The gun debate is quite possibly the oldest controversy of the free world. That truth burns on in America, and this past month has in no way smoldered any of those flames. As a conservative on a college campus with an elephant stickered to my laptop, I find myself defending my principles and values every day, and, rightfully so, a lot of that conversation has centered around the gun debate the past month and a half.
Let me begin by reminding you: Firearms are the heartbeat of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—without them, America does not exist, full stop. In this article, I’ll discuss some of the many relevant areas of the debate surrounding guns in America in an attempt to clear some increasingly muddy, muddy waters…buckle up.
Current US Federal Gun Law
After heavily discussing gun control and gun violence over the past month and a half, I was quite surprised to learn how little both pro-rights and gun-control advocates actually know about current federal gun law. The National Rifle Association complies a great guide called “The Citizen’s Guide to Federal Firearm Laws” that’s a solid resource, but it also worth your time to review the actual laws on the books. There are eight major laws regarding “arms” in the United States I found to be important and/or most relevant:
|National Firearms Act||1934||Levied a tax on the sale of some firearms and created a registration for Title II firearms. This law is more commonly known as “Title II.”|
|Federal Firearms Act||1938||Created the Federal Firearm License (FFL) program and banned the purchase of firearms for felons and other “ineligible” persons.|
|Gun Control Act||1968||Regulates interstate commerce of firearms. This law is more commonly known as “Title I” or “GCA68.”|
|Undetectable Firearms Act||1988||Banned the sale of firearms that were made with materials that could not be detected by standard metal detectors.|
|Gun-Free School Zones Act||1990||Prohibited unauthorized individuals from carrying firearms on school property, including public, private, and parochial schools.|
|Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act||1993||Required a federal background check on all firearm purchases. Today, we know this as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.|
|Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act*||1994||Federal Assault Weapons Ban beginning in 1994 and ending in 2004.|
|Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act||2005||Protects firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when crimes have been committed with their products.|
|*Law has since expired|
Many of these Acts have resurfaced in conversations between legislators who are searching for solutions that could prevent tragedies such as the Sandy Hook and Stoneman Douglas school shootings from ever happening again. It is crucial for legislatures to fully review our current firearm laws before moving forward with any further action. As you may know, there is intense controversy in relation to how the most recent shooters obtained firearms in the first place, and many who agree with the notion “it’s not the gun, it’s the person” also conclude that the problem must then be illegal access. With that being said, how can we utilize and amplify laws already on the books to solve the problem? How can we keep firearms out of the hands of those who seek to inflict harm on innocent people without disrupting law-abiding gun owners? Let’s take a look at some options.
Trump on Guns
After the horrific Stoneman Douglas school shooting, the President took numerous steps to search for answers. One of the most notable was a series of “listening sessions” where the President met with students, parents, school administrators, law enforcement officers, and federal and state representatives.
The President hosted several of these sessions throughout the end of February. One of the most impressive was with survivors from the Florida, Sandy Hook, and Columbine school shootings who were also joined by their parents and school officials. The listening session took place at the White House and was broadcasted live for the nation to see. Let me be clear, placing a sitting President in front of a live camera, surrounded by people on both ends of the spectrum, with no structure, is bold, to say the least—not to mention extremely unprecedented. To that end, I commend the President and was genuinely impressed. This type of transparency stands out and shows that he is looking for actual progress on this issue. But don’t take my word for it, take a look yourself.
But where does the President stand on guns? After his listening sessions, press conferences, and tweets, President Trump has thrown out many ideas for how he would like to move forward. The White House released a proposal to reduce gun violence in schools on Sunday.
Officially, that proposal included…
- Supporting legislation to bolster the National Instant Criminal Background Check System
- Supporting the “STOP School Violence Act” to provide funding to improve safety features in schools
- Assisting states in training school faculty members to carry firearms on school grounds
- Allowing military veterans and retired police officers to work as school-safety officers
- Baning bumpstocks—which allows semi-automatic long-guns to fire more rapidly
- Encouraging states to create an “Extreme-Risk Protective Orders System” which would allow a judge to temporarily suspend someone’s gun rights in cases involving threats and/or self-harm
- Creating a commission to study age restrictions on firearms purchases and the effects of exposure to violent content
Unofficially, the President also discussed…
- Exploring options for a National Mental Health Background Check System
- Fixing the FBI’s “tipster program” which is charged with detecting threats before they happen
- Raising the minimum age requirement for long-gun purchases from 18 to 21
- Concealed carry reciprocity, which would allow citizens in states with concealed carry permits to also carry in states that do not allow concealed carry
However, these unofficial ideas were not mentioned in the official White House proposal. Some were walked-back by the White House on Sunday; however, we may see President Trump explorer these other ideas in a separate proposal, as he specifically noted that a provision like concealed carry reciprocity would be “a whole new ball game,” yet a real possibility.
