Civic Engagement

An Opportunity to Solve Death By Gun

Khurrum Wahid - An Opportunity to Solve Death By Gun

Amid the ongoing rhetoric of the current election cycle, we hear very little about how each candidate will handle the plague that has befallen our house. Like most people who have a problem the first step is admission. So far in this 2016 election cycle very little air time has been given to discussing possible solutions to the fact that the United States is a world leader in death by gun.

Let’s start by making clear, guns are a tool. Like all tools they have some value. The issue has never been about taking guns away from Americans. The issue is how do we reduce the deaths by gun. I am certain we can all agree that is a worthy goal. Are gun deaths a priority for Americans to curb? Or do we not really agree it is a problem? We believe terrorism to be a problem and it has dominated the Republican Presidential debates. From early 2001 to the end of 2013, 3,380 people have died in the United States, including 2900 on September 11th, 2001, from terrorism activity.  We have instituted sweeping laws as a result that have infringed upon privacy rights, challenged our ideals on subjects such as surveillance and torture, as well as spent billions of tax payer dollars.  In that same time period 496,496 total gun related deaths have been recorded. About 60% of homicides in America are due to gun violence. Double our Canadian brethren.

President Obama did not call for any new gun legislation during his first term. In 2011 he made clear his administration has in fact expanded the rights of gun owners. So again, no one is trying to take away guns. After a series of mass shootings, the President proposed what many called drastic changes to gun laws.  Setting aside the fact that no actual changes were implemented, voters believe something is happening otherwise they would be asking every candidate at every opportunity what the plan is to help Americans keep their guns and reduce death by gun. Since he did not see it, as recently as January 2016 the President encouraged the voters to make this an issue on the campaign trail.

Secretary Clinton seeks to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which grants unique liability protections for gun businesses. Senator Sanders as a Congressman in 1993, voted against the Brady Act, which ushered in the federal background check system.  Around 2005, as a Senator, he voted for PLCAA.  He backed away from his position on the PLCAA just prior to the Iowa caucus. Both support assault weapons ban and universal background checks. Donald Trump has supported increased emphasis on preventing the mentally ill from obtaining weapons and background checks being expanded to private gun sales. Mr. Trump has also suggested adding security on school campus who are armed. Senator Cruz has the best rating among the candidates from the National Rifle Association. He has blocked tighter gun regulation including background check legislation, according to him, even though no legislation was actually proposed. Members of Congress, who actually make the laws, have been largely silent on proposing how we can keep our guns and reduce the number of people we collectively kill with them.

It is up to the voters.  We are willing to compromise regarding how our rights are exercised when it comes to the 500 terrorism related deaths post 9/11 but not the 400,000 plus gun deaths. If we as Americans value life, then it is up to us to prove it. We must ask those who seek the job of making laws to tell us what ideas they have on important issues such as death by gun.  If not, remember this missed opportunity the next time there is a breaking news moment on cable news with an aerial shot of school campus and the crawler running the number of dead and what happened to the gunman.

Author: Khurrum Wahid