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Opinions

On the Home Front

The elderly, many immigrants and all refugees have lived through the horrors of war and terrorism. They know the toppled buildings, mass graves, endless rubble, and horrifying instability. It’s no wonder they want to avoid it for themselves and for their children. They want to be safe.

We can say without a doubt that the safety of any country and its population is paramount. It shows: our military has been built up as a defense against the very thought of war and for anyone to try to stand against it would be foolhardy. Our vetting procedure for refugees is one of the most stringent in the world; it is extremely rare that any refugee not qualified to come to the United States makes it past the door.

Protecting its citizens—from toxic pollutants, untested medications, workplace dangers, environmental disasters, criminal behavior and international conflict—is arguably the primary role our government takes. However, national security has turned into an obsession based solely on and in response to external threats, rather than addressing a pressing national threat from the inside.

The bloody issue in mind is gun violence by those who obtain and use weapons wrongfully. Our lauded military cannot be deployed to protect us from gun violence when murders happen in homes, movie theaters, schools, clubs, and streets.

Yet, when the topic of gun regulations comes up for discussion, discussion turns into heated debate, and heated debate to nonsensical, hypocritical bickering. Immigrants fleeing violence are subjected to background checks and restrictions based on their past, and it is labelled a necessity of national security. But when scrutiny of the same sort is applied to our gun ownership laws, it is suddenly labelled an infringement on our freedoms.

The same vocal effort to keep Americans safe from potential external threats—namely refugees fleeing a six year long war—should be applied to the very visible daily threat of American gun violence.

Rather than spending huge portions of resources to elaborate on existing, functioning systems for protection against external threats, we should funnel those resources to addressing the destructive and yet-untreated ailment of gun violence in this country.

The issue of gun control becomes a headache when people believe their freedom to bear arms is being compromised. Yet we have no qualms about compromising the safety of refugees when we make them wait multiple years to settle safely in our country. Certainly, caution is necessary when allowing people to live in our society. Certainly, caution is also necessary when regulating firearms in our society.

Where does extensive background checking change from a necessary security measure to an infringement of rights when both immigration and gun violence are issues of national security? The safety of our population is at risk: “when compared to 22 other high-income nations, Americans are ten times more likely to be killed by a gun than their counterparts in the developed world,” according to research by the American Journal of Medicine.

It is not normal to have these levels of gun violence, and it is possible to fix it. The report gives 22 models for improvement when it lists 22 comparable countries that have significantly lower levels of gun violence.

In the United States, gun violence is as much of a national security threat as any external threat, if not more. Entire communities are left devastated and raw in high-profile cases in the news — in mass shootings, in drive-bys, and in domestic violence murders. Parents grieve when their child’s future is gone thanks to the curious or furious pull of a trigger. Inconsolable families and friends cannot comprehend the suicide that didn’t leave any room for second chances.

These are people who deserve a government that protects its people. These are people who want to be safe. These are people who lose when national security is not devoted to the safety and well-being of our country on the home front.

on-the-home-front

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Westerner: The Maine West student voice for more than 50 years