The Daily Evergreen

Don’t ban guns, make them harder to buy

Nation must pass laws that protect everyone, gun owners included

Lawmakers+need+to+find+ways+to+prevent+shootings+in+the+first+place+by+providing+better+access+to+mental+health+care.+
Lawmakers need to find ways to prevent shootings in the first place by providing better access to mental health care.

Lawmakers need to find ways to prevent shootings in the first place by providing better access to mental health care.

COURTESY OF FLICKR COMMONS

COURTESY OF FLICKR COMMONS

Lawmakers need to find ways to prevent shootings in the first place by providing better access to mental health care.

Hanah Goetz, Evergreen columnist

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I am an owner of an AR-15. Despite this, I am willing to give up my rifle if it means protecting the lives of others.

I was a competition shooter for High Power for 10 years, and my competition gun was an AR-15. I was even trained by the Marine Corps shooting team for a good majority of my shooting career.

I won regional, state and national titles with my gun. It was my career-maker — the sport that defined me for 10 years of my life before an injury ended it. I always saw my rifle as a piece of equipment for my sport, and while I was competing, the gun crisis was just starting to grow into what it is today.

My rifle has memories of my sport’s history. I love it like a NASCAR driver loves their car — it’s a tool of the sport that you bond and connect with. You practice with it, you get to know its inner workings and you understand the power behind it.

I sit every day in this moral dilemma: An item I made my name with is now being used for mass killings. I love my sport, yet I own one of the most politically-charged items in history.

After all these deaths, when the idea of arming the “good guy,” or teachers, to ensure students are protected comes up, I find the argument lacking logic. We’re looking at responding to the issue, but we aren’t looking at the actual cause of it.

While the mental health crisis is one cause, another is the ability for the inexperienced user to get a hold of these weapons.

When my career as a marksman ended, I found myself selling guns in a sports shop department specialized in hunting and fishing. I worked under managers who had no personal training with guns. I’ve seen stoners walk out with shotguns, people who had no idea how to handle them buy high-powered rifles and idiot 18-year-olds come and buy their first gun just because they could, with no training behind them and no desire to obtain it. My managers just wanted the sales — they didn’t care who bought the guns.

And due to the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,” which prevented sellers and manufacturers from being sued if the guns were involved in illegal action, whoever was buying the guns was the least of their worries.

Buddy Levy, an English professor and avid bird hunter who grew up around shotguns, believes there should still be some type of restrictions.

“Adding more guns to a national gun crisis is a bad idea,” Levy said. “When you have more people with guns, you’re adding to the probability that something bad is going to happen.”

Japan is known for its low crime rates associated with guns. According to The Guardian, in Japan “before they can even lay hands on a [gun] … prospective owners must attend classes and pass written and practical exams. They must then undergo psychological assessments to determine they are fit to own a firearm. Police background checks are exhaustive and even extend to the gun owners’ relatives.”

When our parents were growing up, marksmanship competitions, like what I was in, were a communal sport that invited the idea of learning and getting comfortable with the guns, often with the intent of freshening up skills for the next hunting season.

I’ve seen firsthand how the sport and activity have become politically-charged with venom and destruction in its wake. It’s no longer anything sportsman-like or communal — there is hardly any teaching of how to respect the weapon involved. It has become all about gaining points for masculinity. It’s currently a thundering of political ideals that override logic.

This is caused in part by the NRA. Though my Expert Marksman certification was issued from this organization, the NRA is leading the cause for reasons that are less focused on the community and more focused on their wallets and political standing.

They generously abuse the instinctual nature of masculinity and territory protection to ensure they gain support, while behind the scenes attempting to control the information that would hurt their stance.

According to The Christian Science Monitor, “the NRA has effectively blocked the federal Centers for Disease Control from studying the effects of gun violence.”

Meanwhile, they make guns part of an individual’s identity. It gave me a part of mine — it is the first fact people remember about me most of the time.

Everyone deserves to own a gun, the NRA argues, as their members accumulate a mass collection of rifles and pistols. Untrained individuals purchase combat-ready shotguns for home defense that will likely languish in a closet, unused for the span of their lifetime.

They weren’t raised in a hunting family like I was, where respect for guns was taught early. They weren’t raised knowing any purpose to the weapon that involved feeding your family or being used in a sport like mine. After a while, the scarier situations outweighed those that involved people who had actual knowledge of the guns.

This is not how it should be.

Odds are, if any type of gun control law does pass, I will still keep my gun. There aren’t enough resources for anyone to go in and take them physically away from those who already own them.

However, adding a level of difficulty to obtaining these weapons is one step toward making our lives a bit safer. We don’t have to completely eliminate them, but we should at least make sure they’re sold to the people who know what they’re doing and are mentally stable.

Stronger background checks are one way we can do this, along with proof of training to at least make sure people know what they’re doing. Psychological assessments, like what is found in Japan, would be the most ideal, considering that the mental health crisis is a key factor to most mass shootings.

If we’re tighter with our regulations to ensure that guns get in to the right hands, if at all, then we can create a bit more safety. We won’t have the capacity to eliminate guns all together, and that’s not the point. We just need to be smarter about how they are handled.

If we are to find a compromise on this major issue, this is where it will be.

 

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Don’t ban guns, make them harder to buy