Following the tragic shooting at a spa in Brookfield, Democratic lawmakers said they plan to introduce legislation that would force people under restraining orders to prove they have given up their weapons.
The current law requires people with restraining orders to give up their weapons either to law enforcement or third parties. However, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, in a sample of about 1,100 similar orders, only five to 12 guns are forfeited a year. So while it seems this is a rapid reaction to the shooting, using a tragedy like this to increase the ability of law enforcement to get guns out of these peoples’ hands seems like a positive.
The greater context of this incident and the potential legislative response are interesting. This year, Wisconsin has seen two mass shootings receive national attention, and yet the conversation about guns in America remains strikingly one-sided.
President Barack Obama faced attacks during his first run at The White House claiming he would take away gun rights. Instead, he has received a failing grade from the anti-gun Brady Campaign on the issue, and the gun industry is thriving more so now than ever. His opponent, former Gov. Mitt Romney, has no discernible differences and opposes a ban on assault weapons like the ones used in the Aurora shooting.
I bring this up because the opinions I have read in response to the idea of passing any new gun laws are basically, “We already have enough gun laws; people like the guy in Brookfield will kill people no matter what. It’s my right, end of discussion.” And I think that’s a very good jumping-off point. It is absolutely a constitutional right to own a gun, but we also have a problem with gun crime in this country.
There is certainly a very complex problem since, with gun sales increasing, gun crimes are actually decreasing. At the same time, The Daily Caller noted you still have firearm murders accounting for 67 percent of all murders in 2010.
I think our national conversation is skewed way too far to the side of fear that some law is going to come down preventing law-abiding citizens from the right to possess weapon. That’s never going to happen. The National Rifle Association has too much power for that, and with how far away from any gun control policies the presidential candidates land, it seems politically detrimental to say anything against guns.
It’s the culture I believe needs to change. A law-abiding citizen is not going to have trouble getting as many guns as he wants. But when it comes to something like making it more difficult for someone to possess a gun while under a restraining order, we need to get away from conversations like the ones I mentioned.
A change in laws may not have stopped someone like the Brookfield shooter who was so committed to his crime. But putting additional hurdles in the way is certainly a valuable pursuit. The numbers clearly back up what we all perceive: Guns are much more likely to be the weapon used to kill people and are overwhelmingly more likely to create a tragedy like the one in Brookfield.
No politician is coming for anybody’s gun; quite the opposite, in fact. So if the latest tragic gun incident points to a loophole in the gun laws that could be addressed, let’s actually take a look at it, not dismiss it as the latest in an attack on gun owners and the Second Amendment that doesn’t exist.
John Waters ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism.