The recent shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has rekindled debate about gun control in the United States. Once again, many liberals are calling for bans on assault weapons, while many conservatives are blaming mental health issues for shootings. When this conflict inevitably arises after every mass shooting, it is easy to believe that only one side of the debate is right and that the other is dead wrong. This deadlock results in the inability of Congress to pass any meaningful legislation that can help stop these terrible crimes. It is crucial in times like these to examine both points of view and examine valid points that can be made by both sides.
The opinion that is echoed most by the mass media after every mass shooting is that effective gun control has to be enacted in America. Still, while many may not completely agree about the Second Amendment, it is a constitutional right to own a gun. Like any right, however, it is not unlimited. Some states like Maryland have passed laws to ban assault weapons in the wake of these mass shootings, and federal appeals courts have declared these laws to be constitutional. Even Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his opinion on District of Columbia v. Heller that the right to bear arms “is not unlimited”. This means that regulating guns would be a constitutional action, despite the Second Amendment. This doesn’t mean that assault weapons should be banned outright; it would be impossible to reach a compromise with gun rights supporters by attempting this. Also, collecting assault weapons already owned would be problematic. Instead, more feasible regulations like raising the age to buy an assault weapon from 18 to 21 and improving background checks should be implemented. Another potential solution could be ending the production of new assault weapons; if there are fewer of them made, supply will go down, meaning that it would be more difficult for just anyone to obtain one. There are gun regulations that can be implemented that could help the situation but an outright ban on assault rifles would be near impossible to pass and difficult to enforce.
When people start calling for bans on guns, it is natural that gun rights supporters will attempt to shift the blame from guns to the people pulling the trigger and their mental health. This is an important point to make; banning guns will not completely solve the problem of preventing people from wanting to end innocent lives. It is not by mere chance that many of the shooters in these crimes are young men, twisted and beyond any help. A New York Times opinion article by Michael Black makes the point that the culture of masculinity in America means that many boys deal with their problems through withdrawal or rage instead of opening up to the people around them. This, in turn, produces isolated men who internalize their problems to a breaking point. Obviously, this isn’t an excuse for killing innocent people, but it is a step in the right direction to realize that in order to prevent these mass shootings, we have to try to reach out to boys who fall into this pattern of internalization and isolation.
President Trump tweeted on Thursday that teachers should have guns in the classroom to prepare for these mass shootings. This is a step in the wrong direction; as a country, we cannot sit down and accept that these shootings will happen regardless of anything we try to do to stop them and merely focus on defending ourselves from shooters. There are steps we can take to address the root of the problem, whether it be attempting enacting more gun regulations or addressing the mental health issues that cause people to pick up the gun. Before we take these steps though, as a country, we have to realize something very important; the other side can have valid ideas.
Ben Crnic is a contributor for the The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.