Less than six months ago a tragic event shook the United States and caused uncertainty and grief for Americans across the country. “The fatal shooting in October 2017 at a Las Vegas music festival, which killed 58 concertgoers and injured hundreds more, is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history” (opensecrets). As sad as it may seem, such horrific events are not nearly as uncommon as they should be. In fact, just sixteen months prior to the Las Vegas shooting, forty-nine were killed and fifty-eight injured at an Orlando Nightclub, the deadliest gun-related homicide at its time. And just two months ago, another shooting made headlines and caused grief for the families of the fourteen students and three teachers killed at a Parkland, Florida school. When we take a closer look at these appalling incidents, they are all linked to the deadly fact that someone had a firearm. It is for this reason that I walked out of class on March 18 to show my respect for the victims of the Parkland shooting and make my beliefs heard about the importance of stronger gun laws at this point in history. Because of sheer fire power, the second amendment, and the pro-gun lobby, this country needs to take action and implement stronger gun control.
Firearms are responsible for far more deaths than they should ever be. In fact, according to procon.org, guns were the twelfth leading cause of death in America between the years of 1999 and 2013, topping diseases like Parkinson’s and liver disease, as well as other causes of death, including fires, machinery accidents, and drowning. While one can’t buy a disease in a store or choose to die of a fatal accident, the fact that people have access to guns is completely preventable. Even scarier were the 464,023 gun-related deaths in that small period of time, including 270,237 suicides, 174,773 homicides, and 9,983 unintentional deaths. Furthermore, guns were the leading cause of death for both suicides and homicides, making up 52.2% of the total suicides and 66.6% of the homicides (procon). According to Madeline Drexler in her Harvard Public Health Magazine article titled “Guns and Suicide”, “About 85% of suicide attempts with a firearm end in death. (Drug overdose, the most widely used method in suicide attempts, is fatal in less than 3% of cases).” The fact that suicides are easy with access to firearm is not the only reason to tighten our gun control laws, however. Homicides like the Las Vegas and Parkland shootings would not have been possible without access to a gun. The twenty children would not have died at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting without the use of this lethal weapon. This does not include the fact that 2.2% of all gun deaths occurring between 1999 and 2013 were unintentional, a simple mistake that cost someone their life (procon). These statistics show just how many lives could be saved by changing who has access to a gun.
A commonly used argument by pro-gun supporters is that they are safer just because of the fact that they have a gun in their house. However, according to Danielle Kurtzleben, “Households with guns are more likely to experience a fatality from crime, accident or suicide than households without guns.” In fact, “For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are seven assaults or murders, eleven suicide attempts, and four accidents involving guns in or around a home” (Gilson). Only 4% of all gun incidents are acts of self defense, while 96% are homicides, suicides, or fatal mistakes. The fact that a gun might save a life in very rare instances should not take priority over the twenty-four more gun deaths that weren’t caused by self defense. Even more scary is the fact that “In one experiment, one third of 8-to-12-year-old boys who found a handgun pulled the trigger” (Gilson). This experiment shows how many people don’t really think about what they’re doing if they have access to a gun. While we cannot prevent the way Americans think, we can make it much harder to get your hands on a gun. Having a firearm in the house will almost always put the people living there at more risk than it will protect them.
Furthermore, one of the biggest arguments against gun control has to do with the second amendment. This reads, “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 upon.” Many pro-gun supporters continue to argue that gun control laws would violate the second amendment, and therefore would go against the United States Constitution. However, “The second amendment is not an unlimited right to own guns” (“Should More Gun Control Laws be Enacted?”). In fact, on June 9th, 2016, the United States Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 4-7 that the right to carry guns in public was not protected by the second amendment. Despite this ruling, the second amendment still hinders stronger gun control. Due to new technologies, implementing stronger gun control is now more important than ever before. In fact, assault rifles were created for one purpose: to fight wars. According to Christopher Ingraham, “Assault rifles… have lately become the weapon of choice for gunmen intent on harming the maximum amount of people in a minimum amount of time.” If assault rifles are only being made for mass-shootings, they should not be made at all. Another new technology that is frighteningly lethal is the “bump stock”, a device used by the Las Vegas shooter that makes semi-automatic rifles fire like an automatic weapon. This means that people who could not have access to an assault rifle might still be able to get their hands on one. The new weaponry that has arisen since the time of the American Revolution is something that the Founding Fathers would not have dreamed of when they created the Constitution. Ingraham also mentions in his Washington Post article “Analysis What”, “Of course, semiautomatic firearms technology didn’t exist in the meaningful sense in the era of the Founding Fathers”. In fact, when the constitution was being written, the only weapons that existed were muskets and flintlock pistols. These were large, inaccurate firearms that could only shoot one bullet before needing to be reloaded, making them extremely inefficient. When we look at the second amendment from this perspective, it was written more from a self-defense point-of-view and not the right to harm many people.
Moreover, the pro-gun lobby is a major problem when we look at implementing stronger gun control. It’s frightening to think people could look at these many mass shootings and see them as simply a person who wasn’t thinking clearly, but as Tania Lombrozo mentions in her NPR article, whether you own a gun or not changes how you interpret mass shootings. In fact, “These findings... reveal an association between gun ownership and beliefs about what’s to blame for shootings” (Lombrozo). The fact that you own a gun makes you more likely to fight against stronger gun laws, hindering the demand for gun safety coming from the general public. In a recent NPR/Ipsos poll, 35.8% of non-gun owners thought that gun availability was the main cause of mass shootings, while only 10% of the gun owners thought so. Along with gun ownership, misinformation is a major problem contributing to the pro-gun lobby. According to Walker Bragman, a reporter for the Huffington Post, many pro-gun websites point to the results of the assault rifle ban to claim that gun control doesn’t work. Bragman also notes that this theory has been thoroughly debunked. Because of these problems like misinformation and biased beliefs, the pro-gun lobby has had a much bigger influence than it should in the government. In fact, in 2013 the senate voted on a bill to tighten background checks on gun buyers. Pro-gun lobbyists spent 2.2 million dollars, and the bill failed. According to opensecrets, “Nearly all the senators voting against it had received substantial contributions from PACs affiliated with gun rights organizations.” The fact that pro-gun organizations have the whole gun industry on their side makes them decidedly more powerful. According to Bragman, “The NRA outspends the entire gun control lobby by a ratio of 9.5 to 1”. This is yet another reason why gun control is even more necessary now than any other time in American history.
Stronger gun laws will prevent deaths by the thousands, while not interfering with the second amendment and eliminating powerful pro-gun organizations such as the NRA. A recent NPR/Ipsos poll revealed that gun control is favored among the general population. The Florida school shooting has made the topic of gun control more controversial than ever, and more and more Americans are standing up and making their opinions heard through national school walkouts led by students, marches like the “March for Your Lives” that took place on Saturday March 24, donations, and speeches. Having participated in the march gave me a real sense for just how many people strongly favor gun control and are not afraid to make their opinions heard. I was also amazed by how many students took part in the walkout to show that they too were done with the loose gun restrictions. The mass majority of Americans favor gun control, and even more have gotten on board since the Parkland shooting. You too can make your voice heard. It’s time to make a change in our country.