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Friday, July 12, 2024

Column: Fired up over gun legislation

We’ve all heard the tragic stories of gun violence. Columbine, Virginia Tech, the shootings in Connecticut … the stories play for weeks, if not months, on the news, showing the possible horrors guns can bring to society. These are only a few infamous events that have brought the attention of loose gun control to the public eye. Our nation’s political parties have debated the issues of gun restrictions over and over again. The basics seem straightforward: People can have guns if they don’t abuse them. If only it were that simple.

To help curb the staggeringly high rates of gun violence, Congress has once again made new propositions to increase gun regulation, making gun laws again an all-important subject.

Constitutional purists believe these newly created laws are a violation of the Constitution’s Second Amendment. But the subject is not as simple as following the Constitution word for word (thank you Elastic Clause), as that would be too simple. Both sides have good intent and views, but the only logical way to figure this issue out is by analyzing data dealing with criminal activity and its correlation to gun violence. From there, we can try and understand the reasoning and credibility behind the the arguments on either side.

The first issue is Congress’ lack of ability in addressing the self-manufacturing of guns. The majority of guns are made under strict regulations, this may change in coming years with the help of a newly emerging technology: 3D printers. 3D printers have been in use for several years now by enthusiasts and hobbyists in designing and printing small parts and toys. The concept is simple; make a design, and input this design into a printer that prints in layers until the object is complete.

Now, the ability to “print” guns has become a real possibility. Cody Wilson, a law student from the University of Texas at Austin, has uploaded the designs and schematics for a variety of weapons onto his website. These designs are available to everyone with access to the internet.

To clarify, not all parts of the gun can be printed. Generally, parts like bolts, springs and barrels are to be bought, as they are all easily attainable, they are unregulated and many do not have identifying serial numbers. The part that can be printed is the lower receiver. This houses the trigger and firing mechanism. By U.S. law, this is the only part that is regulated, and must include a serial number when the part leaves the factory. 3D printing sidesteps this regulatory process by manufacturing parts without their identifying marks.

Some quick Googling came up with hundreds of results for CAD (Computer Aided Design) drawings for gun parts. The files can then be imported to a 3D printer, and within nine to 12 hours, you can have your very own, legal lower receiver. One might question why it is legal to print these, and it’s simple: Congress simply hasn’t addressed the issue yet. As long as you don’t sell these lower receivers, printing and using them is completely legal.

Essentially, to complicate matters, current gun laws do nothing to regulate or restrict individual citizens from manufacturing their own weapons. But maybe there’s hope. Maybe the laws currently on the floor will address all the issues and help make the US a safer place.

One of the first regulations to be debated by the courts is the ban on assault weapons, proposed by California Senator Dianne Feinstein. On the surface, this law seems self-explanatory. The bill proposed would end the sale, production and trade of all assault weapons. The reasoning is simple: Bigger guns are more likely to kill than smaller guns due to bigger rounds, larger magazines and more fire power. Except that isn’t what the data shows. Although assault rifles and other weapons categorized as “assault weapons” are to be banned if this bill passes, it may not reduce the rate of gun-related crimes. This is due to two factors.

The first is that most gun-related crimes are committed via handguns. This is simply because they are more convenient to buy and are easier to conceal. This has been a constant trend since 1974. In fact, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1974 and 2004, most violent crimes were committed with handguns, followed by knives, and finally “other guns” (so not entirely assault weapons).

The second factor is the method used to categorize gun-related crimes. These incidences include both homicides and suicides, and because nearly two-thirds of all gun-related deaths are suicides, the numbers are inflated for the wrong reasons. And since when was the last time anyone thought about committing suicide with an assault weapon rather than a conveniently sized handgun?

While many senators have a complete disconnect with gun culture, others have been directly affected. After Gabrielle Giffords was shot in 2011 while visiting constituents in Arizona, she decided to push for lawmakers in Washington to require stricter background checks for those who wish to legally purchase guns. This could help decrease gun violence, preventing the sale of guns to anyone who doesn’t fit a certain criteria. Unfortunately, research has shown that stricter background checks would not dramatically affect the levels of gun violence.

This method is completely ineffective if it is applied to those who already want to acquire guns legally. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, only 27 percent of guns recovered from crime scenes were obtained legally, and most of those were bought within two years of the crime being committed.

The majority of crimes are performed with illegally obtained guns, so the criminals are already bypassing the background check process. The ones who do obtain the guns legally generally have no history of violent crimes, and therefore would not raise any red flags on the background checks required for gun purchases.

A quick analysis of these gun laws show that they aren’t just ineffective, but they also don’t address another issue which could become more prevalent in coming years. These laws have not been passed yet, but it is still important to know what is going on at Capitol Hill, allowing us to prepare for the worst. It’s understandable that gun laws are necessary to help keep people in line, but the laws that have been proposed don’t seem to have many noteworthy benefits for the average citizen.

ALLEN GUAN can be reached at science@theaggie.org.


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