Why Trite Responses Are Not Enough
Evan Klim (Democratic Socialism)
“Mass shootings have become so frequent in this country it seems like the only thing that will stop a bad guy within a gun is another bad guy with a gun who coincidentally came to shoot up the same place.”
~Samantha Bee, Comedienne~
The response to mass shootings in America is trite: thoughts and prayers are offered to the victims and their families, politicians vow that this will never happen again, and people continue to buy guns out of fear that government legislation will force individuals to relinquish them.
Now I understand the issue of gun control in America is particularly thorny, as issues surrounding guns in America raises questions surrounding the “right to bear arms” and the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, but I would argue that reasonable measures can be taken to ensure that innocent lives are protected in private and public spaces.
I should stress that in proposing these reasonable measures that we should encourage responsible ownership. With that said, when it comes to guns in America, weaknesses in gun laws and their enforcement gives people who hold violent ideologies and beliefs the ability to commit acts of terror – as terrorist organizations are willing to exploit these weaknesses. Whether someone is motivated by homophobic, racist, or sexist beliefs, it is troubling to think that anyone in America can easily purchase a gun and commit acts of terror. Accordingly, I’m sure we can agree that taking reasonable measures to ensure people who pose a threat to others should not have access to assault-style weapons (like the AR-15) that can wipe out a room full of people in seconds.
When proposing what measures can be taken to ensure suspected terrorists (domestic or foreign) do not have access to dangerous weapons, I believe that looking to something like the no-fly list gives us an example of how regulating a field like air travel can serve as a public good. While the no-fly list is a provocative example, as there are weaknesses in the no-fly list when it comes to who decides ‘what a suspected terrorist is,’ I would argue that the no-fly list is an example of how Americans are capable of taking reasonable steps to ensure that innocent lives are protected. In this case, regulating air travel through measures like the no-fly list makes it harder for suspected terrorists to inflict damage. And while you can never make something like airplanes totally terrorist-proof, restricting the means by which individuals commit acts of terror is an important step in ensuring the safety and well-being of innocent lives. A lesson can therefore be drawn from the no-fly list and how it was used to restrict individuals from buying a gun based off their history.
Another measure that can be put in place to ensure the safety of innocent civilians, and gun owners, is to put in place tests to ensure gun owners are safe and responsible with their firearms. Indeed, you would not want someone driving a car who does not have a licence (seeing that motor vehicles, like guns, are capable of causing deaths).
In the same vein, I would argue that if someone was interested in purchasing a gun, he or she should have to show that they know how to safely handle the firearm in question.
Of course, not everyone drives a car, but if you are a passenger in a motor vehicle you would hope the driver has a licence and is capable of operating the vehicle in a safe manner. According to the Violence Policy Center, “Motor vehicle deaths are on a steady decline nationwide, thanks to decades of applying proven public health-based injury prevention strategies to reduce death and injury.” Considering this fact, I would argue that regulating access to guns, including what guns people have access to, can be an effective way to both ensure the safety of others and the safety of gun owners.
A pitfall of these measures I have laid out is the fact that you can never totally eliminate gun violence, as crime can never totally be eliminated. However, doing something to decrease the likelihood of gun violence is better than doing nothing. Indeed, with every shooting, there is a lot of talk about what legislation can be passed to ensure the safety of individuals in public and in private, but little is actually done to solve the issue because of the gun lobby in America (and their ability to control legislative bodies).
Sure, thoughts and prayers are great in the sense that they give people something to hope for in socio-political life but praying only works if people do something to make their hopes a reality.
To watch Matthew Zink’s rebuttal to this article click here.
To read Katherine Revello’s rebuttal to this article click here.
Evan Klim is a sociology student at Carleton University (Ottawa, Ontario) who has planted thousands of trees across Canada.