Why does America have more mass shootings than any other nation? Why do we have 7,000 people killed due to an assault with the use of a firearm… in one year? Why are we the only country in history to loosen gun laws after multiple heart-wrenching tragedies, which were all gun-related? These are the kind of questions many of us ask every day, and the kind of questions we must continue to ask. The United States of America has always thrived and become reputable as a nation that works to the best interest of the people, and one that will do anything and everything possible to protect every last individual it houses…so why then, is this the same country that allows hundreds of thousands to die at the bloodied hands of gun-driven injustice?
Gun violence is an important issue that we face today, as a nation. Its imminence is justified though, due to the simple fact that matters involving guns are, very literally, life and death matters. Guns allow opportunity for many horrifying actions, when we are not responsible and do not do what we can as a democratic body, to look out for those whose lives are potentially in danger.
We first need to take a look at the issue that is widely accepted, even among those in support of “exercising their 2nd amendment rights”, which is, how to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. What can we do to keep criminals, or ill-intentioned individuals from acquiring deadly firearms? Even if we were to pass new legislation making it more difficult to obtain guns, this wouldn’t stop criminals… right? They’re criminals, and they’ll find ways to get guns either way, they don’t care about the law… right? Despite what you might think, these assumptions are actually false. Studies conducted have shown that criminals do, to a degree, respect stronger laws and regulations. This doesn’t mean they would not try to acquire guns in some other form of black or gray market, but it also does not mean that more intense regulation and enforcement of extra background checks would be completely ineffective. Other than this, one of the most important actions we must take to ensure a safer society, is to close the gun show and online loopholes for acquiring guns. Currently in America, sellers of firearms are required to run background checks, but not all sellers are required to be licensed, and unlicensed sellers take advantage of this by selling guns to someone who would otherwise not be able to legally obtain a weapon, at a gun show. Private sellers of guns do not have to meet the same requirements as others. These sellers are not only present at gun shows either. In fact, many experts believe a more accurate name for the loop in the law would be the “Private Sale Loophole”, because it allows for unlicensed private sellers of guns, to sell to someone who has not undergone the proper background checks. Allowing for private sellers to give someone access to firearms without requiring the proper background checks and registration, is unacceptable. This gap in the law allows for criminals to obtain guns with ease and not be looked at twice until it’s too late. We cannot continue to allow these gaps in our legislation to tear apart the great families of this nation, by taking from them their children, their parents, their brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. We must continue to push towards more secure gun legislation, for the safety and peace of mind of every American citizen.
Open carry in America has become quite a hot topic, because of its prevalence and states continuing to pass legislation permitting the open carry of firearms. Thirty-one states currently allow the open carry of a handgun without any license or permit, and fifteen states require some form of license and registration to openly carry a handgun. Despite the perceived new freedoms that open carry permits us, the open carry of handguns brings with it an abundance of new problems.For one, open carry inevitably leads to panic in areas where open carry is less common. These people who are in fear of their lives will obviously call police, which in turn will result in wasted law enforcement resources. The fact also remains that, while many think open carry exists as a smart way to prevent crimes from happening, it simply does not provide that in the majority of cases. A study conducted by students of the Harvard Medical School concluded in saying that, “We found no support for the hypothesis that owning more guns leads to a drop or a reduction in violent crime, instead we found the opposite.” In fact, studies conducted the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, found that higher gun ownership is directly correlated to higher homicide rates. The same study conducted by Harvard found that, when variables such as demographic, population density and median household income were controlled and accounted for, on a state-by-state basis, firearm assaults were 6.8 times more common in states with more guns versus states who had less, and firearm homicide was 2.8 times more likely. Alarming, right? This, and many more studies, would do very well to refute and disprove any idea that criminals may be intimidated, or crime may be prevented altogether, if we simply own more guns. Not only does open carry NOT lower the possibility of crime in the area around an individual legally carrying a weapon, but it may also put their life in danger as well. In an open carry state, a criminal may not have to go far to find an inattentive citizen legally carrying a handgun. This now means the life of the civilian and the lives of everyone around them has been put in danger, because of this citizen who was exercising their right to carry.
Accidental gun deaths in the United States, has become an increasingly important issue, that continues to cost us the lives of unsuspecting children everywhere. Nearly 1.7 million children live in a household where there is a handgun which is either loaded or not locked away. Irresponsible parenting and a lack of necessary caution, led to 265 children in 2015 alone, finding a gun and using it to shoot themselves or someone else. Of all these incidents, 83 were tragically fatal. Incidents like the one of a 2-year-old child in Indianapolis, who fatally shot himself using a handgun found in his mother’s unattended purse. This is one of many heart-wrenching cases of children who we have lost, due to a parent’s inability to take the necessary precautions that all gun owners must take. There are programs we can initiate in an effort to help prevent tragedies like this from happening, including teaching parents how to properly store guns and teaching children about gun safety in public schools. We also need to create legislation for holding parents more accountable for not properly storing away handguns. New technology may exist in the future which allows for guns to only be “unlocked” or used by the owner of the gun, but until then, we must take it upon ourselves to be more responsible in our actions and take more precautions when handling and owning a lethal weapon.
Now that we are aware of the ramifications of not controlling our guns to the extent that they should, what do we have to benefit from stricter gun laws? First, stricter gun laws reduce violent crime. As stated earlier by a Harvard study, an increase in guns raises homicide rates, and a decrease in guns would be to the contrary, as expected. Widespread gun restrictions and regulation would provide many benefits, even economically. A study conducted by the Pacific Institute of Research found that gun violence costs the United States Government 5.5 billion in lost tax revenues annually, 4.7 billion in court costs, 1.4 billion in Medicare and Medicaid costs, 200 million in mental health care for victims and 224 million in insurance claims. These extra costs can take more away from other necessary causes, and could be cut marginally, with stricter gun laws. Stricter gun laws would, all in all, make America a safer place for everyone.
What do I mean by “stricter”, specifically? The first step in making America safer, would be to place a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons, and restrict magazines of more than 10 rounds, as an attempt to prevent murders from turning into mass murders. We must also fix the background check system to create a more secure, safe way to keep the guns out of the hands of high-risk individuals. Next, we need to close the enormous loopholes in legislation that are allowing unlicensed sellers to put guns in the hands of unlicensed buyers. Finally, we must do what we can to help protect the children of gun-owning families and continue research to promote more advancements in our understanding of gun violence and what we must do to prevent it.
As you already know, America is struggling tremendously when it comes to the subject of gun violence. There is still an immense amount of work to be done to achieve the change we so desperately seek, but as always, our potential for reform is limitless and that fact will never cease to retain its validity, as long as we come together as one body, for a common cause, and do everything we can to end gun violence in America, for a safer, more prosperous nation that we were all meant to live in.