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Rowden: Gun control debate requires better understanding of other perspective, Second Amendment’s benefits

Jacob Rowden, Op-Ed Contributor

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Last week, a horrified nation watched malevolence reign terror upon its children once again, as 17 people were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Since the tragedy we have seen liberals push a reinvigorated anti-gun narrative while relentlessly attacking conservatives, the National Rifle Association and even supporters of the Second Amendment altogether, some even suggesting that these groups were complicit in the murders.

To insist that half of the country does not care about these events because they disagree with wholly anti-gun solutions is malicious. Nearly every American feels heartbroken by the murder of innocent children, and can agree there must be something we can do. If we refuse to acknowledge the humanity of the other side, the debate will go nowhere.

In these situations, it falls on conservatives to defend the Second Amendment and the Constitution in a landscape where emotional arguments are increasingly valued over reason or statistics. A few published studies suggest a very unclear relationship between various gun control measures and crime: While some like the introduction of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban have been ineffective, others are associated with positive results like the introduction of background checks. It is also evident that the burden of some gun control measures falls primarily on legal gun owners — those who will likely be more responsive to following any established gun laws.

Considering these facts, why is the political left virtually unwilling to hear any policy prescription other than gun control? Shouldn’t we do anything we can to save a child? There are more factors than just a gun, though it is a valid point of debate. We could stop making these shooters famous, since researchers have suggested seeking notoriety is a factor in motivating some of these individuals. We could increase security in schools, add in-house armed guards or have police reduce first response times and could save lives. We can address the issues that led to obvious red flags being overlooked by law enforcement agencies. We can look into issues of mental health, and consider what exactly about our culture is driving people to murder their peers, and how we can remedy this.

The Constitution is difficult to amend because the founders knew that people can be tempted to sacrifice their rights for security in times of great crisis. Many gun owners would likely destroy their firearms if it could bring those children back, but that’s not the choice at hand. Before we infringe on our Second Amendment rights, we all must understand what we are sacrificing. The Second Amendment gives us a right to self-preservation, but also does much more. By guaranteeing that the government cannot establish a monopoly on firearms, the Second Amendment provides a safeguard against authoritarianism.

An armed population gives us the ability to defend our own lives and liberty in the event that the power of the government is wielded unconstitutionally to violate the rights of all or a portion of the population. Though it may seem unlikely, these very things have happened in democracies before, namely in Germany during the 20th century, and they can happen again. Additionally, an armed population can ensure the limited prospects of the United States being invaded are even slimmer. Those who might argue that an armed civilian population stands no chance against the might of a national military should consider the U.S. military failures in the Vietnam War. The benefits the Second Amendment provides are not trivial; in fact, they are fundamental to the preservation of our freedom.

There may be reasonable gun control measures that can help address this problem — and they should be discussed — but it must first come from a place of honest understanding of gun rights. There are certainly other measures that can mitigate these disasters, and the media should focus more on those issues, considering they control the coverage of shootings and the perpetrators. Both sides of the political aisle want these horrors to end, but we must pursue the most pragmatic path and we must discuss the truth of the matters, or we will end up losing our rights and ultimately fixing nothing.

Jacob Rowden is a Weinberg senior. He can be contacted at jacobrowden2018@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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