Pittsburgh synagogue tragedy sparks gun control debate


By Alyse Kaminski | Staff Columnist 

“Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.”

“Cars kill people, too, but we don’t ban cars.”

“I need guns for protection in my home.”

The list of arguments from proponents of the Second Amendment goes on and on. To me, they are not arguments. They are excuses.

And I am sick of hearing them.

I was at the nail salon with my mom last Saturday morning when we heard the initial reports of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue. Once again, I felt the all-too-familiar-heart-sink I get every single time this happens, and this time it happened in my hometown. I never thought Pittsburgh would make the worldwide news because of a mass shooting — but it did.

When I talked to my friends about it, one said, “I knew it would happen here eventually.” People are now at the point of just waiting until their city is wounded by a mass shooting. Enough is enough.

Before I go on my tangent about gun control, I want to make something obvious: Personally, I have never met a single person who wants the government to take away everyone’s guns. This is impossible to do and a violation of the Second Amendment. Maybe there are people out there who feel that way, but will that ever happen? No. Let’s throw that argument against gun control away, please.

The excuses I mentioned above are unbelievably easy to debunk. First, this notion of guns not killing people feels more like an easy way to justify easy access to weapons, such as AR-15 assault rifles. Of course, people kill people, but how did Robert Bowers kill 11 members of a synagogue last Saturday? It was not his bare hands that did it. A weapon capable of killing that many people was necessary for him to accomplish his demented goal.

The argument of cars killing people is one that always baffles me too. Cars were designed to get people from point A to point B. While I agree that an aspect of the creation of early firearms was to protect, they were also meant to kill. Rarely are car accidents a product of malice, and almost always, incidents of gun violence are no accident.

Finally, I know guns are used to protect homes. I wholeheartedly respect the right to defend with a gun, but this is not something that is really done often. A study from Harvard University found that from 2007 to 2011, only 0.9 percent of people used guns for self defense. Even without that statistic, I ask myself this question: Why would anyone need an AR-15 for self defense who is not in the military? The destruction that these kinds of weapons cause does not equal the kind of destruction needed for self defense.

I will always support the right to own a handgun or rifles for hunting. However, I will never be able to support the civilian purchase of any weapon that can quickly kill 11 innocent people in a synagogue. Or 58 concertgoers. Or 20 elementary school students and six of their teachers.

Every time these mass shootings occur, I stop and ask myself a question I wish had a more simple answer: When will people start valuing human life ahead of the guns they own? I cannot believe that this even needs to be asked, but the answer seems to be “not anytime soon.”

But we can change that.

We’re in college, and we are the future. We will eventually have the power to break this viciously cruel cycle. Until then, I urge everyone to vote for candidates that have human life as an interest. Stop making the issue about guns one that is democrat versus republican. These days, gun control boils down to whether or not you want to go worship, learn, dance, see a movie or do anything safely.

I wanted my focus in this column to be about these common arguments I have heard against gun control, and I hope I have done at least something to open up someone’s mind to the fallacies I find in them.

Personally, I love this country. I feel fortunate to have grown up here. However, I know we can do better. We can do more to keep our people safe. Right now, I worry that no one is ever safe from violence when they go out.

I think if you cannot go worship whatever your God is — a figure of peace, love and understanding — without needing the protection of a gun, then the system is deeply broken.