The National Rifle Association
The National Rifle Association (NRA) is an American gun rights advocate organization. The non-profit was founded in 1871 and began directly lobbying Congress in 1975 through its lobbying arm, The NRA Institute for Legislative Action. By my standards, the NRA is the oldest civil liberties organization and best-funded lobbying group in American history.
So why have we heard so much about them lately? More than normal, I mean. A lot of it has to do with the explosive conversation on Twitter and the #NeverAgain and #2A movements. Activists like Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro and Stoneman Douglas High School student David Hogg have exchanged a few passive words since the movements hit Twitter…
Many gun-control advocates, including Stoneman Douglas High School student David Hogg, have repeatedly criticised the NRA and their members for their pro-rights mentality over the past month and a half. Hogg and his followers go as far as to blame the NRA for the death of the students murdered by Nikolas Cruz in February. Their rationality: Nikolas Cruz used a gun to kill students, the NRA supports guns; therefore, the NRA killed students. Now, many would immediately see this irrationality as nothing but a fallacy, but their messaging has been effective. It’s triggered large corporations to cut ties with the NRA, including Delta Airlines, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and MetLife Insurance. However, some of those corporations have already felt the backlash. Delta Airlines, for example, is at risk of losing its proposed $40 million tax cut in Georgia after lieutenant governor Cagle threatened to block any tax legislation that would benefit Delta.
The recent exposure regarding companies and corporations weighing in on the gun-debate could open the door for a dangerous precedent. Advocates on both sides have taken to Twitter to encourage boycotting companies that are acting for or against the NRA. I would raise the question: where does it end? Are we now supposed to choose the companies we use based solely on their political position? Will companies now have signs that read “FedEx (R-TN)” and “UPS (D-GA)?” Just think about what that could mean.
When it comes to President Trump, like always, he says whatever is on his mind, whether the NRA will like it or not. At a bipartisan meeting at the White House last week, the President said, “I’m a fan of the NRA…I’m a big fan of the NRA. These are great people, these great patriots. They love our country. But that doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything.”
The NRA does not support all of President Trump’s proposals. Specifically the age-hike for long-guns and the notion of suspending a citizens’ gun rights before due process. Nevertheless, we will see how the organization falls in line when legislatures come out with an almost indefinite White-House-backed bill sometime before the 2018 cycle gets in full swing.
At the end of the day, I truly believe that firearms are the heartbeat of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not only do they protect lives, they also protect the free world as we know it. I grew up learning how to responsibly and safely operate and maintain a firearm. I understand that not everyone should have access to a gun, but as a law-abiding citizen, those people should not affect my ability to do so.
But none of that means there isn’t work to be done. Although, that work is hard to accomplish if we spin in circles. So often in conversation with gun-control advocates, I find myself defending rationality instead of discussing action. Oftentimes, anti-gun advocates focus on blaming those who support law-abiding gun owners rather than working out a solution, and that’s where the polarization needs to stop if we hope to find common ground. In an attempt to cut through the ice, I usually try to return to reality by expressing a few common sense ideas: law-abiding gun owners are not murders, murderers are murders, and above all, the problem isn’t the gun, it’s the person.
We can agree then, the issue here is illegal access. So what can we do to keep guns out of the hand of people who seek to inflict harm on others and themselves? Here are 5 things I believe would be a great start:
#1: Enforce laws already on the books. This means a strengthening of our background check system. We must ensure that those who cannot buy guns under current law, do not, in fact, obtain guns. My main thought process behind this idea can be summed up into one question: Why create more gun laws when we can’t even enforce the once we have now?
#2: Ensure Transparency. States and the federal government must work hand-in-hand to ensure they are on the same page. If the FBI registers a “red flag,” the local authorities should know about it, and vise-versa, this includes between states as well. Lawmakers will need to create a system that effectively shares information.
#3: Explore the age issue. There is ridiculous fluctuation in age-depending rights in America. You can vote at 18, join the military at 17 (with parental consent), be tried as an adult at age 17, sign contracts as an adult at age 18, drink alcohol at age 21, buy handguns at age 21, buy long-guns at age 18, and the list goes on. We must answer the question: when do adult rights begin in America? If you are old enough to die for your country, you are old enough to drink alcohol, if you are old enough to join the military, you are old enough to buy a handgun, and so on.
#4: Secure our schools. All public, private, and parochial schools should be held to a standard of security—one-door access during school hours, monthly intruder drills, etc. Many schools have these measures already in place, but current school regulations require more preparation for a fire than they do for the threat of intruders.
#5: Consider mental health. Mental health stipulations should be added to the criminal background check process. This means even further transparency between states and the federal government. In addition, states should consider temporary restraining orders for those deemed mentally unfit to carry a firearm or a danger to themselves and others.
Bottom line: stop the rhetoric, quite the blame game, and let’s get out there and get after it.
What are your thoughts? Tell me on Twitter @AlecBukowiec. DM me, I’d love to chat.