The Phoenix

OPINION: Restricting Gun Rights is Misguided and Unacceptable

Recent mass shootings have understandably stirred deep emotions and calls to action from many people, including students at Holy Family. It is events such as these that test our strength together as a nation; we must not let ourselves falter under division caused by the gun control debate. Such a vital issue must be presented fairly and accurately. Unfortunately, this is not always done.

On March 7th, 2018, the Holy Family Phoenix published an article entitled “America’s Devastating Gun Culture: The Undeniable Facts”. This article, though undoubtedly based in good intentions, doesn’t paint a complete picture of the gun control debate. Firstly, the article appears to include opposition to both the Second Amendment and to Holy Family’s own shooting team. Secondly, the statistics used lack important context, and some of the terminology could use clarification. Finally, the article uses strong criticisms of guns without properly contextualizing them within American gun culture.

The most concerning portions of the article refer to the Holy Family shooting team and to the Second Amendment. Referring to the shooting team, which participates in trap shotgun shooting, the it says, “we should question why we encourage the use of these weapons… we must evaluate our reasoning in promoting a young person’s access to guns”. Elsewhere, it claims that promoting the recreational use of guns puts people at risk. Most guns, but especially the shotguns used in trap shooting, are primarily tools and not weapons—and, furthermore, there has never been an injury or fatality associated with firearms in Minnesota trap shooting(Minnesota State High School Clay Target League). Access to firearms has only had a positive effect on the students on the trap shooting team and club. For many Holy Family students, it acts a fun recreational sport, similar to football or hockey. Trap shooting is incredibly safe compared to other sports- football, for example, results in ~3,000 concussions a year in MN (Star Tribune), which is 3,000 more than injuries caused by guns in trap shooting. Furthermore, participating students must earn a state-issued firearms safety certification and be under strict supervision at all times on the range, while carefully observing gun safety rules. Attempting to link the shooting team to gun violence simply makes no sense unless you assume guns to be intrinsically negative.

The article also posited an argument against the Second Amendment. “The Second Amendment was written in the same convention where they decided slaves were only 3/5ths of a human being so maybe it’s worth reexamining”, wrote the authors. If this were true, then one would have to reexamine freedom of speech and the right to a jury trial, both also approved at the same time, since the amendments that protect these (the 1st and 6th) have as much to do with slavery as the 2nd does. Hopefully we would find it gravely concerning if someone were to suggest removing constitutional rights.

The statistics used in the article seem shocking, but are far more understandable with appropriate context, and some are simply inaccurate. For example, one statistic used claims that the U.S. has a gun homicide rate 25 times higher than the next 22 developed countries- and this is greatly misleading, because many murders are committed without firearms. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the U.S. has an overall homicide rate of 4.88 per 100,000 inhabitants. For disparities as wide as implied in the article, numerous countries would have to have a murder rate of only .2 per 100,000, a feat which has only been achieved by the four tiny microstates of Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, and Monaco.

The article implies in its third “fact” that 14,000 people are killed in mass shootings per year. This is simply incorrect, with the real number being fewer than 500, and much fewer still if you were to only count school shootings (for context: according to the CDC, over 37,000 Americans die annually from car crashes, 33,000 from accidental falls, 47,000 from accidental poisoning, and about 500 from falling out of bed). While still a horrific tragedy that certainly requires some action, mass shootings do not clearly justify removing or restricting the rights of tens of millions of Americans. Nor is restricting rights even necessary to stop mass shootings, seeing as the root problems of shootings are almost always related to mental health and bureaucratic ineptitude. Attackers have also found ways to kill many people quickly without guns, such as in the truck massacre in Nice, France.

The article also claims that the Florida House rejected discussion of a bill that would ban “assault guns”. Unfortunately, “assault guns” (or assault weapons, as they are more frequently referred to) lack any particular characteristic that defines them or makes them any more dangerous. Additionally, the Florida House did pass a gun-control bill not mentioned in the article.

The article also includes a list of states where 18 or under-18 year olds can buy or possess firearms. With rare exceptions, however, the under-18s require parental consent and/or supervision. The 18-21 year olds, meanwhile, are legal adults who can legally join the military, pay taxes, serve on juries, and exercise all their other constitutional rights… why should their right to bear arms be treated any differently, especially when they are entrusted to use things that are much more likely to kill, such as cars?

Finally, the article doesn’t fully contextualize American gun culture. Sure, Americans bear arms for many legitimate and practical reasons, such as hunting, target shooting, collecting, pest control, and self-defense. However, gun culture isn’t some cultural artifact that can be discarded at will- it is an integral part of America itself. The right to bear arms was explicitly protected (not created) by the second amendment as a safeguard against tyranny; it prevented government from having an inescapable monopoly on force. Bearing arms is a means of promoting liberty, and the only way of making certain that power truly lies with the people and not the government.

It is easy to critique; creating a solution is harder. One thing that most mass shooters have in common is mental illness. Getting our children the help they need not only prevents school shootings, but also ensures their well-being. Several proposals moving through local and national legislatures include overhauls for our mental health programs. Getting people the help they need and deserve also helps authorities identify potential risks, such as: police reports, death threats, and a history of mental and physical instability (Law enforcement had all of this information and more on the Parkland shooter, but chose not to act). Creating an efficient system that serves the people is a far better solution to solving gun violence, than one that strips the people of their constitutional rights.

Guns are certainly an emotionally-charged issue, but we must not allow it to divide us. Tragedy does not justify taking away the rights of tens of millions of innocent people. Death calls for reason, not fear. Gun violence doesn’t justify questioning the very existence of a perfectly safe shooting team and a constitutional amendment. We must side with our reason, our Constitution, and our liberty.

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