Does America’s Gun Control Debate Need a New Focus?

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Monday saw the Supreme Court pass on a gun control case, preferring to remain outside the issue as it has since its last ruling in 2008 with District of Columbia v. Heller, which ruled in favor of handguns in the home. In the case, it chose not to hear expansions upon that point, and claimed that, “The Second Amendment guarantees the right to carry weapons for the purpose of self-defense — not just for self-defense within the home, but for self-defense, period,” as the court brief read, according to USA Today. The case was brought with the support of the NRA and Gun Owners Foundation.

Seeing as how the Supreme Court has indicated a hesitancy to get involved at least for now, the discourse over gun control seems like even more of a strategic open door. What will walk through it? Different groups and different sides are suggesting new ways to go about modifying gun policy and technology in order to improve the state of American gun violence and safety, and some of them are worthy of note, even if they offer their own problems.

The Washington Post’s Danny Franklin, who also advises the White House, noted recently that since the tragedy at Sandy Hook, most gun laws seen passed in state legislatures have reduced gun control rather than greater regulation. This is not a new or unique reaction to gun violence. The event sparks anti-gun sentiment, which eventual leads to pro-gun backlash, backed by stronger organizations and groups, which ultimately win out. That is perhaps a major part of the problem — the highly politicized nature of the debate as it sits at present.

Franklin’s suggestion is that rather than framing the issue as a political one, it should become a question of public health. Pointing to a poll by The Washington Post, he notes that public opinion on guns has reversed in the last 14 years, making it so more people now believe having a gun in the house makes it safer, and that this public opinion is often far more important than actual facts — which show that guns are 12 times more likely to be used on members of the same household than on a burgler or the like. The focus, says Franklin, should be on gun accidents and the risks to health that guns represent just by their presence, referencing a Michael Bloomberg ad that features a young girl accidentally finding her parents’ gun.