Although our economy is still far from healthy and any real decisions regarding the U.S. fiscal policy have been pushed back a few months by the fiscal cliff deal, the political world has been violently derailed by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The Dec. 14 shooting left 28 dead, including 20 children, and was the deadliest mass shooting in the United States since Seung-Hui Cho terrorized the Virginia Tech campus, killing 32 in 2007.
The mass media and political sphere have forgotten one major factor in the gun control debate. The conversation around gun control is being grossly mischaracterized as a debate between two equal portions of the population, when really the pro-gun factions of the United States have a stranglehold on political debate and current legislation. The current amount of gun violence in the United States is not related to any gun "debate," it is the direct result of the dominance of the United States’ pro-gun faction.
Guns have always been an integral part of American culture, but it is time to come to terms with what it means to protect gun rights. The simple truth is deadly thoughts connect to deadly outcomes much easier when there are guns available. There is no way to guarantee that guns don't enter the hands of those with homicidal tendencies. Point-of-sale measures such as President Barack Obama's plan to create a national registry can be easily sidestepped and once guns are in private hands they can be stolen, sold or lost. Assault weapon bans are too arbitrary in their regulations to be effective in keeping overpowered weapons off the street. No matter what, if there are guns in the United States there will be gun violence. Looking at international data suggests that the more guns there are the more gun violence there will be.
Unfortunately, it is impractical to think that Americans will give up their guns en masse. We are a culture that loves our guns and they are a symbol for American individualism. Small moves like Obama's executive order will not dent gun violence in the short term but could encourage stronger gun control measures in the future. In the meantime, let's assess the gun control situation in the United States as soberly as possible.
The benefits of gun ownership cost 30,000 American lives in 2011. That averages out to roughly 54 suicides and 27 homicides per day. The dialogue around guns in the United States is easily misunderstood because so many people refuse to even consider stronger gun control implementations. This refusal to consider stronger gun limits is a direct result of the broken debate. Any red-blooded American will choose guns over no guns, but if the choice is accurately presented as 290 million privately owned guns at the cost of 30,000 gun deaths a year, eventually attitudes can be changed and the amount of lives cut short can be curtailed in the long run. Finally, if you personally own a gun for protection or entertainment's sake, you should know that makes you three times more likely to be the victim of a homicide and five times more likely to kill yourself according to the American Journal of Epidemiology, so maybe you should revaluate the pros and cons of gun ownership in your personal setting as well.
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