Image description: A sign being held in a crowd of protesters. The sign shows two hands coming together both dripping in red ink (to symbolize blood), one hand says “NRA,” the other “GOP.”
Content Warning: This article will discuss gun violence, mass shootings, statistics related to guns, and claims that advocate for gun rights. I kindly advise discretion before engaging in what could be a triggering read.
In the year 2020, guns became the biggest risk to the lives of children in the United States. Not heart or any other disease, not accidents, not pneumonia, not drowning, not tuberculosis, but guns – an object created, funded, and often supported by adults. The disproportionate and inhumane attacks on the lives of children so unique to one nation begs the question – why have we not discarded or “voted out” the ‘bad apple’ politicians allowing this to continue and to worsen?
With more than 250 mass shootings in just 2022 alone, each week with a minimum of four mass shootings, and guns being the largest deadly threat to US youth, the ‘bad apple’ quickly exposes itself as an issue ingrained into the institutional congressional lobbying powers of the country.
It is often assumed that overwhelming support for guns comes from a barrage of white supremacist individuals parading their AR-15s, decorating their homes with deer heads, and waving their confederate flags. The reality is, these individuals who cling to the words of James Madison have become the faces of the pro-gun movement, and to the advantage of the pro-gun lobbying organizations. The faces of the movement have effectively become the argumentative pawns of lobbying organizations, their interpersonal proponents, and also a sect of support which provides at least some shut eye for them.
The conglomerate of arguments to come from this lobbying effort, consistently backed by the undeniably influential National Rifle Association (NRA), has infiltrated nearly every debate sphere, from political to scholastic, continuously perpetuating overlapping (and often outdated) ideologies that aim to protect not only the physical state of guns, but to develop a sense of sanctity for the object. I aim to dismantle these arguments within this article, and to instead promote strict gun control, a position taken and supported not only by scholarship, but by most US citizens.
Gun control is a wide-ranging topic, with the exact strictures from background checks to banning assault rifles and handguns to raising the purchase age, all coming into the discussion. For the sake of simplicity, I will focus on refuting, dismantling, and even debunking statistical, metaphorical, and linguistic arguments developed by the pro-gun movement in opposition to banning AR-15s (the most common weapon used in mass shootings) and other assault weapons, and overall limitations to the accessibility of purchasing handguns.
Below are some of the most commonly used arguments in a pro-gun, anti-gun control discussion. Arguments which, to put plainly, are just not good enough.
Actually, yes the government can and has done it before. Amendments were quite literally tacked onto the US Constitution. The Constitution, a document hand crafted by America’s ‘founding fathers,’ was deemed not good enough for ratification on its own which is why the first ten amendments (the Bill of Rights) were promised by the Federalists to begin with. This fact in and of itself demonstrates the possibility of imperfection at the hands of those who outlined and created the documents this country was founded on. Also, the government has repealed an amendment – the Eighteenth Amendment, prohibition, was repealed by the passage of the Twenty-First Amendment.
The government has repealed an amendment, tacked on additional documentation, and even replaced entire institutions they themselves created due to their insufficiency. The Amendments are a symbol of the limitations of institutions created by individuals from the 18th century to the modern day. The sooner we shed the light of sanctity of the creations of the American founding fathers, and begin restructuring ideologies to better adapt to the contemporary era, the better the country will be for intersectional growth.
A salient point in combating the Second Amendment argument can be found in this: the author of the Second Amendment, James Madison himself, actually imposed a form of gun control within the college his colleague, Thomas Jefferson, founded. In 1824, at the University of Virginia, both James Madison and Thomas Jefferson prohibited weapons on the campus.
To repeat, the literal author of the Second Amendment, James Madison, advocated for a ban on guns at a collegiate institution. He sought after and achieved a form of gun control.
- “I Need My Guns In Case I Need to Create a Well Regulated Militia”
Tacked onto the Second Amendment argument comes the redundant, “How am I supposed to rally against the United States’ military-industrial complex without an AR-15.” It is important to address that the rhetoric of the Second Amendment is not only highly debated, but also largely interpreted in many different ways, some taking into consideration important historical context, and others not. In fact, although a uniform argument within the topic of gun control, the notion of a civilian led anti-government militia is highly implausible.
If each pro-gun (non-military) US citizen were armed with an AR-15, even two AR-15s, they would stand absolutely no plausible chance against the capacities of the current United States military.
It is this point of view that cements the importance of historical context to Madison’s time period – a period where the only image of a gun he could conjure in his mind is of a musket. Muskets could hold only a singular round, and with the Revolutionary War being a prime example, were not entirely accurate. No shred of Madison’s most sound logic could have predicted the rapid military modernization of the 21st century. What would be a war of attrition would quickly and violently be put to an end by the federal government, one with a combined military budget of the next nine countries. This is the same military which developed the internet for their own project, and had such vast nuclear capacities that the Soviet Union – the most powerful communist nation and following World War 2, one of the strongest military states – agreed on de-escalation, better known as détente.
