Brandon Bartlett is a political science senior and Mustang News conservative columnist.
You awake to the sound of shattering glass. Your eyes instinctively flicker to your clock as it proclaims 3:27 a.m. Paralyzed by fear, you pray that the noise will not come again.
What was that?! You hear footsteps playing the familiar tune of your floorboards. You know you are not alone, but what should you do? If you’re like me, the best self-defense training that you have comes from the Bourne film series. All you can do is call 911 and wait: Wait, trying not to breathe too loudly, as you hope those footsteps don’t come closer.
But what if I told you that there is a way that you could defend yourself? A technique so powerful that, with just a few short hours of training, you could take down any intruder. Luckily for us, that revolutionary piece of advanced technology already exists. And you can even buy it at your local Wal-Mart!
What is this miracle machine? Well, as all my NRA readers have already guessed, it’s a gun.
But I know what you’re thinking, “Miracle machine? It kills people! That is the exact opposite of a miracle.” And though “miracle” may be a bit facetious, that misses the point.
You see, guns changed a fundamental aspect of power dynamics in confrontation. For as long as animals have walked the earth, the winner (or survivor) of almost all fights was the most powerful, most agile and most aggressive male. In any sort of one-on-one, simple youthfulness and brutality were nearly the only factors that mattered.
But that is no longer true! For the first time in history, the masses can take back their own safety.
That being said, guns also prove a serious threat to society. One can hardly even turn on the news without hearing about the latest shooting. And while it is true that guns don’t kill people, they certainly make it easier for people to kill each other.
So how should we deal with guns?
First and foremost, we need to deal with the very emotional nature of this issue — emotion on both sides.
For the left, it is entirely true that mass shootings are a problem. However, the problem is overblown. Mass shootings make up 0.1 percent of total firearm-related deaths, and only a fraction of those are caused by assault weapons. So even if we were to eradicate every mass shooting, the change in total gun deaths would fall within the margin of error. Moreover, every mass killing since 1950 has happened in areas where civilians are banned from carrying weapons.
And above that, 72 percent of homicide deaths in 2012 were committed with handguns. Not only are no politicians pushing for a ban of handguns, but such a ban was deemed unconstitutional in both 2008 and 2010 by the Supreme Court.
Now to the right (thank you for waiting your turn): Firearms are not an inherent right; it was given socially and can be taken away. The Bill of Rights is not a guide to ethics and we are not only compelled by the founders themselves, but also obligated by our own ethical code, to change the Bill of Rights if a sufficient argument is made to do so.
Moreover, a right to self-defense does not necessitate a right to guns, in the same way (and for the same reason) that it does not grant a right to high-level explosives.
And this is why I regret the Second Amendment (GASP! How dare he say that?). Gun control has become a polarizing argument — you’re either for or against it, and the other side is always despicable. For this reason, no change is able to happen either way and everyone leaves upset while the next shooter plans his moment of glory.
But why do issues become so derisive?
In truth, I’m sure there are several valid answers to this question, but I want to hone in on one: Issues become derisive when the discussion isn’t evolving, when we sit there talking past each other and no good comes of it.
And this is exactly what has been going on with gun control. Talking points have hardly changed in the slightest in the past several decades even though it’s constantly coming up.
But whose fault is this?
Well, as much as I hate to admit it, it’s ours — the right. Our figureheads keep to the same old arguments that do not actually refute the challenge given by the left. We say “Second Amendment,” they say “people die,” and we say “Second Amendment” again.
But who can blame us? This does seem like quite the fiat.
Now, this isn’t the full story. There have been some attempts to actually engage with the left on this issue, but they so often fall short — or those who make the argument do so with such a lack of nuance (*cough cough* Trump) — that the power of the argument is utterly lost.
Take, for instance, the newest round of rhetoric: “This is not a gun problem, but a mental health problem.” Not only does this only address a fraction of mass shootings (read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Thresholds of Violence” article for more on this), but, as the right is so quick to point out, mass shootings are a very small percent of total gun violence.
This is rooted in the ideology that “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” which, though a truism, is more of a red herring than anything else. No one promoting gun control (correction, no serious person promoting gun control) really believes guns are the problem, but that they are a mechanism which further exacerbates the ill will of certain individuals. The claim is not “He killed because he had a gun,” but “He killed substantially more people because he had a gun.”
And this is why extensive background checks make so much sense. If it is the person at fault, should we not do what we can to keep weapons out of untrustworthy hands?
Why not create a system in which people can only purchase guns if they have a license that is similar to a driver’s or pilot’s license, i.e. one must go through substantial hours of training, prove one’s operational competency and pass certain psychological screenings? Sure, this would not entirely fix the problem, but it would help.
The next major argument, as already touched upon, is “but this doesn’t hurt that many people.” And while perspective is a good thing, it doesn’t actually defeat the argument. Saying “a few thousand people are not very many” does not equal “and, thus, we can drop this issue.” These are still real lives lost.
And finally, “people will still get them from the black market.” Yes, but this is true with every illegal commodity. Moreover, this totally overlooks the accidental deaths or those done in the heat of passion. Yes, there will always be guns, but this does not imply that having fewer of them is a bad thing.
But I digress.
The one good argument that I have seen made on the Republican side of things is “the only thing to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” For this is exactly the point — the gun is a powerful tool in the use of self-defense. However, I would slightly amend this statement: The only way to reliably stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good, well-trained individual with a gun.
Which is why, in the end, I am not against guns, just against the way we talk about them. Come on, right, let us rise above the rhetoric of Trump and the NRA, and prove to the country exactly why the Second Amendment is an idea not worth regretting.