How many more? Gun violence in America

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Photo from Orange County Archives used with permission from Google Commons

A mass shooting in Orange County, CA, took the lives of four people, including a nine-year-old.

Las Vegas. El Paso. Sandy Hook. Parkland. Dayton. San Bernardino. Orlando. Aurora Springs. The Tree of Life Synagogue. In the last month alone, Atlanta, Georgia, Boulder, Colorado, Rock Hill South Carolina, Dallas, Texas, Essex, Maryland, Orange County, California, and Bryan, Texas.

Mass shootings. There have been a total of 147 in 2021, which have killed 197 people. Victims include police officer Eric Talley in Boulder, six Asian women in Atlanta in a  hate crime, in Orange County, a nine-year-old who died in the arms of his wounded mother, and in Rock Hill, a doctor and his wife, along with their five- and nine-year-old grandchildren. In the wake of these tragedies, action must be taken to prevent future atrocities.

Back to normal. For the past year since the world shut down due to Covid-19, back to normal has been the goal. Vaccines have brought a light at the end of this tunnel. When we aspire for normal, thoughts of family and friends come to mind. The joyful parts of life. 2021 has provided a harrowing reminder of what “normal” is in America. Mass shootings. These violent, preventable acts cannot be part of our normal. 

The level of gun violence Americans experience relative to other wealthy countries is astounding. According to NPR, annually 3.96 people per 100,000 are killed in the U.S due to gun violence. That number is higher than every other wealthy nation, and higher than Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Norway, Romania, Iceland, the U.K, South Korea, and China combined. Additionally, other countries have learned from mass shootings. 

For example, in 1996, Australia had a mass shooting referred to as the Port Arthur massacre. In response to this tragedy, they enacted gun control laws, and as a result, they have avoided mass shootings. Switzerland, despite having incredibly high gun ownership, has not experienced a mass shooting since 2001. 

According to Business Insider, about 24% of Switzerland’s population owns a gun. Pew Research states 30% of Americans own a gun. The reason for the Swiss lack of mass shootings is gun control. They require licenses and prevent those who have been convicted of crimes or have substance abuse issues from owning guns. It’s simple. Stricter gun laws lead to less violence. 

We need to learn from other countries and pass legislation to prevent atrocities like those in Boulder and Atlanta. Thoughts and prayers accomplish nothing. The safety of Americans needs to be prioritized over the right to an assault rifle. There are several options to help prevent the devastating gun violence that Americans have grown frighteningly numb to.

Two pieces of common sense legislation have passed the House and are waiting to be voted on in the Senate. The first law is called the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, would expand background checks on firearm sales, closing a gun show and online sales loophole. This makes sense, and passed with eight Republican votes in the House.

The second piece of legislation, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, would close another loophole dubbed the “Charleston loophole,” which allows gun sales to proceed without a completed background check if three business days have passed, by extending the background check review period from three days to 10. The loophole is named because it is linked to the 2015 shooting in Charleston during which a white supremacist was able to obtain firearms that killed Black churchgoers, according to USA today.

Additionally, President Joe Biden aired his support for an assault weapons ban. When he was in the Senate in 1994, a similar ban of assault weapons was passed, and gun violence decreased. However, those laws had to be renewed in 2004, and the Bush administration opted to end the ban. Mass shootings have continued to rise, and assault weapons have constantly been the guns used to carry out these violent acts.

Biden announced on Apr. 7 six executive actions to combat gun violence. According to USA Today, these include authorizing the Justice Department to publish model “red flag” legislation for states that want to enact such laws that enable family members or members of law enforcement to petition for a court order to temporarily bar people in crisis from accessing firearms if they present a danger to themselves or others. Other actions include directing five federal agencies to make changes to the 26 different programs to direct vital support to community violence intervention programs as quickly as possible.

Even if gun control legislation or executive action saves the life of just one of the many who suffer from this violence, it will have been worth it.”

— Ethan Lenkin

None of these laws or actions will prevent all gun violence, and they aren’t perfect. They are steps in the right direction, and they help to make Americans safer while at the same time respecting the Second Amendment. Even if gun control legislation or executive action saves the life of just one of the many who suffer from this violence, it will have been worth it.