Last month Louisiana State University experienced a scare as the school reacted to a possible armed intruder. Thankfully, the alarm had been raised because of a plain clothed off-duty police officer.
Louisiana is fortunate in that we have been spared from suffering through such a large scale tragedy – the exception being the movie theater shooting in Lafayette. However, according to the Center for Disease Control, over the past 4 years the body count for gun violence has grown - starting from 896 in 2014, and increasing to 1,008 in 2017. One must hope the the numbers for 2018 decrease.
The U.S. Constitution protects the right to bear arms in its Second Amendment. This right is simultaneously defended by the Constitution of Louisiana in Article 1, Section 11, which states:
"The right of each citizen to keep and bear arms is fundamental and shall not be infringed. Any restriction on this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny."
This guarantee of rights, one can argue, is an example of the underpinnings of American Exceptionalism, but this uniqueness of character comes at a cost: in 2017 the US ranked 28th in rates of death from gun violence in the world. The figures come from the University of Washington's Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, which NPR reported on. You can read here.
This is unacceptable. Each of the lives counted in the above statistics is that of a fellow countryman or woman. Those who rob the futures of others do not discriminate. Those in their line of fire are not viewed as people, they are targets. As such, dividing this issue along party lines wastes time - both that of the present, and of the futures cut short.
Non-gun owners are understandably terrified of the proven lethality of firearms. A relatively untrained individual can pick up a weapon such as the AR-15 and cause massive suffering. While weapons such as this may cause the largest damage in the shortest timeframe, to focus on weapons such as "assault style" guns is to become distracted from the larger number of casualties produced by handguns.
According to the FBI's figures, in 2017, deaths caused by rifles were 403. Those caused by handguns were 7,032. Just for due diligence, cases of unspecified firearms were 3,096.
Gun owners understand how these weapons work. They understand the process of obtaining them, and often know how criminals abuse the loopholes. Owners I have spoken with are often frustrated that these loopholes exist, but the issue remains unresolved.
Unfortunately, the voices of individual gun owners are often overshadowed by those who benefit politically or financially, by maintaining this battle. These vapid statements often come in the form of blaming mental illness. Aside from stating the obvious, this offers nothing remotely close to a solution. Laws apply to everyone equally, though punishment may differ. Unless a psych evaluation is required for each gun purchase, I don't see this helping.
Restriction advocates are not wrong. The right to bear arms is ambiguous and intentionally so. The Founding Fathers knew they could not foresee the changes in future weaponry, and as such left the door open for future debate. As a society we already accept limitations on this right for our mutual safety (though I am sure there are those who want to own nuclear arms).
Making certain weapons more difficult for future, or current, criminals to obtain would likely reduce casualties but would not solve the underlying problem. Furthermore, the future perpetrator could substitute a different weapon, or simply obtain the weapon illegally.
So with that said, I want to hear from gun owners in the Bayou Region. I do not own firearms, but like you, I am suspicious of anyone who asks me to give up something for my own good. How do you suggest gun violence be reduced? Please, write in to email@example.com.
In the future I would like to lay out some of these suggestions and see where this conversation goes.