On Deaf Ears
By Noah Goldfarb
In an oddly spectacular way, the debate over gun control is perhaps the epitome of American democracy. The conversation itself is both beautiful and horrendous, reflecting the American people’s unshakable need to speak out about their beliefs and defend the liberties which they hold dear, while also revealing the stubborn ignorance of our modern political system.
Those on both sides of the debate hold rallies, publish articles, and, both metaphorically and literally, scream their beliefs from the rooftops. This sounds great, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t our beloved Founding Fathers be proud of the forum which the constitution they crafted made possible?
Well, perhaps they might. Perhaps they would take great pleasure in watching the great debate take place. I’m just a lowly college student, so who am I to say?
Call me an idealist or a romantic, but I believe that the drafters of the Constitution would be sickened by the country’s blind polarization on the subject of guns.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” some might say. “Slow down there, Mr Goldfarb! The Founding Fathers added a Bill of Rights to our Constitution, which explicitly states that we have the Right to Bear Arms.”
Well, anonymous audience member, you are entirely correct. The Constitution does in fact provide the American people with the right to bear arms. And therein lies another great debate: “Well, what the hell does that mean!”
Those on the left will say that it simply means the American people have the right to defend themselves, although guns aren’t necessarily the means of defense.
Those on the right will say that it means it is an undeniable fact that each man, woman, and child in this country has the God-Given right to be the proud owner of their very own firearm, no questions asked.
Then there is a third group, those who point out that this document is over two hundred years old, and, as a young smoky-voiced man named Bob Dylan once pointed out, “These times they are a-changin’.” Our constitution should change with them.
While all three of these groups do have a leg to stand on, and each of these ideologies can be reasonably and thoughtfully argued, the aspect of the gun control debate our wooden-tooth-having, powdered-wig-wearing friends from 1787 would find most revolting is not the people’s eagerness to speak their mind, but their unwillingness to listen! And not just to listen to the emotional pleas of their buddy who knows a guy who was killed in cold blood by a pistol-toting burglar, or to Mr. Winchester down the street who once bravely fended off a burglar with their Remington.
While emotions certainly play a part in such a vital debate, the facts can’t be ignored, or our democracy as we know it suffers.
The first thing that comes to mind when gun control is mentioned, and rightfully so, is the epidemic of mass shootings in our country like Columbine, Newtown, and most recently, the troubling events in Oregon, and an outrageous slew of others. When each new mass shooting occurs, groans can be heard across the nation as the country says to itself, “Oh, no, here we go again.”
Unfortunately, this sense of hopelessness isn’t just a response to the seemingly endless spree of mass murders, but also to the ridiculous parade of pro-gun and anti-gun spokespeople climbing up to the podium, staring directly into the camera, and screaming the same points through the TV speakers that have been argued a million times before. It is no wonder that the American people have chosen their sides and ignore any opposing opinion as a defense mechanism. With a debate as polarized as this one, it can be hard to make heads or tails of the hard facts.
So, for the sake of this article, let’s ignore the grotesque string of mass shootings which trouble this country. Instead, let’s focus on the 40,733 other gun-related incidents (deaths, injuries, or victimization by armed robbers/invaders) that have occurred in America over the past ten years.
Oh, I’m sorry. Did I pretend to accidentally type “the past ten years” in an argumentative technique to draw attention to the absurd and unfortunately true fact which I am presenting? Because what I meant to type was “this year alone.” That’s right; as of October 13, 2014, there have been tens of thousands of recorded gun deaths, the vast majority of which are not related to mass shootings. And of those 40,000 gun-related incidents, only 936 were incidents in which the gun was used in self-defense.
So obviously, somewhere, the math of the pro-gun party doesn’t add up. If guns are so vital for self-defense, yet only a minute percentage of gun-related incidents are self-defense related, then how can we, as a country, validate our insistence on ignoring the issue at hand? As gun right supporters love to declare after each mass shooting, “It’s not a gun issue. It’s a mental health issue.” While I will try to avoid addressing the equally disturbing state of America’s mental health system in this piece, I want to make one relevant point: whether or not the individuals who commit mass shootings are mentally ill barely matters to the debate at large because the victims of those shootings account for such a small portion of the total number of recorded gun deaths.
There are tens of thousands of gun deaths outside of the mass shootings which we hear about on TV, and to say that every single shooter in these cases, or even the majority of them, acted as they did because of a mental illness is a ludicrous claim. Many of these incidents are gang-related or the product of a domestic conflict. It is far from the truth that every gun death is at the hands of a crazed, depressed, schizophrenic criminal, and assuming so only exacerbates the problem.
On the other hand, accepting that this country’s gun policy, as well as our mental health policy, could use some reform is the only way to make any legitimate progress.
Democracy is a dialogue, not a screaming match, and as I’d hope our revered Founding Fathers would agree, the issue of gun control, and of our right to safety in this country, is something worth checking up on every two hundred years or so.
Firearms Aren’t the Problem
By Nicholas Clark
Freedom is believed to be almost synonymous with The United States by Americans, but how can the third largest country on Earth proclaim that freedom is a staple of its society if it’s constantly bogged down and split between the middle due to crippling disputes?
Shortly after the United States won its war for independence, it began to prosper in every area and became an icon across the globe for equality and tolerance. However, post-independence, the great young nation saw a divide forming between Federal and State government. The conflict boiled down to whether or not Americans wanted to focus on improving the society as a whole or the individual. This conflict has been at the heart of many debates.
