Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

I’m from Kentucky. I like guns. But I know things need to change

I was in my teens when I shot a gun for the first time and I enjoyed it. I don’t want to ban firearms — I just want to see them regulated in the same way as cars

Carl Gibson
New York
Wednesday 24 March 2021 15:50 GMT
Gun Control Explainer
Gun Control Explainer (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

President Biden unintentionally summed up America in a fitting metaphor during a press conference on Tuesday. In the wake of yet another deadly, senseless mass shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado during which ten people were killed, Biden commented that flags were still at half-mast from the mass shooting that occurred in Atlanta the week before. Boulder marked the seventh mass shooting in America in just the last seven days. One witness to the Boulder shooting dryly remarked that he and others had all imagined they’d find themselves in the midst of a mass shooting at some point in their lives. 

The fact that so many Americans have resigned themselves to violent mass shootings erupting at any moment is completely unacceptable, and Congress should muster the political will in this particular moment to finally pass common-sense gun safety legislation. I say that as someone who likes guns.

As a born-and-raised Kentuckian, I’ve been around guns and gun owners as long as I can remember. I was in my teens when I shot a gun for the first time. While on a friend’s farm (with adult supervision), I shot a small-caliber, bolt-action rifle. I loved the smooth process of flipping up the bolt, pulling it back, watching the previous shell fly out of the ejection port, shoving the bolt forward, and flipping it back down before looking through the sight, taking a deep breath, and exhaling while pulling the trigger and feeling the stock recoiling against my shoulder as the coffee can I shot at flew off the tree stump it sat on.

A bolt-action rifle is a great way to have fun with some targets and simultaneously a terrible way to kill a lot of people in a short amount of time, making it a great alternative to the AR-15 rifles responsible for so many senseless acts of mass murder. If Congress is looking for a way to curb mass shootings while keeping their gun-owning constituents happy, banning assault weapons and regulating guns like cars is a great way to start.

The Second Amendment was still very much intact after Congress passed the Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act (also known as the assault weapons ban) in 1994. The law banned the manufacturing, sale, and transport of semi-automatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. While there were still mass shootings between 1994 and 2004, when George W Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress allowed the ban to expire, they were far less common. In 2019, the Senate Judiciary Committee released a study showing that mass shootings decreased by 37 percent when the ban was in place, but rose by 183 percent once the ban had lapsed.

Like guns, cars are dangerous objects that, in the hands of an irresponsible user, can kill a lot of people. In 2019, the National Safety Council estimated that approximately 38,800 Americans died in auto accidents. Similarly, more than 38,800 Americans on average are killed by firearms each year according to Everytown for Gun Safety. The number of auto accidents would likely be far higher were it not for the stringent regulations in place on cars and drivers. 

Cars, for example, are required to meet specific safety standards established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration relating to airbag deployment, brakes, and child restraint systems, among others. Each car in America has to be registered in its respective state each year. Drivers have to take a competency test to obtain a license before they can even get behind the wheel of a car. In most states, drivers have to carry insurance. And any driver that has shown a pattern of disregard for public safety, like racking up multiple DUI charges or too many speeding tickets, can risk a permanent license suspension

Guns shouldn’t be any different. Potential gun buyers should have to prove themselves mentally sound enough to own a firearm. Each firearm a gun owner has in their possession should be registered, insured, and safely stored. Anyone trying to buy a gun who has a history of domestic abuse or other violent behavior should be prohibited from owning one. And family members should have the ability to petition the court to take firearms away from anyone they suspect could cause harm to themselves or others (also known as “red flag laws”).

Responsible gun owners by and large support basic gun regulations like these. A 2019 Johns Hopkins-Bloomberg survey found that 72 percent of gun owners support red flag laws. That same year, Ohio State University researchers found that 90 percent of gun owners supported universal background checks, 72 percent approved of mandatory waiting periods for new gun purchases, and 63 percent of gun owners were in favor of safe storage laws. 

At the state level, stringent gun laws have been proven to save lives. In states like California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, where obtaining a gun is the most difficult, the Giffords Law Center found the lowest number of firearm-related homicides per capita. The opposite is true in states with very little or no gun regulations. Alaska, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Wyoming have some of the loosest gun laws according to the Giffords Center, and likewise have the highest gun-related deaths per capita.

Republicans may point to existing legislation, like the bill recently reintroduced by Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), as an alternative to such regulations. But that bill is little more than political cover for Republicans wanting an easy out for once again failing to seriously address America’s epidemic of mass shootings. The bill doesn’t actually regulate firearms; it only requires state institutions to send updated criminal records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to prevent people with criminal records from purchasing firearms. It’s worth noting that both Cruz and Grassley have A+ ratings from the National Rifle Association. 

The Cruz-Grassley bill wouldn’t have stopped some of the worst mass shootings in recent memory, like those in Orlando in 2016, Las Vegas in 2017, or Parkland in 2018. According to the Associated Press, all of those shooters passed background checks and acquired their firearms legally. The perpetrator of the Las Vegas shooting — which remains the deadliest in US history — was a wealthy 64-year-old retiree with no criminal history. America needs tough new gun laws which are not written by close friends of the gun lobby.

New federal regulations on guns wouldn’t end mass shootings or firearm-related homicides, but they would almost certainly result in a significant decrease in senseless acts of violence like the kind Boulder residents just had to endure. Congress doesn’t have to abolish the Second Amendment to stop America’s trend of mass shootings — they just need to take swift action to pass laws a vast majority of their constituents support.

Carl Gibson is a freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in