OPINION: Gun Violance in the USA

Crowd of people in the background with a sign in the foreground that says dont protect guns protect people.

people protesting gun rights

Miles Salvi

For the first time in the past decade, the US has passed 200 mass shooting deaths by April 10th.  The mass shooting in Louisville, Kentucky on April 10 is just the most recent event that has dominated national headlines.   It seems to be every couple of weeks we see a headline of another mass shooting.  It is getting normal for us to see gun deaths in this country.  Something has to be done, but the question is what is the best way to protect individual freedoms and the safety of all Americans?

Another shooting that dominated headlines in the last couple of days was the Dadeville birthday party shooting in Alabama.  This shooting left 28 injured and 4 dead.  The party was for one of the cheerleaders at the local high school.  The party was outfitted with security and chaperones.  The party paused for a short time when someone with a gun was turned away.  About an hour later gunfire erupted killing Shaunkivia Smith (17 years old), Marsiah Collins (19 years old), Corbin Holston (23 years old), and Philstavious Dowdell (18 years old).  

According to The Gun Violence Archive, there have been over 400 unintentional shootings so far this year, killing over 100 people.  These people did not have to die.  With better gun safety laws, we can prevent these deaths.  Something as simple as making sure that everyone who purchases a gun has training in how to use that gun can prevent these unintentional shootings and save a lot of lives.  

Compared to the 400 unintentional shootings this year, there have only been around 300 cases of self-defense shootings.  Having guns for self-defense is something that people need.  It does protect you, your family, and your property, but it does need to have its limits.  A handgun is going to do the job of protection just as well as another gun would.  But, there is no reason that someone needs to have a military-grade automatic rifle for self-defense.  All that shows is a need for a way of intimidating others, and that only leads to more death.  

According to the gun violence archives, the majority of the mass shootings in the United States so far this year have come in the states that have the weakest gun safety laws.  This data is backed up by Everytown Research which is an organization that advocates for stronger gun safety laws.  Their data shows how the states that have stronger gun violence laws have a lower gun violence rate.  They classify the gun violence rate as gun deaths per 100,000 residents.  The data acquired by the gun violence archive and Everytown Research shows that gun safety laws work.

Working the problem state by state is not going to work quickly enough.  Too many people will die in the process if we try to tackle this problem in each state.  Strengthening gun violence laws has to be done at the federal level.  We need to have more in-depth background checks.  It is not too much to ask that we take a little extra time to make sure the person buying the gun is not buying it to hurt themselves or others.  

The issue of gun rights goes all the way back to the Bill of Rights where the Second Amendment said, “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.”  When this was written, the most advanced guns were muskets and flintlock pistols.  These guns could only hold a single round at a time, and a skilled shooter would only be able to get off 3–4 rounds in one minute.  This is such an outdated law that it holds very little relevance today.  I agree that people must retain the right to bear arms, but it is not necessary for people to have automatic weapons.  When James Madison was writing the Bill of Rights, he never thought about mass shootings or automatic weapons.  We need to adjust this law to reflect the time we live in now, not the past.

The question of how to protect individual freedoms and the common good in relation to gun rights is a tough question but I think we need to look around the world at what has worked elsewhere and use that as a starting point for our own laws.  The US is among the worst nations in the world in gun violence.  The UK has some of the highest gun control measures in the West which results in low gun death rates.  All guns are prohibited except for police, armed forces, or if you get special permission from the home secretary.  To get guns and ammo you must have a good reason for wanting the gun such as a job, sport, or hunting.  In the UK self-defense is not considered a good reason.  This won’t necessarily work in the US because so many people already have guns.  The US should impose similar rules as the UK but include self-defense as a good reason as long as the person can produce evidence that having a gun could help them.  Additionally, all automatic weapons should be banned from the public.  There should not be a way to get automatic weapons.  This is the best way to protect individual freedoms and the public good because it lets people keep the guns they have, lets civilians have an avenue to procure guns, but also imposes stricter standards when purchasing a gun.