The gun-control debate wages on, but it seems that both sides refuse to listen.
Those pushing for tighter gun controls ignore a legitimate question: Would they help? Certainly a complete ban on guns would reduce gun-related deaths, but few Americans would support such a ban and the Second Amendment prevents it.
A ban on assault weapons seems to make sense, but statistics are inconclusive. A 10-year ban, from 1994 to 2004, seemed to have little impact on the number of mass shootings. Would it have been more effective with aggressive buy-back measures or more stringent registration requirements? We don’t know.
We know that universal background checks would have prevented many mass shootings, but probably not the one in Newtown, Conn.
Advocates of stricter gun control need to answer a fundamental question, whether politically feasible gun controls would reduce mass shootings. The case for universal background checks is compelling and has popular support, but other restrictions are problematic.
Opponents of gun control also struggle. Why, exactly, do they need semi-automatic rifles with extended magazines? They don’t need them for hunting, and the case for target shooting seems trite when compared to massacres like those in Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown. If a ban on assault rifles has any chance of reducing violence, why not try it?
Gun-control opponents point to one of the historical purposes of the Second Amendment, to resist tyranny. There is a disturbing overlap, however, between those who insist on access to military-style guns and those who irrationally call the president a tyrant. People who don’t understand the difference between tyranny and democracy can hardly be trusted with weapons that kill with every twitch of the finger.
Both sides of the gun-control debate should calm their rhetoric.
Even if they want to, gun-control advocates cannot prevent sane people who are not criminals from getting guns. Despite the horror of Newtown, a Democrat-controlled Senate appears incapable of renewing the assault weapons ban.
Responsible gun enthusiasts have nothing to worry about.
But opponents of gun control would do well to calm their rhetoric, too. America has a serious problem with guns, both as a tool for murder and suicide. Within the boundaries of the Second Amendment, Americans are right to consider ways to change the gun culture that makes the United States the most violent of developed nations.
Those who are overly emphatic about their claimed right to possess semi-automatic rifles make everyone else nervous. Ownership of assault-style rifles is not a constitutional right.
The issue is how Americans best protect themselves in an unusually violent society. The goal is a more civil nation, and the best way to get there is through civil debate.