Widgets Magazine


A government held at gunpoint

I have so far written three articles for The Daily. And in all of the three times that I sat in front of my laptop to write, I considered commenting on the same topic: gun violence. On Oct. 22, when my first article was due, three weeks had passed since the deadly attack at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. The topic no longer seemed “relevant to the public,” whatever that means, so I did not write about it. Eleven other smaller-scale shootings happened between my first and second columns, but no one was really talking about it, so I did not write.

However, the minute I turned in my last column on Nov. 27, I got news of the attack on the Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado, followed by the tragedy at San Bernardino a week later. In a minacious way, the topic always presented itself before me. So this time, I will write with hopes that this violence never becomes relevant again.

The deadly economy that revolves around firearms has left the executive branch powerless to establish control. The change we need must be ignited by the U.S. legal system, which must promptly and decisively rule against gun violence. And it must act now. The United States, with around 5 percent of the world’s population, has between 40 and 50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns. In 2007, there were 88.8 registered firearms per 100 American citizens, followed by only 31.3 firearms per 100 Norwegians. And these guns were not just used as decorations on living room walls, they were fired quite a lot. In 2013, America led the world with 3.55 firearm homicides per 100,000 people, followed by Canada with 1.04 homicides. In fact, more Americans were killed by guns after 1968 than in all U.S. wars ever combined.

Opposers of weapon regulations argue that people need guns to protect themselves. My dear friends, no one needs a semi-automatic assault rifle that can fire 45 bullets in less than 10 seconds over 300 yards to protect themselves. That is, of course, unless the Terminator is hunting them down. And even Mr. Schwarzenegger, the T-800 himself, expresses support for gun control. In the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, public opinion drastically shifted against gun ownership. Today, 89.9 percent of all Americans are calling for stricter background checks and limitations on both buyers and sellers of firearms.

So why isn’t anything changing? Although the latest executive order issued by the president was a step in the positive direction, it is bound to come to an end, along with Obama’s term, and be overshadowed by the $30 million the NRA spends on elections. In the horrific case of gun violence, politics and the legislature are unfortunately not the answer. Congress will never be powerful enough to regulate such a huge market and culture. The judicial system must take the matter into its own hands. In his speech, the president gave examples of some gun control laws that European countries employ to illustrate the importance and relevance of his executive order. However, he must understand that the American government functions very differently from those in Europe. European governments date their existence to as far back as the Roman Empire and have strong traditions of resilient centralized power. They first established the executive branch of their governments through almighty monarchies, then transitioned into democracies and only then created modern legal systems. The U.S. did the exact opposite. Upon overthrowing colonial British rule, people had such a strong distrust of centralized government that they organized themselves in decentralized communities governed by the judiciary, inspired by British common law. Then they started experimenting with democracy, and they only began empowering the federal government hundreds of years later, along with the New Deal.

As a direct result of its founding, the U.S. executive branch is in no way as capable of enforcing change as its European counterparts. However, its legal system is. As we saw in the case of same-sex marriage, the judiciary branch has the power to enact nationwide change when the executive remains powerless. And on a more negative note, the courts can block any change they deem unlawful. Between 1904 and 1938, 16 different Congresses tried to criminalize child labor by passing federal laws, opening committees and starting national campaigns. However, the Supreme Court shot down all of the attempts declaring them unconstitutional. As a result, Congress tried to amend the Constitution twice but failed on both occasions. Only in 1938, when all of the original judges in the Court were replaced, could child labor be criminalized.

The deadlock we are in today is the 21st-century version of child labor. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The Supreme Court interprets the “people” in the amendment as individual Americans and safeguards their right to own firearms, while supporters of gun control interpret the “people” as the states and claim that the Founding Fathers only wanted to safeguard a state’s right to bear arms. I’m not going to get into this pointless linguistic debate. Even if the Constitution meant to use the “people” to define individual Americans, we must recognize that not even the Founding Fathers were absolutely perfect. The Supreme Court must once again show the courage it did when it legalized same-sex marriage and enforce precise and everlasting measures to decrease gun violence. If it fails to come through, I’m afraid this topic will always stay relevant, and hundreds of thousands of these articles will be written.


Contact Ali Sarilgan at sarilgan ‘at’ stanford.edu. 

  • mogden

    Reading a call to establish an executive monarchy in order to work around our Constitutional rights makes me want to shoot myself.

  • madturk

    Another compelling argument by the man himself!

    However, I fell like there is a bigger argument to be made here. Isn’t it about time for America to review her way of government and legislature? People aren’t voting, opinions aren’t turning into political interests until there are millions behind it, and an unrest breaks out whenever an event surprises the nation.

    Isn’t it about time America realizes that tradition is great only if it’s open to adaption?

  • CitationNeeded

    “So why isn’t anything changing?”

    Because, contrary to your efforts to delude your readers (and possibly yourself) Americans are not in favor of gun control.

    The Pew Research Center found that as of 2014, 57% of Americans responded that protecting gun ownership was more important than passing more gun control. http://www.people-press.org/2014/12/10/growing-public-support-for-gun-rights/

    You also make the blanket statement that all European countries have stricter gun control than the United States. Switzerland, Finland, Norway, and the Czech Republic, have non-restrictive gun laws similar to the United States. The Smith and Wesson M&P 15 you posted would be legal to purchase in all of these countries. They don’t have magazine restrictions, “assault weapon” bans on cosmetic features, or many of the other restrictions on guns one might find in California or New York.

    Some might even say that the Czech Republic’s gun laws are even more permissive than the United States’, because that country issues carry permits to all law-abiding citizens and allows foreign residents and refugees to own firearms. By comparison, roughly 1/3 of the United States population live in states where carry permits are almost never issued, and our country refuses to extend the liberty to own a firearm to it’s foreign residents.

  • brainy37

    “My dear friends, no one needs a semi-automatic assault rifle that can fire 45 bullets in less than 10 seconds over 300 yards to protect themselves.”

    1) You’ll have a very sore finger if you can get off that many rounds that fast.
    2) An AR-15 is much better than a handgun for self defense. It won’t over-penetrate wall and cause collateral damage like many pistols and shotguns.
    3) 1yd vs 300yds is a moot point
    4) If you’re going to defend your life or livelihood, you don’t be what is merely adequate. You bring what will do the best job. If concealment or close quarters are not issues then a rifle that can shoot very quick, very accurately, and with minimal recoil is what you want.