Can cooler heads prevail in gun-control debate?

In my experience, the issue of guns has been a contentious one with little to no nuance and plenty of tribalistic attacks that do little to solve this multi-faceted issue. When discussing the gun control issue, the framework that you are either in favor of gun control or against it, is something that is self-destructive to any debate regarding how we address guns. For one, it puts the issue of gun control into one general camp or another, ignoring the fact that some gun control advocates will support one policy and not another. Even among gun owners, this is true and in fact, on core issues, many Americans agree. In 2017, it was found that gun owners and non-gun owners have some core areas where they agree as evidenced by the fact that 89% of both groups supported preventing the mentally ill from accessing firearms, 77% of gun owners supported background checks along with 87% of non-gun owners and so on (Pew Research Center, Igeilnik and Brown).  It shouldn’t be all that surprising to us as gun control isn’t a singular palate of ideas that one side subscribes to and the other doesn’t.

The reality is, specific policy decisions are completely lacking from the discussion as most of the time when the issue of guns comes up, the question always becomes: “Do you support gun control or not?” This duality on these complex issues is destructive but hardly new as we have seen numerous arguments that emphasize this divisive nonsense, robbing the debate of any nuance. Speaking of nuance being robbed, there is a common point of contention between the so-called gun control activist and gun owners that is the claim that cars kill more people than guns or vice versa. However, the issue with this is that both claims are lacking specifics and are both technically right without specific perimeters or context.  Allow me to demonstrate. Between 1975 and 2015, car deaths were, in fact, killing more people than guns in both total amounts and per capita, but in 2015, the amount of gun deaths and car deaths roughly equaled out as gun deaths had risen to a rate of 11.3 deaths per 100,000 compared to cars’ 11 deaths per 100,000 (CDC and NHSTSA). Now if someone was looking at a debate between two political figures and this came up, chances are the two will inevitably be citing different aspects of the statistics. For those watching the debate, it can appear one of them is lying and the other is being 100 percent honest. This is dangerous for a lot of reasons. For one, the reason car deaths have gone down is that officials have been working to advance safety measure both technologically and in policy, but even then there was still some slowing in the trend of car deaths decreasing. This is evidenced by the plateauing effect recorded between 2014 and 2017. Conversely, when one reads the line “guns killed more people than cars”, thoughts immediately go to shootings, but in reality, gun deaths were driven up by suicides as 60 percent of the gun deaths in 2017 were suicides with firearms (Center for Disease Control).

So we now have the context and causation of these trends, allowing us to look at solutions that would work to address this issue. Accessibility to guns, not banning of guns, would be an area where, as previously stated, gun advocates and gun control advocates could work together as both have generally supported mental health restrictions for gun ownership. Restrictions for purchasing guns could be placed on those with histories of suicide and as such, could address a massive cause of suicide without causing needless conflict between each other. Simply put, the sooner we cast aside generalities, the sooner we get into specific policy and the sooner we solve problems.


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Conor J. Kelly was the Opinion Editor for the Lorian and a prolific staff writer. He graduated from Loras College in April of 2021 and is now pursuing his master's in public administration at the University of Illinois, Springfield. His new work can be found on The Progressive American substack.

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