Are we as divided as we think when it comes to gun control?


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been unable to research gun violence because of an amendment made to a 1997 bill that barred it from conducting research that will “advocate or promote gun control.” 

A lone gunman fired shot after shot from the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel last Sunday toward a crowd of 22,000 attending a country music festival below, killing 59 and injuring more than 500 others. It was the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the U.S., according to NBC. 

The second deadliest shooting occurred a mere 16 months ago when a deranged gunman murdered 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando. The third and fourth deadliest mass shootings have both occurred since 2007, as well. Those being the horrific events at Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook Elementary, respectively. 

Are these mass shootings really the price of the freedom to bear arms as some right-wing pundits have suggested? We don’t think it needs to be. 

Unfortunately, though, these sorts of events have become ingrained in American culture. And thus — to varying degrees — we have become desensitized to this brand of senseless violence and the ensuing partisan debates that erupt in their wake. 

Since the Las Vegas shooting, Democrats have attempted to garner momentum behind gun-control measures, and Republicans have — rightly so in some cases — accused them of politicizing the tragedy. But who is right and who is wrong in these scenarios does not matter because nothing has gotten done regardless, and people continue to die because of gun violence at an alarming rate. All these debates serve to do is feed into the perception that gun control is a polarizing issue.

The divide on the gun control debate is not as wide as some may think, though. A recent survey from The New York Times (NYT) showed that a majority of those who responded supported 28 of 29 gun regulations NYT proposed, such as universal background checks, universal licensing for sellers and bans on gun sales for those convicted of violent crimes. 

While many states require licensed dealers to perform background checks, unlicensed sellers — those whose livelihood is not dependent on gun sales — are not required to. Those who would trade or give a gun as a gift are also exempt from performing background checks. 

How many guns are purchased or obtained through these means is unclear, as data on the subject is unreliable. But, what is for sure is the fact that this loophole allows people to purchase or obtain guns who would otherwise not pass a background check.

When New York City police went undercover to try to buy guns from private sellers in 2009, it found that 19 of 30 sellers agreed to sell guns after the buyers told them they “probably couldn’t pass a background check,” according to NYT. It is evident that something needs to be done. 

Most Americans would like to see action taken on guns, but unfortunately, the influence of the gun lobby and the polarized opinions of politicians at the national level has prevented any progress from being made.

The Slate staff supports the Second Amendment, as some of us are proud gun owners ourselves. We uniformly agree that it must be more difficult to obtain a gun. We would like to see loopholes, like those listed above, closed so that laws that are already on the books can serve their original purpose. 

We also would like to see more efforts in place to register guns so that people are not able to stockpile weapons like the Las Vegas shooter, who had purchased some 33 guns in the last 12 months, according to USA Today. Had there been a database accessible by police, this rate of purchase would surely be a red flag.

Overall, we do not think that stricter regulation of things such as magazine sizes or silencers helps prevent gun violence. But, we would like to see a ban on bump stocks, which were used by the Las Vegas shooter to increase the rate of fire of his semi-automatic weapon to nearly that of an automatic weapon. These bump stocks circumvent assault-weapon bans because the weapon is still considered semi-automatic. We think this is yet another thing many Americans can agree on regarding gun control. 

Much like voting, owning a gun is both a right and a privilege. And like felons are denied their right to vote or DUI offenders denied their privilege to drive, we think certain people should be denied the right to own guns. 

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