On Tuesday, January 16th, 2013, President Obama laid out a plan that aims to curb gun violence. While many of us can agree that something has to be done to decrease the number of senseless murders, his proposal does little to actually address gun violence. The proposal has a number of points and possible policies that would greatly benefit our sense of security, but they do not actually address the problem of gun violence in a significant way. The proposal seems to only focus on about 2% to 3% of firearm deaths. The proposal is more about gun control than ending gun violence. Or it could be seen as only focusing on mass shootings. With 97% to 98% of firearm deaths (murder, suicide and accidental) coming by way of handguns, the proposed assault weapons ban doesn’t address the problem of gun violence. The proposed ban is an odd addition since it will have little effect on gun violence, which is what the goal of the proposal is said to be concerned with. Banning high-capacity magazines also does not help lower deaths. California and New York had a limit of 10-rounds which hasn’t lowered the murder rate, now NY has lowered their limit to 7 rounds. The approach to the problem of gun violence has always been a focus on the tools, rather than the causes. It’s akin to outlawing “burglary tools” to end burglaries.
I agree with most of the proposal, but if the goal really is to lower gun violence, it falls short and has detracting elements. A strong background check system and background checks for all firearm sales, stronger penalties for illegal firearm sales, particularly straw purchaser, school resource officers (police officers specially trained to work in schools), better mental health identification and treatment and promoting firearm safety and storage is a good starting point. I disagree with the assault weapons ban and high-capacity magazine ban as there are better solutions than punishing every law abiding gun owner and it detracts from what really has to be done. Instead of banning assault rifles, raise the age that is allowed to buy firearms and related accessories. Research shows that the brain isn’t fully developed until age 25. While I cannot support such a restriction without hesitation, as there are countless people under the age of 25 who are responsible gun owners, this restriction may have a greater impact on future mass shootings. Of all the mass shootings mentioned in the proposal, only one (Sikh Temple shooting) was committed by someone over the age of 25 and that appears to have been racially motivated. Special exceptions would be made for individuals who are under 25 and are in law enforcement, military or private security as it would relate to their job duties.
Another element that detracts from the problem and poses a great safety concern is introducing technology to prevent unauthorized use. The last thing that should be added to a firearm is something that can malfunction or fail during the moment of need. Firearms are known to occasionally fail, but can usually be quickly fixed in the field. Technological failure usually involves significant downtime while troubleshooting is done. Additionally, an “unauthorized” person may have to operate the firearm in defense of the firearm’s owner. Having such a feature looks great on paper and in the movies, but the risk far outweighs the benefit. Promoting proper firearm safety and storage is a much safer solution.
The President’s proposal would have broad support if the proposed bans were removed and an actual effort to address crime was made. But even with the bans, the proposal is very limited. Too often, more focus and attention is spent on the firearms used rather than on the circumstances that cause gun crimes to occur. The causes of gun violence and ultimately crime, stem from a failing educational system, poverty, unemployment, a failed drug policy and gangs. Any plan that is proposed as a way to reduce gun violence that doesn’t mention any of these factors isn’t serious about gun violence and is only concerned with the perception of security rather than actual security. With the gun violence debate, we should have an all options on the table approach. And if all options are on the table, shouldn’t encouraging firearm ownership and carrying also be on the table?