We look back on the year and see gun violence as major headlines. In July, we saw 12 shot dead at a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in an Aurora, Colo., theater. Hardly one month later, six more people were killed in Oak Creek, Wis., at a Sikh temple. In April, three people were killed in Tulsa, Okla.
Burned into our consciousness is the grievous wounding of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in January 2011. We remember her, but forget six people were killed, and 14 others were wounded. The shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, pleaded guilty and will never see the light of day after sentencing just last month. Then there are countless other shootings which did not make the national headlines. Gun violence is getting scary.
I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe every citizen with his or her civil rights intact has a Constitutional Right to bear arms. We all have a right to hunt according to the law, and to defend ourselves, our property and our families with firearms.
But as I learned in civics class oh, so long ago, every right is a responsibility. If we bear arms, we must do so responsibly. We cannot pull our weapons every time we get angry. We should not produce weapons when we are fearful as George Zimmerman is accused of, when he saw Treyvon Martin.
The National Rifle Association slogan says, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Well, yes, this is true, but firearms make it very easy and quick to kill another human.
Yes, ample violence exists without guns, but a gunshot may mean a life is lost at the pull of a trigger.
Do I believe in registry of weapons, or banning all gun sales? Certainly not. The right to defend one’s self is sacrosanct in the U.S., from both violence and tyranny. The time, however, has come for gun control.
After John Hinckley Jr. made an attempt on the life of President Reagan, and left Press Secretary James Brady with life-long disability, the U.S. passed the Brady Bill. This bill banned assault-type weapons, and weapons with high magazine capacity. The said bill also mandates background checks to ensure felons and those in trouble with the law cannot get weapons. In short, background checks were required for many weapon purchases.
Now, the Brady Bill’s ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines expired in 2004. An assault rifle was used in Sandy Hook. High-capacity handguns were used in several other shootings. When you needn’t stop to reload, killing gets easier and easier. Semi-automatic rifles can be modified with little effort to be fully-automatic, making rifles into man-portable machine guns. Killing is even easier when spraying into a crowd.
High capacity handguns are not needed for self defense. A revolver holds six shots. If you can’t hit your target with six rounds, you need not be shooting in self defense. Most assaults are one-on-one, which means a high-capacity handgun is not needed. Hunters need shotguns or bolt-action rifles. If you need a rifle with 30 rounds to take down one deer, you probably don’t need to be hunting. Working the pump of a shotgun to chamber a shell is usually enough to give any burglar pause. Spraying rounds willy-nilly is often more endangering to bystanders than controlled single shots.
Yes, police and military need high-capacity weapons. Does the average civilian? No.
Obviously, recent events demonstrate a need for screening. Felons and people with a history of domestic violence or mental illness need not own firearms.
Legal owners need to secure their weapons and keep their guns out of the hands of family members who have mental illness or a history of violence. Background checks for any lawful firearms transaction are a must. Local governments should have jurisdiction to regulate firearms on public property.
Even in Illinois, federal courts have recognized a citizen’s right to concealed firearms. Criminals will always break the law and carry weapons illegally, but banning assault weapons, and limiting magazine capacity means maybe people will have to stop to reload, and truly dangerous weapons will be limited.
Protect yourself, yes, but do so responsibly, with weapons not geared for mass murder. n