Gun control dialogue continues
On Friday, Feb. 15, another mass shooting took place in Aurora, IL at the Henry Pratt Company. The shooting was out of the public dialogue within a week of it happening, but there was one aspect of the shooting revealed that should have garnered more attention. The shooter, whose name I will not mention, was not supposed to have a gun in the first place. He was convicted for aggravated assault in 1995 in Mississippi. He passed two background checks in his initial attempt to buy the gun, but then he failed a third one, which led to his Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card being revoked. A letter was sent to him to relinquish the Smith and Wesson he bought, but, due to an oversight in the law, the police did not actually come to seize the weapon once his FOID had been revoked.
This lack of action is just one of several cases that demonstrates how weak gun regulation is in the United States. What’s the point of having a background check if the police can’t even seize the weapon when a red flag is raised and after the owner’s FOID has been revoked? With instances like this, I would like to make the case that there is no good reason to be against stronger gun control laws.
The immediate arguments against gun control often point towards localized instances of gun control policy such as Chicago, and use those as an example of why gun control doesn’t work. If a shooting happens in a state or area with gun control, that equates to a failure of gun control. Locally, we see this argument pop up as Pittsburgh debates its own firearms ordinance in response to the Tree of Life terrorist attack last October.
It is true that there is an inherent problem with localized gun control. It doesn’t stop those who want a gun from going to a different part of the state to get a gun. Even if the gun laws are passed through state legislature instead of local or city, someone can still go to another state to get a gun. Inconsistent gun control is ineffective gun control. If Pittsburgh passes the firearms ordinance bill currently being debated, that doesn’t stop anyone from other parts of Pennsylvania from coming into Pittsburgh with a gun, and it would be difficult to enforce too. This only strengthens the case to have more consistent gun control laws on a federal level.
On the subject of enforcement, laws obviously only work when they are enforced. What’s being revealed with the Aurora shooting and other past shootings like the Marjory Stoneman-Douglas is that gun laws have not been sufficiently enforced. The police can already seize private property on the mere assumption that the property will be used for criminal activity, but, for some reason, they can’t seize a gun from someone who clearly shouldn’t have it. If a background check fails to catch an out-of-state felony conviction, then that should be a call for the system to be updated, not to abandon the system entirely.
The last major argument against gun control is that criminals will have guns anyway if there is gun control legislation. In Australia, the poster child for strict gun laws, the price of a semi-automatic handgun on the black market as of a 2014 article is fifteen thousand dollars. It led to criminals loaning out weapons due to the sheer price of the weapons. Gun regulation can’t stop all gun trafficking, but it makes it significantly more difficult to even obtain one illegally.
The reason for bringing up these talking points is to show how each point against gun control is actually another reason to strengthen gun control. It sounds contradictory, but it makes intuitive sense. If something is broken, it needs to be fixed. There needs to be stronger enforcement of background checks, and it needs to be on a federal level. There should also be a federal database for gun sales. These are two ideas that a majority of gun owners support, according to a Pew Research Poll. But their voices aren’t represented by the gun lobby.
Ultimately, for those against gun control, it’s easy for them to defend their arguments. They don’t need to jump through loopholes to explain the lack of enforcement or the lack of consistent regulation. They can simply say “no” and hold a firm stance against gun control. It’s a shame because it completely ruins any meaningful conversation on the subject and destroys any chance of reform.