Although all Americans agree that freedom is precious, we don’t all define freedom the same way. Some believe freedom is here to stay and that it needs no individual protection while others argue that freedom is all too valuable and must be explicitly protected. This conflict is no better represented than in the hot topic of gun control. The idea of whether or not the American people should surrender their right to gun ownership is either despised or adored, but history proves there is only one practical path.
This long-needed solution is supported by a majority who have educated themselves about gun control and its history within the United States, as well as those who aren’t too fond of giving up their individual freedoms guaranteed them as Americans. To abolish oppressive gun control laws and arm the people is to secure a nation from foreign and domestic disturbances. However, some continue to oppose this idea as they still are blinded from the truth. Any American can tell you that gun violence and mass shootings are a tragedy, yet only a select few can tell you why they happen and how to stop it. Unfortunately, the stigma of laziness falls true onto many Americans as they look for the quickest and “most obvious” answer in the wake of a tragedy. When Americans shoot off arguments that target firearms as the problem, they miss the bigger picture and doom themselves to relive another disaster.
It seems that mass shootings happen more often all the time. Every week seems to usher in a new tragedy and every week Americans point towards the same culprit. It’s painful to all people to witness a disaster dissected over and over again throughout the media. Like any sane person, nobody wants to be in pain for any amount of time. Because of this, the quickest suspect to be accused is always firearms. Many people think that by successfully lobbying for the regulation of gun owners and gun rights, activists will prevent mass shootings from occurring; this is mostly due to the fact that in a majority of mass shootings, the firearms used are legally registered to a law-abiding citizen. However, those who share that belief aren’t ambitious enough to discover and implement a permanent solution. The solution is simple: rather than reduce American’s rights, we fund more programs devoted to aiding the mentally ill and in turn, allow more citizens the right to defend themselves and their families from such attacks (we have discovered that most mass shootings involve the mentally ill).
Although firearms are the tools used to commit these heinous acts of violence, in the right hands they are more effective than they are destructive. Any common tool can be misused and cause harm on a massive scale — this is why safety and educational courses exist across the country to provide the users of a tool with the knowledge needed to operate it. Most are even government subsidized. So why are firearms being treated like a WMD rather than the tool that they are?
Guns are possibly the most essential tools to humankind. Even the first and most primitive firearms opened up a wide range of new possibilities for humankind. Firearms allow for convenient access to food and, most importantly, protection.
In the constantly-changing and sometimes violent world we live in, the need to have a reliable form of self-defense is our utmost priority. There are numerous stories and instances where someone who was in possession of a firearm was able to successfully ward off an assailant who broke into their home or approached them alone somewhere. Most of the time, these encounters rarely result in death. Nobody wants to be shot and nobody wants to shoot someone so when a gun is drawn, order is established. It is clear to see that when you posses a firearm and the knowledge to use it, you parallel your self-defense power with that of an armed military soldier – a force to be reckoned with. But not only do American citizens have a need to defend themselves from criminals, we have a right to defend ourselves from tyranny.
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” – these words so boldly grant every American a priceless freedom. The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution allows every American citizen to have the power to own and use a firearm. Not only is it our duty to protect our sovereign land from domestic and foreign terror, it is our right. Before anybody in favor of oppressive gun control laws can even utter a word, they need to take a look and recognize that the right to bear arms is clearly given to us in the Constitution.
To surrender our right to bear arms is to surrender the legitimacy of every other right we have. History has shown time and time again that when a nation strips its people of firearms, the country soon falls into turmoil and totalitarianism. In 1933, notorious Adolf Hitler assumed the highest political office in Germany of Chancellor and turned the nation into a fascist Nazi dictatorship. One of the first actions he took was to disarm his people; he knew that if the citizens were armed, they would stand a chance against his regime. Another example of this atrocity is when Joseph Stalin took charge of the Soviet Union in 1922 and abolished the right to bear arms in his collectivization act. This doomed Russians to over 60 years of helplessness and no means to defend themselves from their tyrannical rulers. There are countless other instances and lessons from history that show the disastrous effects of disarming the citizens.
As the United States turns towards a police state as new repressive laws are constantly enacted, Americans need to learn from history to unite and defend their rights at every cost. Surprisingly, we can learn a great deal of information from the much smaller European country of Switzerland. Switzerland has never been in an armed conflict since 1847 and has remained neutral even through WWII. This is mainly due to one reason — the fact that every law abiding Swiss citizen is a gun owner. From a young age, the Swiss learn to respect firearms and become educated about their practicality and use. They are all trained and engaged in a militia – the reason the country needs no standing army. Because of their culture surrounding guns, they have barely any gun violence and they know that when something does happen, it’s not due to the firearm but rather the person. With every Swiss citizen “packing heat”, it’s no wonder Hitler denied any proposal to invade the small country even with his whopping number of troops.
Firearms have played a role in the deterrence of invasions on American soil as well. In WWII the Japanese refused to invade mainland America due to our well-known ownership and culture surrounding firearms. Japan’s commanding admiral, Yamamoto, claimed: “You cannot invade mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass.” Our right to bear arms has helped us this far, so why would we abandon it now as the world further plunges into unprecedented turmoil?
The history of firearms in America and across the globe is the greatest weapon we have to shed light on those who are set on abolition of guns as a solution. The history books tell it best and prove that without guns not only are we not safe from tyranny, but we are not Americans. What it means to be an American is to be free and never let anything stand in your way of freedom. Firearms are our tool for survival, self-defense, and most importantly, sovereignty. We can’t let tragedies sway our viewpoint and abolish our culture of fighting for what we believe in. We must fulfill our duty as Americans to secure our freedom. Our great nation will overcome many challenges and discover absolute liberty when we can all unite on the issue and stand side-by-side with arms in hand. Firearms aren’t the problem – they’re the solution.