1st October 2017: One of the deadliest mass shootings in the United States occurred in Las Vegas. 58 were found dead, nearly 500 were wounded. Hundreds of rounds of gunfire were unleashed on an unsuspecting crowd. 22 rifles and 1 handgun were found in the killer’s hotel room, most of them fitted with modifications to imitate full-automatic guns. 1,600 rounds of ammunition were found in the killer’s car.
Here’s the million-dollar question: Who (or what) was to blame for the shooting – Stephen Paddock or his guns?
The issue of gun control is nothing new. Many countries, following mass shootings, have implemented gun control in the form of regulations, laws or policies. An example is Australia, where a mass shooting in Port Arthur resulted in the deaths of 35 people in half an hour. Less than two weeks later, gun controls were put in place. People were required to have a genuine reason to own a firearm. There have been no mass shootings in Australia in the 20 years that have passed, compared to the 20 years before this mass shooting, where there were 13 massacres. This might be what the United States’ needs.
In this essay, three common arguments that are utilized to defend the usage of guns will be debunked.
Common Argument #1: “I need to own a gun for self defence.”
Most gun owners, aside from those who require guns for their livelihood or sport, say they own a gun for reason of self defence.
However, how probable is it that you would actually get to use your gun in emergency situations? At home, guns are usually stored in gun lockers and there’s no assurance that the gun will actually be on you when you need it. The probability of you getting to your gun in time to stop someone from pulling a trigger on you, or even just to stop someone from physically attacking you, is very low.
Additionally, having a gun on you when you’re attacked doesn’t mean you’ll know how to use it when you’re in a state of panic. Unless you have had training and are experienced with a gun, the probability of you hurting yourself or others is very real.
Not enough to convince you that the reason of self defence is moot?
Caleb Keeter, one of the musicians performing at the music festival that was the site of the Las Vegas shooting, mentioned that members of their crew had legally obtained guns and the relevant licenses on their tour bus. However, they didn’t dare to take the guns out in case the police thought they were part of the shooting.
Common Argument #2: “Even if gun control is implemented, criminals can still get guns illegally. Mass shootings aren’t prevented, so why have gun control?”
Because gun control cannot prevent all acts of violence, many dismiss this concept on the basis that it’s not effective. If we used that logic in our daily lives, the whole world would be in chaos. For example, applying this line of reasoning, a small percentage people don’t follow traffic rules and run red lights, so why have rules to regulate traffic, and why impose penalties? The reason is simple. If we didn’t have these laws, then everybody would run red lights, not just a small percentage, causing more traffic accidents, endangering more lives.
Let’s take the scenario of the Pulse shooting. If we applied Canada’s gun control laws to the shooter, he would not have been able to purchase a firearm because he has been domestically violent, was mentally unstable, and supported terrorist organizations. His reasons for buying firearms could have been investigated, and the massacre could have potentially been prevented. Additionally, if there were restrictions on magazine sizes, the shooter would have to reload more frequently. This might have provided a window of opportunity for the hostages to escape, or for one of them to disarm the shooter.
To address the point about the shooter obtaining a gun illegally (and not being restricted by gun control laws), this is where the deterrent effect of a law comes into play. There is evidence of laws influencing criminal behavior. In one study, it was revealed that because terrorists in the United States had found it difficult to obtain ingredients needed to make bombs, they have mostly abandoned the idea of trying to make bombs. Legislation also made it easier for law enforcement to track the purchases of the terrorists.
What we have to understand, as Obama said, is that there is no way we can stop every single act of violence or every act of evil in this world. But this doesn’t mean we can’t try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence. In the case of traffic accidents, it’s quite evident that we can’t stop them all, but the government still tries to take steps to try to reduce the number of traffic accidents. If we don’t implement gun control to stop this single act of evil, then are we implying that those lives lost in that one massacre don’t matter?
Hence, while argument #2 makes sense on paper, it commits the slippery slope fallacy and quite clearly cannot be applied in reality.
Common Argument #3: “Gun control contravenes the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.”
The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution states:
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." (emphasis added)
When read literally, it seems that the Second Amendment only confers on Militia the right to bear arms. However, a Supreme Court ruling held that this right should be conferred on individuals as well – and there lies the problem: how liberal should this right be?
The common argument is that gun control will take away individuals’ freedom to bear arms. What they’re really saying is that an outright ban of guns will contravene the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment. Stricter gun laws, on the other hand, don’t take away this freedom. Stricter gun laws don’t mean that you can’t buy a gun, it simply means that more checks have to be done before you can purchase one.
What is being proposed is not that we take away everybody’s guns, but to make gun regulations more stringent. This poses the question of the scope of gun control. In Australia, their new gun laws following their Port Arthur mass shooting included the prohibition of private sales, the requirement that all weapons be individually registered, and that buyers had to have a “genuine reason” for needing the weapon (self-defense was not accepted as a reason). Emulating Australia’s gun control is something the US could consider. Such simple gun control laws had caused the firearm homicides in Australia to drop by 59 percent, and the suicides by guns to drop by 65 percent.
Avoiding a complete ban of guns seems like a reasonable compromise between the freedom to bear arms and the safety of the country. Additionally, this takes into consideration the National Rifle Association, a large non-profit group which advocate for gun rights; and those who work in the gun industry. While imposing gun control may be against the interests of these groups, the nation’s safety is far more important.
In 2017, actions taken in the United States by the Republicans have focused on expanding gun rights. In essence, this means it’s now easier for citizens to buy silencers and to carry guns in public (in a concealed manner). Is that really the route United States wants to take? Currently, even the most horrendous mass shootings have become routine, constantly replaced by an even larger-scale massacre. Is the United States going to let this go on, or are they going to press for change?