Gun laws need to change

Anita Babbitt

Recently my brother-in-law found out that one of his students from last year, who was very bright and an excellent track runner, had been shot and killed. He was only in eighth grade. My brother-in-law teaches at a charter school in Chicago and knows many kids who have been threatened with or injured by guns.
According to the University of Chicago, of the 510 people killed in Chicago in 2008, 80 percent were killed with firearms. Almost half of those people were between the ages of 10 and 25. Chicago is one of the many places in the United States where gun crimes have become so common that often they are no longer reported in the news.
Of the leading industrial countries in the world, the U.S. has by far the highest death rate from guns. According to the American Bar Association, this rate is eight times higher than the averages of its economic counterparts. Every year more than 100,000 people are shot in the U.S. and more than 30,000 of them die from their wounds. Given these horrific statistics, it baffles me that there are not stricter gun laws in the U.S.
In some states, including Wisconsin, a person does not even need a license to own a gun. It is terrifying to think that anyone around our campus could have a gun. I would like to think that it would be easy to protect people against guns by making common sense gun laws. The sad truth is, though, that it has become extremely hard to regulate guns at all – even to do something that is obviously sensible like banning assault weapons.
Legislators have turned “the right to bear arms” into a slogan that prevents any type of gun regulation. The National Rifle Association is an extremely powerful lobby and makes the “slippery slope” argument that if any kind of weaponry is prohibited it would eventually lead to all guns being banned.
This is stupid. We draw lines every day. Enacting sensible laws – for example, bans on assault weapons and armor-piercing ammunition – would not mean that people would lose the right to own hunting rifles. But as long as the NRA remains so powerful, it is very difficult to get politicians even to consider enacting stricter gun control laws.
I do believe that people who want to hunt should be allowed to own hunting rifles and hunt at their leisure, but I do not agree at all with citizens being able to own an assault weapon or a handgun. I believe the only people who should be allowed to own these types of guns are police and military forces. If someone wants to go to a shooting range, they should be allowed to, but they should have to lock their guns away in a safe area when they are done.
That in mind, people should be educated about firearms if they plan to own one. When I was learning how to drive I had to get 50 hours of driving practice before I had my license. Shouldn’t people also have to prove that they know how to use a gun properly before they are allowed to own one? After all, the consequences of careless driving and careless gun use are similar – people can be seriously injured or die.
The second amendment has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to mean that you have a right to a gun for the purpose of defending your home. Earlier this year, when Otis McDonald sued Chicago for banning handguns, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of him because of this interpretation. Chicago – and every other city in the United States – is no longer allowed to ban handguns.
What I don’t understand is why the Supreme Court would make this ruling about a city that is affected so greatly by handguns. If there was already so much gun violence during the ban, how much gun violence will there be now that it’s lifted?
Even if you have a right to own a gun, should you? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 40 percent of households in the United States own a gun. I have always believed having a gun in your home is very dangerous. Accidents can happen, especially when there are kids in the home. Young children are naturally curious and if guns are not stored properly, that curiosity can be – and too often is – fatal.
According to the Brady Center, a gun in the home is 11 times more likely to be used in an attempted suicide than to be used for self-defense. Youth suicide has become a huge problem and guns are a definite factor. Almost 50 percent of youth suicides are committed with guns; 85 percent use the guns in their homes.
So what is the solution? It is obvious that legislatures are not going to budge for a long time on this issue. Perhaps the only solution is education. If people were aware of the statistics, they might realize how terrible firearms are and might think twice about having them in their homes. People who are well educated on the issues surrounding gun violence might also push for changes to our gun laws.