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Stop the Shootings

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A little over four years ago, a bustling college campus welcomed a cool but sunny morning. Most college students and faculty were preparing for yet another Monday of classes, excited to finish another academic year. But for thirty-two unlucky souls, their lives would be finished. Another twenty-nine people would be wounded and millions would be touched by this tragedy in some way. As most citizens of the United States of America know, this event is the Virginia Tech Massacre, the most devastating act of gun violence in American history. This common, yet disturbing storyline of dead and wounded students, teachers, employees, friends, family, congressmen and congresswomen, children, and community members, dominated the cover of American newspapers more times than any person would ever want to see. These tragedies, such as the Virginia Tech Massacre, can and should be avoided—right? Therefore, gun control laws should be more stringent, and lawmakers should pass legislation to fix loopholes in current gun laws.

Surprisingly, people as young as eighteen years old can legally purchase firearms, which they can easily transport and use on any school or collegiate campus. According to the National Rifle Association, “no license is required to possess rifles and shotguns, or to possess handguns in one’s home or place of business” in most states across America, including the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Of course, exceptions exist to this law, such as preventing mentally ill and minors from obtaining firearms, but otherwise Pennsylvania law allows for the vast majority of high school seniors to legally operate firearms in one’s home or place of business. This loophole should be raised to at least age twenty-one for all firearm usage. Specifically, the Columbine High School tragedy illustrates an unfortunate example of this problem in the state of Colorado, which has a similar law to Pennsylvania. According to USA Today, the two shooters at Columbine High School, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, built 100 bombs and persuaded friends to buy them guns to use in case the bombs failed. Fortunately, their homemade propane-tank bombs failed, but both shooters had weapons to murder fifteen people (including themselves) and wound twenty-four more. How Harris and Klebold obtained these weapons is perhaps the most frustrating part of the shooting because legal codes were evaded by a few people to sell weapons illegally to these psychologically unstable teenagers. The Violence Policy Center explains that Robyn Anderson, an eighteen year old senior and a good friend of Klebold, “bought the shotguns and the Hi-Point 9mm Carbine at The Tanner Gun Show in December of 1998 from unlicensed sellers. Because Anderson purchased the guns for someone else, the transition constituted an illegal straw purchase.” The unnerving fact that an eighteen year-old girl purchased assault weapons so casually should be a wake up call to America that gun loopholes should be fixed and not just anyone should have the ability to buy and sell weapons. Why are gun laws so easy to circumvent? Why can teenagers buy multiple assault weapons from illegal sellers? If Robyn Anderson was unable to purchase these weapons, then the ability of the two teenagers to murder innocent people would have been greatly hindered. Thus, tragedies such as Columbine and other school shootings would certainly be prevented by enacting simple gun control legislation to fix loopholes.

Not only can reckless teenagers obtain weapons, deranged individuals can purchase weapons from local sports stores and gun outlets without sufficient background checks. Because the National Rifle Association has successfully lobbied in legislative houses across the nation, stringent gun control laws have consistently been dismissed. For example, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a database that collects information on convicted criminals, is limited in its scope thanks to the efforts of the National Rifle Association. NICS does not include individuals who have been arrested or brought up on criminal charges. Instead, only convicted criminals are entered into the system. Jared Loughner, the unstable man who shot nineteen people in the Tragedy at Tucson, passed the criminal background check with ease. He had been arrested numerous times, rejected by the US Army because of mental instability, and suspended from Pima Community College. Common sense cries that a deranged man such as Loughner should never be allowed to lay hands on any weapon, much less own a gun, yet still he was able to purchase a gun at a local store. To prevent future tragedies such as Tucson, the loopholes in the background checks need to be fixed. All states should be required to keep current information on all convicted criminals that can be shared across the country. Some municipalities and counties rarely, if ever, update information on this database. Thus, a federal law should be passed to require all states to comply with NICS on a daily basis. Non-compliance by states increases the chance of other shootings throughout the country. These laws would effectively prevent deranged individuals from purchasing a weapon across all fifty states.

Most Americans believe that our nation should enact stricter gun control laws relative to the rest of the developed world. Researchers at the Harvard University School of Public Health have found evidence that reflects this belief. Their study revealed that “ ‘Americans feel less safe as more people in their community begin to carry guns,’ and that 90% of Americans believe citizens not in the law enforcement profession should be prohibited from bringing guns into most public places, including stadiums, restaurants, hospitals, college campuses, and places of worship.” The overwhelming majority presented by the researchers proves that Americans feel endangered by the rising number of people carrying concealed weapons; however, well-funded special interests groups and lobbyists have prevented the passage of laws that most Americans want. In addition, most developed countries, including all Western democracies, have stricter gun control laws than the United States. Consequently, these countries have a much lower rate of violent crime per capita. Great Britain, which has some of the strictest gun laws of the Western world, has only 25% of violent crimes per capita than the United States. Some may argue that the numbers are construed, but proven gun control results exist in Germany, France, and even Brazil based on similar numbers. Furthermore, the majority of college students, and even more so their parents and collegiate administrators, do not want guns or any concealed weapons on college campuses. While gun lobbyists try to prevent colleges from having the same safety measures valued by all secondary schools across the country, many other groups have responded to prevent gun violence and increase safety at college campuses. Most notably, the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus has clearly shown the opposition to guns on campus by getting 270 colleges to sign a resolution that “opposes legislation that would mandate that colleges and universities allow students to carry concealed handguns on campus.” Colin Goddard, who was shot four times during the Virginia Tech Massacre, firmly believes that if other students had used weapons the day of the shooting, they would only add to the chaos, tragedy, and death toll. A survivor of the most awful school shooting in American history, Goddard is now a spokesperson for the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus. His unique perspective on this issue illustrates that gun lobbyists only speak for themselves, and not for the youth and parents of America, when these lobbyists say that concealed weapons should be permitted on all college campuses. Clearly, most Americans want the complete opposite.

Although the Second Amendment to the Constitution states that “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,” it reflects the view of guns during the American Revolution. In 1787 when the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, the power and accuracy of guns were limited. During the colonial days, fully automatic assault pistols did not exist, nor did AK-47s, nor Barrett .50 caliber snipers, nor .44 Magnum hand guns. These guns of the twenty-first century can inflict catastrophic destruction in one shot compared to the old-fashioned weapons that the British used in the American Revolution. Second, the Founding Fathers realized that not everything in the Constitution would be perfect. Obviously, they made some mistakes, especially slavery and the Three-Fifths Compromise. But the beauty and everlasting effectiveness of the Constitution is the ability of our government to change and modify laws in response to society’s current conditions. After the rest of the Western nations outlawed slavery, the United States fought a terrible civil war to end slavery. During the war, Abraham Lincoln declared all slaves in the South free in the Emancipation Proclamation. Finally, the slavery clause and Three-Fifths Compromise no longer possessed the nation in agony. The Founding Fathers would have been satisfied to see the United States adapting and thriving to reflect the conditions of the world. They would realize that the British are not coming anymore to fight us, especially since now they are our greatest ally. Now we need the appropriate gun laws to reflect the current conditions of our nation.
Overall, we all hold the safety of our children, family, friends, and loved ones near to our heart. Stringent gun control laws and accurate background checks would help protect all Americans. These necessary and practical laws should be passed to keep America safe in the future. Write, call, or email your local, state, and national lawmakers to inform them of these essential laws, and why you support them. We all want to prevent massacres of Columbine and Virginia Tech from ever happening again.





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