Do we really need more gun control in the USA?
In short, yes.
I was inspired to write this article after learning of yet another school shooting, this time in Parkland, Florida. 17 students and teachers were killed, leaving the community reeling. In the midst of all the “thoughts and prayers”, one must take a closer look into what has allowed this to happen.
There have been 12 school shootings so far this year, and no major Congress-based legislation has gone through in favour of gun control. One reason for this is the power of the NRA, who spent 4.1 million on lobbying in 2017 and has 5 million active members. These members are vital to their wide-reaching influence as they consistently mobilise grassroots support and directly engage in local politics — this is key in a time when many can barely be bothered to vote in local elections.
This problem doesn’t only extend to the NRA; many in America see gun control as a direct violation of their constitutional rights. The Second Amendment, written in 1791, 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". However, this comes from a time where guns were hugely different to the automatic, high-tech and brutally lethal weapons we have today. This then begs the question: how relevant is the second amendment in modern society?
Its supporters will tell you that the right to bear arms is essential, on par with the right to free speech and freedom of the press. They believe that increasing numbers of guns, and a better working knowledge of such weapons, will prevent future killings. On the other hand, its adversaries will claim that this point of view is outdated, and that gun control is the only way to prevent guns from reaching dangerous people. They cite examples of gun control’s success, in Australia, the UK and Finland. Values aside, one should look to see statistical evidence regarding this issue.
Americans own almost half of the 650 million civilian-owned guns globally. The gun homicide rates are about 25.2 times higher than in other high-income, developed countries, and Americans make up 31% of the world’s mass shooters, despite only containing a mere 5% of the population. A 2007 study from Harvard University shows a correlation between the numbers of victims of firearm-related homicide and the rates of household gun ownership. Another study, from Boston University, corroborated this claim, stating that a 1 percent increase in gun ownership correlated with a roughly 0.9 percent rise in the firearm homicide rate at the state level. The research has been clear: more guns directly leads to more gun deaths.
The argument often made by gun advocates is “To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun,”, according to the CEO of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, but that falls apart in light of the previously mentioned statistics. The recent shooting in Parkland is a direct rebuttal of such a claim — there was an armed officer in the building at the time who was powerless to take action. This oversimplified and overused argument is one of the major reasons that there is such a standoff between political parties regarding gun control, and is essentially false: no academic studies have shown significant positive impacts of gun-carrying vigilantes when dealing with large-scale crime.
So, what can actually be done about the issue of gun control? There’s a case to be made for using a rifle for hunting, or owning a single handgun for self defence, and cultural attitudes in the US are unlikely to veer towards an outright ban in the near future. If this is the case, are we merely just treating the symptoms of the disease that is gun violence with “common-sense gun control” measures? Perhaps. However, I would argue that until society has reached a point at which the second amendment can be called into direct question, these measures of gun control offer something of a solution to the issue.
The gun control debate is far from resolved, but an important factor that has come into play is the increasing involvement from young people and youth leadership. Teens in Parkland and elsewhere are being spurred into action via school walkouts, rallies, and speeches that have since gone viral. This action is critical in showing lawmakers that we are directly engaging with the issues, and can offer valuable perspective, no matter what side of the debate we fall on.
Agree? Disagree? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or drop a comment down below to give your opinion on this polarising debate.