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The Danger of America’s Gun Rhetoric

One day, we could be walking through the Yard when we first hear the shots. We could be sitting in section or studying in the Science Center on a crisp, sunny morning when someone decides to walk into our university with a lethal weapon and commit mass murder. Though even the idea alone is troubling, and I truly hope this will never come to fruition, our generation cannot dismiss the epidemic of gun violence that has torn across this country. While we need to be active proponents of common-sense gun laws to make progress on this long-overdue problem, we also need to be intolerant of vastly unfounded rhetoric on this issue because of the danger it poses to our society.

It’s not just that we have a gun problem. We have a political problem: The government’s inability to protect us from the gun problem. Despite hundreds of mass shootings every year, our politicians remain unwilling to reasonably address this issue and enact common-sense gun reform. We have seen shootings become routine: The news headlines, the thoughts and prayers, the vigils, and the advocacy for gun reform that ultimately goes in vain. Each time, they follow a predictable pattern. But this routine must end.

In defense of their failure to act, some politicians use arguments so absurd that they become dangerous. Chief among these is the idea that gun restrictions won’t help because criminals don’t follow the law. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, where 17 people were killed in an attack just a few weeks ago, has said that someone who just wants a gun to carry out a crime is not going to follow the law. By this logic, we should make no effort to pass laws about anything. This is the equivalent of saying that we shouldn’t have a speed limit because people who want to speed will do so anyway. And although speeding and committing mass murder are two different things, laws work. In fact, after a national speed limit was enacted in 1973, nationwide traffic deaths went down by nearly 17 percent across the country. It’s hard to imagine how banning assault weapons or reducing the number of guns per person would not result in fewer gun deaths and mass shootings.

Our politicians need to agree that gun safety laws should be enacted. This issue goes beyond partisan divides. Almost all countries that have implemented gun reform laws of any kind have seen a substantial reduction in gun deaths, and it is simple common sense to adopt this lesson from other countries. Our arguments should not be about whether we should enact gun safety laws at all, but rather which laws to enact.

We also must acknowledge that the argument articulated by Rubio—perhaps the least compelling, most unfounded argument against gun legislation—becomes dangerous if we give it any credit. If our leaders continue entertaining these ignorant ideas by accepting the permanence of gun violence, they risk normalizing it more than it already has been. Gun violence is too dangerous and consequential an issue to remain this negligent, and an extreme aversion toward establishing gun safety laws perfectly embodies such negligence. We cannot allow an acceptance of unfounded rhetoric to lead us to take for granted that our nation will experience regular mass shootings.

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America’s gun violence epidemic will only be solved by a mass movement of protest, lobbying, and public advocacy because our federal elected officials have shown themselves incapable of legislating common sense alone. The outpouring of advocacy from young people in Parkland, Fla., as well as the marches and petitions sweeping the country, are hopeful signs. But more advocacy is greatly needed. We must discredit the absurd, dangerous arguments flowing through our politics until politicians realize that ignorance can no longer work on this issue. As students of one of the most prominent universities in the world, we must be both outspoken against but also intolerant of the dangerous idea that gun laws won’t work. They will.

Trevor W. Bishai, a Crimson editorial comper, lives in Canaday Hall.

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