I’ve been a victim of gun violence. Three years ago, I was put in a headlock by a drunk man who threatened to blow my head off with a revolver he pressed into the base of my skull. Smelling alcohol fumes from a near-empty bottle in one hand while he traced the gun barrel around my face and chest was one of the most terrifying things I have every experienced.
Sometimes I can still feel cold metal against my collarbone.
He chose not to kill me that day. I was lucky.
After that moment, I realized I knew absolutely nothing about guns. I was raised in a household where guns were feared, apart from the Cub Scout BB-shooting belt loop.
I went and took a concealed carry course, a home defense class, a gun safety course, and routinely shoot handguns, shotguns and rifles. While not nearly an expert, I now consider myself at least proficient and educated about firearms. I was hesitant at first but realized educating myself could only be a good thing.
With the recent shootings in Chicago and DC, people are once again talking about gun control. The most popular arguments I’m seeing daily are confusing. As someone who has experienced firsthand the dangers of firearms in the hands of those who would harm another, I feel obligated to clear a few things up.
The assumption: Carrying guns in an area is made illegal. There are no guns and therefore no gun murders.
The problem: If someone is planning on committing murder, they won’t have qualms about violating a no-gun zone.
When the drunk and I made our acquaintance, we were in a no-gun zone.
I am annoyed when I see a sign that says “no firearms are allowed on the premises,” whether it be a theater, restaurant or store. I understand the desire to keep murderous individuals with firearms away from a location. I also guarantee no person with the intent to murder another human being has ever looked at a “no-guns” sign and decided they would go somewhere else.
Chicago, Navy Yard, Aurora, Sandy Hook, what did all those locations have in common? They were all gun-free zones.
I’m not saying a gun-free zone causes shootings, but if you where a deranged homicidal person, where would you go to kill the maximum amount of people: a building where there are several armed, trained citizens, or a building where people aren’t allowed to carry firearms?
The fact is every mass shooting except one in the past 50 years has occurred in gun-free zones. Obviously, they aren’t working.
Don’t tell me you feel safer in a gun-free zone. The only people obeying the law there are those whom you would want to have firearms in the first place. Those who feel safe when they see a no-gun sign are those whose irrational fear and denial to learn anything about guns keeps them ignorant and exposed. I know because that used to be me.
The assumption: limiting the number of rounds a shooter can carry will limit the number of people they can kill.
The problem: A homicidal individual will not care about regulations. Even if they do carry “correct” magazines, multiple magazines can be carried, making the number of rounds in each moot.
This baffles me almost as much as gun-free zones do. In California, magazines that hold more than 10 rounds are illegal, and many advocate a nation-wide ban.
I can see why you would initially support magazine-size-limiting legislation. But think about it for a minute.
Let’s assume a student came on campus with a handgun, intent on killing as many people in a classroom as they could. Let’s now assume they only have 10-round magazines. That’s good right? Oh wait, they have five magazines in their pockets. That’s 50 rounds of ammunition.
You see the problem: multiple magazines make capacity irrelevant. This same argument applies to rifles. Even if you limit capacity to five rounds, a shooter can easily carry 10 magazines on their person.
Ban all assault weapons and semiautomatic rifles
The assumption: military-grade weapons have no place in the hands of civilians. They are only useful for killing many people quickly.
The problem: you have to define what you’re trying to ban and prove it’s really dangerous.
This is a measure that looks pretty great at first: don’t allow big guns to be sold. I can get behind this to a point, but what exactly are you banning? The firearms in question have to be banned for a reason.
Most people I see advocating this base their criteria on what looks scary. If a gun looks like something you would shoot in Call of Duty, it should be banned. This attitude once again reflects ignorance and decisions based on fear instead of helpful progress.
Last week my friend and I went to shoot an M1 Garand, a WWII-era rifle. This gun is made of wood, looks very nonthreatening, and isn’t included on “banned lists” for those reasons. However, this rifle, which was used by the military and shoots .308 rounds, would be much more effective than a black .22 with a barrel shroud that’s good for shooting rabbits and nothing else. But the little .22 would be banned because it looks scary.
I think the problem with this measure is obvious.
We run into another problem when the word “semiautomatic” is thrown around. Semiautomatic does not mean slow machine gun; it refers to how the firearm re-chambers a round between trigger pulls. Semiautomatic=one trigger pull, one round fired. Automatic=hold the trigger down, multiple rounds rapidly firing. Technically, if a rifle can’t go automatic, it’s not an assault rifle.
Semiautomatic and assault rifle are just buzzwords that mean “big scary gun.”
I’m advocating real change that takes logical steps toward limiting gun violence. I like guns, but I also realize they are weapons that shouldn’t be taken lightly or treated as toys. We need to take steps now so our societies are safer in the future.
Get rid of gun-free zones. Do not give people an area where they can go for open season killing.
Universal background checks. Yeah, make acquiring guns difficult for those with mental disorders. Crack down on person-to-person purchases, make those straw purchases legitimate. Getting a gun is extremely easy, and I think an individual should be educated and show a level of proficiency before they’re allowed to purchase a gun.
Focus on poverty, education and making sure people don’t fear firearms.
Gun violence, whether it be a small-time robbery, in-home threats or mass shootings, is a terrible thing. We can reduce it, but doing so requires honest effort, hard work, and long-term vision. Let’s start now instead of pointlessly bickering over worthless issues.
Joshua Wartena is a senior studying Journalism and Spanish at UVU and will graduate in Fall 2014. He is hoping to work as a middle-east correspondent or long-form magazine writer in South America. Josh is currently living in Orem and is the Opinions Section Editor