Gun Violence In America: The Issue Of Mass Shootings

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When you turn on the news, there are frequent reports of mass shootings and gun violence. Families are heart broken after their loved ones have been killed. This is the sad and disturbing reality in our country. Olivia Wesch woke up on February 14 excited for both her birthday and Valentine’s day. Her parents even decorated the kitchen table in celebration. When Wesch was in AP psychology class at Parkland High School, she heard the gunshots. For more than 2 hours, she hid in a closet praying for her life. In her classroom 4 out of the 17 students were killed (Zezima). In recent years, gun violence is at an all time high as guns are becoming easier to obtain. Within a few minutes, Americans can purchase a gun despite your past history. Gun violence is a human rights issue that violates individuals most basic right; the right to life (Amnesty). This fundamental right was one of the first created by our framers in the constitution. Gun violence in America is caused by a lack of restrictions, an increase in the supply of guns, and lack of support for mental illness which leads to mass shootings, intentional homicide, and suicide.

Gun deaths increased by 16% from 2014 to 2017. On average, one mass shooting occurs every day in the United States and 100 people are killed each day by a gun (Mueller). The University of Texas at Austin mass shooting in August 1966 is considered the “first mass shooting of the modern era.” This mass shooting was the first to be broadcast live to American households on televisions and radios. Keith Maitland, who directed a documentary about the UT shooting, delineates modern shootings as “random, public, unpredictable and therefore, impossible to defend against” (Grinberg). In times like these, we are defenseless, but how did our nation end up like this?

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” (Cornell Law). The framers, creators of the constitution, created this amendment after they were liberated from the rule of the British. During the British rule, the colonists needed to create a militia in order to stop the dictatorship of the king. Many believe the framers created the second amendment to ensure that militias always had the proper tools and weapons to fight if they were being mistreated. The second amendment doesn’t directly address our rights as citizens. Adam Winkler, professor of Law at UCLA Law School, believes that “while the Founders sought to protect the citizenry from being disarmed entirely, they did not wish to prevent government from adopting reasonable regulations of guns and gun owners” (Winkler). Gun control and regulations are not new concepts as the framers intended for this. People considered untrustworthy, including slaves and loyalists were prohibited from owning guns, and gun inspections were common. The Second Amendment was about ensuring public safety, and never mentioned the prevention of regulations. Additionally, the constitution states that if citizens will be armed they must be “well regulated” (Winkler). Having 36,383 Americans killed with guns each year doesn’t sound well regulated or regulated at all for a matter of fact (Giffords). So what happened to all the regulations that the colonists intended?

Many shooters buy their guns legally, but possible red flags are ignored with the lack of restrictions present in our country. In some states, a permit is not required, and neither are waiting periods. The most disturbing fact is that one can buy a semi-automatic gun in 15 minutes in Virginia (Taylor). Anybody can buy a deadly weapon in a shorter period of time than it takes most children to get to school. Semi-automatic rifles and magazines were created for military use, not for protection. These weapons were made to fight war, and have no place in civilian hands. Defenders of the Second Amendment claim it's their right to own a gun to protect themselves and their property, but these weapons are not made for defense but for mass killing. National Instant Criminal Background Check System takes less than two hours, but for many purchases, it is not even used. Private sellers are not required to run background checks before selling guns. People who have committed violent misdemeanors are still allowed to purchase guns. Our country has decided to put a premium on speed instead of our safety. In conclusion, “ is not a “background check” system at all; it is a “database check” system” (Henigan).

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Gun violence is caused not only by lack of restrictions, but by the lack of support with mental health in our country, and unfortunately, many people do not get the help they need. Evidence suggests “...that up to 60% of perpetrators of mass shootings in the United States since 1970 displayed symptoms including acute paranoia, delusions, and depression before committing their crimes” (Metzl). These tragedies could have likely been prevented if citizens were provided with more mental health support. For example, the Sandy Hook school shooter, Adam Lanza, was diagnosed with schizophrenia after the tragedy occurred, but “‘Lanza struggled with basic emotions’ as a child and wrote a story ‘in which an old woman with a gun in her cane kills wantonly’” (Metzl). What if Lanza got the help he needed before the shooting occurred? 20 children and 6 adults would still be alive right now. Many people in this country do not have access to a therapist or mental health support and it is our duty as a country to provide this to those in need. People who committ suicide by gun, which can be impulsive, are also in need of mental health services. Access to mental health services in our country can often be difficult to obtain, but in order to prevent many deaths because of gun violence, we need to increase access to assistance.

