The National Rifle Association's infamous slogan is "gun's don't kill people; people do." As British comedian Eddie Izzard once joked, "I think the gun helps."
Within the last 15 years, the United States has suffered 12 mass shootings that have claimed 262 people, including the Columbine tragedy, the Virginia Tech massacre, and the shooting in Tuscon, Arizona that wounded Congressman Gabrielle Giffords. In 2008, 67% of murders were committed with guns; that same year, the Supreme Court over-ruled a Washington, D.C. law that generally prohibited residents from possessing handguns and required safety precautions for guns in private homes. The complete list of mass shootings will now include last night's bloodbath in Aurora, Colorado where the death toll is expected to rise from the 12 dead, andup to 50 wounded.
The issue here is not to end gun use. It is true that most guns in the United States are used for self-protection, hunting, and target shooting. It is true that to obtain a gun, there is a background screening process that requires the disclosure of mental health records and criminal history. But it is also true that far too many people are able to acquire guns, legally or not, without background checks and without serious consideration. The gun show loophole enables people to buy guns en masse in cash at gun shows in the Midwest and South, where gun laws are more lenient, who then bring the guns via the Iron Pipeline into states that do have strict gun standards where they are purchased on the street by gang members and violent criminals.
Let us remember that the man responsible for the Virginia Tech tragedy legally acquired the guns that he used to murder 32 innocent students and faculty members, despite his troubling mental health records and indications that he was unstable in the months and years leading up to April 16, 2007. The Brady Campaign was founded by Colin Goddard, a survivor of Virginia Tech, who produced the incredible film Living for 32 to explain how gun control can be implemented to protect the rights of those who use guns safely while also preventing the trafficking of guns between states and the complacency that allows guns into the hands of the wrong people. Some states have outdated databases, faulty systems, and limited technology that proves to be ineffective in the screening process despite the fact that a safety net is in place. Therefore, a federal standard with intense screening processes and restrictions on what kind of guns should be available to civilians must be enacted to keep the entire country on the same system to prevent further attacks.
The silver lining on this horrible tragedy is that it could motivate lawmakers to take action towards federal gun control. The likelihood, however, is that it will turn into a political competition for Romney and Obama; already the Democrats and Republicans have been competing on Twitter for the prize of which party is more sympathetic.
Colin Goddard does not advocate a ban on guns, despite being a victim himself of gun violence; he advocates safe gun practices, which is something everyone should be able to agree upon.