Guns: license to skill

So, I get the idea that college campuses just aren’t safe anymore. Living in post-Columbine America, the horrific reality of violence within the halls of education has parents, administrators and even a few students worried. Friday, Sept. 21, two students were shot on the campus at Delaware State University.

However, all AP reports indicate that the victims knew the attackers but wouldn’t give their identities to police, fueling speculation that the crimes may not have been an act of random violence.

Eventually, all forums of campus safety and security return to one bitterly divisive issue: gun control. So let’s skip the small talk and delve straight into the issue. How relevant and far-reaching is the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms? As a society, is it acceptable that every citizen have the liberty to own a deadly weapon?

Do guns prevent crime or cause it? Can an America that criminalizes gun ownership become safer than one that fosters it? Are you more likely to become a victim of crime if you own a gun? Do guns inside your home make it safer?

Or are residents more likely to suffer an accidental injury? Could more guns help curtail random acts of violence? The possibilities for a gun control debate are endless.

“Just Facts Foundation” author James Agresti listed these statistics in a 1999 report:

In the United States during 1997, two-thirds of our 15,000 murders were committed with firearms; however, Americans use firearms to defend themselves from criminals approximately 764,000 times a year. In 1976, Washington D.C. enacted a virtual ban on handguns, yet until 1991, Washington D.C.’s homicide rate rose 200 percent, while the U.S. rate rose 12 percent.

Opposite of this,, (an advocate of the new Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence) features this chilling slogan on the main page of their Web site: “In 2004, guns murdered 56 people in Australia, 73 people in England and Wales, 184 people in Canada, and 11,344 people in the United States; God Bless America.”

As with anything, financial considerations are a key element of national firearm legislation.

According to Agresti’s report: “From 1997 to 1998, The National Rifle Association’s political action committee gave $1,330,111 to Republicans and $285,700 to Democrats. Handgun Control, Inc., during the same period, gave $136,892 to Democrats and $9,500 to Republicans.”

The after-math of Washington D.C.’s miserable failures in trying to remove guns from a gun-ridden culture, the NRA’s deep rooted ties with politics and voter mobility, and civil liberties activists and hunters everywhere who just want a damn gun are enough collective voices to prevent complete gun abolition anytime soon. With this in mind, the state of current gun-control legislation and activism now seeks to take a sensible, centrist approach to gun ownership. Instead of attacking gun owners, new movements such as the Brady Campaign seek instead to end gun crime by making the purchase of illegal firearms harder for criminals, making background checks and buyer screening more stringent and advocating stiffer penalties for criminals who illegally traffic guns.

No matter how you feel about gun ownership, one social reality that should be painfully evident in American culture is that it is too easy to purchase firearms illegally and all too often firearms reach the wrong hands with deadly results.

In New Zealand, extensive background and screening (including talking to family members and neighbors of potential buyers to see if this newfound interest in guns could be abnormal) lessens the likelihood of guns falling into the wrong hands. This could be a happy compromise for American citizens that could save potential heartache nationwide.

Gun ownership is so ingrained in American culture that it doesn’t appear to be leaving anytime soon, but I don’t like the idea of just anybody being able to own a gun either. My solution: Licensing for handgun owners similar to current conceal-to-carry models (where owners take an eight hour course in gun safety).

Though I hold conservative beliefs, I believe that gun ownership is one of the few entities of our culture that should be closely regulated by the government, thus making it easier for authorities to separate the good guys from the bad guys.

A licensing program provides compromise to a bitter issue by allowing gun ownership to the segment of the population that feels it is necessary (sometimes even a civil duty) to own a gun for protection, while gun opposition takes steps to reduce the gun-crime problems plaguing America. After all, whether you’re for guns or against them, the worst fear of both sides is guns that have fallen into the wrong hands.

While it seems too idealistic and naive to expect murder and violence to ever be completely absent from society, even in the absence of guns, (Chris Benoit didn’t need a gun to perform his horrendous actions), the hope of murder and violence rates decreasing to international levels serves as a call to action, whether you own a gun for your own protection or believe it is morally unfit for any member of society to own a dangerous weapon.