Politics of Fear and the Lackluster Debate on Guns

BY W.S.G.

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The survivors of the Parkland shooting have shown incredibly commendable passion and courage. The influx of youth getting involved in politics has been long overdue for the continuation of our great Republic, but is the full debate on guns in America being heard? Is it possible that the media has so sensationalized this topic that any opposition has been disregarded? Does the average American in areas where gun ownership is uncommon know basic statistics regarding guns? To find the solution to a problem both sides must be heard. Luckily, for those who look, numbers do not lie.

According to Department of Justice statistics, from 1993 to 2011, firearm-related homicides decreased 39 percent and nonfatal firearm crimes declined 69 percent. This occurs at the same time as a 56 percent increase of gun ownership across the United States as 185 million guns in 1993 increased to 357 million in 2013. How is it that these statistics – which demonstrate that more guns do not correlate with more crime – are neglected in public discussion? Perhaps the discussion ought to reflect the complexity of the issue and gun control advocates should move past simple platitudes.

Referencing gun statistics from different countries can broaden and better inform the debate. Why is it that Switzerland has seven times the number of guns as the United Kingdom but has a homicide rate lower by 15 percent? Perhaps guns are not to blame. In the United Kingdom, where gun control if far stricter than the U.S., there has been an increase of 21 percent in stabbings over the past few years. The situation in London has gotten so bad that the mayor has begun regulating knives. Also, one cannot forget the tragedy in Nice, France when an extremist used a vehicle to murder 86 people, or the 2014 murder of 33 people by knife-wielding men in China. Is it possible that those hell-bent on horrific acts will find a way to do them with or without gun control?

For the sake of political expediency, the left has focused on attacking “assault weapons,” barraging the public with policy ideas like the Assault Weapons Bans. This rhetoric neglects to account for the fact that 70 percent of all gun violence involve  handguns. This so-called “Assault Weapon Ban” clearly misses the mark and would like not affect any real change in overall gun violence rates.

Minimal research is required to learn that knives kill five times more people each year than rifles, but the sensational  image of a large gun elicits national emotion ripe for political manipulation. With emotions becoming a driving force in the current political climate, using loaded words like “assault rifle,” and gun imagery is very salient. This also does not change the fact that, by the very nature of a person being a criminal, criminals will likely ignore any gun control bills passed, leaving law-abiding Americans stuck to deal with any new legislation.

Time and time again we see gun laws with the intention of protecting people fail. Take for instance, gun free zones where mass shootings overwhelmingly occur. Broadcasting to the world that an area is void of guns makes the zone a target, an area with people who are ironically defenseless when faced with gun violence. There are countless cases, such as the Texas church shooting and other under-reported cases, of Americans using their Second Amendment rights to defend people. In these situations, we have observed that a good guy with a gun can be the one to save the people from a bad guy with a gun. Yet somehow, when the discussion is to make gun ownership illegal, the left claims that that new legislation will not be circumvented by illegal gun smuggling and dealing?

Yes, any gun violence is too much gun violence, but let’s change our focus to the problem at hand. We need to focus on achievable solutions that respect the rights of citizens. Of course there are many more statistics that could be shared on both sides’ behalf, but for now it is up to the citizenry and good politicians to hold strong against the politics of emotions and fear that encapsulate them. Let’s have a logical debate on mental health and background checks and end the argument that guns are bad because they are bad. We are a nation built on distrust of government and the right of gun ownership is not going anywhere with a conservative leaning Supreme Court and ¾ of the states approval to amend the constitution our forefathers bled for. The words of Reagan ring true today, “if we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth.”

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