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Given the tragic school shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School a couple of weeks ago, the topic of gun control has been all over the news. The disgusting, cowardice and violent act — which left 17 dead, 14 wounded and traumatized thousands more — is the latest reminder that, what happened in Parkland, FL, is all too frequent in our society. When parents are afraid to send their kids to school, things must be done to protect everyone.
It's the 18th such tragedy of 2018; only 40-some days into the calendar year. To label these depraved acts of violence anything other than such is to condemn human life. Since 1980, there have been over 137 fatal school shootings. It’s not like this is some sort of war zone, these are schools! And for all those reasons, America is forced to rehash the all too common conversation about gun control. It's why people like Jimmy Kimmel, who has a public forum and wide audience, addressed the issue on his TV show. Plenty of others are doing the same.
When it comes to gun control, there’s no right or wrong answer. Some call for banning all guns, while others respond that it’s not the guns that kill people, it’s the people. They have a point. Both sides. But, as Chris Rock alludes to in Tambourine; you don’t see any of these tragedies happening with knives. I don’t bring up comedy because I find any of this funny, but, behind every joke, there’s truth. There’s weight to that notion, yet, again, we’re left reeling, as a nation, with how to handle a bad situation.
Blame the system! Blame the Right! Blame the Left! It’s easy to blame bullying or mental illness, but the truth of the matter is, that those things have been around forever, and school shootings are a relatively new phenomenon. There’s a whole lot of blame to go around, but not a lot of solutions. So, where do we stand on the issues of gun control? Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly.
It’s hard to argue against tightening gun control laws, especially when polls have shown that the majority of Americans wanting to do so is at an all-time high. 54 percent of Americans support very strict gun laws, with that number rising to as high as 91 percent when it comes to logical precautions like required background checks for those looking to purchase one.
Our second amendment gives us the right to bear arms. It’s simply one of the key beliefs that our forefathers wanted to protect, and for good reason. What they feared then, and it’s just as rational a thought today, is the idea of government having complete power. Our second amendment secures a well-armed militia, should the government abuse it’s power. Yet, the second amendment doesn’t impede most laws aimed to reduce gun violence. The Supreme Court’s landmark Heller decision in 2008 established that a broad range of gun control are “presumptively lawful,” and the court has driven this point home repeatedly.
When it comes to the citizens of the United States, support for gun control is pretty bipartisan. Even with controversial legislations such as reinstating the assault weapons ban, roughly half of Republicans are in favor, along with a majority of Democrats/Independents. In other words, "the people" are largely pro-gun control — it’s the politicians who aren’t, and nothing can get done without their support.
Even so, lower court decisions have created a system of loose restrictions on gun control laws that congress seems to allow, despite the continued violence. Staring congress in the face is a straightforward issue — America has a huge gun violence problem. Our country has more gun deaths than any other developed nation. The U.S. has nearly six times the gun homicide rate of Canada, more than seven times that of Sweden, and nearly 16 times that of Germany, according to United Nations data, per The Guardian.
The other problem is that our nation has far more guns circulating than any other country in the world. Americans make up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet own 42 percent of the world’s privately held firearms. Estimated in 2007, the number of civilian owned-guns were 88.8 guns per 100 people — nearly one privately owned gun per American, which far and wide leads the world. Only Yemen, a state torn by civil war, even comes close to that figure at 54.8 guns per 100 civilians. And there is a direct correlation between more guns equaling more homicides, as made clear by research from Harvard Injury Control Research Center.
When looking at the statistics, it’s clear that something needs to be done, but the political waters are choppy. The Republicans depend on support from the powerful gun lobby and have every reason not to bend. Having taken so many political hits on gun politics over the last two decades, the Democrats have little incentive to try and initiate change either. It all boils down to votes, and that’s where this gets really ugly.
The Republican intransigence on stricter gun control stems from fear of losing the backing of the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA once took a bi-partisan approach, supporting members of either party it trusted with its best interest. But those days are long gone, and now the NRA is all-in on the GOP. The NRA draws its power not only from its deep pockets — pockets that far exceed the spending of any other non-profit in the United States — but also from its unparalleled grassroots support. The NRA boast a membership of nearly five million, and is tremendous at mobilizing its base.
There are numerous examples of Republicans supporting harsher gun laws, and, when it happens, the NRA isn't quick to forget. To put it bluntly: Any move to tighten restrictions becomes a simple rallying cry from the NRA, arguing that "they want to take our guns," thus ending support for any candidate who tries to cross them.
The places change, the figures change, the reasons change, but the choice of weapon always remains the same. The ugliest side of this story is that mass shootings and school shooting are only a small slice of the total gun deaths. There have been 21 deaths due to mass shootings so far in 2018; in that same time frame, there have been over 1,827 gun-related deaths. These deaths don’t live as isolated statistics. These people had lives. The impact of these senseless killings spread like an intricate web to the far-reaching corners of the world. The deaths of these people impact families, communities, cities and this whole nation.
With no war on our soil, and no enemy at our border, the staggering and climbing rate of gun violence only point out how unsafe we really are in our country. Isn’t it time we did something?
Lead image via YouTube.