by: Tim Gillmore
On November 5th, 2017, Devin Patrick Kelley shot up a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. He took 27 innocent lives. But it could have been a lot worse. Stephen Willeford also attended Church that day. As the shooting began, Willeford ran home and grabbed his AR-15 Semi-Automatic Rifle. He ran back to the church, approached Kelley and traded fire with him before eventually shooting him in the leg and torso. Police found 15 empty magazines, capable of holding 30 rounds each, in the back of Kelley’s car. Willeford stopped Kelley from shooting any more members of that church. Survivors got to go home and see the rest of their families unharmed. Willeford used his constitutional right to bear arms and used if for the better good, not to harm anyone. I understand that many people believe that if we simply banned thee weapons, Devin Patrick Kelley never would have killed anyone in the first place. And if I am unable to convince you that this wouldn’t be the case, I am hoping that I can convince you that simply banning these weapons would not prevent events like this from happening again.
If we want to analyze how restrictions on semi-automatic rifles will affect mass shootings, it is important to take a look at how similar restrictions have worked in years past. Under federal law, an assault weapon refers primarily to semi-automatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns that are able to accept detachable magazines and possess one or more other features. A mass shooting is an event involving the shooting (not necessarily resulting in death) of five or more people (sometimes four) with no cooling-off period. Then-president Bill Clinton enacted the bill in 1994 which banned certain types of weapons, including semi-automatics and certain types of ammunition in an article from Investor’s business daily, an American newspaper and website covering economics since 1984, “there were 16 mass shootings while the ban was in effect, which resulted in 237 deaths or injuries.” Even Columbine, one of the biggest school shootings in the history of the U.S. occurred during this ban. A 108 page by the national institute of justice, a government-run organization, concluded that by the conclusion of Clinton’s ban in 1994 found that while the ban appeared to have reduced the number of crimes committed with “assault weapons,” any benefits were “likely to have been outweighed by steady or rising use of non-banned semiautomatics.” this means that while there was a small decrease in the number of crimes committed with semi-automatic weapons, there was also a small increase in the number of crimes committed with other weapons not included in the ban. To sum things up, the weapons ban enacted in 1994 didn’t prevent mass shootings from happening.
In the discussion of gun control, one controversial issue has been whether or not the U.S. should implement some of the same gun control measures Australia has taken in order to prevent gun-related deaths. On one hand, Gun control advocates have used the Australian model to justify why it would be the right thing to ban assault weapons and install a mandatory “buyback” of these guns, while gun rights advocates remain skeptical of the effectiveness of the measures taken by Australia and whether those same measures would be effective in the U.S. I acknowledge that my own argument does not mention that gun control seems to be working in Australia and up to this point I have completely ignored examples of how banning “Assault Weapons” in other countries has helped reduce the number of mass shootings that happen there. I will even admit that yes since Australia banned “Assault Weapon” and mandated a buy-back system in 1996 after the Port Arthur shooting, There has not been a single mass shooting in Australia. Nevertheless, it is important to take a more in-depth look at specifically how these restrictions have affected the number of Firearm homicides and whether it is even possible to replicate the “Australian model” here in the United States. A 2016 American Medical Association study found, “ no evidence of a statistically significant effect of gun control on the pre-existing downward trend of the firearm homicide rate.” We see from the figure on the left that the number of yearly firearm homicides in Australia had already been steadily decreasing in Australia without the new restrictions on guns. My opposition believes that it would be possible to implement this system in the U.S. but there are a few key reasons a buy-back system worked in Australia. Australia doesn’t have a second amendment. This is why the government can legally take the citizens guns because not one citizen has the right to bear arms. My opposition may ask, “Why can’t we just repeal our 2nd amendment”. Well, America had to fight for our independence and we gained our independence through using firepower. Australia, on the other hand, Britain merely gave Australia their independence in 1901 when the British Parliament passed legislation allowing the six Australian colonies to govern in their own right as part of the Commonwealth of Australia. According to a 156-page academic study from the University of Maryland, “the buyback took in and destroyed 20 percent of all privately owned guns in Australia.” this means that when Australia implemented their buy-back system, it failed to buy-back 80% of the guns in Australia. We must realize as Americans that we are facing gun problems in America, not Australia, therefore we must incorporate a constitutional way of getting rid of gun crime, not copy a system from another country that would hardly be effective here.
After every mass shooting that occurs in our country, a common question faces many of us. How was this shooter able to pass a background check and purchase a gun so easily? Nikolas Cruz was able to purchase a gun after passing a background check even after the F.B.I. received a tip from a man that claimed Cruz wanted to be the next school shooter. It’s an alarming realization for all of us, liberal and conservative. It is currently way too easy to purchase a gun in America. And if Cruz was able to pass supposedly a very “thorough and intensive” background check system and an F.B.I. investigation, Americans have the right to feel alarmed and unsafe. So, how do we fix this flawed system in order to keep Americans safe? The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, enacted under the Brady Act of 1993, Puts an emphasis on speed, not thoroughness. According to Slate Magazine, “ 95 percent of Background Checks are completed in less than two hours.” Heck, the word instant is even in the name. To make matters worse, the system only mandates that Licensed gun dealers contact the F.B.I. to check their database to see if the buyer could be disqualified for purchase in any way. That “Check” that the F.B.I. does only reviews instances of crime entered into their database, but it completely ignores any red flags the buyer might have shown in his past. Thus, the system is more of a database check than an actual background check. Continuing on, the amount of criminals that the system disqualifies from purchasing a gun is way too small. For example, Federal Law disqualifies Individuals with a misdemeanor regarding domestic violence but it allows for Individuals with other misdemeanors to purchase guns. I previously stated that system mandates that Licensed gun dealers contact the F.B.I. This is problematic for one main reason. This completely excludes the selling and purchase of guns done illegally, like on the black market. Potential shooters can still go hit up their buddy Marco, a gun collector, asking to purchase. So how do we fix and improve this incredibly flawed system? First, we need to crack down on the dealing of guns done illegally from unlicensed people. According to the ATF(Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms), 40% of guns acquired in the U.S. yearly are acquired illegally from unlicensed dealers. But, we have to understand that the way that these firearms enter the black market is through Licensed dealers being irresponsible in the way they sell their guns. In an analysis done by ATF, “Nearly 1%of licensed dealers account for 60% of guns found on an Illegal market. This happens when a licensed dealer doesn’t keep track of what they sell and who they sell to on a certain date.
There are simple and Bi-Partisan ways we can fix our background check system and increase the number of guns we take off the black market:
-Mandate a 30 day waiting period for all purchases of guns (take the “Instant” out of gun purchases).
-Increase the level of checks being done on all buyers. Include red flags reported by people etc. in a database.
-Exclude people with non-Domestic Violent misdemeanors from the purchase of Firearms.
-Encourage your state legislatures to pass laws that will penalize Licensed dealers for not keeping track of gun purchases and recording the exact inventory they sell daily. Increase checkups by government officials on gun shops.
-Gun stores should have the ability to access the HIPAA records of anyone wanting to purchase a gun. Besides the mandatory mental background check these consumers go through, access to these files would give the seller a better idea of the consumers past, allowing them to know if the consumer was on certain drugs for a mental issue, or altercation they were involved in. This would give the gun sellers more of a say in who they think should be able to buy a gun, depending on the consumers past and present mental state. This would help filter out people who should not own a gun, from purchasing a gun.
The solutions to stopping mass shootings are out there. Some of these solutions are even bi-partisan and if we open our eyes and listen to each other we can make our country safer. But, we must approach the conflict in a constitutional and American way.