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IDEA VOICES: It Takes Courage to Stare Down a Gun

By Dan Meagher

            What happened in Aurora was a terrible tragedy. Large-scale shootings like the incident in Colorado evoke an outpour of compassion and sympathy for the victims and those affected. Yet shootings occur daily across the United States. Still, the discussion on gun control always stalls in the political arena. It takes large-scale shootings to stir the debate, but after the press moves on from the heartbreak, the topic is once again stymied and taboo. Politicians are too afraid to offend any of their gun bearing constituents to directly address the pervasive gun culture of the United States.

 

            After the shooting in Aurora, however, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg took to the media pushing the debate about gun control to the headlines. Bloomberg isn’t running for re-election, and he isn’t exactly known for his politically safe moves, but he is known for his paternalistic policies that improve lives of New Yorkers. Bloomberg has lead controversial public health crusades against smoking and obesity, and now he’s turning his efforts to gun control. Bloomberg is the co-chair and main financial backer of the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The group took out a full-page ad in USA Today with the message of demanding a plan from the two presidential candidates against illegal guns. Bloomberg himself has gone on television to directly challenge president Obama and Governor Romney to take a clear stance on gun control and outline their respective plans to address the permeation of gun violence in the United States.

            Bloomberg should be applauded for his bluntness; so many times such a quality is lost in the gun debate in fear of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its members’ voting power. At a time when 34 Americans are murdered by a bullet every day, our society should not be worried about our right to carry arms, but rather our right to walk outside and have our children play in parks without fear of being hit by a stray bullet. Many say that if the government were to outlaw guns, only outlaws would have guns. Romney, for example, said yesterday in an interview that there is no apparent need for more gun control. Unfortunately, Romney is still afraid of offending any of his gun-owning supporters. The argument is valid, however, because there is no empirical evidence that these terrible shootings like Aurora would have been prevented with harsher gun regulations.

Yet there are comparisons to be made between the United States and the rest of the civilized world. In 2001, there were 10.26 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people in the United States. In England and Wales during the same year there were only .38 of the same deaths per 100,000 people. Japan has a rate of 0.12 per 100,000 of their population. England and Japan have much harsher regulations on gun control than the United States; the right to own a gun is not guaranteed by law. Harsh regulations on gun ownership seem to have worked elsewhere. How many shootings do there have to be before we at least try following suit?

            There is no concrete way of knowing that harsher regulations or even a ban would have prevented gunmen like James Holmes from getting guns. In fact, if we were to ban guns, there is the possibility of an even larger and more dangerous black market. Yet, perhaps harsher gun control could help counteract this dangerous, violent gun society that has emerged of late.

            Obama spoke yesterday alighting upon the fact that there is no reason for AK47’s and other assault rifles to be sold within the United States. Indeed, there is no reason for them or the sale of armor-piercing bullets. We don’t need a ban but we certainly need some sort of plan to curb the growth of gun sales. Guns can protect, but there is no doubt that their presence escalates any situation. Something should be done. America is a country where it is easier to obtain a gun legally than it is to register to vote. We need our politicians, on all levels of government, to take a stand. We, as a population, need to collectively realize that there must be a limit to our rights of gun ownership in order to live safely. 

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