The Gun Debate Rages On
By: Michael Kidd
Image Created By: Michael Kidd
It's been about a year since the Uvalde shooting. The sad tragedy of shootings in this country is that so many of them have happened that, typically, only a few details can wedge themselves into my memory. Uvalde was different because of two simple facts: officers prioritized their own safety over the lives of children, and I am a parent. There were reports of parents attempting to break through the police perimeter to save their children while the officers held them back. I don't think the horror of that will ever go away. In the wake of that horror and disgust, it's easy to forget people even love guns or why they would ever support owning them.
Why We Love Guns
Yet, like many other Texans, I do love guns, and I do support owning them. It's so easy to get caught up in the horror of shootings that we forget that school shootings aren't what most gun enthusiasts think about when they think about guns. Guns remind them of fond childhood memories and good times spent with friends.
"Man, I grew up shooting. I think the first gun I shot was a little Cricket 22," Braxton Speer, the President of West Texas A&M University's Rifle Club, told me. "I was probably three, maybe four years old. My grandpa took me out, and that's just where I fell in love with it."
Shooting, when done by responsible gun owners, is a good time. It lets enthusiasts challenge themselves to get better and grow as marksmen. Guns inspire a feeling of friendly competition amongst friends.
"It's always been just a fun activity to do," Josef Champagne, treasurer of WT's Rifle Club, said. "Whether it's, you know, you and your buddy trying to compete who has a better cluster. We're just you competing against yourself trying to get a tighter grouping, be a better marksman."
Especially here in rural Texas, some people still hunt. Hunting is personally satisfying for many hunters and essential to managing local wildlife populations.
"I love guns, because I'm able to get the meat that I can. And without going into grocery stores, I can obtain my own food for myself," Sierra Winther, secretary of the WT Rifle Club, described. "That's kind of how I fell in love with guns."
Gun Violence Stats
Many of the facts surrounding the gun debate have been lost in people's fear of losing their guns, so let's revisit them:
Shootings themselves, although tragic, are relatively rare.
"While it appears that these events are up nationally, statistically, they're still very low," Chief of Police Shawn Burns of the WT police department explained. "We are much more likely to suffer serious damage and destruction from a tornado or fire than we are from an active attacker event."
No evidence suggests that a deregulated gun market keeps people safe. On the contrary, the United States has a homicide rate of 4.96 homicides per thousand people. For context, the UK has a homicide rate of 1.2, and Canada's is 1.76. This is despite the US being the only country in the world with more guns than people.
Critics of gun control like to claim that cities in the US with stricter gun control laws have obscenely high homicide rates.
"So you look at cities in California, like San Francisco, or Los Angeles, you look at New Orleans, and especially New York City, and [crime rates in] all of these cities are rising," argued Speer. "And they have some of the strictest gun laws."
However, that fact is misleading. In some cases, it's even false. For starters, violent crime rates are not increasing. Violence crimes against property, like robbery and motor vehicle theft, increased in 2022. but most cities saw a decrease in violent crimes against people, such as homicide, assault, and domestic violence. New York City, in particular, is the 5th safest city in the country.
New York City's safety has led to another point of confusion in the gun control debate.
"England has a lot more stabbing and blunt force objects, so they've even had to start making laws against knives," said Speer.
London did have an uptick in stabbings in 2017 that caused them to pass new regulations banning knives. However, at the height of a violent crime spree, London still had a lower violent crime rate than the ten largest cities in the United States. The most common reason for the confusion is that for a few weeks in 2017, New York City reported a lower violent crime rate than London.
When researching this fact, I found a disclaimer reminding me that the Vegas crime statistics were so high precisely because of the Mandalay Shooting.
Can Anything Be Done?
Discussing what to do about these facts leaves no clear answers. Some, like Speer, don't believe that any regulations could improve the issue.
"Yes, there's things that we can do. But then there's also those things that encroach on our rights," argued Speer. "If people have the intent to do wrong, they're going to do anything they can to get a hold of something they can use to accomplish what they want."
Others, like Champagne, see regulations as a possibility.
"The thing that always comes to mind with me is that not too many states have red flag laws. I believe there's only around 19," Champagne said, "But it's a very low number considering there's 50 states, you know, so if that happens…"
Sadly, a year after Uvalde and 24 years after Columbine, we still don't agree on any definitive answers or solutions to gun violence. The only thing we can say for sure is that what we are trying is not working.
A Positive Note
The good news is student success isn't hampered by the gun violence issue. A survey conducted by WT students revealed that, although students are aware of the gun violence issues, it isn't affecting their studies.
The even better news is that, for now, WT students are as safe as can be. Last fall, campus police were confronted with a potential shooter. Thankfully, they had been aware of and monitoring the suspect based on prior student reports about concerning behavior. When the behavior escalated, the police were aware of his location and apprehended him before he became a threat.
"There was a report of a student that wanted to shoot up to campus. He was identified, we knew who he was, we knew what his pattern was. And we were 99% certain we knew his location, and it was not on campus." Chief Burns said. "We had the Tulia Police Department chasing the suspect down there. So we knew where he was, and he was not here. There was no threat to campus."
We might not agree on a solution yet, but at least for now, we can continue the debate safely.