Bringing Back the Conversation about Gun Laws


The conversation around gun control has fallen to the wayside, even during the 2020 presidential race (Courtesy of Twitter).

Gun control is one of the most controversial and divisive issues in America, which makes it all the more strange that we haven’t heard much about it in the past year. To be sure, with COVID-19, Black Lives Matter protests, the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and several other noteworthy events, the country has been engaged in debates on many other issues for much of the year. However, to forget about gun control and each candidates’ respective positions on the issue prior to the election is a crucial error. Just as these other issues bear immense weight on the well-being of society, creating responsible and effective gun control laws do, as well. Therefore, we must fight to keep these issues front and center until change occurs. 

As far as their positions on gun control, Trump and Biden are predictably polar opposites. The NRA spent more than $30 million on Trump’s victory in 2016, an investment that has paid dividends in the last four years. Trump has loosened federal gun regulations and appointed numerous conservative federal judges. He even designated gun businesses as “essential” during COVID-19 lockdowns. According to the Los Angeles Times, Trump also reversed an Obama-era law “restricting gun purchases by people deemed by the Social Security Administration to be mentally unable to manage their affairs.” Furthermore, Trump suggested arming teachers across the country after the massacre that took place in Parkland, Florida. He also claimed that he “saved the Second Amendment.”

Biden, on the other hand, has been involved in the gun control debate for many years and is backed by “Everytown for Gun Safety,” a major adversary of the NRA. Biden has repeatedly boasted that he has taken on the NRA and won twice as a senator: when he helped to pass legislation that founded our existing background check system in 1993 and restricted sales of assault weapons like the AK-47 for 10 years with a 1994 bill. Perhaps the most remarkable difference between Biden and Trump is seen on their campaign websites. 

Biden’s website offers detailed plans on actions that the former vice president would take on a number of issues, gun control included. The Biden plan includes a ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, an assault weapon buyback program, universal background checks and a number of other measures to keep dangerous weapons off the streets. The Trump campaign website, on the other hand, contains no plan to curb gun violence or keep guns from falling into the wrong hands.

In opposing gun control legislation similar to the kind that the Biden administration hopes to enact, the Second Amendment is often cited. Many believe that by imposing regulations on the purchasing of firearms, the government is violating the right of citizens to “keep and bear arms.” Legally, it is much more complicated than that. In 2008, the United States Supreme Court made its first decision since 1939 that dealt with interpreting the Second Amendment. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Court ruled that there is an “individual right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes such as self-defense.” According to the Library of Congress, the outcome of the case left some issues unanswered, such as whether the Second Amendment restricts a state’s rights to make laws regulating firearms. 

During a 2019 interview with CNN, Biden was asked about the notion that his administration will “come for my guns.” He responded “Bingo, you’re right, if you have an assault weapon. The fact of the matter is they should be illegal. Period.” It’s not as if Biden doesn’t know that the Second Amendment exists. He is well aware of it and isn’t trying to do away with it in any way, shape or form. There is no legal precedent that declares assault rifle bans unconstitutional; in fact, federal appeals courts have upheld assault rifle bans four times in the past decade. So, yes, if you have an assault rifle, the Biden administration would like to take it off your hands. This is because, according to Axios, since 2017, “12 of the 31 mass shootings involved assault rifles — which caused 39% of the deaths and 92% of the injuries.” Almost 40,000 people die from firearm injuries every year in America, with many more wounded. 

A 2013 study from Boston University shows that as gun ownership increases, the firearm homicide rate also increases. Thus, the more guns there are, the more gun-related deaths there will be. 

The Biden plan increases regulations on firearms while respecting the Second Amendment as it has been interpreted by federal courts. The lives of American citizens are at stake with the question of gun control, and there is a clear way to save them.

Julian Shuttleworth, FCRH ’24, is a political science major from Columbus, Ohio.