By Sean Hull
With the recent shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, the fiery debate over gun control has been rightfully reignited. With the newly rejuvenated debate comes all the usual Facebook flame wars and painfully accurate satirical articles, as well as pleas to President Obama not to politicize the tragedy out of respect for the people who’ve lost so much. This issue, however, is clearly a political one, as President Obama has reiterated in his speech following the UCC shooting.
The similarities of UCC to our college are not to be overlooked. This shooting occurred at a college that serves the higher education and vocational training needs of a county in a state that has incredibly loose gun regulations. According to the NRA Institute for Legislative Action state profile of Oregon, a person does not need a permit to purchase shotguns, rifles or handguns; there is no mandatory registration of firearms purchased in Oregon; there is no licensing of owners; and, of course, concealed carry is permitted. This profile exactly mirrors that of Kansas.
In his speech President Obama spoke of the desensitization of the American people to these tragedies. His reaction, the media reaction and the citizens’ reactions to the shootings have all become routine. Our reactions have become a meaningless ritualistic outpouring of faux despair. It’s meaningless because every time this occurs, the same discussion is had and the same outcome is reached: zero change or even proposed changes to gun laws.
The United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, with 89 guns per 100 residents, according to the Small Arms Survey 2011. Guns are undoubtedly pervasive in American culture, and it seems nowadays that mass shootings are as well. In recent research from Jaclyn Schildkraut of the State University of New York in Oswego and H. Jaymi Elsass of Texas University, it was found that 133 mass shootings in which four or more people died occurred in the United States from 2000–2014. This is compared to 23 mass shootings in 13 European nations and Russia over the same time period. The frequency with which mass shootings continue to occur in the United States can no longer be ignored, and we must take rational steps toward tighter regulation of guns in this country in the effort to make it more difficult to perform mass shootings.
The regulations proposed by President Obama in 2013 are a good step forward in keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people and culling the flood of mass shootings. I believe we need to go much further. Among the most important of Obama’s proposals is mandatory criminal background checks for all gun sales, limited ammunition magazine sizes of no more than 10 rounds and reinstating and strengthening the ban on assault rifles that was repealed in 2004. These are all logical steps toward safer gun regulations in this country. It is irrational to me that anyone could argue that we need more assault rifles in the hands of ordinary citizens or that magazine sizes exceeding 10 rounds are necessary for any application outside of sport shooting.
I propose we institute further regulations on the storage of guns and ammunition, modeling a system after those in place in Canada and many European nations. It is a common leisure activity in the United States to go to the shooting range. Sport shooting at the range is what drives many people to acquire larger, faster and more thrilling guns and is a major reason why many hobbyists oppose nearly any gun regulation.
On both sides of the debate, there are absolutists that either want to ban all guns in any form, or allow anyone to purchase any gun. A middle ground must be found to make any progress on the argument. I propose in addition to President Obama’s gun proposals, regulations that would restrict the types of guns that can be kept in the home and an alternative that accommodates sport shooting. For the purposes of hunting, manual rifles should be permitted to be kept in the home, as long as the gun is kept in one locked cabinet, and the ammunition in a separate locked cabinet. To accommodate people’s desires for guns beyond this stipulations, a program could be implemented requiring people to keep any semi-automatic rifles or handguns and their respective ammunition in a locker at their shooting range. The gun cannot be removed from the shooting range. This is fairly restrictive, but still accommodates people’s desires for thrilling guns, and allows only a very limited amount of guns in the streets.
The Second Amendment wasn’t created with the idea that guns would one day be mass-produced at an uncontrollable rate and marketed as family fun time with the kids. The Second Amendment was drafted in 1791 when America was a far more dangerous land than we live in today. It was drafted with the initial intent to allow the formation of militias so the largely unreachable rural members of American society would be able to defend themselves and their country. If you wanted to live in 1791, you were also required to hunt. Today guns are looked upon as toys, instead of the necessary tools required for self-protection and food procuration they were when the Second Amendment was drafted.
We have experienced far too many mass shootings in far too narrow of a time frame to continue pretending like gun regulations will do nothing to stop these events from taking place. The majority of Europe, along with Australia and Canada have all implemented stricter gun regulations that have effectively culled gun violence in those nations. We had our moment to take action on this issue in 2012, when 20 children and six faculty members were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary, and we failed. When no action was taken, we showed to the world that we only care in the media and not enough to pass legislation to prevent another shooting. As President Obama mentioned in his speech after this most recent shooting, our reaction has become routine and politically apathetic. A world in which mass murder is a simple fact of life is a terrifying one.