There have been 80 school shootings since 2010 and more than 10 in the month of January 2014. 90 people have lost their life in that time frame, another 94 were injured, and a countless number of people will have to live with the memory of those events for the rest of their lives. In the month of January 2014, there were at least 30 gun deaths a day all across the country. In comparison, the Vietnam War saw 11 deaths per day, the American Revolutionary War saw 11 deaths per day, the War of 1812 saw 15 deaths per day, the Mexican-American war saw 29 deaths per day, the Philippine-American war saw 3.8 deaths per day and our current war, the War on Terror, is averaging about 1.57 deaths per day.
Let me be clear in saying that I believe in the right to keep and bear arms. I also believe in personal accountability and common sense. The fact that it is harder to get a silencer for a weapon than to get the weapon itself shows just how deeply flawed our gun ownership process is. About 75% of the US population drive cars. To do so, you must pass both a driving test to show you can use the machine and a written exam to prove you know the laws. With only 40% of Americans claiming to own a gun in their home, deaths by gun and deaths by motor vehicle were almost identical in 2010 and yet gun purchases and licenses do not require the same precautions drivers licenses do. There are stipulations on how fast you can drive but not magazine sizes. Stipulations on where you can drive yet many politicians support conceal carry laws. Cars must be inspected regularly yet guns go unchecked for safety or modifications once purchased.
Many argue that gun ownership is important for self defense and I do not disagree. While much of what I just said sounds anti-gun, it isn't; what I just said is pro-responsible gun ownership. I don't believe in banning guns altogether, but I will offer a case study that shows how gun laws can positively affect a country: gun politics in Australia.
A big misconception about gun ownership in Australia is that you are not allowed to own any guns. On the contrary, everyone in the country is allowed to own a gun as long as they meet specific conditions; key among those are the following: must be over 18 years old, must possess a firearms licensee, must be able to safely store your weapons, and a mandatory registration of the weapon to the owner by serial number. Aside from the safe storage of the weapon, all of that sounds identical to car ownership in the United States.
A series of violent gun incidents from 1984 to 1996 culminated in one of the most gruesome shootings this world has ever seen. Six weeks after a gunman entered the Dunblane Primary School armed with 4 handguns and killed 17 people (15 of which were children only 5 years old), a lone gunman with a history of poor mental health (violence, erratic behavior, etc) killed 35 people, injuring an additional 23, with two legally purchased military style semi-automatic rifles. The Port Arthur massacre, as it has come to be known, shook the entire continent and an outcry for the ban on firearms went out from all corners of Australia.
A 2012 article in the Washington Post (article can be found here) which cites a study by Andrew Leigh of Australian National University and Christine Neill of Wilfrid Laurier University, found that the firearm homicide rate and suicide rates both fell by drastic margins in the decade after the laws were introduced to the country: 59% and 65% respectively. At the same time, there was no increase in non-firearm related homicides or suicides. And mass shootings? Not a single one since the 1996 Port Arthur massacre mentioned above.
The NRA, in 2000, chimed in with claims that since the law passed violent crimes had increased in Australia. It did not take long for the federal Attorney General to accuse the NRA of falsifying government statistics and urged the NRA to remove the information from their website. Although the NRA began as an organization that promoted firearm safety and competency, it has been a strong supporter of looser gun laws worldwide even in the face of mass shootings in this country.
Gun laws are tough to discuss. Many Americans feel strongly about their guns and none of them want to lose their right to bare arms. Most Americans, however, are in favor of background checks and proper gun legislation. I say it is time for our politicians to listen to the American public. There is no reason our schools need to be as dangerous as our wars. We know it can be done because it has been done elsewhere.
What are your thoughts on gun control?