The United States witnessed more fatal shootings of preschoolers (82) than fatal shootings of police officers (27) in the line of duty, according to figures for 2013 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI. Despite horrifying statistics like this, America has demonstrated a gross incapability on national and state levels to effectively address the gun control and the gun regulation dilemma. Lawmakers and the general public have refused to view gun control as a public-health issue and continue to shun proven public-health improvement strategies as impractical or unconstitutional.
In the wake of increased media coverage of shootings, the Texas Legislature passed the campus carry bill, which will allow concealed handgun license (CHL) holders to carry their concealed firearm on public college campuses. Private universities, like ACU, have the option of opting out. This bill has drawn harsh criticism from academics and students alike and highlights the incongruent approaches to gun control in the nation.
The Optimist Editorial Board believes the public and the nation need to look at the issue through a different lens. Mass shootings are undoubtedly a stain on our nation, yet we refuse to see the problem as a public-health policy issue. Instead, we attack the non-issues because deep down we are all undoubtedly certain that mass shootings are fundamentally wrong. So we attack gun collectors, gun shows and specific categories of firearms, belabor our opponents’ views and direct our focus toward other fringe problems, while we ignore the 33,636 Americans involved in fatal shootings in 2013.
The campus carry bill is controversial, to put it lightly, and will become more so in the coming months when ACU must decide if it will opt in or out. The Optimist polled 100 ACU students and learned that 33 out of the 100 own a firearm, and 43 do not own a firearm but have family members that do. Seventy percent of these 76 students said the firearm is for protection, and 66 percent own a firearm for hunting purposes. Although the survey was elementary, it illustrates the relevance of gun control legislation and its potential impact on the ACU community.
The Optimist Editorial Board believes that the ACU community should stop wasting words and effort strafing the fringes of the gun control issue and instead dig into the meat of the situation.
- Instead of arguing about 2nd Amendment rights, most recently defined in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the ACU community should consider, “that majorities even of gun-owners favor universal background checks; tighter regulation of gun dealers; safe storage requirements in homes; and a 10-year prohibition on possessing guns for anyone convicted of domestic violence, assault or similar offenses.”
- Instead of considering the outlandishly impossible confiscation of all 350 million or so firearms in the U.S., the ACU community should do its own research and learn – as criminologists Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins have shown – that the United States’ non-gun homicide rate is three times higher than that of England. Historical and cultural reasons dictate that we are a more violent nation than England, setting a lower limit for our homicide rate that is greater than England’s lower limit.
- Instead of mocking the comparison between automobiles and firearms, the ACU community should consider automobiles an example of the effectiveness of public-health policy. Despite not banning cars, we have reduced the auto fatality rate by 95 percent through the requirement of driver’s licenses, seatbelts, padded dashboards, airbags, safety glass and collapsible steering columns.
- Finally, the ACU community should stop and ask why more effective regulations and gun control measures have been ignored. The gun lobby has done a stellar job blocking funding toward research focused on gun safety. “Between 1973 and 2012, the National Institutes of Health awarded 89 grants for the study of rabies and 212 for cholera “” and only three for firearms injuries,” Nicholas Kristof reported. Not only has funding for research been blocked, but in 2003, Congress barred the government from revealing information detailing which gun stores sold the most firearms later linked to crimes.
The tragedy of mass shootings and shocking legislation like the campus carry bill provoke strong reactionary responses and actions. But the Optimist Editorial Board believes that the prevalence of mass shootings in the United States is not a new development or a national problem resolved by emotional, knee-jerk legislature. Campus carry is coming to Texas, whether the ACU community opts in or not. Instead of lobbing insults at the opposition or pointing accusatory fingers at the nation’s mental health system, the Optimist Editorial Board believes that the ACU community should learn the facts of firearms in America, take the time to see the entire scope of the nationwide issue and stop insulting the opposition long enough to consider the future implications of their current decisions about gun control and regulation in America.