By: Haley Holmes
It is no secret today that America is having a midlife crisis. The fiscal cliff. Iraq and Afghanistan. Immigration. All of these things combine to form a turbulent society. However, the topic of gun control has taken over the spotlight. From the theatre shooting in Aurora, Colorado to the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, it is clear that there is some sort of cloud hanging over the country. Unfortunately, there have been no clear answers to this. The extreme conservatives are too far in the black, and the liberals are too far in the white. Between them exists the moderates in every shade of grey imaginable. Though it may be easy enough to take sides, compromise is the only solution. However, each side has dramatically different views.
Though the Newtown school shooting was seen as a tragedy by all, neither side of the political spectrum can reach an agreement. Many conservatives, especially those that side with the NRA, believe that armed guards need to be brought into all public schools. They also believe that teachers should be armed against possible gunmen. On the other hand, the more liberal politicians are in favor of stricter laws regarding assault weapons, increased background checks, new laws limiting the sale of high capacity magazines, and similar policies. Both of these plans have the potential for success (if only slightly, in the case of the conservatives), but neither side is willing to compromise with the other. At this point, it doesn’t matter if anyone has a good idea: no one is willing to make the idea a reality. And this hinges on the lack of voter appeal. 92 percent of the country support background checks for gun buyers, and 63 percent support limiting the capacity of gun magazines, says Rolling Stone writer Tim Dickinson, in his article “The NRA vs. America”. Unfortunately, that 92 and 63 percent don’t always reach the polls. Just because the people say they want such a change doesn’t mean they are going to work for it. Not to mention the fact that the NRA has increased its strength in Congress, says Time magazine’s Michael Scherer. And with an incredibly divided Congress, any tangible legislation is quite unlikely.
Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and CEO of the NRA, made the argument that “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Unfortunately, reality isn’t that black and white. A legislative example of such ideology has already been passed, though. Known as “stand-your-ground” laws, they exist to protect those that kill in self-defense, also known as “justifiable homicide”. The most notable example of these laws (and their failures) was in the Florida shooting of Trayvon Martin. The problem here resides in the fact that in Florida, the stand-your-ground laws are enforced, and because of that the number of “justifiable homicides” tripled between 2005 and 2011. As stated by Dickinson, a new study performed by Texas A&M found that the lack of consequences behind “lethal force” caused more of it, resulting in an eight percent increase in murders and manslaughters.
Lucky for the NRA and other pro-gun constituents, though, is the fact that eliminating all guns is simply not an option. In 2008, when the Supreme Court ruled that the second amendment gave citizens the right to possess firearms, even the thought of their elimination went out the door. However, it is possible that the Obama administration will manage to increase the background checks required for legal gun purchases. It is also possible that new legislation will be passed increasing the release of mental health records to registered gun sellers to prevent the mentally unstable from obtaining firearms. But these are just possibilities. With the divided Congress and the strength of the NRA, there’s no telling what could happen.
In all of this debating and bickering, no one has made an argument more agreeable than trial lawyer and friend of former Arizona representative Gabby Giffords, Steve Mostyn: “I’m not anti-gun. I’m just not pro-dumbass”. This quote is what our entire reality hinges upon right now: getting over the “pro” and “anti” sentiments, and focusing just on what matters: intelligent legislation. In the end, it seems likely that no real ends will be met. When the two greatest forces in our political process (Democrats and Republicans) bump heads, neither truly wins. We can only hope that when nothing happens, nothing goes wrong.