Columns / Discourse / April 24, 2013

Debating Columnists: All talk, not enough action in gun control

It is hard not to get angry when the Senate blocks a bipartisan amendment to a gun control bill. For me, it is hardest to reconcile the hope that I felt a couple weeks ago with the embarrassment I feel for our system today. Unfortunately, the one issue that everyone agrees on needs addressing has yet again failed to bring Congress together.

What is most troubling about this current Congressional failure is all the promise it showed but two weeks ago. The breaking news at that time was that two senators, one from each party and both supported by the NRA, had agreed to come together in order to draft a bill concerning background checks. Both were concerned with the Internet and gun sale loopholes that have allowed many Americans to purchase firearms without complete background checks. Yet within less than 10 days in the Senate, the amendment was shot down. Obama was right to call the Congressional action shameful.

Some may recall one of my previous articles where I advocated for mandatory firearms lessons to accompany the purchase of a firearm. I still stick by this idea, but I would like to focus on why background checks are a reasonable and necessary minimum for our efforts to enforce “gun control.”  The fact that people can buy guns online or through gun shows without a proper background check is astounding to me. Common sense would seem to indicate that all gun sales should be held under the same scrutiny if this really is about updating our country’s stance on firearms. Yet, even this watered-down proposal that seems only to firm up policy in previously grey areas is rejected.

There was a lot of talk after the Sandy Hook incident. It was not the first mass killing of the year, nor was it the last. But something about Sandy Hook was different. On that day 20 students and six adults were killed. The thought that something so devastating could take place at an elementary school was unimaginable for many. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle promised a national conversation on guns and prevention, yet here we are, over four months later with nothing from Congress. It is hard to imagine anything will get done on the issue when a bipartisan measure by two NRA-backed senators fails.

To me the problem is the phrase itself: gun control. The second these words come out during a debate, it immediately becomes a talk about the second amendment and the government overreaching its ground. With that kind of attitude the focus is distracted from the reasons people are calling for a discussion on gun violence in the first place. That is not to say that such concerns do not have their place, but only when those matters are actually being challenged. This amendment’s goal was to ensure that those buying their firearms online or at a gun show would go through the same background check that is required of a normal firearm purchase.

It is time to come together and demand that we have had enough. I have little hope for an institution that cannot achieve a reasonable, bipartisan amendment to something that nearly all of Washington, D.C. said it was time to address. Regardless of personal views, it is clear that there is a problem in Congress. So from this week’s disappointment I leave these final words of advice:  Get angry about the current state of politics, write your representatives and be the change that our government so clearly needs.

Payton Rose
Senior Payton Rose is a political science major with minors in creative writing and Spanish. This is his first year working for The Knox Student as discourse editor. He has written a political column for TKS for two years.

Tags:  background check bipartisan firearm gun control Manchin-Toomey bill NRA second amendment senate weapon

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