Effectiveness of firearm laws questioned

This article was written in response to Jacqia Scotton’s article,“Time to change the way we view gun control,” published on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014.

By Alexander Kamm

Guns in America
Purchasing a gun in NJ is harder than many citizens think. (AP Photo)

The article on the same subject published in The Signal last week, while well-written, had some inherent flaws. In this piece, I will do my best to address what I believe to be flaws and explain how “easy” it is to get a firearm.

When researching the subject, one looks to gun control utopias, such as Detroit, and finds a murder rate that is over 10 times that of New Jersey, one has to wonder if more restriction actually combats the problem. Last week’s article suggests that this discrepancy can be explained by bordering states having lax laws.

I can speak from personal experience that when buying a firearm in another state, one must adhere to the laws of the state that they live in. Most Federal Firearms License holders who are licensed to sell firearms for a profit are not going to risk losing their business to sell a firearm illegally.

Furthermore, the sale of a firearm across state lines between unlicensed individuals is strictly prohibited.

Last week’s opinion piece on the same subject also reported that the U.S. experienced 88 deaths for every 100 people in the country, but the actual murder rate in 2012 was much much lower — 4.7 per 100,000. Despite what news stories may lead you to believe, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report reports that violent crime and murder as a whole are down to almost half of what they were 20 years ago.

Despite the ever-dropping violent crime figures, gun control remains the very opposite of “the elephant in the room.” The list of over 65 gun-related bills slated for discussion in the N.J. senate for early 2014 suggests that it is quite the opposite. Despite their efforts, many of the laws passed in the N.J. Congress’ previous session have had little impact on crime.

One such example was passed through the N.J. House and Senate in 2013: S684. In an attempt to combat urban crime, the bill banned a class of rifles that are large and cumbersome, cost over $10,000 and have never been used in the commission of a crime in New Jersey ever. Somehow, I wonder if the bill would have impacted any type of crime in N.J. had it not been vetoed.

But you are right about one thing: Guns aren’t the only factor in violent crime. So if one wishes to combat the problem of violent crime in America, they must be willing to address all of the factors. One often over looked factor was recently highlighted by “60 Minutes.”

The state of mental health facilities in the U.S. are on a continual decline. “60 Minutes” reports that even while the population rises, the number of beds in mental health facilities has dwindled from over half a million to under 100,000.

Perhaps if facilities were available and the system more comprehensive, clinically ill people would have been able to get the treatment they so desperately needed before tragedies occurred. For example, the man responsible for the Washington Navy Yard shooting had previously reported to the police that he had been hearing voices and had unfounded suspicions that he was being followed.

Even while violent crime is at one of the lowest points in history, I agree that we as Americans can do more to reduce the figure. Despite this, I do feel that restricting the freedoms of law-abiding citizens will not produce the desired results.

The people who commit these crimes are not like you or me. The threat of an illegal weapons charge and its 10-year sentence ensure that you or I will not break the law. On the contrary, to someone who is set on murdering, causing mayhem and accepting multiple life sentences in jail, the risk of an illegal weapons charge does nothing.

In that sense, all that many of these laws serve to do is restrict the freedoms of law-abiding citizens, but at the end of the day, we were never the problem to begin with. And so as I sit here typing, I wonder then if these tragedies say less about America’s gun control policies than they do about America as a whole.

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