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The recent shooting tragedy that occurred in Arizona, has opened up once again, the debate about gun laws in this country. The gun debate is a very sensitive issue, and everyone you speak to, seems to have a different opinion. Even the government can’t agree on anything. The senate recently overturned gun bans in states such as Washington DC, on the basis that the bans were un-constitutional. Newsroom America, reported that President Obama will, in ensuing weeks, fight for more restrictions on gun ownership, by making it tougher for mentally ill people to receive a license to own a gun. There is already conjecture from some, inevitably the National Rifle Association, who, it is claimed, will argue that we don’t need any more restrictions on law abiding citizens.

I disagree.

I don’t think necessarily that Obama needs to make it impossible for people to own guns, or to impose hefty restrictions on sport shooters and such, but I do think that the accessibility of handguns and the ‘cool’ factor seen by some of having a gun, needs to be addressed, before we are rocked by yet another tragic shooting death.

Australia, for instance, toughened their gun laws in the wake of a mass murder by deranged killer Martin Bryant, who in 1996, killed 35 people. The federal government developed uniform gun laws, for all states to obey, as well as a national ‘gun buy-back’ scheme, to get un-registered guns off the streets. In the ten years that followed, there have been no mass homicides, while there were 13 reported in the twenty years previously.

The NRA tries to use the Australian statistics as an example of ‘failed’ gun laws. They have done this by reporting that since 1996, the crime rate increased, but they ignored that in the ten years after the laws were introduced, gun crime decreased drastically, with a 47% decrease in gun related homicides and marked decreases in firearm related suicides and accidental deaths.

In my opinion, this probably has more to do with the attitudes of government and society generally toward guns. Australian laws have little tolerance for gun ownership, if you are not a farmer or sport shooter, and as such, less people carry a gun, or keep them in their home. The uniform gun laws halved the number of Australian families with access to a gun. This, in turn, affects the Australian peoples attitude toward guns, for they are seen as something that is only needed if you partake in hunting, or are a farmer, and are not as readily viewed as a method of protection.

It is often argued by pro-gun activists, that there is no point in strengthening gun laws, because only the law abiding citizen will obey, and the criminals who will use the guns, don’t care about the law anyway. While on the surface, they have a point, what I am arguing is that, we don’t need gun laws just to get handguns and assault weapons off the street. We need to implement stricter gun laws, to send a message to the youth that it is unacceptable to carry a gun with you everywhere you go. The point of implementing tougher laws on guns, in my opinion, is to reverse the gun culture that is seen in our society. It needs to be made harder for people all over the country to own guns, gun storage needs to be stricter and they need to be only sold in specialized gun shops (and Walmart, selling them online only, isn’t really the same thing). In my opinion, just having a national standard for gun sales will help promote the fact that gun ownership is taken seriously in this country.

Guns should not be used as a gimmick in marketing campaigns, where you can get a free gun if you buy a house or a car either. Although a clever campaign, which generated world-wide attention, the message it sends is that guns are a toy. They aren’t and shouldn’t be viewed as such. When people like Gilbert Arenas or Ja Rule are arrested for gun charges, we need to publicly condemn their behavior, before it gets to the point where Arenas can pull a gun on a teammate, then try to joke his way out of it. That way, then at least the kids who look up to the sport stars and rappers of the world, won’t find it so cool to carry a gun, and hopefully, in the future, their attitudes toward carrying a gun will change.

Just because we have the right to bear arms, doesn’t mean that we need to. What the Gilbert Arenas spectacle can teach us (besides that being a basketball star doesn’t make you a genius), is that when guns are involved, the situation can quickly escalate and get out of control, for, rightly so, guns are menacing, and in an argument, producing a gun will surely bring your opponent over to your way of thinking. Unless that is, they have a gun too.

When someone you know gets shot, you will demand justice, and lament why the defendant was allowed to just pull a gun on your brother, sister, mother. When the sit in court and declare that they have a right as an American citizen to carry a gun, you won’t want to hear it. And imagine if you, or a family member, actually shot someone. How would you feel then? You might be ‘allowed’ to carry a gun by law, but will that ease your guilt, will that make it easier for you to live everyday, even if you can justify it as self-defense? It is just selfish to carry around a weapon. Although it may make you feel more secure in your home, or like a tough guy on the streets, the damage that pulling the trigger can cause, will hurt more than just you or the person with the bullet wound. And the damage can’t be undone.

I’m not trying to argue that nobody should have a gun, if you want a gun, that’s your prerogative. The point of this article is that, I think the way guns are seen in society needs to be adjusted. Instead of guns being seen as a toy, or a fashionable accessory for a rapper, they need to be viewed as a weapon. If we can take a tougher stance on gun laws, even if it is just by creating a nation wide set of laws, or making it illegal to offer a free gun with the sale of a car, then we can hopefully change the way guns are viewed by American children. If it can become the case that it isn’t seen as cool to carry a gun with you, then I for one, am all for it.

So before you get on your high horse about America being the land of the free, think about it. Is your individual right to own a gun, more important to you than the right of everyone to feel safe walking down the street?

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