Van Wagenen: Your Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough


Madelyn Foulger

(Design by Madelyn Foulger | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Madeline Van Wagenen, Opinion Editor


Living in the United States feels like reliving the same headline over and over again. Every new day comes with a breaking news story of another gun violence tragedy.

The 2023 Utah Legislative Session has several bills regarding firearms regulations, including H.B. 89 and H.B. 219. H.B. 89, sponsored by Rep. Andrew Stoddard, creates a waiting period between the purchase of any firearm and its delivery. This piece of legislation isn’t perfect, but it’s leaps and bounds better than H.B. 219. Sponsored by Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, H.B. 219 does absolutely nothing to reduce gun violence.

This country is stuck in a never-ending cycle of shootings, “thoughts and prayers” and inaction. Lawmakers will do everything but enact gun control legislation. The universal right to bear arms needs reform, as not everyone should have access to weapons capable of mass violence. We desperately need stricter gun control.

Firearms Legislation

On Dec. 15, 1791, the U.S. Congress signed the Bill of Rights into federal law. Over time, debates have risen regarding the interpretation of the Constitution and how closely we should follow the words of the original Framers. This debate has particularly coincided with the Second Amendment, which gives U.S. citizens the right to bear arms. But in light of recent mass shootings, this amendment has become hotly debated.

In the state of Utah, there has been one mass shooting since the beginning of 2023: the murder-suicide in Enoch that left 8 people dead, including the gunman. This event left the small town, and the state, in total shock and horror.

Less than a month later, Lisonbee introduced H.B. 219, a useless, heartless, punch-to-the-face bill for those with the Enoch shooting fresh on their minds. If passed, it would ensure Utah would not “enforce certain federal firearms regulations.” It relies on a longstanding legal principle called the Anti-Commandeering Doctrine, which says that the federal government cannot force states to enforce federal law. This principle has been upheld in many different Supreme Court cases and different issues, including states refusing to enforce federal immigration and drug laws.

H.B. 89 creates a waiting period between the purchase of any firearm and its delivery, and is a piece of commonsense gun legislation that won’t ban gun ownership. Instead, it places stricter regulations on who can legally acquire and access firearms.

Arguments against commonsense gun laws come from the idea that they create a “slippery slope,” where the ultimate goal is a dangerous ploy to take guns away. H.B. 89 does not limit or prohibit gun sales or ownership — it creates no legal mechanisms for removing guns from a home or taking away someone’s right to possess them. The waiting period reduces impulsivity in case someone intends to use a gun for violence or self-harm.

Gun Control Around the World

Days after the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre, a mass shooting that claimed the lives of 35 civilians, Australian lawmakers pushed through sweeping legislation reforming gun rights. Since then, mass shootings have been relatively few.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, in Canada, “gun ownership is also relatively high … at about 35 firearms per hundred residents (ranking fifth globally), but the country does not struggle with a similar level of gun violence,” as compared to the U.S.

Japan, a country with strict gun control, sees fewer than “one hundred Japanese die from gun violence in a country of 125 million people.”

As proven in these three countries, gun control laws work.

The only way we can combat gun violence is with gun control. Instead of banning the legal ownership of guns, we need to change the definition of “legal.” We must enact legislation that protects us from violence, like banning high-capacity ammunition magazines or restricting bump stocks.

“But Madeline,” you whine, “what about the second amendment?”

Decisions made over two centuries ago must be revised to meet modern problems.

Gun Control in the US

The Framers of the Constitution would be horrified at the current levels of unchecked gun violence in the U.S.

We need to stop prioritizing ownership of a piece of metal over protecting human lives.

Thomas Jefferson recommended the Constitution be revised with every new generation, or every 19 years. We need to review these outdated laws for the sake of our safety.

In the mission statement of March For Our Lives, they state that “We cannot allow one more person to be killed by senseless gun violence. We cannot allow one more person to experience the pain of losing a loved one. We cannot allow one more family to wait for a call or a text that never comes. We cannot allow the normalization of gun violence to continue. We must create a safe and compassionate nation for all of us.”

There are so many things that can be done to protect this country, yet we are not doing them. For the sake of American lives, take your thoughts and prayers and turn them into action and legislation. We must revise the second amendment.


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