Should the U.S. enforce greater restrictions on gun legislation?

Matthew Erickson, David Wang

This is an occasional college debate series hosted by Today’s Question where we invite debate clubs to frame and guide the day’s discussion. Positions taken by the debaters don’t necessarily reflect their views. As always, personal attacks aren’t allowed in this space. The comment thread continues to be open to all. Join in!

For this series, we welcome members of the St. Olaf debate team to defend or challenge the argument for tighter restrictions on gun control.

Defending the argument is Matthew Erickson, a freshman at St. Olaf College. He plans to major in English and neuroscience.

Implementing gun control is an inherent issue the United States needs to address. In 2015, there have been only 20 days without a mass shooting (this is from the “Mass Shooting Tracker,” which defines a mass shooting as 4 or more victims; this statistic was accurate through 10/01/15). Furthermore, in developing a plan for tighter gun control, we can see clear advantages for each plank of the plan. By reinstating a ban on automatic weapons in the United States, it becomes much more difficult for shootings to occur and leave devastating impacts on communities. An automatic weapon ban has shown promise in Australia, where mass shootings declined nearly 50% after a similar policy was passed. Additionally, we should tighten gun trafficking enforcement. Two options for doing this are making gun trafficking a federal crime rather than a state issue as well as requiring universal gun checks. Because access to guns is available to anyone, including those with a history of mental illness, violence, gang involvement, and those without proper safety training, the United States saw 33,636 gun-related deaths in 2013. This number is only 200 shy of the number of automobile-related deaths that same year. By approaching gun control comprehensively, we can enact a policy where people can look past excessive us/them rhetoric and continue toward a policy that will protect people and save lives.

Challenging the argument is David Wang, a senior at St. Olaf College majoring in economics and statistics.

The purpose of gun control laws is to reduce the number of gun deaths (more specifically, the number of mass shootings) that occur in the U.S. Gun laws, at least the ones that have been proposed, do little to prevent gun-related deaths, much less mass shootings.

Pro-gun restrictors assume that if they pass gun control laws, we will somehow reduce the number of guns that currently exist, even though most of our problems come from legally acquired guns. The U.S. is the only country in the world where guns outnumber the people living there (approximately 113 guns per 100 people). Even if we somehow eliminate the sale of guns entirely within the U.S., the sheer number of firearms that exist would make it logistically impossible to prevent gun-related deaths.

So what can we do? Ban guns altogether? Buy them back from voluntary citizens? Legally seize them from those who wield them? Those who truly believe in the Second Amendment ultimately remember that they have those guns to defend themselves from tyrants. If the federal government comes knocking on their door to take that right away from them, there will only be negative consequences.

This isn’t to say we can’t prevent mass shootings, but restricting or banning gun ownership isn’t a feasible or even reasonable way to go about it. We know the sort of individuals that commit these sorts of acts. If we want to prevent mass shootings, we need to identify these individuals early on and give them the help they need, ensuring they don’t just slip through the cracks. If we wanted to prevent forest fires, wouldn’t the logical solution be to teach people how to properly snuff a fire out, rather than banning fire altogether?

Today’s Question: Should the U.S. enforce greater restrictions on gun legislation?