By Emily Moran
Elm Staff Writer
In the past few months, the nation’s policy on gun control has been thrust into the spotlight and become open to heavy criticism as a result of the tragic on-air shooting of two Virginia newscasters by a former coworker and the Delta State shooting in Mississippi.
In the aftermath of multiple tragic mass and public shootings, many have called for heavier restrictions on who is able to acquire guns and other such firearms. One popular suggestion includes examining the mental health of those attempting to purchase a gun, prohibiting those who have a history of significantly aggressive outbursts from access to these guns. Despite the disturbing frequency of such attacks, opponents of gun control vehemently oppose any action taken in order to limit the availability of firearms. These opponents often cite the Second Amendment as a core reason as to why guns should be made available to everyone – to limit availability would be unconstitutional. However, is the reasoning behind the Second Amendment antiquated and inapplicable to life in America today? If it is still applicable, should it be modified in order to prevent the mass shootings that seem to happen way too frequently?
Even though violent crime is currently at an all time low, the United States is especially violent when compared to other developed countries. A Washington Post article titled “11 Essential Facts About Guns and Mass Shootings in the United States” outlined various studies about gun violence and gun control laws and the correlation between the two. One of these studies found that states with stricter gun control laws tend to have less deaths by gun violence. Another study found that the Southern region of the U.S., the region with the least strict gun control laws, is the most violent region in the country, with over 7 deaths out of 100,000 by assault. However, despite all the evidence, there seems to be little that is being done to combat the lack of gun laws in the South. Most of the states in the South are extremely conservative, and many people are strongly resisting the implementation of such laws.
Last week, Shannon Lamb, a professor at Delta State University in Mississippi, shot and killed both his girlfriend, Amy Prentiss, and his colleague, Ethan Schmidt. The shooting of Schmidt occurred at Delta State, resulting in a lockdown. Although Lamb’s motive for the murders are still unknown (as of the writing of this article), his relationship with Prentiss has been described as “rocky,” and Lamb was believed to suffer from addictive behaviors and mood swings. Such tragedies are unfortunately not uncommon, especially in states where there is little gun control, such as Mississippi. Substance abuse and addiction, as well as mental illnesses should be heavily considered when conducting background checks for gun purchases. Tragedies such as the Delta State shooting demonstrate a need for more restrictions on the purchases of firearms.
There is also the dilemma of whether or not the Second Amendment should be firmly upheld. It is important to consider the historical context in which this amendment was written. The Second Amendment states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This was written shortly after the Revolutionary War when there was no organized military. Instead, there was a militia that consisted of American citizens ready to fight when necessary.
We as a nation have evolved and grown since the 18th century. We now have an organized military and the days when civilian insurrection was necessary are long gone. Therefore, the Second Amendment might be a bit outdated, and should be reevaluated. While some may say that to do so would be unconstitutional, one should keep in mind that the Constitution has been interpreted different ways and amended throughout this nation’s history. Since gun control is an issue that affects the safety of many Americans, we should amend the Second Amendment in a way that makes the country a little safer.
Opponents of gun control also claim that taking away guns from law-abiding citizens will not reduce violent crime at all. This restriction on guns would fail to stop criminals from acquiring them, and would thus leave the “good” gun-owners open to attack without means of defending themselves. However, there are several problems with this reasoning. Firstly, how would one distinguish between a “good,” law-abiding citizen that wants a gun for self-defense reasons and a criminal? Background checks are often required in order to purchase a gun, but given the violent crime statistics, there needs to be more measures taken in order to minimize the amount of people that are victims of gun violence. Therefore, how does it make sense to keep perpetuating the notion that gun control is essentially useless?
Deaths by gun violence in America are steadily decreasing; however, mass shootings, such as the Charleston and Sandy Hook shootings are still occurring frequently. There should be measures taken to limit (if not completely eliminate) opportunities for criminals to purchase guns. This means implementing stricter gun laws, such as more background checks, required lectures on gun safety, or a ban on assault weapons altogether. Gun violence is an issue that affects the U.S.most out of any other developed country. The lack of gun control policies that is prevalent in much of the country compromises the safety of too many people.