Despite President Obama’s emphasis on gun control in the State of the Union address last year, there were 28 school shootings in 2013 and more than one mass shooting occurred each month, according to MSNBC’s Meredith Clark.
Though the topic repeats like a broken record, the bottom line regarding gun control is that guns are treated as a privilege, and I see fewer people treating that privilege with congruent responsibility.
I hesitate to use the word ‘privilege’ in this sense. I grew up with a BB gun, my brother had a shotgun and I am friends with a lot of families who hunt. Hunting, and owning the necessary equipment to do so, is a privilege.
But should that privilege also include semi-automatic weapons, clip-loaded pistols and weapons designed for the sole intent of taking human life? In my opinion, certain lines should be drawn when it comes to firearm responsibility.
I believe that there is a need for thorough background checks, mandated registration renewals from gun owners and renewal of the federal ban on assault weapons.
Last Wednesday, my good friend Jake Ressler traveled from Muncie, Ind. to attend the funeral of his girlfriend, Krystle Dikes, the first of three that died in a shooting at Martin’s supermarket on Jan. 15 in Elkhart.
That evening, Shawn Walter Bair entered the Martin’s supermarket on the north end of Elkhart and killed Dikes and Rachelle Godfread before being gunned down by police.
Since Jan. 15, four shootings have been reported across the U.S.
An unidentified shooter injured a student at Widener University’s athletic center on Jan. 20 outside of Philadelphia.
The following day, Cody Cousins entered Purdue University’s electrical engineering building to specifically target and kill Andrew Boldt, officials told CNN.
Friday afternoon, a South Carolina State University football player, Brandon Robinson, was shot on the campus. The shooter has yet to be identified, and Robinson died soon thereafter.
Finally, Darion Aguilar took a 12-gauge shotgun and a backpack of explosives into a mall in Columbia, Md., on Jan. 25, taking two lives before his own.
It appears that gun-related violence has become commonplace, and even President Obama stated in 2013, “I fear there is a creeping resignation that these tragedies [shootings] are somehow just the way it is.”
Despite the increased media coverage of shootings, the market for gun sales is still business as usual. And purchasing a weapon without a background check is by no means impossible.
The weekend after the Martin’s shooting, the Elkhart Truth reported that a gun show would continue as scheduled at the RV Hall of Fame, which is less than a mile away from the scene of the shooting.
But gun shows don’t pose the biggest threat when it comes to firearms falling into the wrong hands. The Washington Post reported in August 2013 that while background checks are required for the sale of a firearm, they are not required when purchasing from private sellers—including online sellers.
As PBS’ Frontline reports, most people that obtain guns illegally conduct a “straw purchase,” in which another person purchases a weapon on one’s behalf.
Based on Bair’s Facebook page that was broadcast all over the Internet, Bair’s interest in serial killers might have barred him from purchasing a weapon on his own.
Whether the weapon was illegally purchased, stolen or borrowed does not change the fact that a firearm slipped through the cracks, and Bair was able to cause tragic harm with it.
Moreover, Bair’s weapon was a semi-automatic handgun, which would have been banned under the now defunct Federal Assault Weapons Ban. The Ban expired in September 2004.
Granted, firearms categorized as “assault weapons” have always been sold and traded, whether on legal terms or not (and in spite of federal bans). Thus, some would consider such a ban useless.
Meanwhile, some ardent supporters of Second Amendment rights believe in the importance of owning weapons for self-defense.
Personally, the kinds of guns that aren’t made for hunting make me uncomfortable—especially when you notice a Glock bulging from a spectator’s hip at a city council meeting.
While owning a gun is not a necessity for me personally, the arguments supporting a citizen’s right to own a weapon, whether for sport or for self defense, are fair and understandable. However, semi-automatic and fully automatic weaponry are not designed for “defense,” but rather for a more efficient means of killing. As such, why would we want to live in a society that allows our neighbors to own such a weapon?
Regardless of someone’s stance on gun rights, it only seems natural that people should live in a world where they don’t need to worry about assault weapons when they shop for groceries, attend college or shop at the mall. This is the goal we should strive for.