Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

Gun Laws seem to be Anything but "Common Sense"

By Kyle DatoushPublished May 1, 2013

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Recent legislation regarding gun control that has been put forward has been anything but "common sense," to use New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's phrase. The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 (NY SAFE Act) is a prime example of legislation that was hastily passed and has gone beyond what is necessary to address gun control.
By Kyle Datoush, Published 5/1/13

Recent legislation regarding gun control that has been put forward has been anything but “common sense,” to use New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s phrase. The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 (NY SAFE Act) is a prime example of legislation that was hastily passed and has gone beyond what is necessary to address gun control. The law was passed almost overnight, allowing minimal time for reasonable discussion of the provisions. Both houses of the state legislature voted and approved the bill on Monday, January 14th and Cuomo quickly signed on Tuesday the 15th.1 The reason behind this haste were the controversial provisions of the law which included reduced magazine capacities from 10 to 7 rounds, a registry of assault weapon owners, and the prohibition of all further sales of assault rifles.1 These provisions not only test the merits and intent of the second amendment, they also fail to reach the desired effect of such legislation: reducing gun violence. To give an example of the negative effects of such an approach, a 2007 Harvard study found that there was a  negative correlation between gun ownership and murder rates.2 This study also found that countries with greater guns per capita had lower murder rates than those with lower guns per capita,2 showing that legislation reducing gun ownership is a step in the wrong direction. The problem, therefore, does not rest in the type of firearm or the capabilities of those firearms, but in the ownership of those weapons.

The provisions of the NY SAFE Act mentioned above are frivolous and do not properly solve gun control, but the act does address other important aspects. Many elements of the legislation are long overdue and should be implemented on a national scale because they address the primary reason behind gun violence: ownership. Some provisions include extending background checks to ammunition sales, preventing the sale and allowing for the removal of weapons from professionally diagnosed mentally ill individuals, extending background checks to private sales, and requiring that stolen guns be reported within 24 hours.1 These components of gun control legislation are common sense, especially considering that shootings in recent memory were  committed by individuals with mental illness who obtained weapons through theft or secondary markets.

Gun regulation needs to move in a different direction. It is too easy to reduce magazine capacity, ban certain types of guns or guns all together, and require gun owners to be tracked in the same fashion that sex offenders are currently registered. Gun regulation needs to instead focus more on the causes of gun violence: mental illness and illegal purchases of weapons and ammunition. Additionally, I would advocate for mandatory waiting periods for weapon purchases. This would prevent irrational crimes that occur in instances when emotions are escalated. Mandatory trigger locks should also be sold in addition to or as a part of every gun purchase. A quick Amazon search of trigger locks reveals that these items can be purchased for less than ten dollars. If consumers are willing to pay hundreds for a firearm, a trigger lock becomes a small investment that could prevent the firearm from being misused by individuals that should not be handling them.

These types of legislation are worthy of the phrase: “common sense.” Banning weapons, limiting magazine capacity, and requiring assault rifle owners to be registered are measures that have been proven ineffective. If politicians truly wish to curb gun violence and address the problems behind shootings like Sandy Hook elementary, reverting to the primitive measures of banning guns and limiting magazine capacity must end. Politicians must address the difficult and complex problems of mental illness combined with the implementation of thorough background checks and gun safety promotion to reduce gun crime in the United States.