Gun control legislation has been at the front of everyone’s mind over the past several months. A rash of bills and laws were put into effect following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. Although it is easy to point a finger at the weaponry used, one man’s horrific crime should not be enough to condemn an entire population of law abiding citizens. The quick implementation of laws following the incident, and the subsequent outcry from gun control supporters, left a lot to be desired.

The statute passed in New York by Governor Cuomo limited the number of rounds in a weapon to seven, not accounting for government issued police weapons, which have an eight-round magazine. The fact that the law passed so quickly that it forgot about law enforcement should be an indicator that these are rash actions that could be detrimental to the overall goal. The police should always serve as a role model to the citizens that they protect by following all laws, and this law made that impossible.

Although hand guns have gained a lot of attention in this battle, more attention has been placed on the use and ownership of assault weapons. Much propaganda has been used to convince the American public that these weapons are dangerous and that they need to be regulated more strictly. What is often not reported is that there was an assault weapons ban from 1994 to 2004 in the United States. This ban proved ineffective, with an increase in the number of mass shootings during that period. The assault weapons ban did not decrease gun crime because the criminals who perpetrate these crimes do not follow gun laws.

Citizens that legally own guns are almost never the perpetrators of such crimes. Further, when citizens legally own handguns, it deters those who would otherwise commit violent crimes. Criminals are less likely to attack someone if there is a chance that the person is armed and prepared to defend themselves.

What we need is not punishment and regulation of those people who legally own and use guns. What we need is swift prosecution and sentencing for those people who illegally use firearms. By instituting these new gun control measures the government is creating criminals out of law abiding citizens. By making certain types of guns or types of magazines illegal, they are creating a black market for these items that did not previously exist. Things like ammunition and weaponry that can be traced through records of sale will now end up in black market trade, which makes them harder to trace and easier for criminals to acquire.

The law is meant to punish those who commit crimes, not to punish those who have not done anything wrong by simply owning a firearm. Guns are tools. In the wrong hands anything can become a tool for criminal activity and death. We don’t feel the need to enact laws about kitchen knives, although they account for around 10,000 deaths per year in America, so why should firearms be any different? Guns are not dangerous when used appropriately, and we don’t fear them when they are in the hands of police officers or military personnel.

Education is the key. Instead of removing these tools from the population, we should educate people about how to properly handle their weapons and empower people to stand up for justice themselves. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people, and we need to focus our attention on fixing that problem, not on punishing those who already follow the law.