I believe that the United States and its relationship with its residents is circular in nature. U.S. residents give up certain “˜rights’ in order to follow national/state laws, these laws protect them from each other and from the government, this protection also grants us freedom — the freedom to speak, worship and gain through enterprise, equally, and these freedoms are what define our citizenship. However, this freedom is corrupted when residents cease to trust the government for protection, and when that happens, residents get guns. I, personally and as a resident and citizen of a democratic nation, do not associate my freedom with the ownership of a firearm.
In the past three weeks, there have been three major shootings in large public arenas. The first occurred in a movie theatre by James Holmes. Holmes was equipped with a gas mask, load-bearing vest and three firearms, as well as a tear-gas grenade — which he initially released to disable theatre-goers — and other military-grade protective equipment. This is what most people would classify as a domestic terrorist. What I have an issue with is that, unlike most foreign terrorists, he could legally purchase this equipment.
The large majority purchase things in order to use them, why would that be different when it comes to the purchase of assault rifles with 100-round magazines, 12-gauge tactical shotguns and tear-gas grenades? What were the people across the counter thinking when they sold this equipment to Holmes? What was the government thinking to allow it? I am well aware, especially living in the South, that hunting is alive and well. However, if you are trying to kill an animal that requires 100-round magazines, chances are you should first contact U.S. Fish and Wildlife. These guns were meant for killing one thing, people, and that is what they did. That is what they were made to do. These were not hunting rifles. And tear gas is not used for deer. Holmes killed 12 people with these weapons and injured about 70 others.
Last week, only three hours down the road from Trinity University, another gunman killed two people with an assault rifle, which he also legally purchased. If these men wanted to, they could have purchased other equipment in order to impersonate military officers. They could have attacked a base, a hospital, a bus station, a mall, a church or an airport with the same equipment. There is no reason ““ no collection too precious, no good nights sleep too important ““ that everyday citizens of the U.S. should be able to purchase machine guns, assault rifles and military grade equipment such as tear-gas grenades. Reserving these rights to the military and police of the country is what makes them powerful enough to protect us in the first place, and putting these materials in the hands of civilians puts everyone’s lives at risk, even those they are meant to protect.
Growing up in Texas, I am well aware of the sacred nightstand handgun, meant to ease the mind and make you feel protected if an armed burglar enters. However, I say, why not disarm the burglar? When I applied for a job this summer in the food service industry, I received a background check. If I apply for essentially any job, I will receive and permit the same check. I also had to take safety courses to ensure that I would be a responsible food handler, similar to the tests I took when I received my first driver’s license. Nationally, guns are not as regulated as cars or even jobs — in fact, it is up to the state to regulate the purchase of firearms, and states such as Texas and Colorado, where these two shootings occurred, have fairly lenient gun-laws. It is not coincidence that, according to the American Bar Association, “The rate of death from firearms in the United States is eight times higher than that in its economic counterparts in other parts of the world. In 2003, there were 30,136 firearm-related deaths in the U.S.” The high rates of death are due to our barely-regulated gun laws, and the purchase of any gun should require a background check and safety course in order to reduce this statistic.
I honestly think that there is no way to completely prevent murder from firearms. I am aware that black markets exist. I know that, unfortunately, some people are just crazy and want to harm others, and I know that people with non-violent pasts can be violent in their futures. However, there is no need for the United States to maintain that owning a machine gun or assault rifle gives us freedom, and if you have committed a violent crime, you have given up the freedom to own any firearm. The regulation of guns is an important part of the future of the United States; if the population is armed, it can never truly be free.
Faith Ozer is a sophomore majoring in political science.