The Time for Gun Law Reform was Yesterday


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Haley Jensen, Staff Writer

Aurora. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Trolley Square. In each of these places, lives were lost to gun violence. Sadly, this type of violence occurs far too often.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 17,000 homicides occur in America each year, 70 percent of them with guns. In the entire world, only Colombia has a worse record. Just this year, sixteen mass shootings have occurred in this country. The shooting spree that happened on December 14th at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut is just one of these heartbreaking tragedies. What is it going to take to reevaluate the role of guns in our society? Are the lost lives of twenty beautiful, innocent school children not enough?

John Oliver of The Daily Show said, “One failed attempt at a shoe bomb and we all take our shoes off at the airport. Thirty-one school shootings since Columbine and no change in our regulation of guns.”

Banning guns all together is unreasonable, but stricter gun regulations are highly overdue.  When the founding fathers gave us the right to bear arms, they couldn’t possibly have had the high-powered assault rifles of today in mind. The 2nd amendment is outdated. It was written by slave owners who owned muskets that took 60 seconds to load and fire. Ordinary civilians should not be carrying around semi-automatic assault rifles, period. There is no need for them. If people want hunting and sport guns, fine. But even then, it should be noted that keeping a gun in the home is dangerous. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, anyone that keeps a gun in their home is 43 times more likely to kill a family member than an intruder, and about two-thirds of accidental shooting deaths happen in the home.

Gun ownership and rate of suicides are also linked. Guns are the most common method of suicide and generally the most lethal. More than 90% of attempted suicides involving guns are successful. A survey of American households conducted in 2002 by HSPH Assistant Professor of Health Policy Matthew Miller and colleagues at the School’s Injury Control Research Center (ICRC), found that in states where guns were prevalent rates of suicide were much higher.

When talking about gun law reform, many gun advocates use the argument “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” By that same logic, shouldn’t those people believe that guns don’t protect people either? It is a fact that guns enable people to kill much more quickly than other modes of violence. On the same day as the Sandy Hook shootings, a man in China stabbed 22 school children. While that is equally as sickening, all of those children survived. Guns are obviously part of the problem. Yes, mental illness is also a huge factor, but better mental health support and tighter gun laws are not mutually exclusive. Both can be done.  Our society glorifies guns and stigmatizes mental illness and that needs to change.

Another argument that often comes up is that with stricter laws, killers will find a way to get the guns anyway.  While that may be true, isn’t there any merit to making it harder for them?  Also, most guns used in shooting sprees are obtained legally. There have been 61 mass shootings in the U.S since 1982 and the killer used a legally obtained gun in 49 of them. The U.S. could learn from Australia’s gun control laws. They prohibit all automatic and semi-automatic weapons, have background checks, and strict licensing rules. Gun violence hasn’t been completely eliminated in Australia, but there hasn’t been a single mass shooting in the 16 years since the laws came into effect. They are obviously doing something right.

Recently, many right–winged conservatives hammered Obama over the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans, saying the loss of American lives is unacceptable. Yet many of these exact same people are saying that the Sandy Hook shooting that killed 26 people is the price of freedom.  If we sincerely want to prevent more of these shooting tragedies from happening, this hypocrisy has to stop.  Our country has reached a point where stricter gun control laws are absolutely necessary. When it comes down to it, the rights of those that use assault rifles within legal boundaries are not worth the lives wasted on those who do not.