Another cause of gun violence is the increase in the supply of guns in our country. In the U.S., there are more guns than people. Americans own about 45 percent of the world's privately owned firearms yet Americans only make up about 5 percent of the world's population. States with a higher ownership of guns have more gun deaths each year. In Alaska, more than 60% of people own guns, and there are about 20 gun deaths per 100,000 citizens. Rhode Island, which has less than 10% gun ownership, only has about 5 gun deaths per 100,000 citizens (Lopez). These statistics support the theory that if there are less guns, we can significantly lower the number of gun deaths each year.

Mass shootings are one of the results of the lack of gun control in America. Six of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in the United States have happened in the last 10 years. According to Everytown Research, “there were four times as many people shot in mass shootings in 2017 than the average of the eight years prior” (Everytown Research). Over the years, there have been countless mass shootings, and “in the last five years, ordinary Americans have been murdered in mass shootings in a synagogue, in churches, at elementary and high schools, at a nightclub, at a bar, at a music festival, at a center for people with developmental disabilities, among countless others” (Perlstein). These are places that are supposed to be safe. How did our country end up in a world were we have to worry about going to synagogue or even centers for the disabled? The school shootings are the most disturbing. In 2018, a student’s risk of dying in a school shooting reached its highest level in at least 25 years (Gifford). Children should not have to go to school worrying about school shootings. They should go to school ready and excited to learn in order to shape their future. School is intended to be a fun, safe place to learn and grow as a person, but recently going to school can be scary. The fear of a shooting can interfere with children's learning, and 60% of teens say they are worried about a shooting occurring at their school (Gifford).

The second type of gun violence in our country is suicide. Suicides with guns are both the most common method of suicide and comprise the majority of all gun-related deaths (Ross). According Many families own handguns for protection, but often times these guns put the family at more risk. Teens are young and impulsive so it is no surprise that “suicidal adolescents are 75 times more likely to commit suicide when a gun is kept in their home (Educational Fund to End Handgun Violence). Some may believe that suicide with a gun doesn’t count as gun violence, and gun control will not solve this problem, but it has been proven that “states with the highest gun ownership rates have the highest suicide rates” (Shaw). There are also more risks posed for suicidal people who can easily access a firearm. Both of these could be solved with gun control and more regulations. Research shows that waiting periods are associated with reductions in suicides. States like Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado, and Idaho which have high ownership of guns also have some of the highest suicide rates. Experts even call these states “the Suicide Belt” (Shaw).

Another result of the lack of gun controls is intentional homicide. Intentional homicide by gun was “the most common method of killing another person from 2010 through 2016...” (Scutti). With the lack of gun laws, almost anyone can purchase a gun easily making it unchallenging for murder and intentional homicide. The lack of mental health assistance and increase in guns also play a role in this. Evidence shows “gun homicides increased 31%, from 11,008 shooting deaths in 2014 to 14,415 in 2016” (Scutti). Domestic violence homicide is another big part of intentional homicide. Domestic violence homicide is defined as murder of a member of the house usually being an intamite partner. Research “...has found that a higher rate of firearm ownership is associated with a higher rate of domestic violence homicide in the United States” (Mervosh).

One solution that could help fix this problem would be red flag laws. These laws “allows law enforcement to ask a judge for 'an extreme risk protection order.' The order requires a gun owner to temporarily give up his weapons” (60 Minutes). If police have reasonable suspicion that a suspect may not be mentally stable, they have the right to obtain a warrant to remove someone’s firearm preventing a problem from occurring. This can be a very effective form of gun control since many gun perpetrators are mentally unstable. Effecting change can be difficult, but I believe if we come together to rally government and demand change from our elected officials, especially stricter gun controls, we can reduce gun violence. I plan to go to more rallies and sign petitions. Although my impact may be small, in this crisis any support can make a change.  

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