The right to own a gun is not absolute

By on January 30, 2013

The Newtown, Connecticut school massacre has renewed the debate on gun control in the United States. Americans across the country are once again asked to consider their stances on “gun rights” and “gun violence.” Listening to the same old political jargon from red-faced, bulging neck-veined politicians, I could not help but feel a strange sense of deja vu. Did we not have this same debate after Columbine, after Red Lake, after Virginia Tech, after Tuscon, and after so many other murders? Were demands not made? Were promises not offered that would implement better screening methods, ensure that the mentally-ill receive proper treatment, and that, above all, Americans would be safe? Yet, 2012 reveals what little has been learned and done.

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On July 20, people were killed in a darkened moving theater in Colorado. On August 5, Sikhs were shot in their place of worship. Another mass murder occurred at a manufacturer in Minneapolis on September 2. Then, on December 14, 26 people were shot and killed, including 20 children, in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Despite the public outcry, the violence continued. The latest noted incident was a high school shooting on Tuesday during Vice President Biden’s gun control presentation.

Washington has been stuck in the same old debate, where the mention of gun restrictions is warped into a tyrannical “Obama’s coming for your guns” conspiracy theory. Gun control legislation is submitted, argued upon, and rejected with comical frequency. On the off chance one does survive the madhouse of Congress intact, it is weighed down with so many NRA lobbied loopholes that the legislation resembles a shot at a bull’s-eye target.

Americans do have a constitutionally guaranteed right to own a gun. However, we must recognize that, in practice, this right is not absolute. Just as there are certain limitations to freedom of speech, so should there be limitations to gun rights. Americans cannot falsely shout “fire” in a crowded theater because it would result in imminent lawless action and would endanger the safety of others. Likewise, letting a disturbed, violent individual have access to a gun endangers the safety of the public. A study conducted by the Mother Jones News team analyzed 62 mass shooting cases in the last 30 years. 25 of the cases were in the last seven years. Majority of perpetrators suffered acute paranoia, delusions, and depression. Nearly 80 percent of the perpetrators in these cases obtained their weapons legally. One example of this is Jared Loughner, the mass murderer who shot 19 people at a shopping center in January 2011. Loughner gravely injured former U.S. congresswomen Gabby Gifford and killed six others. He had suffered serious mental illness signs for several years prior to the attack. He was reported to have had violent outbursts during his high school classes and complained about hearing voices. Yet, he was still able to legally purchase a gun and ammunition at the Sportsmen’s warehouse in Tucson, Arizona.

This case illustrates how pertinent it is that better screening measures be put into place so that guns are only sold to responsible, mentally stable people. Likewise, better treatment options must be made available to the mentally ill to assure that those like Jared Loughner and Adam Lanza get the help that they need.

Shejuti Paul
Staff Writer
paul0217@uab.edu

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