OUR VIEW: America must reevaluate its relationship with guns

OUR VIEW: America must reevaluate its relationship with guns

The worst mass shooting in American history. 

It’s a phrase that we as college students have read multiple times throughout our relatively short lives. As the shootings become more frequent and more fatal, the number of Americans affected by gun violence increases steadily. 

The calls to do something, anything, echo across America, from newsrooms to Capitol Hill. Thoughts and prayers don’t seem to be doing the trick. What America needs is a tremendous shift in the way we think about guns and gun violence. We need pushes from every legislator, media outlet and citizen to rethink the national relationship between guns and freedom.

Many responses to the shooting in Las Vegas have called for rapid and drastic changes to legislation regarding guns and gun access. Many of the proposed legislative fixes are common sense regulations, ones that do not threaten the promises of the Second Amendment but make sure to factor in the realities of modern day weaponry. 

Many stringent Second Amendment advocates have compared guns to cars. They argue that vehicles don’t kill people, bad drivers do – and that no one would propose banning cars. If this is the case, why not treat a gun like a car? To purchase firearms you should have to take a class, get a license and register your gun. 

The Constitution may promise the right to bear arms, but this right cannot supersede the most intrinsic and inalienable right we possess as Americans – the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

This editorial board does not believe that the ultimate takeaway from this recent tragedy should just be a logistical debate on the efficacy of certain gun laws. Legislative limits on gun ownership are necessary, but they will not totally prevent gun violence. What we must do is enter into a moment of national reflection on how gun ownership is deeply ingrained in our identities as Americans.

Why is it that the possession of a deadly weapon is, to us, the ultimate expression of freedom? It is a troubling reflection on our society that some citizens believe their capacity to extinguish the life of others is the true mark of liberty. 

Guns are ingrained deeply in American culture. Though many believe this is a regional phenomenon, it is one that transcends state lines and factors into everyone’s American experience. Our history lessons valorize “shots heard ‘round the world,” our entertainment industry inundates media consumers with images of violence in television and movies, and our gun lobbyists exert vast influence on politics. Shooting is considered a recreational activity. 

Until we change our national psyche surrounding guns, America will continue to live in our current paradoxical state: one of the freest nations in the world, yet one completely imprisoned by the scourge of gun violence.

One of the reasons it has been so difficult to facilitate meaningful debate and purposeful action regarding guns is that the vast majority of Americans have never been impacted by the type of mass gun violence seen in Las Vegas on Sunday. Though we all mourn for the victims and their families, it is easy to dismiss mass shootings as something that will never happen to you or anyone close to you. 

With each tragedy, more Americans realize that this is not the case. Students here at UA have family members injured in the Las Vegas shooting. At this point, everyone lives in uncertainty, fearing that the next victim could be so much closer than they ever imagined.

This should not be an issue that requires a personal connection in order to see that deep, systemic change is necessary. Our government must acknowledge this and pass the common sense gun laws of many other developed nations. We all must acknowledge the deeply problematic nature of tying what it means to be an American so closely with gun ownership. 

When a deadly weapon practically defines your national identity, death will inevitably result.

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