The U.S. Needs Better Gun Control

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Staff Editorial

On April 18th, 2011, Kalamazoo police officer Eric Zapata was shot by Leonard Statler. On February 20th, 2016, Jason Brian Dalton drove around Kalamazoo shooting innocent civilians killing six people and injuring two others. On September 6th, 2016, Daquarion Hunter and Marsavious Frazier died in a tragic accident involving a gun. These deaths have rocked Kalamazoo in the past five years, and they all have one thing in common. A gun was involved. This is the theme in modern tragedy.

With the current gun laws people can go to the store and buy a gun after they pass a background check. The U.S. government does not have any laws about waiting periods so it is left up to the states to decide. It is too easy for people with bad intentions to buy a gun. Waiting periods are a set time barrier between the time a gun is purchased and when the buyer receives the gun. These are very important because they prevent people with malice from getting a gun right away. Only seven states and one district have a set waiting period: Florida, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, California, Rhode Island, Minnesota and the District of Columbia. Michigan is not on the list.

To buy a gun in Michigan, you need a permit: then you can buy a gun. At the store where you are buying the gun you must fill out a form and then the owner makes a phone call to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Once contacted, the NICS checks for any problems on your record. This can take days, but often takes only minutes. As long as you don’t have any problems in your criminal and mental health history, dishonorable military discharges, past drug use, questions about your immigration status, and are not under indictment, then you can pass a background check. Once you pass this test, you are then presented with your recently purchased handgun. It is that simple.

Because the background check required to get a gun is so quick, the quality of the check is very poor. The checks happen too quickly for any thorough investigation, and it can only detect something in the actual records like a felony charge. It is harder for background checks to detect someone who supports a radical political profile (often violently), or someone with a mental disability.

It would be very beneficial to increase this waiting period significantly because background checks done so quickly are very inadequate. A waiting period of at least six months is ideal, as this gives people time to calm down if they are buying the gun with the intent to cause harm on a spur-of-the-moment impulse. Increasing the time it takes for a buyer to get a gun also allows time for a more thorough background check.

The main argument against an extended waiting period is that many criminals buy guns illegally, so imposing a legal waiting period only hurts people who need the gun to protect themselves. But even “good” people can cause others and themselves a lot of harm. 

In 2015 toddlers shot 58 people according to an article by “The Washington Post.” When people have not been trained how to use a gun properly, they can easily cause an accident.

According to The Brady Campaign, “Every day on average, 55 people kill themselves with a firearm. Preventing those people from obtaining guns would not stop all of them from killing themselves, but it would save some.”

According to the Michigan State Police in order to obtain a permit you need to complete a training course, fill out some paperwork and have your fingerprints taken. After that, the county clerk has up to 45 days to issue the permit. Those are the steps for Michigan. However that is only for handguns. When we are talking more deadly weapons, like assault rifles, it is an entirely different story.

Should civilians access to assault rifles and other military grade weapons be allowed? The issue is centered around a type of rifle commonly known as the AR-15. This name refers to many semi-automatic rifles, guns that fire as fast as the shooter can pull the trigger. 

It is easier to buy a civilian assault rifle than it is to buy a handgun in the U.S. The reasoning behind that is that it is a  “long gun.” A “long gun” is a gun that has a barrel that is over 16 cm. These types of guns are easier to acquire because they are supposedly harder to conceal. All a person needs in order to qualify to buy a “long gun” is to be over eighteen years old and to pass the background check.  Private sale of a long gun can be done without a background check so the only requirement is that the buyer be over eighteen.

This gun has been the weapon of choice in multiple shootings, including the Orlando nightclub shooting and the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“[The shooter] chose the AR-15 because he was aware of how many shots it could get out, how lethal it was, the way it was designed, that it would serve his objective of killing as many people as possible in the shortest time possible,” said Nicole Hockley, a mother who lost her child in the Sandy Hook shooting, quoted in “Rolling Stone.”

The main argument to justify civilian ownership of assault rifles is the potential need to defend against tyranny. According to an article written by Marty Hayes J. D. on the “Armed Citizen’s Legal Defense Network,” assault rifles are weapons of protection, in case the government takes over. 

“…an assurance that Americans will never lack the weaponry to fight against their own government, if that government becomes tyrannical,” Hayes continued “After all, high capacity semiautomatic rifles are not used for hunting or sporting purposes, just for killing humans. To which I respond ‘exactly.’”

Although fear of government oppression is a very legitimate fear in many parts of the world, it is not a particularly valid fear in the U.S. due to the foundation of this country being based on liberty and justice for all. Oppression is not as much of an issue as it is in countries like North Korea and Syria. Our government does not use chemical weapons on us or arrest us for speaking against the state.

Fear and wanting to protect yourself are very natural desires and emotions. However, providing everyone with a firearm is not the smartest way to go about that. Though it’s true that many people would get a gun for protection, it would also put guns into the hands of those who want to kill.

U.S. citizens do not need assault rifles and don’t need speedy access to handguns. We need a barrier between these weapons of mass murder and the hands of violent people. Installing a 6-month waiting period and preventing any access to assault weapons will the U.S. a safer place. Guns make it far too easy to kill a human being. Putting them in the hands of violent and deranged people only makes the problem worse.

 

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