By PATRICE CALDWELL ’15
On Nov. 2, in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, 19-year-old Renisha McBride was shot and killed by 54-year-old Theodore Wafer. While facts surrounding the case are still emerging, what is known is that McBride was unarmed and went to the home of Wafer in the early hours of the morning to ask for assistance with her car that had broken down. Wafer then shot McBride, claiming that she was breaking into his house. This case, like the Trayvon Martin shooting on February 26, 2012, raises questions about racial violence and gun control in the United States. However, while it is tragic that McBride was shot and killed, the country should not move to ban guns just because people like Wafer decide to shoot before they think.
In an editorial on Nov. 15, the New York Times noted: “In a nation armed to the teeth, the wrong circumstances and misunderstandings lead to sudden death and injury in thousands of cases a year. Lawmakers should consider the lives cut short like McBride’s when they fail to tighten gun safety laws.” And Paul M. Barrett states in an article in Bloomberg Businessweek that McBride might have been alive had Wafer hit her with a baseball bat. Still, the fact remains that the gun he shot her with was a traditional 12-gauge shotgun—a weapon that’s not on any of the proposed ban lists. If we limit guns like this, then we move from gun control to abolishing civilian use of guns permanently.
Tinkering with gun regulations is not the solution. The Second Amendment provides for the right to carry arms, which is a civil liberty. What people do not understand is that taking away a civil liberty is a trade-off. Sure, civilians would not be able to own guns if they were banned, which would reduce the likelihood of “accidental” shootings. However, taking away one liberty makes it easier for similar arguments to be made for taking away others. As Benjamin Franklin said, “They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” All people should not lose their right to protect themselves because others choose to misuse their weapons.
What we should do is look at the people involved instead of using the weapon as a scapegoat or an easy way out. For instance, recent tests have revealed that McBride had a blood alcohol limit of .218 at the time of her death, more than twice the legal limit for driving. That being said, why, according to Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, was Wafer not tested for drugs or alcohol? Especially when, according to Prosecutor Worthy, there were no signs of forced entry at the home. It does not matter how drunk she was. Mr. Wafer was safely in his home. If he believed himself to be at danger, he should have called 911. He did not have to pick up his gun. Guns don’t fire themselves. Putting the blame on the weapon is easy enough, especially in the post 9/11 fear-mongering nation we live in. Wafer took matters into his own hands. He was just wrong.
Pharmaceutical companies are never blamed for mass shootings, despite the well-established link between psychiatric drugs and violent behavior. I am not saying that we should go picket pharmaceutical companies—though that might have some interesting side effects on whether shooters are tested for drugs—but it is important that before we point fingers, we look at all of the possible causes of violent actions.
We could ban guns, but these shootings would still continue. If someone wants a gun badly, they will find a way to get one. Those who use guns to defend themselves and their families from intruders would be harmed. Law-abiding people would be more susceptible to violence brought upon by rule-breakers. In at least 17 states around the country, legislation is aimed specifically at making owning a gun more costly, again only hurting those in crime-ridden neighborhoods who use guns for self-defense.
Guns aren’t the problem; people are. Many people own guns and have never used them for harm. Next time the question of gun control comes up, look at the other factors in gun violence. While wanting to ban guns when shootings occur is easy, this wouldn’t address the root of the problem. If guns are banned, law-abiding citizens would be less able to protect themselves from people who use guns violently, whether the guns are legal or not. Gun control is the easy way out. Curbing everyone’s access to a constitutional right is not the way to solve the problem of gun violence, and it sets a dangerous precedent regarding civil liberties. If we go down that road, we might regret it.