Firearms and Homicide: Is It Time for a Compromise?

Firearms and homicide: are they linked as closely in the United States as gun control advocates believe? Do they have a closer link than gun rights advocates are willing to admit?

With gun violence continuing to be a hot button issue, it would seem that now would be the proper time to finally come to a compromise — one that does not infringe upon the rights guaranteed in the Second Amendment, nor allows firearms in the hands of those with a record of mental illness.

Mass shootings have not only grabbed headlines since 1965, they have also sparked many conversations around the interpretation of the Second Amendment. A recent analysis by Michael Waldman in “The Second Amendment: A Biography,” highlights key issues which present challenges in the application of the amendment:

“Guns, after all, represent a microcosm of an America divided between left and right, urban and rural, collective and individual rights.”

Waldman looks to understand the original intent behind the framing of the Second Amendment. The framers favored militias over a standing army and he writes, “They were not allowed to have a musket; they were required to. More than a right, being armed was a duty.”

By this, he means that the original intent of the Second Amendment could have been solely intended for military service and not for personal usage.

Even with Waldman’s analysis, the true intent of the Framers cannot be ascertained with any certainty. Yet, with an alarming amount of school shootings since the Sandy Hook tragedy on December 12, 2012, it would be safe to assume they would not stand idly by without action.

Even with the excessive amounts of shootings, the rate of gun violence has actually dropped in recent years, and are also comparatively low per 100,000 population when compared internationally. It also is worth noting that studies show that gun-related homicides have decreased over the past 20 years.

Yet, finding completely accurate statistics regarding homicides by firearms is also difficult. How can the data be properly analyzed to capture how prevalent gun violence truly is within America without an undisputed figure?

The majority of the American public would argue that the exact figure does not matter to bring about a further downward trend in gun violence. Even with rare congressional compromise and overwhelming public support, Congress has refused to enact further gun legislation.

With the recent tragedy that struck the University of California, Santa Barbara community, it is a strenuous task to not cast a certain amount of blame onto Congress.

This specific act of disregard for human life may have been beyond Congress’ ability to circumvent, but the lives of Cheng Yuan Hong, George Chen, Weihan Wang, Veronika Elizabeth Weiss, Katherine Breann Cooper, and Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez were worth more than the wishes of lobbyists, those worried about re-election, and simple non-action.

The father of the slain Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, Richard Martinez, has directed his anger toward congressional inaction. His powerful words have resonated throughout the country and may finally push Congress to reaching a compromise on gun control that protects the individual’s right to gun ownership and the public well-being.

Not everyone has come out in support of the call for reform. Samuel Wurzelbacher, better known as “Joe the Plumber,” stated in an open letter, “As harsh as this sounds — your dead kids don’t trump my constitutional rights.” He would go on to make a statement that is, at its core, the underlining issue of this debate:

“There are no critical words for a grieving father. He can say whatever he wants and blame whoever he’d like – it’s okay by me. You can’t take a step in his shoes – at least I can’t. But the words and images of Mr. Martinez blaming “the proliferation of guns”, lobbyists, politicians, etc.; will be exploited by gun-grab extremists as are all tragedies involving gun violence and the mentally ill by the anti-Second Amendment Left.”

When will the time come when the conversation will stop focusing on partisan politics and focus on the core problem? The basic underlining issue remains that the largest force multiplier readily available to an American citizen, a firearm, does not belong in the hands of someone suffering from documented mental illness.

Are the deaths of children and young adults seeking their education “acceptable” casualties to those who vehemently oppose any gun reforms?

Mark Barden, who lost his 7-year-old son, Daniel, posted an open letter to Richard Martinez which raises a great point for consideration:

“We have not met, but you are now part of our extended family. It is not a family we chose, but a family born from the horrible circumstance of losing a child to gun violence—one that’s only growing each day.”

How many more tragedies will it take for legislatures to act on limiting those who are connected by these horrible circumstances?