Consider this: seven children are shot and killed each day in the United States. In the past 7 years, 33,000 people have been killed by guns in the nation. Yet, America is an anomaly: the gun homicide rate in the U.S. is 25 times that of other high income countries. Why? What is it about the U.S. and guns? Why are Americans much more likely to be shot than other country around the world?
Unlike many other nations, gun culture is long embedded in American history: In 1791, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was ratified, ensuring the right to keep and bear arms to all citizens. One hundred years later, the National Rifle Association (NRA) was established to prepare civilians in the case of war. Fast forward to today, the NRA is a powerful lobbying force for the right to bear arms. In recent years, the NRA has blocked numerous laws attempting to regulate the use and sale of guns. At the same time, the number of mass shootings and gun deaths have increased dramatically. The names Columbine, Sandy Hook, Pulse nightclub, all mass-shootings and all carry images of tremendous violence and grief.
Additionally, just recently in October, a shooter in a Las Vegas hotel with at least 23 guns killed 58 and injured nearly 500 attendees at a country music concert in Las Vegas. In retrospect, we now know it is the largest mass shooting in American history. The ever-increasing complexity and advancements of firearms, combined with the endurance mass shootings each year in the U.S., it is natural to infer that something needs to change.
The NRA is a strictly pro-gun rights organization. According to the organization’s website, the NRA is “America’s foremost defender of Second Amendment rights.” As a result, the NRA has opposed many proposed gun control regulations in recent years, even on military-style assault weapons in the hands of average citizens. While some argue that civilians need these powerful weapons to protect against a government or fellow citizen gone awry, this argument is far outweighed by the human cost of gun violence. Few suggest that the government should ban all guns, as they can be useful for hunting, recreation, and some instances of self-defense. Some also argue that gun control laws would be ineffective. However, this argument does not make sense when compared with other issues. For example, there are countless burglaries in the U.S but there are still laws making this illegal because these laws decrease the amount of burglaries and allow those who commit this crime to be prosecuted. The same logical way of thinking could be applied to gun regulations. Additionally, federal restrictions on assault weapons, such as AK-47’s, which is an assault rifle, can significantly reduce deaths from guns. In countries where assault weapons are banned, such as Australia, the gun homicide rate is 18 times lower than that in the United States. Australia has also had no mass shooting since instituting this ban. In addition, a 2016 study in the Lancet found that universal background checks could cut firearm deaths by 50% or more in the U.S. Additionally, if background checks were performed before the sale of ammunition, deaths would likely decrease by more than 80%.
Domestic violence is also a rising concern when looking at the problem of gun control. According to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, 57% of mass shootings involve domestic violence. Moreover, the majority of states do not prohibit those convicted of domestic abuse or stalking from owning a gun.
Just this past winter, Westchester County Center hosted a gun show, proving that gun control issues are local as well. Due to a loophole in federal law, purchasers at gun shows are not subjected to background checks when they buy from certain vendors, thus risking the safety of everyone in the area. Although the County Legislature passed a ban prohibiting the gun show from occurring on County property, the County Executive vetoed the legislation to allow the show.
Now is the time to institute comprehensive gun control measures that save lives and prevent massacres before they can occur. Although the NRA recently supported a ban on bump stocks, an accessory used by the Las Vegas gunman to make semiautomatic weapons function like automatic weapons, the nation must continue to fight for better gun control. The government should institute universal background checks and safety features, ban specific types of assault weapons, and tighten regulations on where guns can be stored. In a time when the government is focused on deporting illegal immigrants and issuing travel bans, it is important to remember that there are other pressing issues that must be addressed and solved at home. By expressing concerns to elected representatives and advocating for common-sense gun regulations, everyone can help to save countless men, women, and children who would otherwise fall victim to gun violence. It is undeniable that everyone must act now to make society safer for all.