Gun Control and the Lesson of Sandy Hook: Assault Weapons Ban Won't Protect Us


Gun legislation would not have prevented the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. Though this may not be what everyone wants to think, it is true. The guns that shooter Adam Lanza used were legally obtained by his mother. We could look at the assault weapon that he had with him, but some reports say that he may not have even used the Bushmaster AR-15. Now, we can leave the tragedy at that, or we can look to how we can lower the probability of an event like this happening again.

Could a weapons ban, more specifically, an assault weapons ban, be the answer that everyone is looking for? We have tried this before, with the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. The District of Columbia also has a full forced gun ban, one that Gary Kleck, a professor at Florida State University's College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, argues does not work. Gun bans typically don't affect the ones it hopes to. Law-abiding citizens are the ones who will abide by the ban, while criminals will get their guns through other means. Also, we need to look to the constitutionality of weapons bans. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment did give individuals the "right to keep and bear arms." It went even further to explain that a "'well regulated Militia' referred not only to formally organized state or federal militias, but to the pool of 'able-bodied men' who were available for conscription."

Politicians are also looking to limit the magazines that could be used on guns. I would argue that this would also have a very minute effect on the homicides as well. Most homicides occur with small handheld pistols anyway.

But, given what has already been established, where do the American people stand on the issues? A USA Today poll shows that 58% of us would support stricter gun laws, up from 43% in October 2011. Only 46% support creating new legislation, while 60% support enforcing existing laws. When it comes to a federal assault weapon ban, 51% oppose the idea, nearly unchanged from October 2011. Now to one poll that almost everyone agrees, background checks at gun shows, 92% agree that it should be enforced. When it comes to limiting magazines, 62% agree that legislation should be created to limit the size.

So no legislation may have been able to prevent the Sandy Hook massacre, but what about future shootings? Could legislation be put forward that could hinder a monster's ability to gain access to these weapons in 20 years? There is nothing that will stop this madness within the next few years, we have to be looking to 20 or 30 years from now. What legal means do we have, that would be supported by a majority of the voting public, where we could take a step forward on gun control? Obviously, we need to make sure that current laws are enforced. We need to look at the magazines. We need to have a discussion on assault weapons, though the odds are against any ban occurring. We need to look at the mental health industry. 

There are things that can be done, but it needs to be done correctly. We need to protect our people, while respecting the rights of our gun owning, law abiding, citizens. Much has been said over the past weeks from the pro-gun and anti-gun fronts, but I think, more than anything, that we, as individuals, as citizens, need to take a step back, and think of how we can make this country a safer place for our children, our grandchildren, and their children. There is a common ground answer here somewhere, we just need to keep pushing to find it.