Put Down the Guns, America

By Steve Helmeci
March 14, 2013

PLUM BOROUGH, Pa. – I’m sure we’ve all heard about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting late last year. It’s a depressing topic, and everyone would agree that the shooting was a horrendous, saddening act. However, it called into question the gun culture in America, and I would argue that it’s time that we worked to reverse this country’s propensity towards violence.

It’s time for full-scale gun control. The production and distribution of handguns and military-style assault rifles to private citizens should be made illegal, if only to buck the trend of violence.

By all means, keep the hunting rifles and shotguns. Guns for sport are understandable, even useful for sustenance in some situations. I highly doubt, though, that handguns or semi-automatic assault rifles are necessary for hunting.

It is appalling to me that 33 people die daily in this country from gun violence, mostly precipitated by personal handguns or assault rifles. That makes 12,045 people a year on average. It’s despicable.

Despite the propensity for some people with mental illnesses to commit heinous crimes, it can be proven that access to firearms only increases the carnage. In China, on the day of the Sandy Hook shooting, a man entered a school with the intent to murder. Not a single person was killed, though, because the man entered with a knife, not a gun. I think it’s safe to assume that he was not mentally stable, so, that makes the death totals guns-26, knives-0 in the same circumstance.

The arguments for having personal guns baffle me. When the Second Amendment was written, it provided for militias to protect the American citizens from foreign invasion or attacks by Native Americans. These issues simply don’t exist anymore. We have the largest and most formidable army in the world, nullifying the threat of foreign invasion as well as the need for citizen militias. I don’t think we have to worry about Native Americans as a threat anymore, either.

Benjamin Franklin himself said that the Constitution was created to be amended and changed with the times. In case it has gone unnoticed, the times have changed massively since 1790, and we need to adapt to ensure peace and tranquility at home.

As for the self-defense argument, you’ll be far more likely to use your gun to kill yourself or a family member than a criminal. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 19,766 suicides by firearm were committed in 2011. And, according to the Violence Policy Center, having a gun in your house makes it three times more likely that you or someone you care about will be killed by a friend or family member in your own home. Compare those numbers to the FBI’s confirmed average of just 213 self-defense shootings per year over the period of 2005-2010, and suddenly owning a gun to defend yourself doesn’t look as necessary.

After Columbine; Virginia Tech; Representative Gabrielle Giffords’ assassination attempt in Arizona; Aurora, Colorado; Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide; the Oregon shopping mall; Sandy Hook; and the countless other horrific acts of gun violence that occur daily from homicides to robberies and assassination attempts, you’d think we would have seen enough.

68% of all murders in the United States were committed with personal firearms, and, based on a 10-year trend studied by the Center for Disease Control, gun deaths will number 33,000 by 2015—an amount that would exceed the projected number of automobile deaths in the same year. Guns are a major problem, and it needs to be remedied.

It won’t be immediate. It’ll be fought by gun lobbyists and owners alike, but if making the production and distribution of handguns and assault rifles illegal takes a few guns off the street and saves a few people each year, then we’re doing our job as civilized humans.

It’s not too late to reverse the awful gun culture in this country. Let’s make sure those 20 children did not die in vain. Let’s make sure none of the countless victims of gun violence died in vain.