Do Iowans Care Less About Gun Control?
In the wake of the San Bernardino shooting – the most deadly massacre since Newtown – I did not get my hopes up too see a response from our political leaders. Time after time and shooting after shooting, Congress fails to pass any meaningful gun control laws.
After each shooting, I express to my like-minded friends the faulty logic behind “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Becoming passionate, I cite how Australia – through a mandatory buyback program and the restriction of most semi-automatic rifles – cut its homicide rate by firearm to .14 per 100,000 people compared to 2.97 per 100,000 people in the United States.
Each time, my points are echoed and reinforced by my friends who are also in favor of more stringent gun control policies. It just seems like common sense to me. And when I express my opinions, I am under the impression that almost everyone agrees with me on this issue. I suppose I am guilty of surrounding myself with people with similar views to my own.
So I suppose it was a rude awakening of sorts when I saw Ted Cruz announce the start of his “Second Amendment Coalition” at CrossRoads Shooting Sports in Johnston. Right away, I knew I was surrounded by people whose views were completely different than mine.
“Something besides guns is causing this problem,” muttered the lady sitting behind me. I rolled my eyes at the comment, sick of the argument that if our family/Christian values were just strong enough we would avoid these situations. Added the man next to me, “you could regulate us to death and nothing is going to change.”
It became harder to keep my opinion to myself as the same man suggested that we need to track people from other countries. Pointing out that this may be a bit discriminatory, he said that there are sleeper cells in this country we need to keep an eye on. Admittedly, after the Paris massacre, it is a valid concern to ensure that we vet immigrants and refugees properly. However, our vetting process is already extensive and specifically monitoring one group of people undermines the notion that all Americans are equal under the law. Gun control laws equally applicable to all Americans, however, is the non-discriminatory alternative.
Cruz began his speech saying that guns are not the problem and attacked liberals who wanted to restrict the power of the 2nd Amendment, calling gun control an “abysmal failure” in the process.
Unafraid to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” he echoed the sentiments of the man sitting next to me, criticizing Obama for not monitoring dangerous people. Democrats, he said, don’t know the difference between bad guys and law-abiding citizens, and said the Obama administration was “utterly ineffective at targeting the bad guys.” He said that the Tsarnaev brothers and Nidal Hissan showed warning signs before carrying out the Boston and Fort Hood killings, respectively. He held the Obama administration accountable for not doing more to prevent them.
By criticizing our country’s inability to monitor terrorists and by pointing out that shootings still occur in gun-free zones, Cruz asserted that a lack of gun control is not what’s responsible for these atrocities. I would like to say that the crowd scoffed at the not-so-subtle Islamophobia or could see how Cruz diverted attention away from the real issue, but instead the audience was hanging on his every word.
Out of the 353 mass shootings (a mass shooting being defined as four or more people killed or wounded) that have occurred this year, only two have occurred in Iowa. First, five people suffered non-life threatening injuries in Davenport in June. Second, three were injured and Dashwan Smith was killed outside a nightclub in Des Moines. Unlike the tragedies in Boston and at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, these Iowa incidents did not have political motives, nor did they occur at an institution such as a school or office building. In addition, they cumulatively only resulted in one death. For these reasons, the Iowa mass shootings were never bound to achieve national media attention.
Due to the comparatively lower rate of mass shootings and their lack of media attention, perhaps it is easy for Iowans to forget that mass shootings can happen here. Most shootings occur so far away that they do not seem real. The only mass shooting that really made major news was the killing of four professionals at the University of Iowa all the way back in 1991, and even that seems rarely discussed. Simply stated, it is a lot easier to be less passionate about gun control in a considerably nonviolent Iowa then my home city of Chicago, the murder capital of the world.
When so few mass shootings occur in Iowa, why would we pass gun control laws in Iowa? It’s a fair question. My answer is that although they have not happened yet, they still could. Ted Cruz said that “the Second Amendment is about something very fundamental. It’s about the God-given right of every single one of us to protect our home, our families and our lives.” However, I would argue that a semiautomatic AR-15 is not necessary for defense of a home. And someone as incompetent as me with guns could purchase that very gun at the venue Senator Cruz spoke at (thankfully, a background check would be required however). Likewise, a weapon as deadly as the AR-15 is not necessary for hunting, a practice many Iowans hold dear.
Although I understand Iowans are passionate about hunting, defense of home, and 2nd Amendment rights, gun control is still necessary. Even if it comes at the price of personal liberty, perhaps tracking the “bad guys” will lead to less shootings, but Cruz is certainly misguided by believing increased gun control would not reduce gun violence. The Islamophobia and ignorance of the facts was deeply concerning to me, and as long as there are people like Cruz propagating these ideas, it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to make meaningful change – change that I believe is still necessary even if Iowans are rarely directly affected by these mass shootings.
Feldman is a political science and data analytics double major from Clarendon Hills, Illinois. He loves Bruce Springsteen and poorly attempting his songs on guitar. Follow him on Twitter.