President Biden has urged stronger gun control laws after the recent shootings that occurred in Boulder, CO on March 22. Biden has been urging Congress to pass expanding background checks and banning assault-type weapons, like the one the Boulder shooter used.
According to the White House and the New York Times, Biden said that strengthening background checks would be “common sense steps that will save lives in the future.” He also said, “This is not and should not be a partisan issue—it is an American issue. We have to act.”
Nicholas Sewitch, J.D. Department Chair and Specialist Professor of Criminal Justice, said politicians—especially the president, congressman, or senator—feel that it is their duty to protect the people.
“There’s also the political aspect of it, too, in that the media reports when there’s a high-profile mass shooting when an assault weapon is front and center for days, if not weeks, and it becomes a political issue,” said Sewitch.
He said that the political end of it extends into how it can be prevented and how action can be taken regarding this, especially if it is happening too often.
“Even though we know that the overwhelming majority of gun-related deaths are not committed with assault weapons, and that the homicides rates in certain cities and states are at epidemic proportions, they don’t get the publicity of the high profile, mass killings that assault weapons get,” said Sewitch. “So, it’s kind of interesting that there doesn’t seem to be the same political will to deal with that issue, as there is with the assault weapon issue.”
Sewitch believes that the strengthening and expansion of background checks will make a difference and are appropriate measures to take, but he does not know the magnitude of that difference. He also feels that there is no reason for the average citizen to have an assault weapon.
“The purpose of assault weapons is to kill people, to destroy people, to create devastation. There’s not a sporting purpose,” said Sewitch.
He said that generally with assault weapons, people do not usually hunt with them. In terms of self-protection, he thinks that it would be hard pressed to argue that people have fended off violent crimes by having an assault weapon present, and if someone came into their house and an assault weapon was present, it was the key to protecting themselves.
“So, when we think of the general purposes, Second Amendment purposes, when having a firearm, none of them exists with assault weapons, and they’re capable of such devastation,” said Sewitch.
He also said that in terms of mass shootings, it is not simply comparing the number of people who die in a mass shooting with an assault weapon versus all the other gun deaths. He said it is rather that feeling of safety that we have of security, and when one of these mass shooting occurs, it creates trauma for all.
Sewitch said that he understands the vision in this country when it comes to gun rights, but he feels that the Second Amendment does not bar background checks and does not bar the banning of certain unusual weapons like assault weapons.
“I don’t criticize the people who believe they should have the right to own a handgun, and that there’s certain Second Amendment rights that shouldn’t be disturbed and that the gun control people are trying to infringe on. But when they argue that the Second Amendment bars these restrictions, they’re just plain wrong,” said Sewitch.
He believes that Biden is taking the right steps in terms of strengthening gun control. Sewitch said this country has become so polarized and neither side trusts the other.
“When one of these shootings happens, everybody goes to their corners and starts pointing fingers at each other. The National Rifle Association (NRA) demonizes the liberals and the democrats, and the democrats demonize the NRA and gun owners. The problem is there is no trust and instead of agreeing on common measures that are hard to oppose, we go to our corners and we don’t trust each other,” said Sewitch.
Saliba Sarsar, Ph.D. Professor of Political Science, said that guns are easily available and acquired in the U.S. according to Small Arms Survey. The survey also said that the U.S. actually surpasses all other countries in the number of firearms per 100 persons.
“Around 39,000 people die from guns annually. The loss of one life to gun violence or any other kind of violence is unacceptable, let alone thousands. Seriously decreasing or eliminating unregistered firearms can significantly lower firearms deaths,” said Sarsar.
He believes that Biden’s gun control plan not only expresses his own beliefs, but also reflects the opinion of several Americans who are in support of universal background checks and ban on assault weapons.
“The U.S., like other countries, must act swiftly to ensure the safety and security of all its residents. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents must work together to tighten gun laws in order to reduce gun availability and accessibility and save countless lives,” said Sarsar.
Kevin Dooley, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Political Science, believes that Biden would take bolder action if he had more seats in the Senate.
“Presently, he doesn’t. The Senate is split 50/50. And not all democrats agree with him on gun control, therefore, I doubt that he takes strong gun control measures,” said Dooley. He believes that background checks can be a good start for this.
“I think background checks are a step in the right direction, but we must remember that most mass shootings are not due to a person’s mental illness or ‘background.’ Gun violence is due to the availability of guns,” said Dooley. “The U.S. has more guns available to its people than other industrialized democracies; therefore, it has more gun violence.”
Sarah Cooper, a psychology student, believes that mass shootings are caused by internal racism and people who have anger and hatred towards specific people.
“I think Biden needs to put in place a more in-depth screening process for gun ownership, including a personality test that assesses someone’s chances of using a gun wrongfully,” said Cooper. She hopes that one day our country will make gun owning not impossible, but more regulated.
“I understand having a gun for your own safety, but I personally do not think it is something that should be used in sport or against others unless it is actual self-defense. This means for cops as well, their training for assessing situations where a gun is necessary should be stricter,” said Cooper.
IMAGE TAKEN from NBC News