The recent and horrific shooting in Colorado has sparked debate about gun control in the US. James Holmes, the clear suspect of last week’s mass murder, was carrying four different guns in his car when he arrived at the theater in Aurora, including an AR-15 assault rifle. All four guns were obtained legally and, in addition to body armor and various explosive devices used to booby-trap his apartment, were all purchased within the same four-month period. Do gun control laws need to change?
I don’t think we need a ban on guns. People use them for hunting and self-defense, and gun laws should not make them unreasonably difficult to buy. Our 2nd Amendment comes from a historically warranted fear of subjugation and a tyrannical government, and being able to defend against these things should always be possible. Heavy government regulation would defeat these purposes.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t need regulation at all. In Colorado, you do not need a state permit to purchase a gun, do not need to register the guns you buy, and do not need a license to own one. That is crazy.
Groups like the NRA argue against regulation and maintain their right to use guns responsibly for hunting and self-defense, but there is no reason why obtaining a gun should be this easy. If you need a license to drive a car or sell food on the side of the road, you’re going to need a license to purchase a military-grade rifle capable of firing hundreds of rounds per minute – the AR-15 which James Holmes purchased. That’s not an intrusion on personal freedom, that’s common sense.
And with better licensing and registration, it would be possible to alert police or the FBI when an individual like Holmes purchases four guns, military body armor, and six-thousand rounds of ammunition within such a short time period. Normal purchases would fly under the radar and would not result in any government interference.
Even if regulations are tightened, it is true that criminals and crazy people will be able to get their hands on a gun if they really want to. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to at least make it a challenge for them and make it possible for authorities to apprehend them.
Understandably, politicians are wary of even mentioning gun control, even after a tragedy such as this one in Colorado or incidents such as the Virginia Tech shootings. In talks after the Aurora shooting, both Obama and Mitt Romney made an effort to steer clear of suggesting additional gun control, fearing backlash from the NRA.
Obama recently called the 2nd Amendment and gun rights a “cherished national tradition”, while Romney flat out said he did not “happen to believe that America needs new gun laws”. Obama did speak briefly about keeping guns out of the hands of troubled individuals but emphasized keeping kids in school, out of gangs and other dangerous lifestyles.
Not everyone is concerned about gun regulation, even the sort of gun regulation that would prevent Holmes’ purchase. Said one Colorado citizen, “If I only had 6,000 rounds for my AR-15s, I’d literally feel naked…Two handguns, a shotgun and a rifle. That’s the average male in Colorado.”
Obviously, gun control is not the only issue here; the real problem is that James Holmes is seriously messed up. The majority of gun owners are responsible. But even modest reforms to current gun control policies, the kind that would simply alert officials to unusual purchases, could help save many lives and prevent disasters like this one from happening in the future.