E13 – Gun Control in America

Episode 13 . 20:15

E13 - Gun Control in America - transcript:

What is up, my friends? Welcome to Speakeasy English. Today we talk about guns. 

Alright, thank you for joining me on another episode. This podcast is designed to give you content to which you can listen every day, and that act of daily active listening will help you become completely fluent in English. And the best part is that you can do this while you do other things! You can listen to me while you do your chores or while you drive to work or ride the metro. Podcasts like this one make it easy for you to install the daily habit of listening to English. And because it is easy, that’s why it works! You are more likely to continue with a habit when it is easy. 

So welcome back! If you have not listened to the first few episodes (that is, episode one, two, and three), I recommend that you go back and listen to these episodes. That will help you to understand how to use this podcast to become fluent. Remember, all of the transcripts are free and available on our website: speakeasyenglish.club, that is, speakeasyenglish.club. Also, feel free to send me an email at brandon@speakeasyenglish.club or leave a comment on the website. Lastly, if you appreciate this podcast and this free resource, please leave a review in whatever application you use to listen to podcasts. Your reviews will help me immensely to connect with even more English learners that are trying to become fluent.

Okay, so unfortunately, today’s episode comes after yet another mass shooting here in the United States. Saturday (that is, two days ago), a gunman opened fire with an assault rifle at a mall in Texas and killed eight innocent people, one of them as young as five years old. Just saying that out loud brings tears to my eyes. I cannot imagine the grief of the parents and of the families of all the victims. And my thoughts and prayers will be with those folks as they try to make sense of this horrific tragedy. Unfortunately, here in the US, these events are not rare. Just this year, we have had over 200 mass shootings in the US. That is defined as a shooting where four or more people are shot. Now, it’s only May 8 today that I’m recording, and we have had over 200 of these events this year. It is truly a sickening epidemic. 

I don’t have the time or expertise to give a full analysis of this crisis. But today we will talk about the historical significance of gun ownership in the United States and how that limits some of the options that are realistically available. And then we will continue to talk about some things that we can do right now to curb this violence in the United States. 

The right to own a gun is in our Constitution, and this fact has played a significant role in the development of American gun culture and the belief among Americans that we have the right to own firearms and protect ourselves and our property. Now, obviously, times have changed since our founding fathers wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The weapons that are available now are much different (and deadlier) than the weapons that were available when they granted this right to the American public. While many Americans still believe that the right to own a gun is an essential freedom guaranteed by the US Constitution, the public is also starting to realize that the existence of these firearms in large numbers is becoming a threat to public safety. So with this in mind, let’s look at some practical options for gun control that may be able to decrease the number of shootings while also respecting the Constitution of the United States. 

Quickly, before I get into those practical options, I will say this hypothetically: If there were a time machine and there were some way to go back 250 years and prevent gun ownership and gun culture from becoming a core part of America from the beginning, I think that would be the only moral and ethical thing to do. It would have prevented countless innocent lives from being lost. But we don’t have a magic time machine. And the right to gun ownership is deeply rooted in the belief that many Americans have about freedom and about the right to protect themselves and their property. At this point, I don’t believe there is any way to ban guns (that is, to make them illegal). If any political party tried to make firearms illegal, I truly believe this would cause massive civil unrest and contribute significantly to the potentially dangerous divisions that we are seeing in our society. So, yes, the quickest way to eliminate this gun violence epidemic would be to ban all guns, but I just don’t think that’s possible in the United States. So what can we actually do right now, today, to fight back against this epidemic? 

The first thing is simple and widely supported, and that would be implementing universal background checks. That means every gun purchase, every time, requires a background check for the buyer. Right now, a background check is only required when you buy a gun from a dealer. If you buy a gun in a private transaction from a private citizen, there is no background check. And if you buy a gun at a gun show, (that is, a big convention where people sell guns) – if you buy a gun there, again, there is no background check. Most agree that folks with certain criminal histories should not own guns. So implementing universal background checks would be a great way to make sure that the wrong people are not able to buy guns. These background checks would certainly include criminal history, but could also include other risk factors. For example, people with severe mental health issues. Preventing the wrong people from owning guns would almost certainly have a positive impact on rates of gun violence. 

