Alhadeff

On the subject of gun control, I think it is worth separating my thoughts into two categories: Ideal and realistic.

In terms of my ideal preferences on gun control, I wholeheartedly believe in abolishing any rights to guns in America. As the Las Vegas shooting poignantly reminded me, guns are used to take lives or, at the very least, threaten or injure someone. I am not persuaded by arguments that “good guys with guns will stop bad guys with guns.” As Jordan Klepper satirically pointed out on The Daily Show, that argument is erroneous.

Instead, the U.S. has nearly 16 times as many gun homicides per capita as Germany and owns nearly half of the world’s gun, yet has only 4.4 percent of the world’s population. None of this mentions the fact that a majority of gun deaths come from suicide, made a lot more likely to be successful with the presence of a gun. Because guns are so prevalent, scores of children die annually because of accidental gun discharges. In 2015 alone, 141 children died this way. I think there are a million other justifications for abolishing gun rights, but I will not continue down that path.

Fritz

Your introduction is a great jumping off point and definitely brings up some salient reasons for gun control. It’s interesting that you propose eliminating gun rights completely. I think we both agree that seems highly unlikely, but let’s discuss why you think it’s the way to go and what the implications would be.

Gun control is a balance between personal liberties and collective safety. Our opinion of this balance is undoubtedly influenced by our experience with guns. Essentially, if you don’t benefit from gun ownership it becomes a lot easier to take away that liberty. Do you think you or I have any responsibility to understand and acknowledge the value of guns to gun owners, or to protect the right to own and use them if we may not share that value?

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Alhadeff

I completely cede the point that I have little experience with a gun. I will further agree that I ought to do more to learn what it is like to even hold a gun, let alone shoot or own one. That said, I do not think that gun rights as an identity are enough justification to preserve guns in the face of the horrible damage they can cause to people’s lives.

Admittedly, guns hold a special place in the hearts of Americans around the country who treasure the enjoyment and identity they receive from them. However, guns also hold a special place in the hearts of Americans for the life-changing traumatic experiences guns put them through, whether it be themselves or a loved one suffering at the hands of someone with a gun. For me, I have a hard time protecting any identity that, through its protection in legal doctrine, has contributed to the death of nearly 13,000 through October of this year.

There have been numerous examples where a liberty or a right was taken away for the purpose of improving society. Just because something was originally enshrined in the Constitution does not mean it should remain there permanently. As we all learned in 6th-grade civics class, the Constitution is a living document always open to amendment. That’s why we have had 27 of them. When we thought a previous decision was bad, we decided it was time to change that rule.

For the first century or so of our nation’s history, we indirectly elected Senators by allowing them to be selected by the state legislatures. This was not written in an amendment — it was enshrined in the Constitution itself. Nevertheless, eventually we discovered several problems with this system, including corruption and ineffective governance, so we decided to change the Constitution.

The Tenth Amendment protects state’s rights on issues not specifically enumerated by the Constitution. However, in multiple instances — whether formally through an amendment, procedurally through laws passed by the federal government or judicially through a new interpretation of constitutional text — we have altered the spectrum of what is considered the domain of the states.

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We are not only allowed to but encouraged, to consistently revisit the Constitution and ask ourselves what does and does not work, including preserving or abolishing certain rights and liberties. I believe for numerous reasons that the protections of the Second Amendment do not work and ought to be changed.

Fritz

I agree with you that gun ownership isn’t beyond reconsidering just because it’s in an Amendment. Instead, I think it’s worth reflecting on how our own inexperience with guns could shape our opinion of gun owners and gun ownership.

It’s very possible that there are a lot of positive experiences associated with guns separate of the violence that you or I more commonly hear about. Furthermore, I’m not sure we should ban something just because it’s dangerous. For example, you mentioned there being something like 13,000 gun deaths so far this year. Looking at 2016 data, it looks like about 12,500 people died from violent gun deaths which comes down to 3.85 deaths per 100,000 people. Also in 2016, about 37,500 people died from cars or 11.6 deaths per 100,000 people. If nearly three times as many people are killed by vehicles should we ban them too?

Alhadeff

I get that argument. Cars are dangerous and cause a lot of deaths. Therefore, we are doing something about it. Car safety is constantly being improved upon, both by the volition of the carmakers themselves and through federal regulations requiring certain safety standards (exhaust, airbags, crash protections, window type, etc.). So clearly we have recognized the danger of cars and are doing something to reduce the number of deaths from these vehicles, which is more than we can say for guns.

Either way, there is a fundamental difference between vehicles and guns: The primary purpose of a vehicle is not to hurt or kill someone or something. Stated differently, the only reason you ever use a gun is for the purpose of injuring someone or something else (or at least threatening injury). On the other hand, cars serve a purpose beyond their potential violence. They get people where they want to go, advancing our economy and society. The same cannot be said for guns.

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I fear we have been accurately summed up by Dan Hodges when he tweeted, “In retrospect, Sandy Hook marked the end of the U.S. gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

Fritz

I’m not sure the only reason there is for using a gun is to threaten injury; I’ve certainly used a gun without wanting to injure someone/thing with it. I agree with you on the importance of practical gun safety measures like banning bump stocks etc. — in fact, these efforts enjoy support from moderates of both parties. However, safety measures are drastically different than banning all guns completely.

In closing, I want to point out two interesting pieces of information.

First, according to a Pew survey, in 2000, 67 percent of Americans supported gun control, and 29 percent supported gun rights. By 2016, 46 percent supported gun control, and 52 percent supported gun rights.

Second, according to a Harvard study, in Republican states a mass killing “increases the number of enacted laws that loosen gun restrictions by 75 percent” and in Democratic states, mass shootings “have no significant effect on laws passed.”

You’re definitely right, Sam, that we shouldn’t turn our nose to tragedies like Sandy Hook — but given the increased support for gun rights, it seems the only practical way to ensure gun safety is to show gun owners that we’re not trying to take their guns, we just want them to be used safely.  

Samuel Fritz ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in engineering, and Sam Alhadeff ([email protected]) is a Master’s student in international public affairs. 

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