America and Guns
With the recent tragic school shooting of 17 kids (of roughly my age) in Parkland, Florida, many arguments have been put forward by both the left and right with regards to the gun control debate. Constitutionalism, mental-health, and government overreach are all various concerns voiced by various parties in this debate - but lets put a few of these arguments to the test of reality and see how they fare, and then come up with a sane solution based upon these arguments.
Firstly, many right-wing sources, such as the National Review, argue that AR-15s, semi-automatic rifles, and high-capacity magazines are essential in the preservation of the second amendment's original purpose. For those who are unaware, the second amendment was originally meant to fulfill John Locke's right of revolution - that the citizens oppressed by any tyrannical government have the innate right to overthrow that government. Obviously, in both modern society and Lockean times, this is usually done in a violent manner - guillotines in France, peasant armies in China, or inflamed Bolsheviks in Russia. Similarly, as argued by both modern conservatives and the founding fathers, an armed populace is essential factor in holding back tyranny. However, the current United States military is the most powerful fighting force in global history. It boasts well over a million active duty soldiers, thousands of tanks and fighter jets, and an impressive navy that could likely take on all other navies combined - and still win by a huge margin. It is also in possession of thousands of nuclear warheads. In the event that a tyrannical government manages to take power (with the backing of the military), it would be utterly unstoppable. No group of rag-tag militiamen from Georgia would be able to withstand constant rail-gun bombardment from a Zumwalt class destroyer, or survive an assault from an M1 Abrams tank. Only a military coup could realistically stop a tyrannical American government - the right wing fantasy of well-armed patriots storming Washington D.C. is completely unrealistic. If the right to revolution is really to be maintained, every citizen would need to drive tanks instead of Toyotas and fly private fighter jets to their holiday in Cancun.
Secondly, many conservatives, including our president, wish to see armed teachers and more guns in school. This argument fails to basic geometry. If bullets from a school shooter are flying in one direction, bullets from a teacher in the other direction would only result in more bullets. More bullets means a greater chance for a student to be caught in the inevitable crossfire. While air marshals do have guns, the nature of an airplane makes guns easier to use without risking civilian casualties - an airplane is essentially one long, mostly unobstructed hallway, whereas a typical school hallway is wide and packed with people. Furthermore, though a civilian being shot in the chaos of an attempted hijacking is tragic, one civilian death is preferable to having a plane being blown out of the sky or being crashed into a major population center. Additionally (especially in elementary schools), what prevents a curious kindergartner from accidentally discharging a gun when the teacher isn't looking? 1300 children died from a gun-related accident in 2015. When 20 or so five year olds, each one hungry for attention and curious, are in a room with a gun that may or may not be loaded, and may or may not be locked, a tragedy is unavoidable. The bottom line is that having more guns inside of schools will only lead to a greater opportunity for chaos and bloodshed. However, having armed guards patrolling hallways and posted outside of school buildings would be beneficial - these are trained professionals, who would both serve to deter would-be shooters and could stop an attack quickly.
This isn't to say that conservatives are the only ones arguing against reality. On average, the police take 11 minutes to respond to a call, a number which is undoubtedly higher in rural states like Montana and Wyoming. Thus, while many liberals argue that police negate the need to own a gun, they are wrong. If three well built robbers decide to break into the rural home of a four person family, a gun is the only equalizer. The cops are simply too far away, and the odds of winning a physical fight hover right around zero. Even a pistol (while it serves as a good deterrent) may not be enough - in the chaos of a midnight, multi-person home invasion, more rounds may be necessary. Also, a ban on high capacity magazines is unenforceable due to their current prevalence in America, and is also somewhat proven wrong by reality. At Columbine, the shooters simply used several 10-round magazines (it takes roughly 1-2 seconds to swap magazines), and the Virginia Tech shooter also utilized 17 10-round magazines. It is important to note that Las Vegas and Sandy Hook both featured high-capacity magazines, but in general, a ban on high-capacity magazines would do nothing to solve the problem.
However, liberals are right in the assertion that something must be done (which does not include sending "thoughts and prayers"). For starters, 97% of Americans support universal background checks. Making sure a potential gun owner isn't a mentally ill Al-Qaeda proxy isn't putting the US on the path to Stalinism - it is common sense. Secondly, it is high time that a gun registry be created. A national gun registry combined with a background check would have prevented the Parkland shooting, by simply connecting the dots between the obvious warning signs surrounding Nikolas Cruz, and the fact that Nikolas Cruz owned an AR-15. This brings us to the next topic - AR-15s, and specifically AR-15s, as the term "assault rifle" has been so over-used by the media that it has lost its definition. Firstly, the AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle, meaning that one trigger pull corresponds to one shot. This differentiates it from a fully automatic rifle, where a held-down trigger will spew multiple rounds. What makes the AR-15 dangerous is its high muzzle velocity, which results in a bullet with more kinetic energy and thus makes the AR-15 far more capable of killing compared to a pistol. However, when discussing a potential ban on a product, the effectiveness must be considered. In the case of an AR-15, how effective would a ban really be? There are somewhere around 3 million AR-15s currently in America, and with no gun registry existing, they would be virtually impossible to track down and confiscate. The sale of AR-15s is a different manner. It is illogical that the minimum age to purchase an AR-15 is 18 years of age, while the minimum age to purchase a handgun is 21. Even alcohol's minimum purchasing age is 21, yet for reasons beyond any sane person's comprehension, you can buy an AR-15 before you can legally buy a Coors Lite. On any reasonable level, the sale of AR-15s to individuals under the age of 21 must be banned. Additionally, while banning the sale of AR-15s is ideal, a much better compromise would be to simply mandate stricter background checks and training for prospective AR-15 owners. A prospective AR-15 owner needs to have demonstrated that he or she can be trusted with a firearm, and needs to prove that he or she is in a perfectly fine mental state. Re-certifications every 2 years would be another necessary step. Bump stocks, however, must be banned. For all intents and purposes, a bump stock turns a semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic weapon. There is no hunting scenario or home invasion where a bump stock could possibly be necessary.
To conclude, everything in society has various pros and cons - and guns are no exception. The job of the government is to therefore weigh these pros and cons and implement the best solution. Ultimately, the solution lies between the extremes of banning all guns versus giving every toddler a gun, and ultimately, the solution lies in favor of a moderate increase in gun control. Mass shootings are not a normal part of everyday life, and when they become so common that the American people are desensitized to it, it is then that action is required.