Another potential option for sensible gun control is implementing red flag laws. A red flag is something that alerts you to a problem. Red flag laws would allow family members, law enforcement, or other concerned citizens to ask the court, that is, ask a judge, to remove guns from people who seem to pose a threat to the public or to themselves. Red flag laws have a lot of support even in Congress and are already in place in some states. But right now there is no coherent national system for red flag laws. If the United States was able to implement a nationwide red flag system, it would almost certainly help to reduce the number of guns in the hands of people that pose a risk to society. 

A third option is banning high capacity magazines. A magazine is also called a “clip”. That is, the piece of plastic that holds the bullets (the ammunition) for the gun. A high capacity magazine is simply a magazine that holds a lot of bullets, maybe 20 or more bullets. Of course, if a shooter is able to take 20 or more shots before reloading, this is going to allow them to do more damage. Eliminating this sort of high capacity magazine would make it more difficult for a shooter to inflict large numbers of casualties. They would have to reload every two or three shots, and this would slow down the assault and give law enforcement time to respond. Since hunting never requires more than two or three shots, this would not have any impact on lawful hunters, but it would have a positive impact on helping to fight back against the gun violence epidemic. 

The last option for gun control that we will discuss involves education and licensing. To me and to many people, it seems strange that in order to get my driver’s license (that is, in order to drive a car), I had to complete a class that taught how to drive safely – and then I had to complete 50 hours of practice driving – and then I had to pass a test with a driving instructor. And all of this was just to obtain my driver’s license! To buy a gun, you don’t have to do any training. No class, no practice, nothing. You can buy a gun at any time without any training from anyone that wants to sell you the gun. If you buy the gun at a store, you will have to have a quick background check. But again, there is no training. And you can walk into the store, buy the gun, and leave the store in maybe 30 minutes. To me, that does not make any sense. If the federal government were able to implement required gun safety education classes in order to buy a gun, it is easy to see how this would decrease the number of accidents and also allow more time for comprehensive background checks to be completed. And it would create a delay in how quickly someone can decide to purchase a gun and then go and purchase the gun. Having a delay of one or two weeks, or however long it takes to complete the gun education class, would limit the ability for someone to buy a gun on an impulse. For example, if they are angry or suicidal, right now they can decide to buy a gun, buy that gun, and use that gun in the same day. Having a delay would prevent that from happening so quickly and perhaps allow time for them to calm down or for friends, family, or law enforcement to intervene and prevent that person from purchasing a gun. 

Okay, so in my opinion, those are the easiest and most practical gun control options that we can implement today without “banning guns” and taking away the Second Amendment in our Constitution. Opponents of gun control, that is, people who do not want more gun control often claim that the Constitution allows them unrestricted access to firearms. This argument, however, does not make sense. All of our rights, including those listed in the Constitution, have limits. For example, we are guaranteed the right to free speech. But that does not mean that you can say anything, anywhere, to anyone, right? You cannot threaten someone’s life. You cannot scream “fire” in a crowded theater and cause an emergency. No, your right to free speech ends where other people’s rights begin. In the same way, the Second Amendment of our Constitution gives us the right to own firearms – but just like our other rights, this right is subject to reasonable limitations in order to protect the rights of our fellow citizens. So, in other words, one person’s right to own a gun ends when it impacts my right to go to the mall without being shot – or my children’s right to go to school without being worried about a mass shooting. I firmly believe that we can and will implement common sense gun control measures that will help fight back against this epidemic of mass shootings. And furthermore, I think we can do that without infringing on the constitutional right to own a gun. 

Alright, I hope you’ve enjoyed this conversation. I know this topic can be controversial and probably seems wild in countries where you do not have the right to own a gun, so I thought it would be a good topic for an episode. Hopefully this has been able to give you a better understanding of the gun control conversation in the United States and what some of the realistic options are to fight back against this epidemic of gun violence. 

Okay, thank you so much for listening to this entire episode. If you appreciate this free resource, please leave a review. That will help me immensely to connect with other folks just like you that are trying to become fluent in English. Don’t forget to listen to this episode multiple times. Active listening and spaced repetition will help you acquire English easily and automatically. And one last reminder: be sure to listen to English every single day! You have to stay consistent in order to acquire the language. Thanks again, and we will see you next time. Cheers!