By ERIN O’BRIEN.
In reality, it is far, far too late. With the shooting deaths of 15 people at Columbine High School in 1999, 32 people at Virginia Tech University in 2007, 12 people in a Colorado movie theatre and seven people at a Wisconsin Sikh temple in the last six months alone, the moment to take action on the issue of gun control was before 26 people were shot to death by a gunman who also took his own life, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The gunman’s mother was also found dead in her Newtown home.
Other governments around the world have learned from such tragedies. Australia’s government introduced strict gun laws after the shooting deaths of 35 people in the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996.
In the public debate on gun control, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and pro-gun activists rely on a few key arguments to justify an individual’s right to own firearms. But if you strip away the millions of dollars organisations like the NRA spend on selling these arguments, how persuasive are they?
1. ‘Guns don’t kill people. People kill people’
This sentiment is probably the best-known anti-gun control argument. But even on the most basic test of logic, it fails. The most that can really be argued is that people kill people, using guns. Pro-gun activists will argue that people also kill people using knives, but we don’t require them to get a licence before buying a kitchen cleaver. They also argue that people kill people using cars as a result of drunk or reckless driving, but we don’t ban automobiles.
Drawing an analogy between a gun and a car, or kitchen knife, is truly idiotic. The purpose of a car is to provide transport. If someone gets killed in a car, it is a tragic accident. The purpose of a kitchen knife is to chop food products. If someone gets stabbed, the knife is being used incorrectly. If someone gets shot with a gun, the firearm has fulfilled its purpose admirably.
If guns are so incidental to the act of killing, why then do we arm soldiers? Should we not instead send them into battle with a drunk driver, or perhaps a ceramic carving knife?
2. ‘… the right of the people to keep and bear Arms’
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution declares that “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”.
The NRA relies so heavily on this argument that they have established an organisation called the Freedom Action Foundation to lobby in support of Second Amendment rights.
This amendment should not necessarily be viewed as an automatic right to carry an automatic weapon. The constitution was created following a war of independence where citizen militias rose up against an oppressive state.