Jewish Journal

Preventing Massacres: Is Gun Control the Answer?

by Josephine Eshagian, contributing writer

December 15, 2012 | 12:45 pm

Sandy Hook Elementary School | KNOX News

The morning of December 14, 2012, a senseless massacre took the lives of 26 innocent victims: 20 children, ages 5 to 10 years old, and 6 adults. Police rushed to the crime scene of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. There they discovered the nightmare. The shooter, 20-year old Adam Lanza, took his own life after the heartless killing spree. His mother's body was discovered later that day. She was suspected to have been killed before Lanza headed to the school. 

According to officials, Lanza died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The car he drove and the guns he used were registered to his mother, who he murdered at point-blank range. Three guns were found at the scene – a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both pistols – and a .223-caliber AR.

I could not help but tear listening to children's testimonies on the news; most could not even register what had happened. When describing the events he witnessed, a 7-year-old boy recalled, "it sounded like someone was kicking down a door, not like gunshots. I was in the hallway and bullets were going past me. A teacher pulled me and another kid into a class so we could get away".

To say the least, I am heartbroken Grieving the innocent lives that were taken is not enough. As a nation, we should take action towards some kind of preventative measure--but is gun control the answer?

Hundreds of Americans rallied outside of the White House for gun control action today. President Obama shed tears as he addressed the nation in solidarity of the victims. The federal government and the National Rifle Association (NRA) may be under pressure more than ever after the events at Newtown.  

Unfortunately, the tragedy in Newtown is not totally unordinary. As much as registering a gun is a deterrence for those with a troublesome past, the perpetrators of the recent massacres that we have seen in the news, Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, and Newtown, were all committed by men without a criminal history, who were introverts, yet seemingly functioning members of society. The profile for a killer, from these events, is somewhat similar: young males, in their 20s or early 30s, had a decent education, and unexpectedly snapped.

Many gun control policies already exist. Background checks, gun registration, limits on the number of guns, ban of high-capacity clips, ban of semi-automatic weapons, no guns for felons or mentally ill are some of the most favored policies—but are they really enforced? To some extent, yes.

Permits for concealed weapons are too easy to attain. It’s easy to buy a gun at a convention center or a local firearm shop. The firearm industry is a business that grosses over $2 billion annually. There are over 300 million guns in circulation, most registered, but many of them are not.

The idea of gun control sounds good - on paper. The NRA and the government should screen potential "responsible gun owners" via mental health screenings, but the logistics of enforcing that would be tedious, hard to regulate, and thus ineffective.

Fewer guns in circulation would reduce accidents but it would not eliminate the risks of massacres that continue to be a bane to society. Most people don't realize how absurdly easy it really is to obtain a firearm. Most vendors don’t even perform background checks. Even so, the unfortunate and painful truth is that illicit activity is all too common, especially in major urban cities. It isn't hard to buy a cheap unregistered handgun for $100 on the streets. A WASR-10 can run for $275. A higher-grade gun like an AK-47 is $300. At a gun show or store, these probably cost a lot more, but then again, the premium is the price to legally carry a concealed weapon.

The flaw of gun control proponents is their failure to understand that it is not a simple issue. Gun control is very intricate and there are many classifications (e.g. of guns, magazines, and other specifications, that deem its legality). Most people assume that the ban on assault weapons is a ban on automatic weapons such as machine guns, when it is actually a ban on weapons with military styling, not capability. For example, in California, a handgun is legal but one can buy a kit to convert it to a rifle, with a long barrel and stock, making it an assault weapon. High-powered guns such as MAC-90 and Ruger Mini-14 are legal but an AR-15 is not, yet they have the same capabilities. None is more dangerous than another.

Banning firearms will not stop killings. The irony of gun control is that although it aims for preventative measures, it does not significantly deter anyone from purchasing a gun. I support gun control, but with more than 49% of the popular vote going towards a Republican candidate, I can assure you that gun control would be hard to attain. Roughly half of the country, by association, opposes gun control as does the U.S. Constitution. The Second Amendment protects the right of people to bear arms. Protection is a viable reason to own a gun. Storeowners, security, and police own guns.

I asked my wise mother what she thought. I know how affected my mom was by the news because she seemed unusually upset during Shabbat. My mother is a compassionate woman: one that loves her children. In fact, she loves all children and she has the noblest heart. She told me how 20 years ago things like this didn't happen. 20 years ago people had guns. 20 years ago there were regulations on guns.

My mom told me a story detailing an event that occurred 14 years ago, when an Anti-Semitic armed man attempted to enter my elementary school, Stephen S. Wise, with intent to hurt children. The security turned him down, but the man went to another local Jewish school where he was able to hurt children. The guard at school that day may have saved my life.

Hate crimes, senseless killings, and other acts of mass violence do not occur merely because people are able to kill, but because they want to kill. Just as a man could use a gun to kill, a guard, could use one to protect, or deter a killer. In the right hands, guns have a legitimate value.

These views are not based on anecdotes or personal experiences. I support stricter gun control. It would prevent street crime, accidental deaths, and homicides. I think deadly weapons should not be easily accessible to the public, but I don't think that gun control alone can stop massacres.

Gun control is a start, but not the answer. The intrinsic nature of a killer, one that most of us cannot fathom to understand, is so potent, so evil, that even getting turned down by a store to buy a gun could not prevent him from his killing spree. If he has the capability to kill, he wouldn't hesitate to steal or harm to get his hands on a gun. The gunman, Lanza, took his mother’s guns and killed her with them. Lanza didn’t even own a gun, but he did possess the urge to murder.

There are many opinions, but let me issue mine: gun control is not the easy answer or fix to preventing tragedy. Guns account for 30,000 deaths annually, but if they are not legal, they will still be a recurring problem, just as alcohol was during the Prohibition. Before reforming gun control, perhaps we should pay more attention to our fellow human beings. There were warning signs in these young men turned killers. I would also purport for armed guards at school.

I strongly believe in heightened security at schools. Protecting children's safety is of the upmost concern.

In any event, what may seem to be unavoidable or unexpected should be put to an end as soon as possible—to prevent the amassing toll of innocent lives. Nothing can undo the tragedy that has struck, but we can aim for a brighter and safer future. 

In the unfortunate case of Newton, Connecticut, 26 innocent lives were taken too soon and we mourn their loss. At this difficult time, let us keep their families in our prayers as we wish for refuah shlema.

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