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A shooter opens fire on a group of innocent civilians: the country is shocked, people post on social media and send their thoughts and prayers, a memorial is held and broadcasted for the entire world to see, elected officials promise to implement change, and ultimately, nothing happens. After a few weeks the event has been forgotten until the next shooting occurs, and we repeat the same process. Sound familiar?
Red Lake (9 killed). Aurora (12 killed). Binghamton (13 killed). Columbine (13 killed). San Bernardino (14 killed). Sandy Hook Elementary (27 killed). Virginia Tech (32 killed). Pulse Nightclub (50 killed). Las Vegas (59 killed). Hundreds more wounded. And now Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed and 14 wounded, among them teachers and students. The shooter, 19 year old Nikolas Cruz, opened fire using an AR-15 rifle in the high school.
He had been identified as a possible threat by Florida Department of Children and Family Services more than a year prior to the massacre, yet was ultimately decided not to be a risk. The FBI noted that they had received a tip on Cruz, though it was never sent to the correct department and was ultimately ignored.
In 2018 alone, the United States has been witness to 18 school shootings and 30 mass shootings. The events that transpired on February 14th were not the first of its kind, and yet, the American government continues to falter on creating legislation that can adequately prevent events like these from ever happening again. The current administration has done little to alleviate gun laws, even signing a bill on February 28th, 2017 to make it easier for individuals with mental illnesses to purchase guns.
The pivot on the Obama era legislation took as many as 75,000 individuals off of the national background check database.
And yes, while mental health issues only contribute to mass shootings 4% of the time, the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School could have been avoided, as the shooter may have been on that list and subject to further background tests.
But this is not just a mental health issue, this is a gun control issue.
America is home to more mass shootings than any other country, with events happening so regularly they have practically become routine. In fact, since the devastating massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2013, where 20 children aged 6-7 as well as 6 adults were killed, there have been an average of 5 school shootings every month.
America not only has more mass shootings, its citizens hold more guns than any other country. On average, Americans own 42% of the world’s guns, while only accounting for 4.4% of the world’s population.
In other countries, mass shootings generally lead to strict policy implementation that creates a safer country. On April 28, 1996, a gunman opened fire in Port Arthur, Tasmania, killing 35 and injuring 23.
Less than two weeks later, Australia’s government enacted gun-control measures, had a buyback of more than half a million semi-automatic rifles and guns, prevented private sales and made sure each gun owner registered and had reason for gun ownership.
According to a Reuters report, between the years of 1996 and 2016, the possibility of being killed by gunshot fell by 72%.
After the gun buy back, there was no increase in non-firearm related homicides. Before the laws were enacted, there were 11 mass shootings in the country, since then, there has not been one. Reports from the CDC have shown that the US has approximately 10,000 gun homicides per year, while Australia has less than 300.
In the UK, similar laws are in place against semi-automatic guns. According to a 2011 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the UK had a gun homicide rate of 0.07 deaths per 100,000 people, while the US had a gun homicide rate of 3 deaths per 100,000 people.
Many Americans support stricter gun law. A poll by Gallup found that, on average, a majority of Americans who are unhappy with gun policies want stricter legislation. And yet, after every mass shooting, no new policies are put into place. It is not that anti-gun people are not speaking out, rather, it is that the NRA and pro-gun supporters have a louder voice.
The NRA continuously campaigns for more relaxed gun laws, spending millions on lobbying and donations to elected officials. The NRA gives power to people and groups who are against gun control, and with each shooting they continue to spread misinformation that perpetuates the idea of gun ownership.
They believe all it takes to “stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” However, according to a study conducted by the FBI, in 160 active shootings between the years of 2000 and 2013, only 1 was stopped by an armed civilian. 2 were stopped by by off duty police, 4 by armed guards, 21 by unarmed civilians, and the rest by law enforcement.
Another common argument states that criminals would not be discouraged by laws. Yet, many mass shooters aren’t engaged in criminal behavior before they go on a killing spree. Having harsher regulations would make it more difficult for potential shooters to get their hands on guns. Even if restricting the ability to purchase guns only slightly deters criminal behavior, it could potentially save lives.
If the government truly wants to stop gun violence, they need to put partisan issues aside and create policy proposals and programs to reduce civilian gun ownership. Lobbying groups need to stop having so much say in legislation, especially with an issue as imperative as gun control. Gun control should no longer be considered a partisan issue.
When Americans are being gunned down on a regular basis in places once believed to be safe—their schools, their churches, their hometowns—it becomes an issue of national security and wellbeing.
The issue has grown beyond petty politics, it has become an epidemic. If America is truly the home of the free, people should be able to live their lives without the fear of being killed.
How much is too much? Many thought that after the massacre at Sandy Hook, the loss of all those children’s lives would be enough to incite change. But nothing happened. In fact, after each mass shooting, there has been a surprising lack of change. It is clear that legislators will do little regarding the current gun culture in the US, which is why the fight for gun control has fallen on us.
The only way to create more gun regulation is to influence policy makers. If you are shocked by mass shootings and want to contribute to change, contact your representative.
Send letters, call their offices, protest outside their workplace. If your representative is a stubborn gun-supporter, support a candidate who is trying to become your new representative. Canvass, get out the vote, join a campaign. The 2018 midterms elections are coming, and now is the perfect time to influence policy.
After all, why does a person’s right to bear arms trump a person’s right to live?
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