In light of the recent tragedy in Las Vegas, Nevada, it is clear that the US is in need of a wake-up call. Over and over, American citizens hear on the news of another mass shooting, or in some cases, tragedies aren’t widely publicized. The public seems to go into a short period of despair with people sending “thoughts” and “prayers” for victims of gun violence, but again and again, nothing changes.
At the moment in the United States, gun laws vary depending on the state, but federal law states that no person under the age of 18 may possess a handgun or handgun ammunition, but places no restriction on long guns or long gun ammunition, such as shotguns. In New York, you must be 21 years old, or have an honorable discharge from the army in order to obtain a legal firearms permit. However, 31 states allow the open carrying of a handgun without any license or permit. This means in 31 out of 50 states, there is absolutely no criteria for owning a gun, aside from being 18 years of age or older. In this day and age, with the constant news of shootings, why haven’t Americans done anything to change these clearly failing laws?
The arguments against gun control are often ridiculous. One that is often cited is, “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Isn’t this the entire premise behind the police? It is quite unlikely that in any situation a “good guy” could find a shooter and take them down before any damage has been done. The fact of the matter is that no significant mass shooter has been challenged yet by a “good guy” carrying a gun. Logically, such a situation would rarely occur only if there were no guns, and there would resultingly never need to be a “good” or “bad guy.”
The other claim made by pro-gun lobbyists is that outlawing guns would not stop mentally ill people from committing acts of violence. While this may be true, guns certainly make it much simpler for mentally ill people to quickly kill or injure others. Even if we were to not fully outlaw guns, our current system requires almost no mental health evaluation before being allowed to buy or possess a gun. Most recent mass shooters purchased guns immediately before their acts of violence, and had they been evaluated, likely wouldn’t have been sold weapons. We are in desperate need of more regulation: guns simply make it much easier for people to get hurt. Isn’t it worth it to save even just one life?
The last pro-gun argument is usually that people want their guns for hunting. The issue with this argument is that the guns that would be confiscated would almost never be used for hunting. Dangerous guns are automatic weapons and military-style rifles which do far more damage than just killing animals—why should anyone not in the military or in direct combat need to possess such lethal weapons? In fact, out of the 92 mass shootings since 1982, only 19 took place with shotguns, the other shootings being mainly at the hands of semiautomatic handguns and assault rifles.
Take a look at Australia, which experienced a similar event in 1996. Thirty-five people were killed in a mass shooting, and action was taken immediately. Automatic and semi-automatic rifles were banned, the government bought guns back from their owners, destroying more than 600,000. In the 21 years since, there have been no mass shootings in Australia.
Our current president reversed a rule that increased the regulation of who could or could not have guns, saying, “It could endanger the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens.” Aren’t citizens’ lives more of a priority? In the wake of the Vegas shooting, Trump has acted differently than usual, perhaps due to the shooter’s race. In previous cases in which the shooter has been non-white, his responses were more related to immigration and were downright xenophobic. But now, with a white shooter, his response has only been about the sadness of the event. The most he has said to hint at some sign of action is, “We’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.” This is extremely vague, and it seems that there will be more horrible tragedies like this one before there is any change for the US.
Why haven’t we taken action? It can be difficult as high school students or average citizens to find a way to help, but I encourage you to write to Tom Reed, our Representative, or to Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, our Senators, and voice your opinions on gun control. Do your part to make sure this never happens again.