More than a month has passed since Adam Lanza slaughtered 20 innocent children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. Almost six years have passed since the massacre that ravaged our Hokie Nation. How much time must pass until our government can do something meaningful to prevent more needless deaths?
We must first make it easier to determine the best course of action to prevent mass shootings. Until the mid-1990s, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducted scholarly research on gun violence. Then, the National Rifle Association (NRA) stepped in to virtually ban the CDC from using its funds to research gun violence.
The research simply was not on the NRA’s side. In fact, according to one 1993 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, “Homes with guns had a nearly three times greater risk of homicide…” There goes the argument that more guns in the home magically make families safer.
Fortunately, among President Obama’s 23 executive actions — not orders — announced on Wednesday is a presidential memorandum directing the CDC to conduct research “into the causes and prevention of gun violence.” All responsible Americans should hope the intentionally vague statute blocking the CDC’s efforts in the past will cease to be a stumbling block.
Knowing what will prevent mass gun violence, however, is not enough. Our congressional leaders must also have the courage to enact the best gun safety policies.
Despite what some might say about the NRA, its influence as a lobbying group is as strong as ever on Capitol Hill. This influence derives from the immense campaign donations the organization makes to pro-gun candidates.
Yet, according to the Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group, of the $10.5 million the NRA spent on 2012 elections, only 0.83 percent of it went to races that ended with the NRA’s desired result. To release Congress from the stranglehold of the NRA’s pro-gun lobbying, legislators must realize how impotent the group has become.
What about legislators who genuinely believe their Second Amendment rights will be infringed upon with enactment of any gun restrictions? This group must explain its thinking when it opposes such proposals as universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and armor-piercing bullets.
With every right comes a corresponding responsibility, and our right to bear arms comes with the responsibility to use those guns responsibly and in such a way as to protect children.
A universal background check, eliminating the “gun show loophole” — whereby prohibited purchasers of weapons can acquire them without undergoing a background check — would not take away the right of lawful citizens to purchase guns.
Just as convicted felons lose their most basic democratic right, suffrage, so must dangerous persons their right to bear arms. This is not a violation of the Constitution.
Similarly, assault weapons do not belong in the hands of normal citizens; they belong on the battlefield. Neither self-defense nor hunting requires rifles with a grenade launcher or a flash suppressor. Armor-piercing bullets also do nothing but enable gun owners to kill police officers.
While the effects of assault weapons bans must be researched further, Congress must allow research to be conducted. If we are serious about stopping the epidemic of mass shootings so prevalent during the last few decades, we must come into the discussion with open minds about real solutions.