January 26, 2016—Following President Obama’s emotional appeal to the American public for increased gun control measures, activists on both sides of the debate are fighting to have their voices heard.
Anti-gun activists are praising the President’s efforts to keep our communities safe, and emotional pleas are meant to convince the American public that tighter gun control measures will end mass shootings and violent attacks. Pro-gun activists, on the other hand, view the president’s efforts as overreaching and a violation of our Second Amendment rights.
The gun control measures that President Obama is pushing for involve expanding background checks for those who purchase firearms. According to CNN, along with increased funding for mental health treatment, the Obama Administration is specifically focusing on “narrowing the so-called ‘gun show loophole,’ which exempts most small sellers from keeping formal sales records.” The purpose of this commentary is not to dissect whether or not these proposed gun control measures will prevent future violence. Instead, the focus here is on the root of the problem: a lack of individual responsibility.
In order to set the stage for this discussion, there are a few points of background information that need to be presented. First off, Americans need to realize that the United States is NOT experiencing a gun violence epidemic. In fact, the number of homicides as a result of gun violence has drastically decreased since 1993. According to the Pew Research Center, “Between 1993 and 2000, the gun homicide rate dropped by nearly half, from 7.0 homicides to 3.8 homicides per 100,000 people.” Since 2000, the gun homicide rate has remained fairly consistent, falling further in 2009 and remaining flat since then. These figures don’t account for gun-related suicides, however, if one sincerely desires to kill themselves, I doubt that gun control will be a preventative factor. Therefore, such figures make it difficult to argue that the United States is experiencing a gun-violence epidemic.
Secondly, considering the statistics on gun-related homicides, why do many Americans continue to believe that the number of gun-related homicides have increased? There are two parts to this answer: increased emotional appeal on behalf of the media and the preconceived notion that gun control is a necessary policy. Whenever a mass shooting occurs, the media focuses on the motive and background of the shooter, unintentionally providing the killer with a few moments of infamy. As the dust begins to settle, the focus turns to guns, which quickly become the political scapegoat for the incident. Instead of holding people accountable for their actions, idealistic politicians attempt to further a long-desired political agenda. The media is quick to join in to instill fear into the hearts and minds of its viewership. As a result, it is natural that people have the preconceived notion that gun control is a necessary policy measure.
Regardless of how one feels about gun control, it is important to realize that gun control, in itself, isn’t the problem. The idea that we need gun control to solve a much deeper underlying issue is the problem. Gun control activists, as pure as their intentions may be, feed into the idea that individuals are not responsible for their own actions. Unfortunately, this idea is becoming increasingly prevalent in our society. We have become a society that has complete disdain for personal responsibility. We come up with excuses as to why we we should never be faulted. We look for others upon whom we can place the blame. We are constantly told that we “deserve” things. Instead of standing up and taking responsibility for our actions, we are raised to believe that we are not personally responsible for our position in life. There is always someone, or something, else to blame. Unfortunately, society encourages such behavior.
How does this relate to gun control? It’s simple. Gun control is a reflection of society’s disdain for personal responsibility. As cliché as it may be, the old adage “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” sums up the idea individuals are ultimately responsible for their actions. However, instead of blaming the shooter for his actions, we are always quick to blame the gun. Instead of focusing on justice, we focus on the inanimate object that was used to perform the act of terror. We blame violent acts on the accessibility of guns and fail to realize that it is evil that compels individuals to commit such acts of violence. As long as we continue to blame guns for acts that are perpetrated by individual action, we will fail to prevent future tragedies.
Although we are not experiencing a gun violence epidemic, our society is indeed transforming into a culture of violence. There is no respect for human life and individuals are prone to use violence as a means to an end. Violence is glorified in popular culture and individuals are exposed to it on a daily basis. For this reason, no reasonable individual can argue against measures that ensure gun safety. It is absolutely heartbreaking to witness innocent lives being slaughtered for no good reason. However, when the blame gets shifted from the individual to the object, we are, in a sense, excusing human behavior and ultimately doing more harm than good. In order to put an end to our culture of violence, we must learn to have respect for all human life. If we truly wish to procure justice, we must hold individuals accountable for their actions.
In conclusion, it is true that we have become a culture of violence. However, this violence is not to be blamed on guns, knives, or any other weapon. This culture of violence stems from the evil of mankind and is to be blamed on human beings who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. As long as guns continue to be used as a scapegoat, we will continue to witness a decline in personal responsibility. Although efforts to ensure gun safety may be reasonable, it is unreasonable to believe that gun control will solve all of our problems. In order to progress, we must first accept the idea that human action is responsible for acts of violence, not guns. Holding individuals responsible for their actions will be far more effective than blaming a weapon that is useless without human interaction.
Will gun control be a major issue in 2016? Comment below!