The Fight For Gun Control

How many more people have to die before the government wakes up?

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The Fight For Gun Control

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Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook are just a few of the many mass shootings that have occurred at American schools in the last twenty years. On Valentine’s Day, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School joined the ranks of these schools when a troubled former student shot and killed 17 students and faculty members. And despite the horrific tragedy in Parkland, Florida, a glimmer of hope has risen, thanks to the students who lived through it.

Wilfredo Lee
MSD students comfort each other at a candlelight vigil for the victims. Photo credit to VOA News.

For years and years, people in the United States have responded to mass shootings in the same way. There is an outpour of prayers and support, and maybe a trending hashtag, followed by a call to action by politicians who never actually do anything. This cycle continues until the next mass shooting where it renews itself. But the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas are fed up and it seems that long overdue change might finally happen.

These students have said that they don’t want your prayers, they want action. Through boycotts and protests, town halls and vigils, they are finding a way to get their voices heard and allow stricter gun laws to pass. Daniel Bishop, a student at MSD who survived the shooting, told the New York Times, “Sandy Hook, they were elementary school kids who couldn’t stand up for themselves. Virginia Tech was 2007, a different time. But this one, I just have a gut feeling — something is going to change.” Social media has been a benefit for the student activists, especially Twitter, where they use their platform to reach out to people and get their message across. Through social media, they have been able to organize country-wide school walkouts for March 14 and April 20. Scott Israel, Broward County Sheriff, told the students at a town hall event, “My generation, we did not get it done. You will get it done.”

Parkland residents protest for tighter gun laws in the aftermath of the nearby shooting school. Photo from AP News.

No one has said that they want to confiscate all of the guns in the country. No one has said that they want to eliminate the Second Amendment. Instead, we just want to make a few changes that will hopefully put an end to the frequent shootings in the US. These include banning assault weapons, raising the gun-purchasing age, and stricter background checks.

What I believe is the the most important thing that needs to happen is the ban on semi-automatic weapons, such as the AR-15 that was used in the shooting at MSD. Military-grade weapons of that caliber do not serve any purpose other than to kill humans, and people who buy them almost never have good intentions. Yet, people can still easily get their hands on them. Although the Second Amendment needs to be respected and upheld, we also need to take a step back and realize how much guns have changed since it was adopted in 1791.  Back when the Second Amendment was added to the Bill of Rights, the most advanced guns were single-shot muskets with terrible aim that were only really useful for hunting. In today’s world, we have to be able to adapt the Second Amendment to how technology has changed, and realize that some guns should not fall under the umbrella of the “right to bear arms” because it should not be a constitutional right to have the ability to murder someone.

Students return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School exactly two weeks after the tragedy. Photo credit to The New York Times

Another major issue that comes up is the age that Americans are allowed to buy guns, a law that allowed 19 year old Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz, to buy the weapon he used to kill 17 innocent people. Seeing that most states allow people to buy AR-15s at 18 years old, most Americans have the ability to purchase an assault rifle before they can buy alcohol. If the government raised the drinking age because they did not believe people were mature enough to drink at 18, how can they trust kids of the same age to buy deadly weapons? In perhaps the best gun-related news in a long time, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart announced that they would raise the gun-purchasing age to 21 years old. A small step from two of the country’s biggest gun retailers could be a wake up call for other gun suppliers to raise the age as well.

Student activist, Emma Gonzalez, delivers a powerful speech in favor of gun control at a rally in Florida. Photo from Wikipedia.

And the final issue that must be amended involves background checks. Given that there were 346 mass shootings in the US in 2017, the background checks currently in place are clearly not working. Despite the numerous tip-offs that the FBI received about Nikolas Cruz, he was still able to pass their background checks and purchase dangerous weapons. Whether the FBI missed something or background checks are in general way too lenient, both are serious problems. The government must make reforms to background checks to make sure the wrong people do not get guns in their possession. Possibly the most frightening loophole in background checks is that suspected terrorists on the terror watch and no fly lists are able to purchase guns without red flags being raised. If the government is concerned about certain people flying on airplanes, why are they not worried about these same people being able to buy weapons, which they are far more likely to cause terror with? Where is the logic behind that? How does it make you feel to know that suspected terrorists are able to get their hands on weapons that can shoot 400 rounds a minute? Probably not great.

Anna Commander
In memory of the 17 people who died in the shooting. Photo from WPEC.

I have faith in the student activists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and in the country that we will make change happen. It’s important that we keep fighting and never give up so that we can prevent these avoidable tragedies from ever happening again. In the words of sophomore Fiona Douglas said, “As times and technology evolve, so should laws to protect the American people. Instead of protecting guns, we should protect children from school shootings that happen all too often.”