Op-Ed: Gun control is the wrong debate

[Editor's Note: Rep. Brad Wenstrup is an A-graded 2022 BFA-PAC Endorsee who is seeking reelection on November 8, 2022.]

There’s a prevailing myth that we can bring an end to mass shootings in America if only we banned AR-15s – or better yet, banned all semi-automatic guns as well. If only it were that simple.

By the grace of God, protective firearms were present five years ago at the baseball field on June 14, 2017. The day that an armed assailant arrived with murderous intent and shot at us. The day Republican members of Congress – for our charity baseball game – innocently assembled to practice America’s favorite pastime. If good men and women with guns had not been present, this terrorist would easily have assassinated 20 to 30 members of Congress and staff.

Instead, trained officers with legal concealed weapons were present, and the would-be assassin was prevented from murdering us in cold blood. Still, five people got hit, including two police officers.

Many Americans have personally experienced the increase in violence fueled in part by Democrats’ “defund the police” movement. In 2021, 16 U.S. cities reached record homicide numbers. A decline in police involvement in 2020 led to a record 20,000 murders, a 30 percent increase over the year before.

Let’s make sure we’re actually enforcing existing gun laws before adding new ones. In many cities, criminals arrested possessing illegal weapons haven’t been prosecuted to the full extent of the laws already on the books. They have simply been let back out onto the streets. Of course, this has led to higher rates of crime.

Why? Because criminals rarely purchase their guns legally.

“A Justice Department study published in 2019 showed that only 7% of federal prisoners who were in possession of a firearm at the time of their crimes had purchased the gun from a licensed firearm dealer. Half of federal prisoners who’d carried guns during their offenses had either stolen their firearms or bought them on the black market,” the Washington Examiner points out.

No big surprise there.

When we focus on passing new laws, we are acting as if law-abiding citizens are the problem. They aren’t.

Gun control is the wrong debate. We are ignoring the heart of what is wrong in our country.
What is going on in the homes and in the hearts of those who are turning to violence? What is wrong in our communities? What is fueling this recent rise in homicides?

Democrats have this instinctive drive to want to pass more laws, but these laws too often only curb the constitutional rights of law-abiding American citizens. They do not change the disturbing trends that we are seeing.

The 1994 law that banned the manufacture of 19 weapons, including the AR-15, and prohibited semiautomatic rifles with at least two military features, as well as the manufacture of magazines holding more than 10 rounds, wasn’t very effective in preventing gun violence, according to a Justice Department study of the decade-long ban that expired in 2004. Mass shootings have increased in both numbers and deadliness, according to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

We as Americans need to do some serious soul searching.

I came to office a true believer in truth, justice and the American way. Morals, values and virtues have taken flight, and in their place is a darkness. It seems unimaginable to most that someone can reach the state of mind to justify killing innocent children. What are the events in someone’s life that lead to the feelings, that lead to these murderous, violent actions?

Murder is already against the law. Criminals pay no attention to our laws. A conversation that revolves merely around what laws we can enact and what guns we can ban is one that is intellectually lazy.

Certainly, something serious has changed since the 1950s, when kids brought guns to school and stored them in their lockers and then went to shooting practice afterward.

Is it the absence of God? Is it the breakdown of the family, the disruption of community, the implosion of the village? Is it a lack of morals, values, and virtues within our American civilization? Is it the disrespect for law and order? Is it because we can’t put “thou shalt not kill” in front of a public building or inside it?

Is it the destruction of our mental health system, which unfortunately turned everyone onto the streets instead of reforming our institutions?

It could be all these things and many more. Until America is willing to take a long hard look inside ourselves, and heal what truly ails us, I fear we are simply doomed to repeat more of the past.

Second District Rep. Brad Wenstrup, D.P.M., represents Ohio’s 2nd District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he serves as a co-chair of the GOP Doctors Caucus.

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