Editorial: Lax gun laws lead to crime

By Jesse O. Walls
Assistant Editor


Global-ICONThe United States of America is, to many, a place of hope and freedom, but unfortunately, it is also a place of crime. Compared to other countries, the U.S. has a greater amount of deaths related to guns, and yet has less gun restrictions in place than any other developed country. Gun rights activists, such as the National Rifle Association (NRA), wish to keep gun restrictions limited, making accessibility easy to those who wish to own a gun, as well as to those who wish to commit a crime.


Guns have been part of the American culture since the birth of the nation, the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution even states “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,” but does that mean there should be no restrictions to who can buy a gun, or what kind of guns can be made available to the public?


The last two major mass shootings in the U.S. have been committed with assault rifles, weapons that are meant for war, not for civilians, and in both cases the weapons were obtained legally.


On July 20, 2012, James Holmes entered a movie theatre in Aurora, Colo. and opened fire, killing 12 and wounding 58. According to the New York Times, the weapon Holmes fired into the crowd was a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle with a 100-round drum magazine.


On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle as he made his way through Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 children and six adults. The Conn. shooting was the second-deadliest shooting in U.S. history, second to the Virginia Tech shooting [in 2007], in which the shooter killed 32 students, reported the Washington Post.


In both these instances semi-automatic assault rifles were used, and in both instances the weapons were obtained legally.


“Weapons of war don’t belong on our streets or in our theaters, shopping malls and, most of all, our schools,” stated Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in a press statement on the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. “When senseless mass shootings reach into our kindergartens and elementary schools, one has to question what is happening to America.”


Assault rifles are weapons that can quickly and efficiently take a great number of lives. Made for military use, assault weapons were never intended for the civilian public, and hold no real use beyond a weapon of death and destruction in the hands of civilians. According to the New York Daily News, the gun used by Lanza could fire up to six rounds per second. Where is the practical use of such a weapon in everyday life?


This raises the question, what preventative measures could be taken to ensure mass shootings, such as the one done at Sandy Hook elementary, are never done again, or at least not to the same degree?


The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban was a step in the right direction, making it illegal to manufacture certain models of ‘assault weapons’, as well as clips that hold more than 10 rounds. The flaw with the ban was that assault weapons and magazines made before it went into effect were still legal, not only to own, but to resell, states the Washington Post. However, one thing to note is the fact that mass shootings per year have doubled since the ban lifted in 2004, which suggests that stricter bans might lower the amount of shootings, if not make them a rare occurrence.


Feinstein, author of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, announced in a press release that she plans to introduce a new Assault Weapons bill. “On the first day of the new Congress, I intend to introduce a bill stopping the sale, transfer, importation and manufacturing of assault weapons as well as large ammunition magazines, strips and drums that hold more than 10 rounds.”


In comparison to other countries, the United States has the highest rate of civilian gun ownership, with approximately 89 guns for every hundred people, according to the Chicago Tribune. It also has the greatest number of gun-related homicides per year to any other industrial country. According to the Washington Post, there have been more than 61 mass shootings since 1982, and in most cases the weapons were obtained legally.


In 2008, Japan had only 11 gun-related deaths, compared to the U.S. at more than 12 thousand that same year. That’s a significant difference in numbers, but there’s a significant difference in gun laws as well.


According to theatlantic.com, the only guns a Japanese citizen can obtain legally are shotguns and air rifles, and even that is difficult to do. One must attend an all-day class and a shooting range class, as well as pass a written test, drug test, and mental examination. An in-depth background check is also conducted before one can become an owner of a gun in Japan. Could America learn something from Japan, or other industrial countries that have stricter gun laws? Could America instate a ban on assault weapons that would help prevent mass shootings and gun-related deaths? If the U.S. ever wants to see low gun-related homicide numbers, it is eventually going to have to crack down on gun laws, and limit what firearms are available to the American public.