The AK-47. Born in Soviet Russia, amidst war and strife as a cost-efficient and simple way to blast heads off. The Desert Eagle, bred in Israel to keep its plethora of hostile neighbors at bay. Both of these, despite being the most iconic and deadliest weapons to exist, is currently legal in all 50 US states. As a result, every day, an average of 96 US citizens, innocent or otherwise, are gunned down in various incidents ranging from school shootings to gun-on-gun violence. Despite the NRA’s (National Rifle Association) tight grip on Congress and the Parliament, many have started to doubt the necessity of these brutish tools. On this week’s edition of The Diplomat, we discuss the detriments of having private arsenals, while we also try to find the rationale behind America’s gun culture. More importantly, what does this mean for SMIS students?
On September 17, 1787, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson gathered in Philadelphia to put together a formal set of laws and principles. This is known as the Constitution of the United States, and it still stands as the most esteemed set of precedents for the United States government today. Outlined within are twenty-seven amendments, including the rights to freedom of speech and privacy. One particular amendment is directly associated with the debate over gun-control: the Second Amendment. It reads as follows: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Many now dub this as “the right to bear arms”, and refer to it as the principal justification behind free gun-use. While the importance of the Constitution and its principles is incontrovertible, many fail to recognize the first part; “A well regulated Militia”. Although militia groups technically still exist in present-day America, the majority of gun owners are not a part of one. The Founding Fathers established this amendment in a time when the threat of war was imminent, and the United States did not possess a military. In the instance of a sudden attack, average citizens were expected to grab whatever arms were at hand and fight. This was over 200 years ago. Today, the US possesses the largest military in the world and spends more money on it than the next 25 countries combined, 24 of which are allies. Participants of the Gun Control Movement have a similar thought process and proclaim that the Second Amendment is no longer relevant. Although it remains a prominent part of American culture, should not be cited as a valid excuse for such a loosely regulated and dangerous practice.
Meanwhile, many gun advocates point out that guns themselves do not commit crimes. In fact, a study by Quinnipiac University discovered that in between 1980 and 2009, states who reconfigured their gun laws to be more strict experienced a rise in gun-related murders. This data is consistent with various other studies, especially one conducted by Lotts and Mustard in 1997. Journalist John Stussel expressed his belief that, “Criminals don’t obey the law… Without the fear of retaliation from victims who might be packing heat, criminals in possession of these [illegal] weapons now have a much easier job… As the saying goes, ‘If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns,” (Lund, 2014). He argues that stripping law-abiding citizens of guns will only endanger them to malicious criminals who would still retain their guns. From this perspective, stricter gun laws would be the equivalent of creating easier targets for shootings.
Lately, the “Gun Control Movement” has picked up momentum within the US, and as school shootings and gun massacres grow more prevalent by the day, it continues to grow at an exponential rate. It calls for a stricter policy regarding gun ownership. Compared to other countries, the measures taken to obtain a gun in the US are very lax. For example, in Japan, individuals must go through countless background checks in order to even buy a gun. Then, license re-registrations sessions must be completed annually.
Although this issue may have only gained popularity in the last few years, it will leave a substantial mark on the rest of history. The decision will help to identify humanity for many years to come; are we, as individuals, prepared to put our safety and trust entirely in the hands of strangers? Are we prepared to cast aside the sword in favor of the pen? Do we possess the maturity to resolve domestic disputes diplomatically, or must we resort to brute strength?
So how does this relate to SMIS? Countless SMIS graduates cross over to the US every year to attend college, and most of them have been raised in gun-free environments. While the US is certainly not populated entirely by gun-toting lunatics, the presence of firearms still makes it a completely different atmosphere. In order to stay safe in these dangerous times, students should stick to some core guidelines. Some basics would be to be aware when in the vicinity of firearms, and if so, to make sure the person in question is properly trained in gun safety. One significant precaution would be to sign up for university safety alerts. A university will automatically send out alerts if a gunman, or intruder of any kind, is spotted on the premises. Although it may not seem like much, countless lives have been saved from similar programs. Overall, the best course of action would be to be respectful of all aspects of gun etiquette. Remember, conflicts can’t hurt you if they don’t exist in the first place.
Article by Ryo Matsuki