Gun control legislation misfires
Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 00:01
Like much of what Washington D.C. does, the gun law proposals made by President Barack Obama last Wednesday were an overreaction to media cries to do something, anything, following the disastrous school shooting in Newtown, Conn. last month.
President Obama made several proposals, each of which will either have no chance of getting through Congress, no chance of surviving a trip to the Supreme Court or no chance of actually reducing gun violence in any meaningful way.
Leaders on both sides have once again trotted out the scapegoat for all gun violence in the last 20 years: violent media, and in particular violent video games. While games like “Grand Theft Auto” are morally deplorable, there is no evidence that the shooter, Adam Lanza, was at all motivated or inspired by these games, or by other violent media like rap lyrics or Quentin Tarantino movies.
Nor is there any evidence that other recent perpetrators of mass shootings were motivated or inspired by images in the media. Of course, any attempt to limit the ability of video game or movie producers to create any content they like, especially without evidence connecting this violent media to real world crime, is surely to get struck down by the courts on First Amendment grounds.
Universal and more extensive background checks could have some effect, but in this case, the system worked. Reports indicate that Lanza had attempted to buy a gun but was denied because he refused to comply with the background check or the waiting period. What didn’t work is that Nancy Lanza was allowed to buy a gun while having a mentally unstable son in her home, and perhaps current law could be changed to prevent situations like that from happening (like requiring her to safely secure her guns so that her son couldn’t access them, perhaps).
But the biggest overreaction is the idea of armed guards at every school. This idea was first touted by the National Rifle Association (NRA) in a critically-panned press conference. Of course, what the NRA really wanted was to let teachers carry, but they couldn’t support something like that without a massive media firestorm. So they settled for the vastly more expensive idea that would have much the same effect on school safety.
Schools are already incredibly safe. No one should feel scared to go to school, as shootings are exceedingly rare.
Nearly every armed guard appointed to a school will never see someone attempt a shootout, and so in nearly every case, they’re a waste of taxpayer’s money, and there aren’t many governments, state, local or even federal, who have enough money to consider a policy with such little chance of positive results. Nowhere will ever be 100 percent safe, but schools are about as close as can be reasonably expected.
The real gun violence issue isn’t with assault rifles being used in mass shootouts, but with handguns used in gang warfare. These don’t rack up 20 plus deaths in a few minutes by a single weapon, but between 1976 and 2005, the Bureau of Justice reports that guns other than handguns killed on average about 200 fewer people each year than did knives. Violence by assault rifles isn’t the problem, but politicians find them an easier target.
There will be more mass shootings, regardless of what Congress does to try to stop them. The assault weapon ban passed in 1994 didn’t prevent Columbine. These things will happen, and as difficult as it is for politicians to recognize, some things are out of their power. The actions of mad men are some such things. Hopefully whatever legislation that is eventually passed will fix some of the holes and flaws currently in the system, but no law can be omnipotent, and politicians need to realize this before legislating.
Keene is a junior majoring in political science, economics and public policy.