragedy such as that which occurred in Las Vegas, Americans justifiably look towards their politicians to devise a plan that safeguards the country from another similar attack. I do believe the aforementioned regulation could help decrease the all-too-common gun violence in America, but there is no amount of gun legislation that could deter a madman like the Las Vegas gunman from attacking maliciously. Surely, it could be made more difficult for persons like him to purchase firearms, but the unfortunate terror attacks in Europe recently show that something as quotidian as a van can become a weapon of mass destruction in the wrong hands. These attacks emphasize the most frustrating aspect of the gun debate. Namely, that no gun control policy can address the real issue: mental illness.