Gun control debate


By Duke Staff

While the national outlook for gun control in America is often disheartening, advocates in Pittsburgh are finally able to celebrate a local win this week. In a 6-3 vote by the Pittsburgh City Council on April 2, three gun-control bills were passed in response to the Tree of Life shooting last October.

The bills aimed to target assault weapons, as the Tree of Life shooter used an AR-15 in his attack that killed 11 worshippers. The legislation bans use of certain assault-style weapons and ammunition in public, explicitly bans high-capacity magazines and armor-piercing ammunition, and allows courts to confiscate weapons from anyone proven to be a risk to themselves or those around them.

The legislation awaits approval from Mayor Bill Peduto, who is expected to sign all three bills.

“Doing nothing assures daily gun violence & mass homicides continue. If Washington & Harrisburg won’t acknowledge this critical public health issue, Cities must,” Peduto tweeted on the eve of the bills’ passage.

This is an accomplishment that Pittsburghers should take pride in, as gun control should be (though unfortunately is not) the natural reaction to a devastating attack involving unnecessarily violent weapons. We saw a similar approach just weeks ago in New Zealand, when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government took immediate action in banning semi-automatic assault weapons following the attack on two mosques in Christchurch.

However, though there were cheers that rang out in the City Council chambers, there were also cries of dissent and audible boos.

The National Rifle Association has already stated that they plan to assist Pittsburgh residents in filing a lawsuit to challenge the passage of the bills on the grounds of City Council’s definition of “large capacity magazines.”

“Pittsburgh residents have a right to carry the self-defense tool that best suits their needs, and the NRA is proud to support this challenge to the city’s magazine ban,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, in a press release.

There is no reason that a military-grade weapon suits any sort of need that a gun of a lesser capacity cannot handle. Large-capacity magazines are not required for self defense, and there is nothing unconstitutional about a modest attempt to ensure the safety of Pittsburgh citizens. The passage of these bills does not hinder anyone’s ability to own a gun in Pittsburgh, it just aims to prevent another tragedy like Tree of Life from happening again.

After learning this painful lesson time and time again, it is important to recognize the NRA’s argument for what it is: unsubstantiated and unfair. Pittsburgh may prove to be a leader in the fight for tighter gun laws, and we should be proud that our city leaders are actively trying to make our community safer.