Justice Opinion Politics

Opinion: Tougher Gun Laws Won’t Prevent Gun Violence

After the Las Vegas shooting earlier this week, gun control is front and center once again in the political debate. Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was among the first to comment on gun control efforts in response to the shooting, tweeting about the bill introduced in the United States House of Representatives last week to reduce regulations on gun silencers. She tweeted “Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.” and another tweet later writing “Our grief isn’t enough. We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again.”  Clinton wasn’t the only one to call for more gun control regulations. Democrats in both the federal and state legislatures are demanding that laws to prevent gun violence be implemented. The White House and congressional leaders have released statements saying gun control legislation will not be voted on any time soon.

Guns Across America Rally in Concord New Hampshire. Jim Cole/Associated Press

The problem with more gun control legislation is that it has not been shown to prevent gun violence in cities and states where it has been implemented. The state of Illinois received a B+ grade for its gun legislation from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, yet the city of Chicago has some of the toughest gun laws and regulations in the country, and more than 4,000 people were victims of gun violence last year, the highest in the country. More gun regulations were imposed by the Chicago City Council in 2014, but between 2015 and 2016 gun related homicide rose 61%. Imposing gun related restrictions usually results in law-abiding citizens losing their gun rights and violent and dangerous citizens continuing to break the law. Illegal gun sales are the real problem when it comes to addressing the gun violence issue. An estimated 40% of annual gun sales in the United States come from illegal and unlicensed sellers. Gun trafficking and illegal gun sales are allowing criminals to get their hands on weapons illegally, while law abiding Americans are having their rights suppressed. If you want to address gun violence in the United States, you need to pass laws that punish illegal gun sellers and gun traffickers extremely harshly. The FBI should have a new task force dedicated to investigating and tracking illegal gun sales and gun trafficking. President Trump has taken a similar approach by sending ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) agents to investigate illegal gun sales in Chicago. This would be much more effective than passing more gun control legislation that only suppresses the rights of law abiding Americans and allows criminals to continue to get guns illegally.

Gun rights rally in Austin, Texas. Image courtesy of The Columbian.

A detail that is casually ignored in recent mass shootings is whether the shooter was intoxicated. In almost all recent mass shootings (Las Vegas Strip (2017), Emanuel EME Charleston Church (2015), Florida State University (2014), Seattle Pacific University (2014), Sparks Middle School (2013)) the shooter was intoxicated with either a prescription drug or a common illegal street drug.

New York gun rights advocates protesting New York’s SAFE Act. Image courtesy of REUTERS.

One example of this is the Las Vegas Strip shooter responsible for the murder of nearly 60 people and injury of over 500 people. In June 2017, Las Vegas Strip shooter Stephen Paddock was prescribed diazepam, a sedative-hypnotic drug. Diazepam is a member of a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Studies done on drugs such as diazepam have shown that the drug can trigger aggressive behavior and psychotic experiences. In a Finnish study done in 2015 on patients taking a variety of benzodiazepines, psychiatrists operating the study found that those taking benzodiazepines were 45% more likely to kill other people. The Las Vegas shooter used illegally modified weapons during his rampage on Sunday evening that gun control laws could not have prevented, yet some politicians are still calling for additional gun control laws and ignoring the reality that a legal prescription drug was probably responsible.

Connecticut gun rights activist holds sign during rally. Image courtesy of Associated Press.

No politician has ever called for more pharmaceutical regulations after a mass shooting. This is probably the case because this would mean more regulation for big pharmaceutical companies that fund the congressional campaigns of American representatives and senators. If anything needs to be more controlled to prevent future tragedies, its drugs. Prescription drugs are over-prescribed and often given to patients by doctors without being put on a trial of the medication. Medication trials give doctors the chance to observe if there are any side effects or health problems that develop in their patient while on the new medication. More drug regulations and a crackdown on illegal drug trafficking would save lives on a greater scale than gun control. Improperly prescribed drugs lead to all kinds of terrible problems. The opioid epidemic, an American health crisis created by pharmaceutical companies, a group no politician has the courage fight. Additional regulation would prevent over prescribing by doctors and hold pharmaceutical companies accountable. The most important issue that additional drug regulation would address is making sure patients are physically and mentally stable on their medication. Recent mass shootings have been done by individuals that have a drug in their system that can have dangerous side effects on certain people. Failures by pharmaceutical companies to clearly inform Americans and their doctors about the effects their drugs have on their patients has cost many Americans their life, and politicians don’t want to take action. Not having gun control is the scapegoat for every mass shooting, but the person who fired the weapon was intoxicated almost every time. It’s important to remember that people kill people, not guns.