Opinion Desk: Gun Control: Not an Issue for Congress to Face Alone

By Nicholas Coleman, Connor Richards, Emma Tanner, Shaelyn Barber, and Paul Braden

Gun control has been a hot topic recently as gun violence and related tragedies have become more common. But as much of America’s cries for stricter firearm laws go unanswered, it makes sense to consider some potential regulatory options that don’t depend on Congress’s mandates.

We’ve asked several of our opinion writers to share their thoughts on alternative measures to increased government regulation, considering a range of possibilities from corporate activism to greater social support within and between communities.

Here’s what they have to say:

Paul Braden

It might seem that without intervention from the House and Senate to reform current gun laws, the U.S. will continue to be plagued by mass shootings like the one seen in Florida last month. But, it’s unlikely that lawmakers will decide to finally deviate from their apathetic non-action of the past even as the cries of family and friends mourning the senseless deaths of their loved ones broadcast frequently across their television screens. So, instead of relying on a failed system to combat these tragedies, we, as a community, need to take action at the local level. The best way to do this is as simple as speaking out. Similar to UTAs “see something, say something” PSA, suspicious behavior and even disconcerting ideation must be reported immediately. We have now learned that the Parkland shooter displayed multiple warning signs before killing 17 innocent people. While he had been reported for suspicious behavior that was unfortunately not investigated thoroughly by local law enforcement, others still who were close to the shooter came out shortly after the shooting to voice their regrets in ignoring other blatant signs of distress. It might take a village to raise a child, but the same level of community effort would also undoubtedly prevent one from shooting up a school.

But even this increased community responsiveness with intent on predicting and preventing possible violent offenders of the future will only have a limited effect on disrupting willful wrongdoers. The base of this ongoing crisis will always find its end at the Constitution. More specifically, the way in which many Americans revere this document as an eternal, immovable decree that was inspired from on high presents a problem for those who seek to alter it. Fortunately, certain sections, like those that endorsed slavery and prevented women’s rights, have since been deemed shameful and outdated by even the staunchest constitutional defenders. But, when it comes to removing guns from society, or even imposing laws requiring gun ownership to be considerably harder, the overwhelming response is to brush off the most recent mass shooting and apathetically assert that “now is not the time to be talking about gun control.”

Shaelyn Barber

Improving social systems could be a way to reduce the alarming trend of gun violence in America. The needs of Americans are not being met: many people don’t have access to clean water, fresh food, a living wage or universal healthcare. By working to improve these services for all United States citizens, we would increase the standard of living and give people a greater quality of life. If people did not have to worry as much about getting their basic needs met, it would likely lower stress and anger levels. This, in turn, would lower desires to commit violent crimes. By no means is this a total solution. We would, of course, need to combine this with other methods in order to fully combat the gun violence epidemic we are facing. But, even on its own, this could help fix some of the known factors that commonly contribute to gun violence.

Connor Richards

The unnecessary prevalence of mass shootings in the United States raises (or should raise) points on a number of relevant issues: gun control, access to mental health care and facilities, security in schools etc. Something that is addressed less is the social isolation and bullying that leads to teen depression. This is especially a problem in Utah, a state that leads the country in number of teen suicides. Following the tragic and unforgettable 2013 shooting of Sandy Hook Elementary school that left 28 dead, I wrote an essay on the importance of compassion in K-12 education, and became inspired to treat my peers better. There is no excuse for the hate and sickness that allows someone to kill innocent people, and no apologies should be made for those who do. But this should not be an excuse to avoid critical examination of ourselves and how our actions affect other people. I am not an apologist for Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold, the pair who killed 13 at Columbine High School in 1999. At the same time, I am a critic of those who bullied the pair and referred to them as “f*ggots” due to their clothing choices. In addition to the necessary policy changes, like increased access to health care and less access to high-capacity weapons, we ought to think carefully about how we treat others, and strive to be a society of love and compassion.

Nicholas Coleman

Corporate activism, otherwise known as corporate social responsibility, has yet again arisen from the grave of John D. Rockefeller Jr. Millennials overwhelmingly support companies that are “committed” to promoting a progressive agenda, whether that be the myth of ethical sourcing or the lust for gun control. These demonstrations are subversive and quite shallow, placating naive adolescents by promoting an idealized version of society; ultimately, as the late economist Milton Friedman said, “There is one and only one social responsibility of business — to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.”

Irony and socialism seep from the words of the corporations who desire the profit to be made from duping young adults, including those with whom I share this column. Should legislation be considered that would prevent certain individuals from purchasing high capacity semi-automatic rifles? Perhaps. But that responsibility rests with appointed legislative bodies, not the private individuals who oversee stockholder investments. The Washington Post identified that support for gun control is near 68 percent, while the NRA has become quite unpopular. Thus, corporate activism of the modern century has a dual purpose: to seize monetary opportunity and public approval.

Corporations do not owe society any great deed beyond making profits, which leads to a tighter labor supply and higher wages. Those who truly believe otherwise are undermining the foundations of the economic system that keeps organizations from being state-owned — inquire about Venezuela should you prefer the latter. Appealing to the institutions that launder money for terrorists, practice predatory lending, open millions of unauthorized accounts, price-fix interest fees, violate federal billing and debt collection practices, commit foreign bribery, allegedly misuse charitable donations and abuse foreign labor is ridiculous.

These transgressions violate Friedman’s free-market economics and assuredly do not align with the progressive belief in corporate social responsibility. Yet, Millennials flock to these conglomerates like sheep, each mimicking the same foolishness while the corporations reap the reward.

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