The Need For Improved Gun Control
Gun control, a widely debated topic throughout the United States, is an extremely partisan issue, with many Republicans supporting open access to guns while many Democrats want more checks and restrictions. The inability to come to an agreement at the federal level has led to gun control laws widely varying by state. There are laws regarding permits, registration, background checks, open carry, specific types of guns, and more. Some states allow for almost immediate access to guns without much inquiry while other states are more restrictive in who can buy them, how long the waiting period needs to be, and having extensive and detailed background checks.
The most recent mass shootings in Atlanta, Boulder, and Indianapolis are clear indicators of a need for better gun control laws and the fact that gun violence has been steadily increasing throughout the United States. 2020 had over 19,000 deaths attributed to gun violence, which is the highest number in the last 20 years. Additionally, there were 24,000 deaths from suicide using a gun. Sadly, this year, the trend has not improved as we have averaged one mass shooting a day or a total of 147 shootings as of April 16th. In this case, a mass shooting is defined as when four or more people are shot or killed, not including the shooter.
The shooter in Boulder, who had a record of a misdemeanor assault, was able to obtain and buy a semi-automatic rifle just six days prior to the attack. He was then able to use this gun to kill ten people. These semi-automatic weapons, which automatically reload but require pushing the trigger for each shot, can make mass shootings such as these even easier to carry out. It is also important to note that assault weapons such as the one the shooter purchased were initially banned in Boulder. However, this law was struck down by the state just a few days before the shooter was able to purchase his gun as only the state, not municipalities, can enforce gun laws. Seven states and the District of Columbia have banned these types of weapons.
The shooter in Atlanta, who killed 8 people, obtained a gun just hours before the shooting spree with absolutely no waiting period, allowing him to buy a gun immediately and act on impulse. No waiting period can also mean that not as much care is taken to determining if the person should actually be able to buy a gun. This can lead to relevant information about whether or not a person should actually be able to buy a gun, such as their ability to handle a firearm, being overlooked. It is interesting to note that in Georgia, a firearm can be immediately purchased with no waiting period, but the right to vote, a fundamental part of our democratic system, does not allow someone to vote the same day they register.
In Indianapolis, the shooter had shown prior mental health problems. His mother had contacted the authorities in fear that he would hurt himself, and the gun was seized. Indiana has red flag laws, which can allow the police to confiscate firearms from people who are deemed by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others as well as prevent the person from purchasing new guns. However, the law has its shortcomings. There is not much time to build a case, and a lack of access to mental health records can make the implementation of the law difficult, so the guns were later returned to the shooter, who was able to then kill eight people.
As of 2016, the US had the 2nd highest worldwide gun death rate and 20th as a percentage of the population. If we look at other countries that have passed much stronger gun control laws, such as Britain, Japan, or Australia, we can see the positive effects of better regulation. Some require a person to go through gun safety programs or even a doctor’s signature to say that you are mentally fit to be able to operate a firearm. In the US, on the other hand, they require a surface background check, and sometimes not even that in private sales.
Gun rights advocates reference the 2nd amendment, which states, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It was originally created in 1791 to allow citizens to fight back against the British government. Our country has changed so much since then, including no longer being ruled by England or having to worry about protecting against them. Others cite the need to defend oneself, but creating more restrictive gun control regulations would not prevent this. If a person is properly trained and mentally fit, then they would still be able to own a gun in case of this need. Many also say that it is the people that commit the shooting, not the guns, and more help for mental health should be done. However, these two are not mutually exclusive, and creating a more safe system to purchase and own a gun will help to prevent these shootings as well.
I’m not saying that no one should have guns. My conclusion is that more care and precautions can be taken regarding who is allowed to obtain these guns. Common sense principles should be established throughout the entire country. For example, individuals with prior violent incidents should not have the ability to purchase a gun, longer gun purchase waiting periods should be established that allow for thorough and complete background checks, and access to semi-automatic weapons should be prohibited. Changing these laws would not prevent a properly trained and mentally capable citizen from buying a gun; it would create an environment in which it would be more difficult for dangerous people to obtain firearms, and in turn, save lives.