As everyone is aware, I’m sure, there is a horrifying trend taking place in America with shootings in schools. The latest taking place in Parkland Florida. Seventeen people were murdered in cold blood by a lone teenager with an AR-15 rifle. This most likely will not be the last of such events. As recent history has shown us, another is almost certainly to make headlines in the not too distant future.
The aftermath of this shooting is no different than the aftermath of all the previous school shootings that have taken place since Columbine. Grief, fear, sadness, anger, conspiracy theories and mostly polarization on the matters of guns.
Before continuing, take a moment to think about how you would react if the news came that your child was murdered in a school shooting. Or the child of a friend, a niece or nephew. What would your reaction be if you saw a video recording of students taking cover while a fellow student is actively shooting those around you? What would you want to happen to prevent something like this from happening again? For as recent history has shown us, this will certainly happen again.
Since the Columbine school shooting on April 20, 1999 in Jefferson County Colorado, there have been 270 shootings at schools across the nation. (ABC News). Fox News anchor, Shepard Smith, recently reported that there have been 25 fatal, active school shootings at elementary and high schools in America. (Daily Beast) Smith went on to say “These sorts of mass shootings with the regularity where they occur in the United States, you don’t find that in other countries.”
Continued statistics are as follows (ABC News):
- 141 people have been killed in a mass murder or attempted mass murder at a school since Columbine (FBI records)
- 73% of school shooters with no prior criminal record (U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Department of Education)
- 81% percent of school shootings where someone had information that the attacker was thinking about or planning the shooting record (U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Department of Education)
- 68% of school shooters who got their guns from relatives or at home record (U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Department of Education)
- The average number of shootings per week on a school or college campus in 2015 (ABC News review of reported cases)
What then is the reason that a wealthy, developed nation such as the United States has this epidemic? One side of the isle states that gun laws are too lenient and that obtaining a weapon is easy where compared to other countries. The opposition to that argument is that the 2nd Amendment protects the rights of the people to keep and bear arms. And that enacting any additional laws to hinder that ability would be unlawful and infringe on citizens’ rights.
Common arguments against stronger gun laws are as follows:
- There is an effort by the government to take away citizens’ rights to own guns, which is unconstitutional. School shootings are being done to further the governments cause.
- Laws do not prevent criminals from obtaining weapons illegally as criminals are not concerned with the law.
- Drugs are illegal and people are still able to obtain them.
- Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.
- Citizens have a right to own guns to protect their family or to hunt.
- If guns were not available, people would other weapons.
While several of these arguments are logical, not all of them carry the same weight. The following are my thoughts on each point above which also includes some sourced statistics and supporting documentation from those who have studied the matter more closely than I.
There is an effort by the government to take away citizens’ rights to own guns, which is unconstitutional. School shootings are being done to further the governments cause.
- Talking heads like Alex Jones from Infowars would have listeners (and there are many) believe that almost everything one hears from the “established media” is a government cover-up or a conspiracy to take away the rights and freedoms of American citizens. School shootings being one of them. As he stated with Sandyhook, Mr. Jones told his listeners that particular shooting was a false flag operation and that the victims of the shooting were paid actors hired by the government.
- As stated during Jones’ interview with Megyn Kelly, the sources and facts peddled by Jones are obtained from online searches from random unaccredited sources, not journalistic investigation or interviews.
- More to the initial point of an effort to have guns taken away: I don’t recall hearing one politician, Democrat or Republican, say: “We want to ban all guns. We want to make all guns illegal. We want to remove guns from responsible gun owners.” Every debate that I recall has been about banning certain types of guns, such as assault rifles, or making much tougher laws on obtaining a firearm.
Laws do not prevent criminals from obtaining weapons illegally as criminals are not concerned with the law.
- This is absolutely true. Criminals are not concerned with the law. However, it is surprising to hear this retort from lawmakers who put a great deal of faith in laws that are meant to protect the citizens of this country. If this is truly the case, then why have a law for anything? The law wouldn’t prevent a person from acting against whichever law forbids such an action. Laws however, are not meant for the sole purpose of prevention. Laws are in place to be enforced and hold those that defile the law accountable for their actions.
Drugs are illegal and people are still able to obtain them.
