In governance, some things are just common sense. If you have higher taxes on the rich, you will have less economic inequality. If you invest more money in education, you will have better public schools. If you increase border security, you will have less illegal immigration. And if you pass gun control legislation, you will have less gun violence.
These are value neutral statements. They are not saying that the result of the above trade-offs are necessarily good things or bad things. They are simply saying that if the first action is taken, the second thing will happen. One does not need to be a fan of the type of equality that results from higher taxes on the rich—an action that some may viewing as punishing success while rewarding the lazy—but nevertheless, this action would undoubtedly create less economic inequality. Likewise, one does not need to like the limitations that gun control legislation might impose on their 2ndamendment rights, but it is undeniable that less gun violence would be the result of those limitations.
When it comes to guns, this is also true as a matter of degree. Degrees of gun control and gun violence are inversely correlated—the more of one, the less of the other. In the United States of America, we will never be able to eliminate gun violence completely, but with every step we take towards controlling our firearms, we also take a step towards reducing the violence that guns can create. Take longer waiting periods. In and of themselves, longer waiting periods would make a nearly imperceptible dent on the overall amount of gun violence in this country. That said, longer waiting periods still would likely prevent some instances of gun violence, such as crimes of passion or firearm purchases that take place during episodes of irrational decision-making. What is more, if passed as part of a more sweeping gun control package, longer waiting periods could play a role in a larger ensemble that makes a more visible impact. This package could include items such as mandatory background checks, required certifications, higher age restrictions, and bans on certain assault-style weaponry or modifications.
If you’re not buying this logic, try running the thought experiment in reverse: What if we made guns more easily attainable? What if we removed the gun control measures that we already have in place? What if any Joe Schmoe off the street could walk into a gun shop with a driver’s license and a debit card and walk out five minutes later with a fully-automatic weapon and ammo to boot? No matter how many times I run this simulation in my head, the results are always the same—more shootings and more bodies.
I’ve often heard it said that—no matter the limitations and regulations that we place around guns—if somebody wants a gun, they’re going to find a way to get one. I don’t buy that argument. Perhaps if the person is a career criminal well-acquainted with the sketchy faces and shady places that make up the black market, then yes, they may find a way to obtain a firearm, even if the law says that they shouldn’t have one. But when it comes to many of the hapless teenagers that have been shooting up our schools over the past two decades, I’m not so sure that the same is true. Would the Parkland shooter have obtained a semiautomatic rifle if he could not have legally purchased one himself? Maybe, but maybe not. Would the shooter from Sante Fe have gained access to firearms if there were stricter laws regarding gun storage in a house inhabited by minors, or if the house would not have contained firearms at all? Maybe, but maybe not. If we could rewind time to the days before Columbine and implement all the restrictions and regulations suggested in this write-up, could we have prevented the 217 episodes of gun violence that took place in schools across the country during that time? Definitely not all, but very likely some.
And that last part is the key. No amount of gun control will eliminate gun violence. No single piece of legislation can make a mass shooting impossible. But more control of firearms CAN and WILL reduce gun violence in this country. While eliminating gun violence should always be the goal for the ideal world, reducing gun violence should guide our decision-making in the world that we actually live in.
There are reasons to be skeptical of some gun control measures. Like it or not, the right to bear arms is constitutional in this country, and while I would be the first to support a constitutional amendment that changed gun ownership from a right to a strictly-regulated, dutifully-earned privilege, that solution does not seem plausible considering the current political reality. Also, despite what the statistics tell us, possessing a gun does help some people feel safer, and in many instances, has given people the ability to protect themselves, their families, and others when harm inevitably threatens. Nevertheless, the point stands that the more we begin to shift our laws and our attitudes away from protection of gun rights and towards limiting them, the less gun violence we will see. On that single point, it really is that simple.