By Chris Henry
A plague is ravaging countless communities across the United States, claiming 33,600 lives each year, according to the CDC. No, this isn't some disease like malaria or AIDS that could be eradicated with modern medicine; it’s an addiction so deeply rooted in the American psyche that many of us have come to accept it as an inevitable part of society. I'm talking, of course, about gun violence. While we fight other preventable diseases with scientific research and legislation, countless leaders have offered only prayers. Religious faith can certainly be a great source of personal strength, but our nation needs more than faith alone; we need more actions like the executive order announced by President Obama on January 5th to get this disease under control.
Conservative critics have denounced the order as another attempt by liberals to strip ‘honest, hardworking’ Americans of their freedoms. However, they fail to realize that the President’s decision to require more background checks and sale licenses would only be a problem for people with something to hide. For the most part, customers on the web and at gun shows don’t need to pass a background check to acquire deadly weapons. All Obama really proposed on January 5th is the idea that we should make this precaution mandatory everywhere in order to close these gaps in the system and keep more weapons away from dangerous individuals. While it’s still possible for some offenders to steal guns or buy them on the black market, increased federal regulations certainly couldn’t hurt.
On top of changing how we sell guns, we need to reconsider which weapons are suitable for sale to the general public. When our founding fathers endowed us with the right to bear arms, I doubt they were thinking of the Bushmaster AR-15, a semi-automatic weapon that was purchased legally before being used to slaughter children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. It’s understandable and constitutional for law-abiding citizens to purchase handguns for protection or rifles for recreation, but there’s no decent reason to acquire assault weapons capable of mass violence.
A habit becomes an addiction when it illogically continues despite its cost clearly outweighing its benefits. In regards to America’s love affair with guns, this cost is embodied by the empty seat President Obama left at his 2016 State of the Union Address. By the end of last year, 33,600 seats just like it were left empty at dinner tables across the country due to gun violence. How many more Americans need to die before we decide as a nation that this price is just too high?
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