Josh Lehrer: It’s time to talk guns

Case Western Reserve United

There are 268 dead and 288 injured from 33 separate incidents. All by the mass shooting sprees by one (in the case of Columbine, two) perpetrators since 1998. Men, women, children, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, teachers, students, the list simply goes on and on. These are the tragedies that the United States has suffered by senseless gun violence.

Let’s do just a little more number crunching. Guns in 2010 killed more infants, toddlers and preschoolers than law enforcement officers in the line of duty in the U.S. Gun deaths and injuries cost $174.1 billion each year, or 1.15 percent of our total gross domestic product. Okay, thanks for letting me contextualize this issue just a little more.

Values associated with gun reform methods vary according to American individuals’ political beliefs and practices. On the right side of the political spectrum, most of the general opinion rests on the fact that the individual perpetrator is the problem, not the firearms used themselves in the conduction of crimes. Values on the right include autonomy and individuality as well as the right from government involvement in personal affairs and privacy. As Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute puts it, “We’d be better off focusing on the identification and treatment of mental illness—the common factor in all these incidents [of mass shootings].”

Other pundits like Trevor Burrus support concealed-carry policies so as to enable “responsible citizens” to prevent “mass bloodshed by drawing their weapons and using them for the public good.” He and other right-wing critics also claim that many criminals will find means to subvert any laws put in place, and therefore render efforts and legislative actions useless.

On the left, support for gun control is commonplace, based off of liberals’ values associated with equal opportunity and broader governmental roles in regulating society. Left political activists seek to ensure human rights are guaranteed through government’s participation in the daily lives of citizens. Liberals endorse gun reforms for these reasons. They also pose gun control as a public health-related issue—one that should take priority in order to achieve the greater good for all.

Common sense gun reform measures need to be put in place on the federal level. And folks, I mean now. It shouldn’t spur political debate, but discussion is healthy. Gun reform needs to be a priority. Such measures worked relatively well in the late 1990s, after the passage of the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, more commonly known as the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB). The act has since expired in 2004 due to the “sunshine provision.” But think about it, between the 1994 implementation of the law, until it expired (2004), only 58 deaths and 75 injuries from gun-related violence occurred. From 2005 on, the figure is 215 and 204, respectively. Does that not mean anything? Isn’t that evidence enough?

We all have had enough. The day we see newscasters murdered on live television, covering that common local news item, that’s the day we rise up, put aside differences and actually take action. We cannot remain idle. It’s certainly too late for all who’ve been gunned down mercilessly. We cannot bring them back. However, we can at least ensure they are never forgotten, that their legacy was causing reasonable change on a national level to take place.
Gun violence is a national public health issue. Why guns are not regulated like automobiles befuddles me, quite honestly. Cars are regulated, wherein registration is required, classes to educate their proper usage are mandatory, etc. Nope. Not firearms.

You see, this is not what the forefathers envisioned in drafting the Second Amendment; that is quite clear. In fact, our forefathers would be disgusted by how the Second Amendment has been used and interpreted. It is not what they intended at all. Americans deserve to feel safer, knowing they will not be vulnerable at all times to the ridiculous prevalence of gun violence.

Josh realizes this issue is among the most contentious in our country. But as someone who eventually strives to have a career in public health and be a pediatric clinician, he feels it is imperative that something finally be done about this violence. He is a senior.