A recent opinion piece in the Deseret News argued that gun ownership is our fail-safe against fascism, tyrannical governments and genocide ("Don't let hysteria take away our freedoms," Oct. 11). But as far as I can tell, arming our world more heavily has not yielded more democratic systems of government. Yes, it is incontrovertible that guns allow us to wield power disproportionately, which helps explain the psyche of criminals behind mass shootings. And all governments that wish to remain in power must back up laws with the threat of corporal violence at levels any groups of citizens couldn't achieve. At least in the United States, increasingly complex weapons and their technologies will likely not ever be within the reach of a citizen-based insurgency.
The fact is, militaries (with guns) and rebel, citizen-based factions (with guns) have and do take over governments. And then these groups impose their will on the people who don't have guns. Our country is complicit in arming many such foreign groups, and the result has not been a more democratic world. Guns don't just fight tyranny, they create tyranny. Democracy's real guarantor is not a gun — how many other forms of government rest on that? No, her power will always be found in responsible and accountable leadership, an engaged citizenry committed to upholding constitutional rights for all, a robust system of checks and balances and free and fair elections.
But guns are not going away. They are here to stay. Yet, for decades, the NRA has embarked on a mission of misinformation that rests on a false and fear-mongering claim: that those who advocate for sensible gun laws want to take our guns away. The fact is, most of my conservative, gun-owning friends and my progressive, non-gun-owning friends agree that there should be more sensible limitations on firearms. It's simply not the case that those proposing gun legislation are advocating for an outright ban. Instead, the proposed legislation I've seen is aimed at preventing gun-related deaths due to accident, intimate partner violence and suicide. When applied effectively, background checks, training or licensing procedures might be able to reduce such senseless deaths.
Unfortunately, we don't have as much information as we might want to craft these laws, because, since pushing through the Dickey amendment in 1996, the NRA has effectively blocked any funding from going to the CDC to study gun deaths and injuries.
Can you imagine prohibiting the CDC from studying child abuse, drug overdoses or infectious diseases? Can you imagine that we as a society decide that these unfortunate occurrences are just the price we pay for freedom; that because we don't want to infringe on parents' rights, it's not worth investigating child abuse? Or that because we don't want to encroach upon personal liberty, it's not worth investigating drug deaths? Or that because we don't want to spread mass hysteria, it's not worth investigating infectious diseases? Or that because we don't want to make people uncomfortable, it's not worth investigating gun violence?
If any of these seem like poor judgment calls, the only way forward is to repeal the Dickey amendment.
Our constitutional rights are not just freedoms to enjoy. They are also responsibilities. Where is the public responsibility in gun ownership? If going through a licensing procedure seems burdensome or unfair, consider burying a child who was shot in a domestic dispute by someone who shouldn't have been able to buy a gun. That is the heavy everyday, domestic price we pay for not having better gun laws. And the international consequences of our free-wheeling trade in weapons is just as tragic.
Jennifer Gardner Frahm holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in European and Russian studies from Yale University. She lives in Springville with her husband, Walker, and their son, Atticus.