Tom Braslavsky: Representation or revolvers

The one thing holding D.C. back from having Congressional representation seems to be a debate on gun rights. The D.C. Voting Rights Act, which would give our city an official representative in the House, has stalled for the past nine months. In February, it passed in the Senate – but only after being stamped with additional language that would abolish many of Washington’s already depleted gun laws. The House seems unsure of what to do, with an influential pro-gun lobby splitting the Democrats while D.C. residents wait. Thank you for helping the nation’s capital, National Rifle Association.

The past week has been replete with news about deadly shootings around the country. There was last Thursday’s tragic Fort Hood, Texas massacre, in which an Army psychiatrist killed 13 people and wounded 30. The next morning, a disgruntled and schizophrenic Orlando man shot up his old office, killing one and injuring five. A Tuesday shooting in Walterboro, S.C. killed three – including a one-year-old baby – and injured five. There’s more where that came from.

Maybe you support the vague constitutional “right to bear arms” as a cause for liberty. I know there are varying interpretations of the second amendment, and various readings of its reference to a “well-regulated Militia.”

But don’t you think there’s something wrong when a man like Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood suspect, can go into a Texas gun shop and easily buy a semi-automatic FN Herstal pistol recommended for combat use by NATO? What if he then uses it to massacre unsuspecting soldiers at an Army base?

The perpetrator of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, who had a history of troubling mental health issues, was able to buy a Glock and a Walther handgun, one in a Virginia gun shop and the other online. All he did was sign a couple of forms and show his ID. He was then given the weapons to use at his discretion. In his case, this meant murdering 32 people, injuring 23 and then turning the gun on himself.

But no, you say, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” So let me ask you another question: How many massacres have been committed in our country using other tools? What is a crazed, bloodthirsty individual to do? Obviously, guns are murderers’ tools of choice. And for one simple reason: they were created with the purpose of killing.

I have long been fascinated by the gun rights movement. How ridiculous is it that there is a vast movement in our country for the “right” to own deadly weapons? It just doesn’t add up. We do live in an enlightened society, I try to tell myself; but where is our common sense?

Here’s some common sense: According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s statistics for 2006, the latest year available, firearms were used in a total of 12,791 homicides and 16,883 suicides. That makes guns culpable in almost 30,000 violence-related deaths. That’s equivalent to the 9/11 tragedy 10 times over.

If laws cannot stop deranged individuals from buying deadly weapons, how can groups like the NRA argue for even laxer gun regulations? D.C.’s ban on handguns was overturned last year, yet D.C. residents are still prohibited from carrying open or concealed weapons. Some interest groups want those rules, as well as others still in place, to go.

Right now, we may have to choose between representation in Congress and the peace of mind of walking down a safe street without worrying about every second person carrying a gun. If that is the case, it looks like “taxation without representation” should remain our motto for some time longer.

The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

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