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Stricter Gun Laws Remain an Ineffective Way to Address Crime

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Connor is a member of the Junior State of America (JSA), a student-run political awareness organization for high school students.

In light of recent shooting tragedies in Aurora, Colorado, at the Empire State Building and at Perry Hall High School in Maryland, there have increasingly been calls to pass stricter gun regulations to try to prevent similar tragedies in the future. The thinking behind these calls for stricter regulations, however, fails to acknowledge the simple reality that greater regulation of guns will not help prevent future tragedies.

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" and the Supreme Court has affirmed the Second Amendment's protection of individual gun ownership in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010), ruling in Heller that "the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess firearms and that the [District of Columbia]'s total ban on handguns, as well as its requirement that firearms in the home be kept nonfunctional even when necessary for self-defense, violated that right." However, the court left leeway for varying levels of gun regulations at the federal and state level, and the debate comes down to the wisdom and effectiveness of having stricter gun laws, especially in light of shooting tragedies in recent years.

In understanding this debate, one simple fact has to be acknowledged: anyone desiring to use a firearm to commit violent acts will use almost any means, legal or illegal, to obtain a firearm to commit those acts. Congress, state legislatures and city councils can pass all the gun laws they want that restrict access to firearms to the absolute limit of constitutionality; however, criminals will still find a way to obtain firearms (while, notably, upstanding citizens cannot) and will still be able to commit acts of violence against innocent people. Something lost in the argument over stricter gun laws is always the fact that to every degree access to guns is reduced for potential criminals, the degree of access that honest, law-abiding citizens (who, when armed, can help prevent shooting tragedies) have is also reduced. The fact that, in a state with concealed carry laws for instance, any public place could have many armed citizens able to foil any type of violent plot is a much better deterrent than a section of the U.S. Code to criminals. And in many cases, perpetrators of violent shooting massacres can be so illogical that nothing can prevent their drive to commit violent acts.

Tragic and violent acts like the Aurora theatre shooting and the Virginia Tech massacre make us wonder as a society what we can do to prevent events like them from happening ever again. Sometimes, hysteria sets in and unifying and emotional tragedies become polarizing political battles over how to best address the oversights and mistakes that allowed them to occur. In cases like these, however, stricter gun laws simply aren't the answer, which is why increased gun regulations nationally and at the state level aren't likely to be seen in light of these tragedies.