With the October 1 tragedy in Las Vegas, which took 58 lives and injured almost 500, the question of whether to restrict civilians’ constitutional right to bear arms has become a hot button topic. Should the government create stricter gun laws or gun registries? Is it the gun that is the problem, or is it the person pulling the trigger? This topic has long been relevant with last year’s elections and continuing discussions and events.
Some identify the culprit of violence around America as the gun and push for tighter gun control or even complete confiscation. No guns, no crime. Others disagree and feel that criminals will always find a way to get a hold of guns and that law abiding citizens should not be penalized and prevented from legally owning guns.
In order to effectively address this crisis, it is important to look at the facts and statistics. According to Gary Kleck, a Florida State University criminologist, guns serve defensive purposes at least 760,000 times a year. Furthermore, 60 percent of felons say that they would not commit a crime if they were aware of a victim carrying a gun. Therefore, carrying a gun can both protect you and prevent a crime from taking place. I find it interesting that the President and celebrities have armed bodyguards to protect them, but some feel that ordinary people shouldn’t have that right. What makes their safety more important than ours? Law abiding citizens are not the problem; criminals are.
Background checks are ineffective in weeding out criminals since five out of six felons who possess guns obtained their guns from theft or a secondary market. Background checks can be inaccurate as well: according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, since the passing of the 1994 Brady Act, more than 118 million National Instant Criminal Background Check System applications for firearm transfers or permits were checked and 2.1 million were denied, but about 95 percent of these denials were false positives.
While some, including former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, push for bans on certain firearms, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) expressed that no law could have prevented the Las Vegas shooter from committing a terrible mass murder. He had passed background checks and registered his guns.
While we debate over what the right answer is, consider that 42.5 million adults live with some form of mental illness. Although they may have insurance coverage, oftentimes they cannot find therapists that accept insurance or are accessible. Many on both sides of this issue think that the answer to preventing terrible tragedies, such as the one that took place this past month, is providing better mental health care to those who need it.