Hanton: There are good reasons to regulate firearms

Gun control does not have to be a bad thing. There are good reasons for regulating firearms.

Courtesy photo: Wikimedia Commons

Gun control does not have to be a bad thing. There are good reasons for regulating firearms.

Rick Hanton

Iowa State Daily columnist Brandon Blue wrote about the ineffectiveness of writing new legislation to ban the sale of some types of dangerous weaponry in the United States. His point was that it doesn’t help Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the others killed and injured last week to write legislation now in reaction to the incident. I would debate this point, and argue that while new laws won’t help the victims of the recent attack, this incident is a good excuse to re-examine our nation’s gun laws or lack of gun laws.

It is true that in cases like the shooting in Tucson, Ariz., stricter gun laws may just force an attacker to use a knife instead. But what about the threat other individuals and criminals pose these days to the valiant police officers across the United States, not to mention any civilians in the crossfire? Is it possible to honor the second amendment while keeping deadly weapons away from people who would seek to use them against their fellow man? I believe the answer is yes and that these changes are necessary for the public good.

At the very least, can we agree that a ban, or partial ban, on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines to help protect our police officers and citizens from extended rampages by criminals is in order? Gun rights advocates always repeat the phrase, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people;” but do we really need to make it easy to obtain the best killing device people have invented for killing individuals in the last 100,000 years? I think that we can and should convince our congressional leaders to bring back the laws contained in the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004, perhaps with the new provisions added in recent replacement candidates that prevent subtle changes to weapons to make them compliant.

A brief disclaimer about myself: I have never shot a weapon, but I wouldn’t be averse to doing so at a shooting range for fun.

If you want to go hunting or go to a shooting range for fun, more power to you, but I’m not sure you need a semi-automatic AK-47 to do it — I’m sure it would be interesting to shoot an Uzi, I question whether you need one at home for hunting or self-defense.

Creating federal laws to ban certain types of weapons may not stop the use by criminals of illegally-obtained weapons, but at least it can lower the number of weapons floating around this country. With less weapons floating around and stricter controls on who can obtain guns, maybe we can drop the United States down from being the intentional gun death capital of the world to maybe second place. Do you realize that the death rate due to firearms in the United States is more than 10 people per 100,000 according to many sources? Iowa is on the low end with only five firearm deaths per 100,000, but Louisiana and Washington D.C. have rates more than 20 deaths per 100,000, according to 2007 data. For comparison, the rate of deaths in Canada where gun laws are fairly loose is four people per 100,000; in Japan where there are strict gun laws, the rate is only 7 percent of a person per 100,000 people.

The correlation to me seems to be that stricter gun control laws decrease overall gun violence, and while a criminal intent on massacring people will likely still be able to procure a gun, an individual with less calculated intent to kill may be prevented by the barriers in place.

Gun advocates have spent the last week urging us to think of the victims of the tragedy in Tucson rather than the political enactment of gun control laws because they know that the last time we focused on gun control as we reacted to an assassination attempt, we created the recently deceased Federal Assault Weapons Ban. At the time the ban was called “the Brady Bill” for former assistant to President Ronald Reagan Jim Brady, who was shot and permanently disabled in an assassination attempt on the president. Having personally met Giffords at a student conference in Arizona a few years ago, I hope her injuries are not as permanently disabling as Brady’s, but I think the incident in Arizona is just as good of an excuse as the shooting 30 years ago to be careful what weapons we allow in this country.

As the news stations report, it is physically and financially impossible to provide protection to all members of government in this country from rogue gunmen. But, we can at least take some measures to help prevent them from being gunned down like Giffords in a fusillade of bullets from a dangerous weapon.