Proposed gun control fails to stop mass shootings
By Joseph LaVigueur, Reporter
In November of last year, a sweeping gun control initiative called Washington Initiative Measure No. 1639 was passed. This has since led Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and his office to push for more gun control legislation. Their proposals include a ban on magazines over a 10-round capacity and another to ban “assault weapons” entirely.
The problem with these proposals is that they are ineffective, do nothing to address the actual issues at hand, and are blatant infringements of the Second Amendment.
Violent crime is falling — down 32 percent from 1998 to 2017, according to the FBI. The idea that there is a new epidemic of violence that requires legislation to address it is unfounded.
Secondly, it’s not “assault weapons” that are playing the largest role in gun crime; it’s handguns. Of a total 15,129 homicides in the U.S. in 2017, the FBI found that handguns caused around 46 percent, whereas rifles made up only 2.6 percent. In the same period, Washington state only had one homicide involving a rifle. The rest of the murders mainly come from firearms that, according to the FBI, are “type unknown.”
These are murders where the type of firearm isn’t disclosed to the FBI. Of course, it would be absurd to believe that none of those are from rifles, but even if you assume every single one of them was committed by a rifle, handguns would still play the leading role in murders committed by firearm. After reading these statistics, I was rather surprised: why are we as a society putting so much focus on rifles when they make up such a small portion of the deaths?
These bills are being pushed, mainly, as a response to the recent panic over mass shootings.
Let me be clear: these are undeniably tragic and horrific events. The U.S. has among the highest rates of global mass shootings. I do not dispute the trauma and loss that has stemmed from these events.
However, the reaction of pro-gun control proponents is not an accurate response to the current situation. Grant Duwe, the research director for the Minnesota Department of Corrections, has found that mass shootings, on average, account for only .2 percent of homicides per year, and have remained relatively constant since the 1960s. So if the rate hasn’t changed, what other factors are contributing to the increased awareness of this national issue?
A study published in the International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice looking at the connection between mass shootings and the amount of media coverage found a distinct relationship between the coverage of the shooting and certain factors such as the number of casualties and injuries, the age of the shooter, and race/ideology. They also found a link between shootings in schools and increased coverage.
The magazine ban looks to prevent the sale and transfer of magazines with a capacity over 10 rounds. The assault weapons ban looks to ban “semi-automatic weapons with at least one military-style feature making the weapon easier to fire more accurately and rapidly.” Examples of features that fall into this category include a pistol or forward grip, a detachable magazine, and a telescoping stock.
The two proposals fall victim to one fatal flaw: by definition, criminals do not follow the law. As I see it, criminal law is enacted to serve two key purposes: prevention and justice.
Prevention entails preventing a citizen from committing the crime in the first place — any sort of ban or restriction.
Justice is about using the threat of punishment to either stop a crime or enable prosecution after the fact — murder or fraud.
These gun control laws fall under the idea of prevention, but they fail to prevent the situations they are aimed at stopping. Criminals who have the intent to inflict harm upon others likely don’t care that it would become a gross misdemeanor to drive to Idaho or Oregon and buy these magazines or “military-style features.”
California is a clear example of why these laws don’t work. Since 1990, the state has had similar regulations to the ones currently proposed in Washington, but despite this, mass shootings persist. Criminals don’t even have to leave the state; they could potentially purchase a 3D printer and the necessary materials on Amazon to print out key firearm components and “military-style features” in a relatively short amount of time.
It’s important to remember that gun owners aren’t pro-gun violence, and they aren’t pro-murder. Rather, they’re against laws that infringe on their rights, especially when those laws are not effective at stopping criminals. In fact, these bills predominantly serve to prevent law-abiding citizens from effectively defending themselves and others from harm (or even tyranny), all the while letting criminals continue to get away with violent crime.
If we want to curb gun violence and work to reduce the major tragedies that stem from it — and both sides clearly want to see these mass shootings end — we need effective gun control that’s based in fact and not emotion. We need laws that don’t infringe on the right of citizens to own a firearm. One such law requires a two to seven-day waiting period to purchase a handgun. This has proven to help reduce suicides by around 17 percent, as is found in a study of such laws by PNAS.
Another good example of effective gun control would be closing the “Charleston loophole,” which allows for the sale of firearms before a background check is completed.
Instead of blaming and banning guns, we should look for effective solutions that will prevent these tools from falling into the wrong hands.