September 26, 2018

Enough

Carolyn Hale '18, Social Media Editor-in-Chief

Two students hold signs advocating for gun reform at the high school's walkout on March 15.

Columbine. Newtown. Marshall County. Aztec. Parkland.

Nicholas Dworet had just received an academic scholarship from the University of Indiana. He was supposed to swim on the University’s team next fall. He was shot and killed with an AR-15 obtained legally by a mentally ill individual at Parkland High School. Preston Ryan Cope, fifteen, died at a trauma center after been fatally wounded by a handgun brought to school by his fifteen-year-old classmate at Marshall High School. Olivia Engel would be eleven years old, had she not been killed five years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School by a legally obtained rifle.

Las Vegas. Aurora. Pulse Nightclub. San Bernardino. Virginia Tech.

Sandy Casey never returned to her students at Manhattan Beach Middle school because she was shot at a country concert in Las Vegas by a semi-automatic weapon legally modified to fire like an automatic weapon. Peter González-Cruz was murdered using a legally-purchased high-capacity assault-style rifle in the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. Isaac Amanios immigrated from Eritrea to escape violence in 2000, but was still slaughtered in San Bernardino by a legally obtained rifle.

America is close to having one mass shooting a day, with too many of those being at schools. We might only be 38th out of 71 countries in math, but we rank number one in guns. 42% of  U.S. residents either owna gun or live in a household with someone who does. Three quarters of those who own a gun believe that it is essentially tied to their sense of personal freedom.With an over-saturation of guns comes too many tragedies. Enough is enough.

I am not a fan of guns. I never plan to own one. I am uncomfortable around them, and I don’t understand the fascination that some people have with them. However, I understand that certain types of guns are important to some people. For example, my boyfriend’s grandfather refurbishes Civil War rifles. I don’t see any reason why they should be taken away from him. My friend’s family owns guns for duck hunting. While I would be uncomfortable hunting ducks, it is something that they enjoy, and I believe that it is their right to own guns for that purpose. I don’t advocate for the removal of all guns; I advocate for their regulation and control.

The time for change has come, and it is pretty clear where we need to start. Ban semi-automatic weapons. Semi-automatic weapons are weapons that reload and fire a new round every time the trigger is pulled. hey are the  weapons that have been used time and time again in mass shootings, such as Parkland. Assault rifles are, by definition, used by the infantry. There is absolutely no reason for why a private citizen should have access to this type of weapon.  They were banned in the US from 1994 to 2004, and that ban should be re-instituted.

In addition, there is absolutely no reason why a private citizen should have access to bump stocks, used in the Las Vegas shooting, which can turn semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic weapons. One does not need a machine gun to go duck hunting or to defend oneself from an intruder.

Furthermore, the age at with someone can legally purchase a gun should be raised from 18 to 21 at a national level. Someone who cannot buy alcohol is not mature enough to buy a gun. As an 18 year old myself, I can attest to this.

Most importantly, background checks need to be expanded. If you are a law-abiding citizen without connections to terrorist organizations, mental health problems, domestic violence convictions, etc., then there is no reason why you would not pass one. Many people believe background checks to be an invasion of privacy. I don’t care. In fact, they should be invasive. A background check should dig up everything about your past because if you choose to purchase a machine which is only used for killing, you should go through a complete vetting process. Don’t want the government digging around in your business? Bully for you. I don’t feel like being shot to bits in math class.

So far, Congress has managed to blame everything but guns for America’s vast number of mass shootings. They have run the usual gauntlet after Parkland, blaming violent video games, desensitized media in general, and mental health. The rest of the world has access to the same video games and media that America does. However, the rest of the world has far fewer mass shootings. One can discover the variable responsible for a result by keeping as many variables the same as possible and recording the effect of the change in one. A New York Times article summarizes the different variables that could impact the number of mass shootings. The US is the same in most respects as other countries, such as the number of violent video games and the amount of people with mental illnesses. However, it has far more guns per capita than other places, and it also has more mass shootings. If this issue was about violent video games, all developed countries would have similar numbers of mass shootings because we all have access to a similar number of violent games. However, that is not the case. If this issue was just about mental health, then the US would have vastly more mentally unstable people than other countries. This, however, is not true. One can argue all they want the problem is compounded by the mentally ill and by violent video games, but the fact that this issue begins with guns is indisputable.

Since guns are causing so much damage to our country, there must be some really good reasons why people have them. Two arguments are usually presented as to why Americans “need” guns. One is the Second Amendment. The other is self defense. So, let’s take a look at the Second Amendment a little more closely. It states that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The founding fathers instituted this provision at a time when the only gun widely available was a musket. Muskets cannot be automatically reloaded, are generally wildly inaccurate, and can only typically be fired four times a minute. If one is adhering strictly to the Constitution, the true intent of the amendment only applies to muskets, not other types of guns, as they were not available at the time. The founding fathers knew nothing of bump-stocks and assault rifles; therefore, how could they include a provision that applies to them? To ban guns that did not even exist at the time the amendment was written is therefore incapable of being an infringement on the amendment itself.

In addition, the amendment was instituted at a time when the notion that a group of farmers rising up against the government wasn’t laughable. It is incredibly unlikely that one of the freest countries in the world would turn around and try and enslave its own people. However, in an alternate reality where that does occur, it doesn’t matter how many assault rifles someone has in a bunker; the U.S. military has a yearly budget of 600 billion dollars and enough firepower to level the entire world if it chose to. I don’t care how great of a shot anyone thinks they are, nothing is going to win against a Trident II D5 missile, let alone an AR-15.

The other common arguments are that one needs guns to defend oneself from intruders. Without even going into the fact that you are more likely to be injured or killed by your own gun than use it for defense, or the fact that if a gun is properly secured it is virtually unusable for self defense, semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles are unnecessary for both. Life isn’t like Call of Duty; you don’t need to fire a hundred rounds to neutralize a threat.

In fact, if lawmakers really believed this issue was about mental health, then we as a country would be making impactful change in the way that we treat mental health. However, the Trump administration and the republicans rolled back laws surrounding the mentally ill acquiring guns. Although not the root of the issue, the mentally ill owning guns is part of the problem. However, it is not enough to identify a problem without attempting to come up with a solution.

While the members of Congress have not managed to come up with legislation around guns, they have had the time to accept exorbitant amounts of money from the NRA. Big names such as Marco Rubio and Rand Paul have both accepted thousands of dollars from the NRA. The full list can be found here. As people at the high school begin to turn 18, it is important that we begin to use our right to vote as a way to make change and remove these people from office, instead of using our right to buy a gun. As Jim Jeffries said, society has to move as slow as the slowest person. While the average person in America might not be one bad day away from committing a mass shooting, that doesn’t matter because we have to account for all the people that are.

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