While watching the debate over guns unfold for the last few weeks, one might mistakenly believe there are only two options given by the most extreme elements of both political leanings: a nationwide ban on all guns, knives, forks, hammers, hard cover books, and heavily starched pillow cases or an allowance of one person to buy enough firepower and ammunition from their nearest corporate retail store to kill everyone on the East Coast with no restrictions whatsoever. Despite how comically interesting these positions are when given by the opponents of the other side, they just aren’t reality.
New polling data from Pew was released today and it gives a much better and reasonable look at what could be done on guns without invoking either extreme. As one can see from the numbers, there are many factors the majority of the public supports that do not overextend the hand of the government to the point some gun rights activists allege when conjuring images of Nazi Germany or Stalin’s USSR. For instance, the most popular option, a thorough background check including at gun shows, should be a reasonable change. Are you a law-abiding, sane citizen? You get to pass. Are you not? No gun for you. Pretty simple and a step in the right direction that a clear majority seem to agree with in the U.S.
In fact, it is surprising any opposition of this idea comes from the right. The argument against this issue seems to be the government having too much information on individuals but where was this opposition on the right when the Patriot Act was passed? It certainly wasn’t nonexistent on the right, but also wasn’t as loud. So, we must ask a question here: is it really okay to suspend the rights of citizens the way the Patriot Act did through spying and warrant-less maneuvers but not okay to attempt to keep the wrong people from owning dangerous weapons capable of massacres like Tuscon, Aurora, and Newtown? The hypocrisy is obvious.
Overall, we can find a middle ground on this debate. A letter from a hunter appeared over the weekend on the Atlantic’s site that is a good start for sanity on gun control. One of the most important points from the article is this:
My son is just a baby now, but when he’s old enough, I want him to get to experience all of this (hunting) himself. The good news is: he can, even if we enact strict laws requiring background checks and waiting periods and banning high-capacity magazines. In fact, those laws could help keep him safe in the meantime.
When sane and rational measure such as some mentioned in the Pew poll are suggested, another insane and irrational counterpoint is always made: this is a slippery slope to an outright ban on all guns. Anyone who believes this, however, just isn’t paying attention. We have seen so many massacres both in and out of schools since Columbine but the only major change on guns that has happened since then is the expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban. Massacres occurred and gun control measures were actually lessened during this time. The amount of victims it has taken to ignite the debate to this point should be a pretty good indicator that no outright ban on guns will ever happen in the United States. The slippery slope argument is simply fantasy conjured by conspiracy theorists.
Ultimately, we can find middle ground on this debate to make the country safer and it seems some measures might be put in place doing just that. The change will not happen tomorrow but we will all be a little safer once these new laws have taken their effect over time.