We, as a country, have complicated the issue of public security with the debate over gun rights. Nobody wants to get shot, everybody wants to keep their families and neighbors safe. That’s not a divisive issue, but for decades now, we’ve been unable to agree how that can be done. We run the argument to it’s extremes, accusing anyone who disagrees with our view of wanting to get our children killed, either directly or indirectly. I think a little common sense is all that’s needed, and so it’s clear to me there is only one thing to blame for all the confusion and disagreement; it’s fear.
Gun control advocates are afraid of losing the ones they love, and tragedies like Newtown, Conn. in the media constantly remind them of the possibility. Most of the victims were so young, they were practically incapable of defending themselves. Parents, more than anything else, want safety for their children, and so they rally to make laws that will remove guns from their children’s schools and limit guns available for sale. What they seem to forget is that what was committed there was already illegal. The problem was not with the laws that were in place; it was the inability to enforce them. Yes, the police were called as soon as possible, but police have a response time. According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, it’s around 10 minutes on average, depending on the city. Imagine waiting 10 minutes in a dark classroom as you hear gunshots ring through hallways outside. That’s 10 minutes children shouldn’t have to wait for security to arrive. Laws themselves don’t protect children, only the people who enforce those laws. If you truly want school children to be safe, they must be guarded more closely.
Gun rights activists are going to have to come to terms with the fact that to have their rights, safety measures like background checks and gun locks will have to be in place. Universal background checks are a great option. It’s very easy complete a background check online, but it would be a simple way for responsible gun owners to keep guns out of the hands of repeat offenders and other shady buyers, and means police could prosecute illegal purchasers before they get a chance to use the weapon. Owning a gun is a responsibility and a right. The responsibility is to keep it clean, locked, and out of the hands of criminals and kids. Every time a gun owner fails to do this is another nail in the coffin of the Second Amendment.
There are more than 300 million guns in the country, about one for every person, according to a Congressional Research Service report in response to the Aurora, Colo. shootings. Taking them away or making them illegal isn’t feasible or effective. As author Paul Barrett says, “…it’s a very, very indirect route to securing this particular elementary school on this corner in this town.”
Letting the government pass a law concerning minor limitations is not going to destroy gun culture in America, but it’s also not going to effectively protect our kids. We, as a country, need to meet in the middle ground of common sense to create a direct and proactive plan to keeping schools and other public spaces safe.