A land where people are mowed down by gunmen is not free

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By Abigail Leibowitz

If Francis Scott Key were to rise from the dead and visit us, he would see the opposite of a “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

He would be horrified to see a country in which families celebrating the Lunar New Year, a major holiday in many Asian communities, are mowed down by a gunman in Monterey Park, Calif., who kills 10 people and wounds at least 10 more, turning one of the happiest days of the year into the grimmest. He would be disgusted at a country in which a 6-year-old brings a gun to school and shoots a young, dedicated teacher, critically injuring her.

He’d be furious to learn that this was the third school shooting in the same Virginia district in the past three years. And he would be outraged to read about the case of Karon Blake, a Washington, D.C., 6th grader shot and killed by a man with a gun who believed, without any evidence, that Karon was breaking into cars.

A country with so much gun violence is, frankly, neither free nor brave.

Due to U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s concessions to the so-called Freedom Caucus, Congress saw a fundamental shift that would allow processes in the House to be dictated by a small group of representatives wielding undue influence. Members of this extremist, far-right Freedom Caucus oppose any Red Flag laws that prevent guns from getting into the hands of dangerous people, including criminals.

One of their main arguments is: We don’t regulate knives, which are deadly, too, so why would we regulate guns?

The answer lies in simple statistics. In 2021, according to Statista, 10 times the deaths by murder occurred from handguns or firearms than by knives or cutting instruments.

Accordingly, guns are 10 times more deadly than knives. It is no wonder that gun violence gets very little media coverage. There are simply too many cases to report on.

According to a 2017 Pew Research study, 67% of gun owners cite their main reason for owning a gun as “protection.” This idea is more myth than reality. You are much more likely to die or be seriously injured from an accidental gun firing or someone misusing your gun than from being shot by an intruder.

But to the Freedom Caucus members, statistics don’t matter. They just repeat the same, false adage “people need guns to protect themselves” over and over. And when most Americans don’t have the time or energy to fact check them, it is no wonder that the animus toward commonsense gun laws prevails.

As a student at Princeton University, I keep up to date on New Jersey state laws. Recently, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed legislation to strictly limit concealed carry in an array of “sensitive places” and prohibit permit-holders from keeping a loaded gun in their car. The law specifies dozens of places where guns are not allowed, including schools, courthouses, parks and beaches. As a lifelong Marylander, I am proud of our state’s current gun laws, but our legislature should follow in the footsteps of New Jersey in encoding into law tougher gun regulations.

Admittedly, on Jan. 9, a district court in New Jersey hit the brakes on the state’s new concealed carry gun law, finding that the tough restrictions present “considerable constitutional problems.” I believe higher courts must stop this pro-gun judicial review and defer to the will of the people as expressed in laws passed by their legislative bodies.

As a country, we have let obsession with fear of crime and a weaponizing of the Second Amendment desensitize us to the epidemic of gun violence. If the Freedom Caucus can get their way in a House speaker vote, they will most certainly try to force their agenda to prevent gun legislation. But we should not be allowing a founding document meant to protect U.S. citizens — the Constitution — to kill us.

The blood of innocent people being shot and murdered because of the proliferation of guns is on the hands of these politicians who oppose commonsense gun laws.

Abigail Leibowitz is a freshman at Princeton University from Silver Spring. She is studying politics, economics and journalism.

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