By Mikah Covelli
On February 14, 2018, the lives of hundreds of Parkland, Florida students were altered forever. In six short minutes, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz slaughtered 17 people and wounded 14 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, causing one of the deadliest mass shootings the country has ever seen. As a result of this brutal, unexpected tragedy, citizens all over the nation have grown incensed about gun control and the possibility of gun reform.
Debates surrounding the nature of the Second Amendment in a modern world have dominated social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and the youth-led movement of March for Our Lives, as well as the student-led organization, Never Again MSD, has exploded in size and power on the national scale. In such a politically impassioned era, it can be difficult to discern the actual arguments of each side of the gun control debate and even more difficult to determine if any legislative action will actually ensue as a result of such discourse, which is why this article will outline the major points of discussion for both proponents and opponents of gun control.
One of the most prominent talking points of pro-gun individuals in defense of the nation’s current gun laws is the Second Amendment. Anti-gun reform activists emphasize the right of every citizen to “keep and bear Arms” for self-defense and protection of their loved ones, and they preach the need for increased gun ownership in order to combat not only school shootings/mass massacres, but violent crime overall.
In actuality, states with high rates of gun ownership actually see more homicides and suicides than those with low rates of gun ownership. Mother Jones’s graphical analysis of gun ownership and gun deaths demonstrate that states with high percentages of gun ownership (50% and over in the adult population), such as Alaska, Wyoming and Arkansas, have a much larger number of gun deaths (about 15-20 deaths per 100,000 residents) than states with low percentages of gun ownership (30% and below in the adult population); states like Nebraska, California, and Massachusetts have less than 10 gun deaths per 100,000 residents.
Proponents of lenient gun laws also stress the nation’s need to focus on improving its mental health care system, as reformation in this area will surely lower the number of “psychotic murderers” in the country who have the potential to commit massacres. According to the NRA-Institute for Legislative Action, “The National Rifle Association has urged the federal government to address the problem of mental illness and violence...since 1966.”
The fact that mass murders could be committed with weapons other than guns, like knives or bombs, is not lost on gun advocates either. They state that banning guns would not solve the issue of public massacres, since “guns don’t kill people, people do.”
Such claims are met with much criticism from supporters of gun control/gun law reform, many of whom often point towards Australia’s immediate crackdown on guns after the Port Arthur massacre, which left 35 dead and 23 wounded at the hands of the young Martin Bryant. As stated by NBC News, the Australian government swiftly put into place the National Firearms Agreement, a piece of legislation that banned several types of firearms (including semi-automatic rifles and shotguns), and established a nationwide gun buyback program for its citizens. According to Slate, Australia has not suffered a single mass shootings in the 21 years after the Port Arthur massacre (and the Australian government’s sweeping gun legislation), a fact not gone unnoticed by individuals championing for increased gun control.
Additional discussion points of the pro-gun control argument include the notion that assault weapons like AK-47’s and AR-15 rifles are not necessary for civilian use, the idea that the weak nature of the nation’s federal background check system prevents proper screening for gun purchases from occurring, and the fact that the Second Amendment was created in 1791, yielding it not entirely applicable to America’s citizens in a modern context.
While bans on bump stocks and slight improvements in the federal background check system (in the form of enhanced “system availability, determination rates, and E-Check services,” as explained by John Culberson) have passed in Congress, there is no current political discussion in the White House about the implementation of broad, restrictive gun legislation in the United States. The rage surrounding the Parkland shooting, however, is so enduring that it might be capable of motivating politicians to change in the country’s gun laws. When the enactment of such legislation arrives, it would do the Oyster Bay community much good to be truly educated on the issue.
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