Views on the News: Gun Control
On Oct. 1, in Las Vegas, one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history occurred, killing 58 people and injuring 500, according to an Oct. 3 article in the New York Times. In response to subsequent talk of gun control, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stated, "It's particularly inappropriate to politicize an event like this," according to an Oct. 3 Politico article. Do you agree with McConnell's statement? Why or why not?
Prof. Paul Jankowski (HIST)
Mitch McConnell warning against politicization? Too good to be true. The United States has the highest per capita rate of gun ownership in the world — followed by the failed state of Yemen. To date in 2017, guns have claimed 28,411 lives in non-terrorist acts; terrorism has claimed two. The real political problem is that 74 percent of gun owners in the USA say owning a firearm is essential to their sense of freedom. And half the country believes that it is more important to protect than to control gun ownership. Freedom for them is only the absence of state — a kind of zero-sum game. Such beliefs limit access to health care and guarantee it to guns, instead of the other way around, and offer other recipes for a failed state. One of their most effective proponents? Mitch McConnell.
Prof. Paul Jankowski (HIST) is the Raymond Ginger Professor of History.
Prof. Daniel Breen (LGLS)
To say that it is wrong to “politicize” the murders in Las Vegas is not just errant nonsense, it is offensive errant nonsense. The NRA has spent the last thirty years opposing any politician who dares to believe that it is possible to have a free society without a right to possess things that kill people. In 2016, the NRA poured fifty million dollars into the swing states, running ads suggesting that a Clinton presidency would leave people prey to violent home invaders in the middle of the night. They cannot do everything they can to oppose gun control and then demand that supporters of gun control remain silent every time the bloody consequences of NRA lobbying efforts become apparent, as they have yet again, all too predictably, because of the tragedy of Oct. 1. Rather than sanctimoniously cautioning against “politicizing” that tragedy, Mitch McConnell should resign in richly merited disgrace.
Prof. Daniel Breen (LGLS) is a lecturer in Legal Studies.
Anna Stern ’18
I disagree with Senator McConnell. The issue of gun control is a political issue. In fact, gun control laws are the only the way to prevent mass shootings. Though Senators send their “thoughts and prayers” to victims in these situations, each of these shootings could have been avoided through stricter gun regulation. The goal of government is to create a safe environment for all citizens, not eliminate the Second Amendment. The evidence is clear as gun control laws have proved effective in other countries. Australia passed the National Firearms Agreement in 1996 after a mass shooting that year. Under that law, Australia banned semi-automatic weapons, the weapon of choice of the Vegas shooter, and other types of automatic firearms and instituted licensing requirements. Since 1996, Australia has seen zero mass shootings while America has seen 273 mass shootings this year. Politicizing gun control is the one way to prevent tragedies like these from ever happening again.
Anna Stern ’18 is an American Studies Undergraduate Departmental Representative.
Zach Kasdin ’18
Are mass shootings inherently political? Both Senator McConnell and many of his conservative colleagues appear to think not. On their view, these events call for our “thoughts and prayers” but nothing more. And on the surface, this approach seems intuitive: In an era of intense partisanship, Democrats’ swift calls for gun control can easily appear opportunistic — “making politics” out of a tragedy. But on a deeper level, gun violence exists within the public (and thus, preeminently political) realm. After all, while our common laws allowed for the purchase of such destructive weapons in the first place, this particularly grave incident also points to a national trend: According to the Gun Violence Archive, mass shootings now occur nine out of every 10 days — an issue of epidemic proportion. At its root, the practice of politics allows for us to act collectively, thereby grappling with issues of national concern. In the face of a single E. coli outbreak, let alone nine outbreaks every 10 days, it would remain unthinkable for a Senator to denounce the need for preventative, legislative solutions. Responses to gun violence should be no different.
Zach Kasdin ’18 is a Politics Undergraduate Departmental Representative and co-editor in chief of the Brandeis International Journal.