- Yes, people are still able to obtain drugs even though they are illegal. There are a few things to keep in mind on this line of thinking:
- Most of the illegal schedule I narcotics at one point were perfectly legal. Drugs such as cocaine and heroin were commonplace in pharmacies in the late 19th and early 20th century. Companies such as Bayer marketed these drugs a cure-all for what ails you. All a person needed to do was purchase these substances over the counter at their local pharmacy. It wasn’t until studies were performed on the harmful effects of these drugs and the harm they were doing to those using them that these drugs became illegal. Hence, something that was once deemed safe and normal was made illegal after realizing the negative societal effect caused by them.
- Again, having laws in place will not eradicate the problem. Laws hold those who break them accountable for the action. For those who state that making guns or certain kinds of guns illegal wouldn’t solve the problem, does that same person believe that drugs should be made legal and have no consequence for those who use or distribute these substances?
Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.
- This is a true statement. A gun has never, on its own accord, pointed itself at a person, pulled the trigger and killed the person. A gun is a tool that serves a purpose. In the wrong hands this means murdering innocent people. Just as in the right hands a gun could be used to stop a bad person with a gun. The issue, I believe, is keeping a gun out of the hands of those who lack the responsibility and proper mental faculties to properly handle that responsibility.
Citizens have a right to own guns to protect their family or to hunt.
- The exact wording the 2nd Amendment is as follows: “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. On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) was adopted, having been ratified by three-fourths of the states.”
- There has been debated as to the extent and exact interpretation of those who drafted this amendment in regards to “a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms…” As this was drafted during the colonial times, where there was no standing military. Rather citizens formed a militia to protect the colonies and allowing firearms was a necessity to maintain independence and protection. However, the current and seemingly majority of lawmakers and citizens lean towards the interpretation of the amendment as the right of the individual citizen to own a firearm.
- While a gun is certainly a viable means to protect one’s family and of course hunt; should that right be extended to guns designed for combat situations? Take for example the AR-15 rifle. This is a semi-automatic combat rifle. This weapon and other guns like it were not designed for hunting. They were not designed for protecting families from home invaders. These weapons were designed for killing humans in combat. As previously mentioned regarding illegal drugs, there are schedules for drugs based on addictive potential and harmful effects. Schedule I drugs such as cocaine, heroin, LSD etc. are illegal and only dispensed to those licensed to use them for clinical research. Schedule II drugs such as Oxycontin, Morphine, Fentanyl, Adderall and so forth are highly regulated, kept in a safe and only dispensed with a written prescription. Where I’m going with this is that like drugs, not all guns are the same. There are different guns for different purposes. And like Schedule I narcotics, guns such as an AR-15 don’t seem to hold a place for private consumers.
If guns were not available, people would other weapons.
- Of course this is a true statement. In the context of a school shooting scenario though, a student who brought in a knife would not pose the extent of danger as a student who brings in a semi-automatic rifle.
I must confess: I’ve shot an AR-15 at a shooting range and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Also, some of the best people I know are responsible gun owners. I am not in favor in making all guns illegal or taking away firearms from those who are responsible enough to have them. Yet in the wake of the recent 19 years of school shootings, something has to change. When these tragedies occur people jump to extremes on both sides of the isle. The one thing that is most disheartening after these tragedies occur is hearing that “this is not the time to talk about such things.” Talking is exactly what is needed. To have an actual constructive conversation on what should be done. Not to just put up a shield such as “I stand behind the 2nd Amendment” then closing one’s mind to even listening to another’s idea. And this goes both ways. The anti-gun camp need to listen just as attentive as the pro-gun camp.
The questions that I would like answered are: why is this such a unique epidemic to the United States? Countries such as Australia and England who have extremely strict gun laws have seen a dramatic reduction in gun related crimes. (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3). Would the U.S. see such results if we were to follow suite? Or, were there other socio-economic reasons in Australia and England that enabled the reduction?
Finally, there is one aspect to these senseless school shootings that I haven’t heard mention of. That is the involvement and responsibility of the parents of the shooters. Society holds leaders accountable for the actions of their subordinates, however, there doesn’t seem to be any regard in holding parents accountable for allowing their child to obtain these weapons and bring them to school. It seems like these parents are willfully ignorant of the mindset and mental health of their children. Perhaps some of these parents didn’t care about nurturing their children and instilling them a sense of a moral compass. Or, maybe these parents were too preoccupied with other aspects of their life to notice what their child was feeling or going through to cause the child to snap. Whatever the case, the biggest factor for stopping these shootings will begin at home.