Protect citizenry while preserving rights

OXFORD, Miss., (U-Wire) — It was both ironic and sad to me Wednesday when The Daily Mississippian reported the murder of Ole Miss student Devan Lowery on the front page, and a diatribe against gun control by Howie Morgan on the third page. I did not know Devan, as I did not know the victims of the recent Columbine shooting, but both events made me stop and reflect on the fragility of life, and on what kind of mad society we live in where such events could occur. I am sure many others felt the same way.
Please understand, I am not attacking Morgan personally. I merely disagree with his opinion and would like to do my best to refute it. I feel a moral responsibility to do so in light of the havoc that guns have wrought on the world here in Oxford and all around the world.
The invention of guns, I believe, is the worst invention in the history of humanity. Yes, people killed each other before, but guns have allowed us to kill each other with frightening and unprecedented speed and efficiency. Morgan argues that “there is no more fundamental right” than to own a gun. In reality, we have no rights other than those we create for ourselves.
Our Constitution guarantees us the right to bear arms in the context of defending our other rights against a tyrannical government or an invader. We have better means for that now: the courts and the army, respectively. Besides, I’d rather have the First Amendment any day. Much better a world without guns than a world without books, magazines or newspapers!
Morgan points out that heavily-armed societies, such as Switzerland and Israel, have lower crime rates than the United States. In Switzerland, guns are considered an essential because the Swiss army is very small and largely ceremonial. Swiss citizens serve as a well-armed militia to defend their country if invaded. In addition, Switzerland is a wealthier country than the United States, with a more equal distribution of wealth. This is significant because a strong correlation exists between poverty and violent crime.
Israel is the opposite of Switzerland in that it is a country in a constant state of war. Israelis must carry guns because there is a very real possibility that a terrorist will try to shoot them or blow them up at any moment. Apparently, Morgan does not consider terrorism a crime. Furthermore, Great Britain also has a much lower crime rate than the United States, but in that country, even the policemen did not carry guns until recently.
I accept that in the United States, most people have the right to own a gun. Maybe you have seen bumper stickers that say, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Well, I say that guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people. If two basic premises are taken into consideration — that persons under 21 are often too immature to be trusted with weapons, as evidenced by high school shootings; and that people who have proven they are violent individuals by committing violent crimes, i.e. convicted felons, should not be allowed to own guns — then it becomes apparent that current laws are not enough.
Here are some facts to consider: in 1996, 486 children and teenagers were accidentally killed by handguns, and an additional 2,866 were murdered with guns, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Is that a “minuscule amount,” as Morgan says? They are not minuscule, but they are smaller than they were in 1993, before the Brady Law was passed. That is proof that gun control is practical and effective. In Mississippi, there are no permit or license requirements, waiting periods, gun safety education requirements, or safe storage laws. A teenager can walk into a store and leave with a shotgun or rifle five minutes later. Does this seem right, or safe? Not to me.
The solution, I think, is that no one under 21 should be allowed to purchase a handgun. No automatic weapons of any sort should be allowed in this country. Background checks should be mandatory even for so-called “private collectors” at gun shows. A waiting period of a week should be a requirement except at gun shows, where it would be impossible because most last less than a week. All guns should be registered. There should be a harsh penalty for carrying an unlicensed weapon. These reforms would close loopholes used by criminals and still allow law-abiding citizens their hard-earned rights.
Blake Aued’s column originally appeared in Friday’s University of Mississippi Daily Mississippian.