October 9, 2015

GROSKAUFMANIS | The Second Amendment

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Millions of words have been devoted to analyzing, defending and criticizing this country’s relationship to firearms and the ownership of them. But despite the directions that contemporary conversations take, these millions of words always seem to be at the mercy of only 27, otherwise known as the Second Amendment.

Last week I wrote a piece on free speech looking into the fabric of the First Amendment. No part of me anticipated discussing its follower. However, two days later, on October 1, a shooter opened fire at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, killing 10 and injuring seven. To avoid giving unnecessary attention to the shooter and his unquestionably sick actions, I want to look at this in a broader scope, particularly in the way that we collectively react to such tragedies. The fact that there even is a broader scope when discussing mass shootings is a problem in itself. If something like this is happening frequently enough for us to have an almost formulaic response to it, we know we have a huge issue on our hands.

People argue that Obama and other liberals capitalize on these tragedies by “politicizing” them in a way that advances their agendas. However, I would argue that it is equally political to suggest that an appropriate response is to mourn the loss and enact zero change, essentially waiting around for another tragedy and more losses to mourn. In the case of revising gun control laws, passivity is still a form of action, and it speaks volumes about our nation’s priorities and dogged mentality. To suggest that these events indicate that something must change is not political, but common sense — as Obama said in his speech, when we see a problem like a pothole in the road, we are prone to fix it. He then pointed out an inconsistency in this pattern when our country approaches gun control laws. Obviously this issue is less straight-forward than an issue regarding infrastructure, but the notion that we must fix what is broken is still very relevant in this case.

The rhetoric surrounding gun control laws in the United States is stuck in cyclic groupthink. There is a strong “them against us” mentality coming from both liberals and conservatives and as a result, the option to compromise has grown increasingly narrow. We need to start a conversation as a nation. Responsible gun owners who recognize problems in law must identify themselves and voice their opinions. Extreme minority groups have been misrepresenting advocates on both sides to the point where people have begun to wrongly equate gun ownership with inflexibility and more gun control laws with total prohibition. According to the speech given by Obama on the day of the shooting, the country is in general consensus, with a majority of people polled agreeing that we need more gun control laws, including law-abiding gun owners. It’s that simple.

We are an advanced nation, and one that puts an enormous emphasis on our personal liberties. Because of this emphasis, it makes sense that we so adamantly protect the Second Amendment. And while I do see the merit to that side of the argument, I imagine it’s also hard to pursue personal liberties when you show up to an elementary school, a college or the movie theater one day and are confronted with murder — whether your own or the traumatic witness of others’. At what cost are we willing to defend our rigidity? I’m not arguing for elimination of guns, nor are most liberal advocates. What I am arguing for is recognition of a problem and at minimum, a modest solution.

Our generation has grown up with lock down drills and the reality that schools and movie theaters are not necessarily safe places. While we are not the first to experience these tragedies, we are the first to experience them with such regularity and with such constant exposure to them via media. Maybe someday when our generation has shifted into office, we’ll have an unfortunately seasoned perspective with which to give the movement for more gun control laws some more momentum. In the meantime, people in Washington seem to be waiting.

No more names, no more cities, no more schools or movie theaters. No more telling us to “hug our families a little tighter tonight.” Because what happens tomorrow?

Jacqueline Groskaufmanis is a freshman English and Government major in the College of Arts & Sciences. Aside from writing for The Sun, she enjoys following international affairs, reading good books and hanging out with her English cocker spaniel. Her posts appear on alternate Tuesdays this semester. She can be reached at jag427@cornell.edu.