88 Every Day
On February 14, 2018, a live shooter entered into Stoneman Douglas High School and proceeded to kill 17 of his former classmates along with injuring 17 others. Since the hours of this tragedy, proponents and opponents of guns and gun control have entered the media in an attempt to prevent future tragedies such as this from occurring. The culture of the debate results in extremism on both sides that leads to no progress. Gun control opponents don’t want to see more school shootings. Gun control proponents don’t want to take away every gun from every citizen. To make progress, we need to analyze effects of guns on our communities and families and break away from our gun culture to allow for more gun control laws that promote safety for everybody.
The debate on gun control is an increasingly sensitive topic that dates clear back to December 15, 1791, when the Bill of Rights was ratified. Within the Bill of Rights was amendment 2 “The right to Bear Arms.” This constitutional amendment is often a foundation of the debate. Within the amendment, it is stated that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Many people ask: Is this amendment outdated? Is it just right? Answers to these questions seem to vary widely among the citizens of the US. When the United States began enacting laws about gun control in the early 1900s, states were banning handguns but shortly after let up on those restrictions. The laws were held off until the 1930’s when the National Firearms Act and Firearms Freedom Act came about. These laws ended up only banning “odd” guns such as sawed-off shotguns and machine guns. Additionally, the NFA and FFA imposed a tax on firearms and required people to register their guns. Following the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Congress passed the Gun Control Act. This law regulates the buying and selling of firearms to be only through appropriate dealers. However much of these laws were marginalized, especially after the emergence of the pro-gun lobby that developed in the 1980’s. The last major legislation in regards to Gun Control was passed during the Clinton administration over 20 years ago (Vizzard).
In the last 20 years since the last major gun control legislation, the US has accumulated quite a few alarming statistics regarding guns. The rate of murder or manslaughter by firearm is the highest in the developed world. There were more than 11,000 deaths as a result of murder or manslaughter involving a firearm in 2016. In 2014 33,594 people were killed by a gun. This number is much larger than murder or manslaughter because of the added suicides, (21,386) accidents, and war casualties (Accidents+War Casualties=1200). Additionally “There have been 1.4 million US firearm deaths from 1968 to 2011, compared with the number of US military deaths (1.2 million) in every armed conflict from the Revolutionary War to the invasion of Iraq” (Younge 12-15). More Americans are being killed by guns on our own soil than away.
The problem of guns and violence extends far beyond the all to frequent mass shootings. “Although the media focuses on mass shootings, 88 Americans die every day from gunshot wounds as a result of suicide or homicide. Gun violence disproportionately occurs in communities experiencing social and economic inequities, including residential racial segregation and concentrated poverty” (Santilli et al. 374-379). The conversation about guns unfortunately often gets set aside after these major mass shootings. These families that are being torn apart every single day by gun violence don’t often have the opportunity to express their feelings and the problems with guns in their neighborhoods. In Younge’s article he says “Almost all of [the families] believed that guns were too readily available; none believed there was anything that could be done about it.” Because so many of these experiences are discrete and media isn’t recognizing their struggles they fail to gain a following within the gun-control movement. Additional opportunities would be able to help these communities if they were given the chance to let their voice be heard. Gun buyback programs, rehab, reentry programs, violence interruption interventions, and better gun carrying laws will all help these low-income communities overcome the violence they experience (Santilli et al. 374-379).
Research has begun on the effects of having a gun in the home for children. The early findings suggest that there is a correlation between aggressive tendencies and having a gun present in the home. “The American Academy of Pediatrics, for instance, has a clear-cut recommendation with respect to child safety and firearms: remove guns from children’s homes” (Lian, Abiero, and Kamara 301-309). Most people that own a gun will claim that they own it to feel safer and to fight back in case of an emergency. However, these findings may suggest that there is an opposite relationship going on when they are bringing a gun into the home of their children. There is certainly more research that is needed and no simple solution to this problem of safety, however there are some things that have been shown to work in helping with the issue of gun violence (Lian, Abiero, and Kamara 301-309).
“Nukes don't kill people — people kill people — and, to protect myself, I need a nuke” (Pace). The culture in the United States seems to foster the idea that guns make you powerful and they are very important and integral to the safety of our society. Many people buy guns and display them as badges of honor. Others feel the need to get defensive when people are trying to find solutions when guns kill people (Exum). Recently, many of the students from the recent Florida shooting have taken very active stances in the debate on gun control. As these teenagers fight against the tools that killed their classmates, the internet and proponents of guns have attacked the kids personal lives and credibility. The culture is such that any opposition is met with a fierce ad hominem argument (Ohleiser). The fact of the matter is that it’s uncomfortable for people to recognize the part they are playing in the horrible things going on in our schools (Exum).
