What we mean when we say gun control

We live with the knowledge that a person can walk into a school or any public place with a military-grade weapon purchased legally and shoot a massive amount of people. According to The Washington Post, a shooting on a college or high school campus occurs once a week on average in the United States. We are now facing the 17th school shooting of the year and we have to ask, why is this still happening?

As Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler points out in his open letter to Portland students, there is a cycle. We hear about the mass shooting, we feel sadness and send prayers and then do nothing.  

According to CNN, since the beginning of 2018, 17 shootings have occurred on school campuses. Two of those qualify as mass shootings and injured more than 15 people. On Jan. 23 in Benton, Ky., a teen shot and injured 16 people, killing two. On Valentine’s Day, a teen in Florida killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. According to Time, between 1982 and 2017, there have been 91 mass shooting events, with 722 deaths and 1,177 injuries, with the highest numbers of deaths and injuries occuring after 2000.

Guns used in previous school shootings were acquired legally by the shooter or a relative of the shooter. It has now been proven the answer isn’t more guns and better guns. The answer is no automatic rifle style weapons, semi-automatic or automatic weapons and bump stocks.

The Second Amendment states “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 idea behind this amendment was to allow people the right to defend themselves, their property and families against a tyrannical government. In many cases, it also meant a way for people to hunt for their family’s dinner.

Today, gun enthusiasts collect all manner of firearms meant to do much more that act as protection or hunt animals. Any person without a criminal or psychological blip on their records is able to buy a military-grade assault weapon that can and has been used multiple times to kill people, including children. The fact is, the Second Amendment was written with the musket rifles and handguns of the day in mind and not the semi-automatic military-grade weaponry—in addition to handguns and shotguns—we now have.

Gun activists, specifically the National Rifle Association, have largely stayed silent after mass shootings. However, with growing demand to ban assault weapons, the NRA has decided to now take their stand. After the Florida massacre, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA spoke out against democrats and school security. CNN reported that LaPierre called democrats socialists and blamed the death toll in school shootings on school security. He claims those who will suffer from stricter gun laws are the law-abiding citizens. However, the truth of the matter is democrats are saying no more semi-automatic rifles, no more bump stocks and more in-depth psychological testing for prospective gun buyers.

There are examples of strong gun control working to keep the population safe. In the UK, gun laws are locked down. It is almost impossible to gain a license to carry or own a gun, although over 100,000 people do own shotguns and handguns. According to BBC, gun control was started by two tragedies: “Michael Ryan’s massacre of 16 people in Hungerford in 1987…Nine years later, Thomas Hamilton killed 16 schoolchildren and their teacher when he opened fire at a school in Dunblane.” These tragedies led to the banning of both semi-automatic and handguns. Since then, shootings are significantly down.

After a mass shooting in Australia with an AR-15 in 1986 that killed 35 people and wounded 18 others, Australia decided to ban military-grade weapons across the board. According to Fortune, there has not been one shooting since the ban was placed. As for freedom: Australians are still allowed to have guns but not  military-grade assault weapons.

There is something to be learned from these shootings and the examples set by the UK and Australia. Gun control is not a matter of stifling our Second Amendment rights; it is about keeping us, our families and the next generation of children safe. We don’t need a ban on all guns. We simply need to ban the military style semi-automatic assault weapons. We need stronger background checks and more in-depth psychological screening for potential gun owners. It is not about tyranny or governmental control; it is about our own safety.