December 14, 2018 | ° F

MAENNER:America is in dire need for coherent gun debates

Opinions Column: Maenner's Musings


On the night of Oct. 1, the most deadly modern mass shooting on American soil took place in Las Vegas, as innocent concert-goers were massacred and forced to flee for their lives as a lone gunman fired upon them from the 32nd floor of his hotel room. Armed with 23 weapons, which included rifles equipped with scopes, this lone wolf took it upon himself to turn the famed Las Vegas strip into a scene more closely resembling a war zone, killing 58 people and wounding more than 500 more, along with initiating a pain that has reverberated well past the borders of the world-renowned city.

While it is hopeful to think that the response to this pain would be a united country engaging in a substantive dialogue about ways to ensure this type of tragedy never happens again, the reality is that each instance of mass gun violence seems to divide this nation further apart. Although the mass shooting in Las Vegas may have been the biggest in recent memory, the response in the wake of the tragedy has followed the same pattern that has plagued the American gun debate for years. Rather than try to actually solve the problems related to the epidemic of gun violence, everyone has once again retreated to their own sides in order to refortify their already preconceived notions and make sure all their talking points are in order.

On the right, calls for the importance of mental health policies over gun reform continues, along with the echoes of Chicago being proof of the failure of gun control bills. But what Republicans fail to mention is the fact that their latest healthcare proposal “would result in up to 18 million more uninsured through 2019 and 21 million more uninsured through 2026,” leaving millions of individuals without access to primary care physicians and the mental health services conservatives claim are so vital to preventing mass shootings. And while Chicago has long been a favorite talking point of those against gun control, its once strict gun laws have been gradually peeled back over the last decade, leaving its continued struggle with gun violence the result of lax laws both locally and at the state level, not the other way around.

As for those on the left, a push to now ban bump stocks and revitalize parts of the 1994 assault weapons ban might be valiant calls to action, but they do not come close to getting down to the root of the gun problem in this country. While figures like Nicholas Kristof have also called for universal background checks and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) even went as far to call the argument that the Las Vegas shooter actually did pass a background check “absurd,” the truth remains that the Las Vegas shooter did pass two background checks. In fact, “since 2000, all of our mass shooters obtained their weapons without using private transfers,” meaning that universal background checks are not a strong enough measure on their own merit.

While Democrats may have their heart in the right place, they are wholeheartedly missing the mark. And because of their continued misunderstanding of the nature of gun violence in this country, they are losing the faith of many moderate gun-owners who in many cases would be open to some forms of restrictions on firearm ownership. Even though mass shootings soak up the most media attention, they only serve to make up a small fraction of the total gun deaths per year. In fact, any real attempt to truly curb gun violence would take into account the fact that the vast majority of more than 30,000 annual gun deaths are at the hands of handguns and that two-thirds of said deaths are suicides, not homicides.

In today’s political debate surrounding gun violence, both sides of the aisle are right in some respects but thoroughly blinded by their own partisan blinders in others. While Republicans are correct in emphasizing the need for mental health reform in order to reduce gun deaths, this call to action appears to be entirely disingenuous considering the attempted replacement of the Affordable Care Act with proposals that leave millions more without coverage and the means by which to receive mental health treatment. Democrats, on the other hand, are correct in looking to regulate the purchase of weapons, but the focus on “assault weapons” over handguns is entirely a political calculation meant to drum up support from even the most ardent gun owners, even though it has done just the opposite. As a result of this broken gun debate, the United States is in dire need of a cocktail of gun control measures and mental health reforms to remedy its gun violence epidemic, lest it will continue on as a nation consumed by its own insanity.

Hunter Maenner is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in criminal justice and political science. His column, "Maenner's Musings" runs on alternate Mondays.

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Hunter Maenner

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