Opinion | What should we do about gun violence?

Editor’s Note: In this View of the Future, students discuss the Second Amendment. The question was raised and the answers were sent before Tuesday’s school shooting in Texas. Next week we will ask, “The use of illegal drugs has been a problem for a long time in society. Should the United States do more about the opioid epidemic? Have we lost the war on drugs? What should the United States do to help drug policy reform? Should certain drugs be legal? Students must Click here to submit reviews under 250 words by May 31. The best answers will be published that night.

My family has been affected by gun violence. In 2016, my two younger sisters witnessed the murder of singer Christina Grimmie while lining up to meet her after a concert. Grimmie’s killer walked in unchallenged with two loaded pistols, two spare clips, and a large knife. He was not stopped by security, but by Christina’s brother.

While I wouldn’t dare say that the outcome of that day would have changed if someone had been pregnant, the event was an eye-opener for me. In many situations, the police are minutes away, but life-changing acts of violence happen in seconds. In those seconds, the only thing you are guaranteed is your experience, skills and personal belongings. The Second Amendment grants the right to use the most effective tool for self-protection, and that is not a right I will ever give up.

The monopoly of violence is the essential foundation on which tyranny is built. You never know when a maniacal, criminal, or corrupt government will try to take everything you have. If you give up your right to arms, you offer yourself as a victim.

—Andrew MacGillivray, University of Kansas, Computer Science

Owning a gun should not be a right

The Second Amendment cannot, in good faith, be construed to establish a right to individual gun ownership. Even former Chief Justice Warren Earl Burger acknowledged that opinion was fraudulent.

The inherent purpose of a weapon is to kill. An article whose sole purpose is bloodshed does not deserve the protection of the Constitution. In a country whose founding creed includes the inalienable right to life, it is shameful that we have given so much power to something that has caused so much death.

Rights are granted at birth; privileges are earned in life. We came out of the womb with free speech, but who among us would allow a child to carry a firearm? Such an absurd “right” has no place in the Constitution.

—Max Willner-Giwerc, University of Chicago Law School

There’s no answer yet

If people want to reduce gun violence, they need to focus on the leading cause of gun deaths: suicide. As horrific and devastating as mass shootings are, they are not particularly common and make up a tiny fraction of gun deaths.

There should be a waiting period for the purchase of firearms since the act of suicide is generally impulsive. RAND conducted a meta-analysis of studies estimating the effect of a waiting period on suicide rates and found (with moderate support) that waiting periods significantly reduce gun suicides.

The relationship between different gun policies and violent crime is unclear, although neither opponents nor gun control advocates admit it. RAND conducted a systematic review of gun policy and reported inconclusive support for much of its findings. Social science research is difficult, so the answer is what no one wants to hear: we must wait for more information.

—Alicia Liu, Swarthmore College, mathematics and economics

an obsolete right

The Second Amendment was implemented at a time when Americans couldn’t trust local law enforcement to respond to criminal activity or even dangerous wildlife. As such, individual citizens were responsible for their own protection, primarily through the use of muskets. In addition, the US did not have a large military to deal with major threats to Americans, whether they were of domestic or foreign origin.

Today, most cities probably have their own police department, and the US has one of the largest militaries in the world. Beyond the historical context, the violence apparently caused by the overabundance of firearms violates the civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. For example, school shootings can make some children afraid to go to school. Currently, at least 42 states require schools to conduct lockdown drills during which students practice hiding from an active shooter.

While most gun owners will never engage in violent behavior, the fear instilled in the public by mass shootings is a terrible byproduct of gun rights. Therefore, the Second Amendment is out of date and should be subject to further regulation. This can be achieved through a constitutional amendment that further defines the limits of the right, including the types of firearms that will be made available to the public.

—Lucas Sundwall, Quinnipiac University School of Law

Guns save more lives than they take

In 2020, the Pew Research Center found that gun-related deaths totaled 45,222, a number that more gun control would certainly deflate. However, in determining whether to tighten gun controls or eliminate legal gun ownership altogether, the question is how this reduction in deaths compares with the life-saving potential of guns used in self-defense and as a deterrent.

A 2021 survey estimated that there are about 1.67 million defensive uses of firearms each year, preventing attacks on innocent people and personal property. In addition, the study notes that the actual number of cases in which weapons are used for defense could reach 2.8 million per year if those who do not personally own a weapon are included in the study. Even erring on the conservative side of this estimate, hundreds of thousands of lives are intangibly and indisputably enhanced (and plausibly saved) by guns in the US.

Therefore, the policy emphasis should not be on eliminating gun ownership altogether, but rather on working to limit access to guns by malicious criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses. In doing so, we preserve the positive effects of legal gun ownership, while reducing preventable deaths from homicide and suicide, the ostensible goal of increasing gun controls. We should aim to improve background checks and meticulously track stolen firearms, not destroy an invaluable sense of security for millions of Americans.

—John Macejka, University of North Carolina, political science

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Wonder Land: Joe Biden prefers to talk about racism and guns instead of facing the real problem. Images: AFP/Getty Images/Reuters/Shutterstock Composite: Mark Kelly

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