There is no comprehensible world where the combined AR-15 armed forces of the pro-gun US citizenry are more of a threat to the federal government than a nuclear peak of the Soviet Union. If AR-15s were in fact such a threat to the government, they simply would not be sold. Really – why doesn’t the government sell its fighter jets, tanks, and drones to its citizens to expand their profit margin instead of exclusively to its military allies?
AR-15s are not a rational threat to a government with F-35s, aircraft carriers, and a multi-trillion-dollar nuclear arsenal. They are a threat to a classroom full of elementary school children.
Content Warning: a more violent and gruesome discussion of assault weapons will follow in this next section
- “I Need To Protect Myself, My Family, Etc.”
Arguably the largest and longest standing logical argument advocating for the sale of guns is this: an individual wants to own a simple handgun – responsibly, as protection in the case of a weapon being used on them or a loved one.
In this context, gun control is still extremely necessary and can still exist. Gun control is not simply weapons bans but also expanding necessary provisions on background checks not uniformly in place. It is extending the age to acquire a gun and running a multi-faceted series of mental health assessments to ensure wide-ranged security and stability necessary to responsibly handle a handgun. None of these are by any means adequately applied into the market of gun sales.
Still, handguns are violent, and factually speaking can do more harm than good in cases of protection. A Harvard statistic finds that it is the existence of guns even as a form of protection that actually end up making situations far more deadly. Guns present in a situation no matter the premise bring more violence, and even when used as protection, are just as effective as non-deadly resistance without inviting the looming risk of death.
To Harvard lead researcher David Hemenway, “The average person … has basically no chance in their lifetime ever to use a gun in self-defense.”
What still stands staunchly is that assault weapons – weapons of war that incinerate the human body – are not necessary to protect from home invasion and simply should not be allowed to be purchased. There is no hunting expedition, no vicious home invasion, no robbery, simply no situation on this earth where the average citizen should have the capacity to acquire an assault weapon or would need one for that matter. There is no logical explanation as to why 30 rounds of ammunition is necessary in an automatic weapon (AR-15 specifically) to protect, to hunt, or to own. While the AR-15 is not comparable to the full force of the US military by any means, there is still no commonsensical rationale – one which weighs historical context – that views the musket as constitutionally comparable to an AR-15. It goes almost without mention that the NRA would beg to differ, painting the AR-15 “as an everyday gun.” Assault weapons at the modern caliber are inhumane, and there is no singular reason besides mass murder for their purpose.
- “Where There is A Will There’s a Way.”
Gun stores, like Uvalde Texas’ “Daniel Defense,” have the possibility of running a financing program called “buy-now, pay-later.” So, teenagers who generally would not have hundreds of thousands of dollars to afford assault weapons may engage in an advertised payment plan to buy an assault weapon, massacre children, and then in prison – simply never have to pay back.
The CEO of Visa proudly allows for the sale of guns on credit, where once again the economic barrier to acquiring weapons dissipates, and young 18-year old mass shooters do not actually need the physical money to make their purchases.
Yes, there is an obvious recognition that banning assault weapons may not necessarily institute a complete halt to the black market or under the table sale of guns, but what it will do is limit the purchase of guns on the back of credit. This monetary barrier makes acquiring weapons of war much more difficult at their inflated, cash only, under the table markup. Not only this, but the fewer manufactured assault weapons will do just that – limit the amount in circulation. The terrorists that committed the Uvalde and Parkland shootings were of the legal age to acquire their weapons.
The Uvalde shooter made an assault weapon purchase on their exact birthdate.
They chose the easy route. They chose the accessible route of purchase that – through gun control – could make acquisition that much more difficult for the ill-complex logic of mass shooters. In fact, the 1994 assault weapons ban, a tenant of the Clinton era’s “Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994,” allowed for an environment where there was a recorded 70% reduction in the risk of an individual dying from a mass shooting.
So where there is a will, there is also a lack of intelligence and tenacity. The success of the 1994 assault weapons ban makes this point clear.
Not only is there clear factual, well-researched, and statistical evidence which supports the success and necessity of gun control, but there is an urgent need to shed light on the corruption of the NRA and pro-gun lobbying efforts that continue to pave the way for mass shootings. They are the problem.
There is no dissolution of gun-violence without accountability from the lobbying committees that funnel millions in campaign funding to the Republican party. The ‘bad apples’ are funding campaigns, are sitting in Congress, are attending NRA conventions, and are complicit to this man-made violence.