Two weeks ago, in my home state of Kentucky, two students were killed and 18 wounded in a school shooting at Marshall County High School. It was the nation’s 11th school shooting of 2018. 11 school shootings in 23 days. That’s one school shooting every other day in this country. And no one cares. No one cared last year about the Las Vegas shooting, and no one is caring now. If you heard about and remember this shooting in Kentucky, good, but I bet you can’t name the other ten that happened this year before it. No other developed nation in the world has this problem. None of them approach guns like we do, and we cannot allow ourselves to be fooled by complacency that this is at all normal or somehow tragically unavoidable. Most sickening to me is that for people to stand up and declare their right to bear arms apparently means we simply have to accept that sometimes innocent children have to die. It is repugnant, it is grotesque, and I am done with it.
Now, before I go on, let me unequivocally say that I do, in fact, support the Second Amendment in spite of what many people are likely to think after reading this. Citizens have a right to bear arms in this nation, and that is a right not only granted by our Constitution in the Bill of Rights but has also been affirmed time and again through the history of our nation via federal case law. I grew up in rural Eastern Kentucky. We had guns. Both of my parents had pistols, and we had a rifle. My grandparents, who lived next door, had a couple rifles and a shotgun. I must’ve been no older than eight or 10 when my grandfather first taught me to shoot with a .22 rifle, practicing with old Coke cans on a fencepost before I graduated to small game and pests, including the groundhogs that would occasionally threaten his and my grandma’s vegetable gardens. Guns are a tradition in rural America, a tradition I have inherited from my family, and will one day pass on to my future children. That is my right and theirs as Americans. But my children will also deserve to go to school and not have to fear being shot just because they got up that morning to get an education.
I was inspired to write this piece after listening to a particularly tired argument I’ve heard many times before about how countries like Switzerland have liberal gun laws, like America, and yet they somehow don’t have this problem, and so we should be more like Switzerland and not like other developed nations who have more restrictive gun control. I’m not sure the people who say that actually know Switzerland’s gun laws. I think it’s a wonderful idea, and we should do that. So, let’s review Switzerland’s gun laws.
First, to purchase a gun, you must possess a weapon acquisition permit, which requires you provide valid ID, provide proof of residence and present a copy of your criminal record that is no more than three months old. To request this permit, you must also not be deemed psychiatrically disqualified, not be considered a security threat and have a clean criminal record
Second, to purchase ammunition, you must provide the seller your valid ID, proof of residence, a criminal record not older than three months and weapon acquisition permit not older than two years or weapon carrying permit not older than five years. You can only purchase ammunition for a weapon that you own.
Third, a weapon carrying permit is required to possess a firearm outdoors or in public, and is usually only issued to citizens whose occupations require a firearm, like a security guard. To acquire the carrying permit, you must fulfill all requirements of the acquisition permit, and then provide a plausible reason for your need to carry for the protection of yourself, others or real property from a specific danger, and must pass examination concerning proper weapons handling and knowledge of lawful use.
Fourth, to transport a gun, the ammunition must be separated from the gun, the transporting must be as direct as possible and have particular reason. Meanwhile, concealed carry permits are issued on an extremely restrictive basis.
It is also perhaps important to note that automatic firearms are illegal in Switzerland, as are automatic or butterfly knives with a 5cm blade or more, throwing knives, brass knuckles, shock rods, stun guns, tasers, butt-stock equipped slingshots and firearms designed to look like other objects, such as a cane gun. Switzerland also only has one-quarter as many guns per capita as we do in the United States.
So, let’s stop pretending like no regulation is the answer to gun violence. Even Switzerland knows better, and adopting measures like they have would in fact go a long way to reducing our own rate of gun violence while maintaining and appreciating our own firearm traditions and culture. But, until we decide to do something, our children will keep dying, and I refuse to sit quietly and let that continue unchallenged.
Ben Amis lives in Rome and works as a local Democratic activist. He studied theology at Asbury University and accounting at GNTC.