On February 14, 2018, another school was terrorized by gun violence. In Parkland Florida, 17 victims were killed at the hands of a malicious shooter who rampaged through Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. While this is a tragedy, it is also, frankly, nothing out of the ordinary. It isn’t the most recent shooting in American and it’s just one in a long list of mass shootings. Since the Columbine High School shooting of 1999, 150,000 students have experienced a shooting at their school. And sadly, this latest shooting isn’t even as drastic as others of the past. In 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut was devastated after six teachers and 20 children were senselessly murdered by a school shooting. And to date, the deadliest school shooting in America happened at Virginia Tech in 2007 where the gunman killed 32 people.
And with school shootings, the number of mass shootings also continues to rise. The years 2017 and 2018 are close to dethroning 2012 and 2013 as the two consecutive years with the most amount of shootings and 2018 isn’t even halfway over. And yet, the American people are left waiting for a successful solution to combat this ever-escalating problem.
It seems as if the American people and politicians have put their guns before their children. As disturbing as mass shootings are, it is arguably even more sinister when young children are gunned down while trying to get an education. But even then, most people shrug their shoulders, give their “thoughts and prayers,” and say “what can we do?” Well, actually there are solutions and action that citizens can take.
First of all, let’s stop electing officials who take money from lobbyist groups, like the National Rifle Association. During the 2016 election cycle, the NRA spent a whopping $31 billion on advertisements that supported Trump and bashed Clinton. Along with that, they also continue to back certain members of Congress with monetary donations that make these elected officials hesitant to take a stand on gun violence. And what has made the Parkland, FL shooting so prominent is the survivors’ activism as they try to make their voices heard through walkouts and marches and demand officials put an end to the violence. Maybe if the rest of us can stand up to gun violence like these kids are doing after this horrific event, then we can demand change or replace those who won’t give us change in the next election.
Secondly, we can support initiatives to help the mentally ill. After the Florida shooting, lots of gun supporters made their voices heard, commenting on every Facebook post they saw, claiming, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”: a rebuttal that claims guns are not at fault for deaths, even if one is killed by a gun. Some have even compared guns to cars, which also have the potential to kill, but were not designed to do so like guns were. Some have also said “it’s a mental health issue, not a gun issue.” And there is some validity in that statement. It is a problem that it’s all too easy for someone who is unstable to acquire a AR-15 rifle. It’s also a problem that in 2017 a law was repealed that required the Social Security Administration to submit records of mentally disabled citizens to the FBI database used when performing the background check required to purchase a gun. Along with that, the government’s proposed budget would cut $12 million from the program that helps states perform background checks. But apart from the fact that it’s so easy for someone who is mentally unstable to buy a gun, there are also not enough initiatives being put into place that makes getting mental help easier and more affordable. If these politicians are trying to claim that the reason mass shootings occur is because of our country’s mental health issue, then why don’t they create policies to solve that problem?
My hope is that we can combat gun violence and mass shootings by policy change and stricter regulation. Instead of banning all guns like some fear is being suggested, many are pushing to have semiautomatic and automatic guns restricted since those are the guns used most in mass shootings and they aren’t typically used for hunting anyway. They’re not even legal to hunt with in some states. There is also no reason we shouldn’t have extensive clearance checks implemented before one can buy a gun. Our country has tremendously relaxed laws on potentially dangerous devices. Even if there are some restrictions to buying a gun at a retail store, there is no regulation for private sales which means virtually anyone can get one. We need to close loopholes in gun sales and make progressive policies that help regulate purchases. Along with more serious regulations, we should try to help those who are mentally ill if there’s such a legitimate fear of someone mentally ill getting a gun.
Mass shootings are a multifaceted issue; we can help those who have mental health issues and create new laws that make obtaining weapons more controlled. I am sick of the all-too-frequent news headlines, displaying the number dead after another shooting, especially since we aren’t seeing a decline in them. We can’t keep giving only our “thoughts and prayers” and then wonder why people are killed so frequently.
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