Stopping the chamber

Stricter gun laws in the United States could prevent future violence

Claudia Huggins, Managing Editor

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On Feb. 14, a mass shooting of students and teachers occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, once again beginning the cycle we know all too well. First comes the tragedythe shock of yet another act of terrorism. Next, thoughts and prayers are sent to the victims, usually over social media sources such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Then, a few weeks later, after conversation about changes in policy has waned, the issue is forgotten, just in time for another incident.

The notion that the United States is the only country to deal with gun violence is  misleading. Countries such as Honduras, Venezuela, Swaziland, Guatemala, Jamaica and El Salvador also struggle with large amounts of gun violence. In fact, Honduras deals with more gun-related deaths than any other country in the world. It wasn’t until 2011 that it was made illegal to carry a gun in public areas. Since then, gun-related violence has slightly decreased.

The notable difference between the tragedies that befell these countries and those that occur in the United States is the response and the significant changes that take place afterward. For example, in Australia 22 years ago, a man shot and killed 35 innocent people with a semi-automatic weapon in a largely populated area: Port Arthur, Tasmania. Just a few short weeks later, the country and its states began to ban semi-automatic and rapid fire weapons. Since then, there hasn’t been one mass shooting.

In other words, the difference in these scenarios may not be what occurs or how, but in response. By doing nothing, the outcome is just as it was and always has been.

           Yet, with the evidence of change in policy causing a difference in the occurrence of future incidents, there never seems to be any advancements in solving the issue. “People will find a way to get them; there’s no point,” is a common excuse we as Americans too often and too easily accept. Or possibly the phrase, “thoughts and prayers to those affected.” While thoughts and prayers are widely shared and appreciated, they are not what this country needs, nor has the time for right now.

The broken system we sadly face as a reality each day while nothing is resolved will continue until something is done. The fact that we as people have to be worried about doing normal things such as going to school, the movie theater, a concert or a nightclub is the issue that must be dealt with.

           Change begins with us. Change begins by taking responsibility for our actions. It begins when we stop blaming violence solely on mental health or making excuses when the perpetrator “struggled with mental health,” or they were “bullied”. While these are all serious issues we need to address as a society, we would be negligent to do nothing about any variable we can control that would significantly lessen how often these situations occur. In the end, a mentally unstable individual without a semi-automatic weapon is much less dangerous than one that is able to legally obtain them.

           However, it is far too easy for people to buy these weapons. In fact, it’s so easy that it’s legal to buy most of these assault rifles. Lawmakers are actually trying to increase the age cigarettes and tobacco products are able to be purchased. So, in reality, this recent shooter in Parkland, Fla. would not have legally been able to purchase cigarettes in five states in the United States, whereas it was completely legal to purchase the automatic weapon he used.

           When we obtain driver’s licenses, we must go through a rigorous system to obtain that privilege. We must take written tests, provide proof of identity in multiple ways and take a physical test proving you are able to operate the vehicle. Precautions like these are taken because getting behind the wheel could potentially endanger the lives of others on the road. Why are the same precautions not taken when buying a weapon?

Since the Florida shooting and the uprising of millenials everywhere, several corporations have split their ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA) and/or raised the minimum age to buy a gun or ammunition. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart and L.L. Bean have all raised the minimum age to 21. The hashtag #NeverAgain has also been gaining popularity on social media.

            So what is the answer? Some describe it to be too complex or that there is no right answer. Despite the thoughts of some, there is no cure-all and no panacea to fix everything. Boiling the issue to “guns or no guns” only results in a stalemate of an unrealistically extreme argument. If we can reasonably conclude that there will always be mentally-ill people wanting to commit these violent and massive attacks, we can surely also reasonably conclude that keeping weapons designed to kill large groups of people quickly and efficiently out of their hands should be at least part of the solution.  Although nobody knows what the exact answer is, the solution of doing nothing is not acceptable.