Opinion

Another Tragedy Sparks Debate on Gun Control

Lax Gun Laws in Many States Allow Mass Shootings

By: Haziq Naeem

Gun control activists rally in front of the White House in Washington Jan. 4. The next day, U.S. President Barack Obama announced executive actions to reduce gun violence. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters) See WASHINGTON-LETTER-GUNS Jan. 8, 2016.

On February 14th, Nikolas Cruz set off the fire alarms at his high school, luring hundreds of his fellow students out of their classrooms.

He then opened fire on them with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle. Seventeen people died, with multiple others injured.

The heartbreak felt throughout the country is ineffable and insufferable.

This event sparked a recurring debate on gun laws and gun ownership around the country; the horror of the tragedy fueled a debate with greater urgency and need for resolve.

It is important to have some context on gun laws and gun ownership in the country in order to positively participate in that debate and come to a reasonable, effective solution.

The United States is home to a large number of guns. It consists of less than five percent of the world population but is home to 35 to 50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns.

In 2007, it was estimated that the number of guns owned by Americans was 88.8 per 100 people. That equates to more than one gun per adult in the country.

In multiple states, including Florida, where the most recent mass shooting occurred, fingerprints, a waiting period, and a special permit are not required. You can walk into a store and walk out with a firearm in a matter of minutes.

In thirty-three states, background checks – federal or state – are not required.

Despite the outsized ownership of firearms, the United States does not have the highest firearm murder rate, as those titles belong to Honduras, El Salvador, and Jamaica.

According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1.49 percent of gun related deaths occur due to mass shootings. Mass shootings aren’t strictly defined, but generally they mean shootings in which four or more people are injured or killed.

In 2013, there were 33,636 deaths due to firearms, most of which were due to suicide, and only 502 of those deaths occurred due to mass shootings.

The majority of gun related deaths in the country occur in poor, black, and urban communities, but these shootings do not garner national attention and debate on gun control, or even a general debate on how to prevent this violence from happening.

When a mass shooting within the country occurs, there is a common thread of the shooter being labeled as mentally ill – unless the shooter happens to be Muslim.

In fact, a study done in 2015 by Michael Stone of Columbia University determined that only 52 out of the 235 killers that year had mental illnesses. That’s about 22 percent of the shooters, which leaves the vast majority of them mentally sane.

If our legislators continue to frame the issue as a problem of mental illness, it will not prevent the vast number of shootings from occurring.

Many of the mass shooters have been male and white, but there’s almost no other common underlying thread that runs through between these shooters suggesting a common cause for the mass shootings.

Researchers have found that the same factors that would lead someone to commit domestic violence are the ones that will also lead them to commit mass shootings, but not all mass shooters have histories of such violent behavior.

In 1996, Congressional Republicans passed the Dickey Amendment, which pressured the Center for Disease Control away from studying gun violence. But despite this political pressure, the Justice Department has continued to fund important studies related to gun violence.

Experts have estimated that passing an assault weapons ban can prevent 170 mass shootings a year, raising the age limit for purchasing firearms could prevent 1,600 homicide and suicides, and having universal background checks could prevent 1,100-gun related deaths.

Issues of gun ownership and gun control are very divisive. Recently in Pennsylvania, the  worshippers in a church attended with AR-15’s and crowns made of bullets.

Despite the divisiveness of the issue, we need to come to an effective solution. It is inexcusable that children aren’t safe in schools.

If gun control and regulation are impossible, we need to start searching for other avenues of preventing gun related deaths.

 

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