During Stephen Paddock’s meticulously planned and morally incomprehensible act of mass murder, law enforcement officers shielded concertgoers with their own bodies. Concertgoers, who could’ve kept running, returned to save others. Locally, people went to donate blood the next day and all of America was hoping against hope that there would be few victims.
The reason I stress this harmoniousness is because it has a strict time limit. Almost instantly after these tragedies, pundits and politicians begin proposing certain policies, and their proposals often take the form of emotional declarations, not fact-based arguments.
Even in these times, and especially in these times, the ability we have to be both profoundly mournful and fundamentally rational is our most valuable asset.
Let’s start that fact-based discussion by remembering why Americans are allowed to own guns in the first place. The Second Amendment has a very specific basis — citizens must have the ability to defend their rights in the absence of a government able and willing to do so. The lessons of history, especially the relatively recent Soviet and National Socialist iterations of despotism, surely prove just how quickly and with what force a government can turn against its people.
Daily, guns are used to defend against crime in this country. In fact, the vast majority of gun crimes — 79 percent — are committed by unlawful gun owners. There are about 50 million more guns in America now than in 1993; in the same period, violent crime declined to record lows. Measuring the amount of defensive gun use is notoriously difficult, but whatever the figure is between 100,000 and 2 million a year — the high and low ends of the estimates — lawful gun owners defend themselves more often than criminals kill others.
Much of the left’s renewed passion about the issue of guns ignores these truths and is derived from specific misapprehensions.
As an example, Hillary Clinton lambasted the National Rifle Association for supporting silencers: "The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots. Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer." Silencers, as PolitiFact noted when they rated this statement “false,” do not silence gunfire; they merely reduce its volume to that of a “jumbo jet on the tarmac 100 yards away,”
To address a few more substantive misunderstandings, the term “assault weapon,” used to frighten readers into supporting gun control, is a fabricated term. Assault rifles, automatic weapons like those used by the military, indeed exist. “Assault weapons,” on the other hand, describes semi-automatic rifles. These assault weapons, which Democrats would like to ban, account for under 2 percent of gun crimes. When they succeeded in banning them in 1994, the National Institute of Justice said that “the evidence is not strong enough for us to conclude that the effect was different from zero.”
Some other myths forwarded by gun control advocates relate to gun shows and background checks. The “gun-show loophole,” which gun control advocates want to close, does not exist. The only people at a gun show or anywhere else who can sell guns without conducting background checks are those who are making a personal transfer and are not firearms dealers.
The issue of background checks should not be polarizing. Indeed, background checks are useful and necessary. Democrats frame their support of background checks in terms of stopping the mass shooting in Las Vegas, but Stephen Paddock passed his background check — he had no mental health or criminal record precluding him from purchasing a gun.
Some on the left realize how unconvincing their more moderate fellow travelers are, and propose a total gun ban instead. Leaving aside the fact that this is unconstitutional and impossible on a practical level in a country with more guns than people, it’s also not supported by the data. A FiveThirtyEight analysis surprised the pro-gun-control statisticians that conducted it, as it showed that total gun bans in Britain and Australia, as well as gun control proposals here, have had no measurable impact.
The conclusion is inescapable: No gun control proposals you’ll see in the Penn Democrats column or in Congress would stop a psychopath with a clean record from acquiring a gun. As I mentioned before, our ability to be rational in times of tragedy is critical. We need to use this test, the test of real impact on a specific problem, to evaluate policies.
That doesn’t mean we do nothing. Some gun control proposals, like the banning of bump stocks that help mimic automatic rates of fire, are likely difficult to enforce, but are theoretically reasonable and have broad support. Reducing the level of gun-free zones and extending concealed carry laws would further deter criminals.
That being said, we need to accept that there will always be evil people trying to harm others with guns, trucks, bombs and even planes. Surrendering law-abiding citizens to the mercy of these individuals by confiscating their only effective means of self-defense hasn’t worked in the past, and it won’t work now.
MICHAEL MOROZ is a sophomore in the Huntsman program and a co-director of the College Republicans Editorial Board.
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