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My eighth birthday was quite the lucrative extravaganza, as I made out with an A-Team lunch box, He-Man figures and an array of Spiderman comics. Proud of my new booty, I lined up my gifts along the edge of my bed before going to sleep. I would wake mere hours later, my tiny bladder full of birthday punch. Having forgotten about the gifts, I slid out of bed and onto my tin replica of Mr. T, making quite a ruckus. I recovered and began my trek to the bathroom. Seeing the light on in my parents' bedroom, I decided to grace them with a visit. But instead of being greeted with a welcoming gaze, I saw them crouched behind their bed with a .357 magnum pointed in my direction. Though this was not as traumatizing as one might think, it reminds me of the dangers of guns in even the best of hands. Even as gun supporters invoke the Second Amendment, the Constitution is not infallible and was made so that it could be amended to reflect the changing needs of the country. Apparently, gun ownership fulfills two needs: those of hunters and those of citizens wishing to protect their homes. While I don't think hunting is much of a sport, I fail to see a reason to restrict hunting practices. But I do not see self-defense as a viable reason to own a gun. Guns -- especially handguns -- are made to kill, not to protect. And a gun in even the best of hands rarely protects anything other than a macho self-image. Everyone knows the statistic that a gun in the home is much more likely to kill a family member than an intruder, but that's old news and an inconclusive argument -- especially when gun supporters purport that general at-large gun ownership deters criminals from ever entering a home. However, a study of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Seattle in The New England Journal of Medicine concluded that guns do not in fact deter burglaries. The population and socioeconomic profiles of the two cities are quite similar, but Vancouver has much stricter gun control laws and subsequently significantly lower gun ownership. In spite of these claims of deterrence, the burglary rate is also lower. I believe that all guns other than hunting rifles should be banned. But I am aware that this country could never pass such progressive laws -- especially as long as Republicans continue to earn support and laws remain that allow politicians to accept legal bribes from the gun lobby. But I don't think it too much to expect basic gun legislation to protect the segment of the country that isn't so gung-ho about firearms -- legislation that would enforce waiting periods and background checks (killing the gun show loophole), create licensing and registration requirements and mandate safety locks on all guns. Ultimately, these laws would not affect those hard-working Americans who just want to defend their family or hunt on the weekend. They would simply make purchasing a gun a more laborious process, allowing those who are serious about their firepower to access it but turning away the unqualified and irresponsible. And while I realize this increased regulation would increase the cost of owning a gun, this is a price we should be willing to pay for a safer country. But the NRA opposes regulation because, while guns would be in safer hands, this greater system of checks would deter customers from its largest supporter, gun manufacturers. These firms would probably have no problem selling to someone in a straightjacket, as long as his credit card cleared. They don't care about the lives of the American people, but rather the bottom line. Somehow, the NRA has succeeded in using propaganda to convince the average gun owner that his rights are at stake, when in fact they are not. The battle of gun control is not a question of guns versus no guns, but one of regulation. And this question has an abundantly clear answer.

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