Organizations are doing their absolute best to keep making money and keep the culture that they desire. Despite the number of deaths each year due to gun violence, the National Rifle Association (NRA) campaigns against all forms of gun control in the US . It is among the most powerful lobby groups in the US, with a substantial budget to influence members of Congress on gun policy. The NRA spends about 3 million dollars a year on lobbying with additional millions elsewhere to support the campaigns of candidates who are pro-gun (BBC). The NRA holds conventions across the nation frequently promoting their pro-gun agenda. They teach that the troubles of this world will harm their families and the only thing that we can do to protect ourselves is to have the appropriate firearm (Younge).
Robert C. Gay, who was previously the managing director, co-founder, and CEO of Huntsman Gay Global Capital, a multi-billion dollar company, once said “Culture eats purpose for breakfast.” and “Every breakthrough is a break from (Gay). No matter how many school shootings we encounter, or daily deaths because of guns we will never change unless we change our culture. The only way we can see a breakthrough is by following the example of countries like Australia who recognized the importance of safety and protecting citizens and enacted laws that promoted that.
Implementing stricter Gun Control laws has proved to be an effective tool in helping solve the issue of gun violence. In 1996 Australia experienced a mass shooting. Following the shooting, the Aussies implemented stricter gun control laws and initiated a buyback program for firearms. The laws required prospective gun buyers to take a class and subject themselves to random checks to make sure that their guns are in a safe location. Since the 1996 shooting, they have not had another mass shooting. Many other European countries have followed this same pattern of stricter gun-control laws and have seen the same success that Australia has had.
Germany has 1.5 million gun owners with 5.5 million weapons. Germans view ownership as a privilege, not a right. Germans must prove that they are capable of owning a gun and a safety program in place to store their guns. Germans who own guns own them for a specific reason not just because it is a right. The US constitution as it is currently constructed has limitations that prevent us from implementing such measures. None of these successful countries decided to take guns completely away from the people. However, they do not believe that owning a gun is an inherent right. They believe that their citizens have to prove that they are somebody who is capable of owning a gun for a good reason and with every safety precaution put into place.
Perhaps one day the US could follow suit and implement stricter gun control laws. An emphasis on providing safety and taking classes are small ways to help that can make a big difference. Additional follow up like what is done in Australia would also help protect US citizens from gun violence. Despite the results of other countries, the general public opinion is not a majority to enact stricter gun control in the US as Australia’s public opinion was in 1996. As a result, Australia has not had to deal with these tragedies while the US rate of mass killings has increased by 3 times (Terrades 399-423).
Gun control is a complicated issue. There have been attempts in the past to help protect the citizens. Research has been conducted and is showing the ill effects of guns on society. The only chance that we as citizens have in the future is to break from the traditions that we have been apart of and to stick up for our children and the safety of our country. An often used phrase is “Guns don’t kill people--People kill people.” This phrase is used to show that guns aren’t the real problem. Which is correct--guns aren’t the main problem, however, guns are a problem. Their purpose is to end life. Guns kill more people in a year in the US than cars do. Cars aren’t designed to kill people, but they do, and so they are regulated heavily, with VIN numbers, mandatory insurance, license plates, and safety requirements (Brezenoff). Why is it so hard then to regulate guns to provide more safety?
Solutions to the problems plaguing the United States is to enforce stricter background checks, hold gun safety classes for gun purchases, have gun owners prove their need for a gun and their willingness to safely store their weapons, and to allow for random checks. These structural elements if added will allow the United States more safety and security. Australia has proved that implementing these structures will decrease the amount of people who are killed each year. Additionally, other countries in Europe, like Germany, have implemented these practices with similar positive results.
The 2nd amendment doesn’t protect us from tyranny. We protect ourselves. We can protect our families and loved ones. We can make choices that allow us to have joy. The way to help solve the problem of gun violence in the US is to change the culture and enforce stricter gun laws. “Guns don’t stop tyranny — people do” (Brezenoff). Works Cited: “America's Gun Culture in 10 Charts.” BBC News, BBC, 21 Mar. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/world-us-