Gun laws demand a revision

Inadequate government action results in dire repercussions.


Claire Kosewic, Web Editor

The re-opening of Sandy Hook Elementary School garnered media attention in past weeks, with stories focusing on safety features of the new school that include bulletproof windows, two full-time police officers guarding the gates of the school and doors designed to look like wood but are actually military-grade steel.

Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six adult staff members at the school four years ago with a semi-automatic rifle before killing himself. To date, Sandy Hook is the deadliest school shooting ever and the third most destructive mass shooting by a single person in United States history.

When safety mechanisms to ward off a potential school shooting are the first features mentioned in the design of a new elementary school, it is obvious that federal gun laws are inadequate.

Current statutes allow for the purchase of semi-automatic assault weapons, unregulated online gun sales, and no background checks for buyers purchasing guns from private sellers.

Over 12,000 Americans died with the squeeze of a trigger in 2015 alone, according to independent group Everytown for Gun Safety. Each one of those individuals was someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, husband, wife or friend.

One filibuster, two proposals, four party-line votes and zero compromise encompassed the sum total of Congress’ action on gun legislation this past summer. Commonsense measures to improve gun safety — such as stricter background checks and forbidding anyone on the FBI’s no-fly list to purchase a gun — have failed again and again.

Congress voted on four gun control measures in June; none of them passed. Any future bills would require 60 votes to pass — a highly unlikely outcome, with the 54 Republican senators generally favoring less gun control than the 46 Democratic senators.

Republican amendments S.Amdt.4749 and S.Amdt.4751 attempt to improve the current background check system and require anyone on FBI terrorist watch lists to wait 72 hours before purchasing a gun. Senate Democrats said neither amendment made enough significant changes in current gun control, and so refused to vote in favor of either.

The Democrats had their own ideas about gun control. Democrat-sponsored S.Amdt.4720 prohibits anyone on any FBI watch list from purchasing a gun, while S.Admt.4750 requires a background check take place on every single gun sale in the United States.

A majority of Senate Republicans claimed the Democratic amendments to be far too radical — S.Admt.4720 received 45 ‘yay’ votes to 54 ‘nay’ votes, while S.Admt.4750 lost 48-50.

Gun advocates commonly cite the Second Amendment and the right to due process — innocent until proven guilty — in defense of looser gun regulations. But most Americans think that stricter gun control is necessary.

According to a 2016 report by the Pew Research Center, 88 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of Republicans support expanded background checks on gun sales and measures to prevent those with mental illness from purchasing guns.

Somewhere, the facts don’t line up.

Wondering what will finally force the government to move on gun control — if deadly mass shootings such as those that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School or Orlando nightclub Pulse — do not spur it to action, is the scariest thought of all.

The thing is, no one wants to know the answer to that question.