The American people seem to pride themselves on being the “cowboys” of the world—tough, badass, and gung ho—and though they have come a long way from the dirty saloons and circled wagons of their wild western past, it seems as though they have yet to outgrow the senseless violence that comes along with constantly carrying a six shooter.
As of this writing, 7,534 Americans have died as the result of firearms in 2017, and the likelihood of being killed by a gun is holding strong at about thirty-one people per million, the equivalent of twenty-seven deaths every day, a number that will be significantly larger by the time this article gets published.
America’s gunslinger attitude along, with its very high rate of firearm homicides, is unique. The world’s other leaders in democracy and progress seem to take issue with the idea that their citizens might end up shot in the streets. France for example, a country that suffered a tragic terrorist attack last year, has such a low rate of death as a result of guns that even if the nation experienced a mass shooting on par with the Paris tragedy every month, its annual rate of gun homicides would still be lower than that of the United States. France is far from the only developed nation that has successfully steered clear of the tragedy that is an epidemic of firearm deaths in America. In fact, in Japan, a person is more likely to get struck and killed by a bolt of lightning than to die from a bullet.
It’s time that America walked up to a mirror, looked itself in the eyes and had a legitimate discussion about guns and the gun violence that occurs in this country. When I say discussion, I don’t mean the back-and-forth bullshit partisan debate where conservatives claim that liberals want to seize their guns and burn the Constitution, and liberals claim that conservatives want to give away guns to kindergartners and terrorists. Instead, it is time to put party politics aside and address a monumental issue that is destroying lives and tearing families asunder all across the country.
The issue with conversations involving gun control is the simple fact that both sides have offered solutions that have failed to keep bullets from flying. Partisan politics has divided a complex issue into two sides—guns or no guns. And of course, there are Americans that are firmly on each side of the issue, but I think that, in general, most U.S. citizens are far more moderate. The majority of people in this country just want to see the government put an end to the tragedies that have become commonplace.
Conservatives, backed by the NRA, have taken the stance that any form of regulation imposed on firearms is a direct attack on the Constitution and the Second Amendment. The 2016 Republican platform reflects this stance very clearly in its language: “Lawful gun ownership enables Americans to exercise their God-given right of self-defense for the safety of their homes, their loved ones, and their communities…We oppose ill-conceived laws that would restrict magazine capacity or ban the sale of the most popular and common modern rifle…We oppose federal licensing or registration of law-abiding gun owners, registration of ammunition, and restoration of the ill-fated Clinton gun ban.”
The Republican party attempts to further substantiate this pro-gun position by claiming that certain harsh realities would make gun regulations not only unconstitutional, but also completely foolhardy. The idea that regulatory laws would simply take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, while doing nothing to stop the illegal attainment of guns by people intent on committing violence, is one that the Republican party shares with all who will listen. After all, an armed society is a polite society.
Though much of this platform seems rather bullheaded, and overall not in favor of a progressive and peaceful society, it does have ground to stand on when it comes to the claimed ineffectiveness of such restrictions. The 2016 Republican platform mentions the “Clinton gun ban,” which was an initiative that cracked down on assault weapons with certain military grade attachments and was part of an anti-crime bill that was pushed by Bill Clinton. The bill expired in 2004, and when the United States Department of Justice and the National Institute of Justice studied its effects, they found that its impact on gun violence was minimal at best and too small for a reliable measurement, simply because assault weapons are rarely used in firearm-related crimes. T
his is an incredibly strong example of the way in which Democrats have historically handled the issue of gun control. Though their platform sounds much more focused on the elimination of senseless tragedy than their Republican counterparts, like Republicans, Democrats pursue bills that look and sound good to their constituents, but have little to no effect on the ground. Clinton’s ban may have been a big “victory” for the Democrats, but it did nothing to curb gun violence in America.
The bottom line is that gun violence is not going away on its own. It will take a movement from both sides of the aisle to end these pointless tragedies, a movement that sets aside partisan battles and the pursuit of party victories and instead focuses on curtailing the tragedies that have become commonplace in this nation. I implore America’s politicians, as well as the men and women who gave them power, to take a second to think about gun control differently than either party has portrayed it. Let’s approach this as the national crisis that it is and work to end it.