Unfortunately gun violence is something that Americans are all too familiar with. Turning on the news, gun violence is one of the most widely broadcast topics. Whether it is a school shooting, mass shooting outside of school, other gun violence, or suicide. The sad thing is how accustomed to this news Americans have become.
Although mass shootings are a big problem, they actually encompass only about 2% of gun related deaths in the country. Maybe they are just more widely covered, whereas the daily deaths on the nation's streets and homes are overlooked as just another day.
Not many people realize that gun laws could also lower suicide rates in the country. The vast majority of people who attempt suicide are not successful. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 25 people attempt suicide for each person who is successful. If people who are mentally unstable or suicidal were not able to buy a gun, the chance of committing suicide could decrease. Each year 44,965 Americans kill themselves and 51 percent of these involve a gun.
In an email interview, Associate Professor of Political Science and Emeritus Director of Governmental Relations Robert Dickens of the University of Nevada Reno shared his opinion on the subject.
Professor Dickens believes there are several steps that could be done to reduce gun violence.
“Background checks at any purchase site. Assault weapon licensing, contingent on training, similar to that for a concealed carry permit. An additional class of permits for such weapons, as is the case for concealable firearms,” said Dickens.
Brayden Jensen, a senior at Lowry, believes there several things that could be done to reduce gun violence.
“In order to reduce gun violence, a couple of things could be changed. For example: enhanced background checks, required testing for gun handling and gun laws, require insurance for liability in wrongful deaths, network gun sales database. Testing should also be required yearly,” said Jensen.
Other countries like Australia have strict gun laws that work well. Jensen thinks similar laws would work well in the U.S.
“When looking at countries with gun control, Australia stands out. In April, 1996, 35 people were murdered in Tasmania by a semi-automatic gun wielding lunatic. Instead of wishing people would be ‘safer’ with their guns, Australia pushed some of the most comprehensive firearm laws in the world,” said Jensen. “They banned all semi-automatic weapons and shotguns. Although the laws were specifically designed to stop mass shootings, the rate of homicide and suicide decreased as well.”
The Second Amendment
For those who don’t know, the Second Amendment created in 1789 states that the right of people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. It is a much different world now and many American citizens believe it is time to amend the second amendment. Banning guns such as the AR-15, the primary gun used in recent mass shootings, has been widely discussed lately.
Amending the Second Amendment is something Professor Dickens claims will solve nothing for the problem at hand.
Amending the Second Amendment would be an extremely difficult task.
Guns have been a big part of senior Gary Coleman’s life and his family even owns a hunting business.
“I think we could use some changes but I don’t know if it's going help a whole lot. If they want to take semiautomatic weapons away, if they do that then it's going to be a whole lot harder to defend against the government, because we are only going to have one shot and they are going have all kinds of automatics,” said Coleman. “I think it would help taking away some semiautomatics within the country it would stop mass shootings but not gun violence. Then again ,if we take that away there will still be bombs and pistols, so they would have to take pistols away.”
Brayden Jensen does think it would help but does not believe it will be possible to do so.
“Listen, not many sane people pushing for gun control want to appeal the Second Amendment. It is and has been a fundamental part of our country. However, it definitely should have been amended when the number of semi-auto and automatic guns increased. I think it is too late to amend or repeal the Second Amendment because we would have a bunch of angry hillbillies shooting federal officers,” said Jensen.
Coleman’s fear of amending the Second Amendment is that it would leave citizens defenseless against the government.
"I believe it should not be infringed upon because it’s mostly for protection, not just against people or like people but against the government, because that’s our last defense against the government, if they take our guns than we are pretty much defenseless,” said Coleman.
Many recreational hunters worry that amending the Second Amendment could affect them, if certain guns are taken away.
“I've been a hunter ever since I could walk, my dad owns a hunting business, so that's a huge part of our lives; having guns, and that's what I plan to do for the rest of my life is hunt and provide for my family,” said Coleman.
Changes in gun laws could impact Coleman's future.
“It could, it depends on the restrictions, such as if they choose to take all guns away it would affect it, but if they just raise the age limit it wouldn’t affect it that much because kids go out with their parents,” said Coleman.
According to the Washington Post, in the two months following the most recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Republican legislators have introduced 25 measures to arm teachers and staff members in schools. President Trump and the National Rifle Association called on states to arm teachers just days after the last school shooting.
Although nothing has actually been enacted yet, this possible solution is still on the table. Teachers would have to be firearm adept and undergo annual training. Although there are supporters for this, many believe this solution would not fix anything. This includes the teachers union who believes states should focus more on implementing background checks for gun sales.
Arming teachers is another idea that Professor Dickens does not think will work.
“Arming teachers is not a solution. Take a look around. Would that make you feel more secure? Additionally, their job is conveying information and training students. They are not peace officers,” said Dickens.
Jensen on the other hand thinks arming teachers could be useful.
“I think arming teachers could be a very useful tool, but only if it is in the right hands. Teachers should face tough mandatory training and mental health testing before being allowed to bring guns into the classroom,” said Jensen.
The youth are taking a stand
School shootings in the United States have been happening for years. After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in February, students immediately took a stand against gun violence. They spoke on the news and gave speeches in their community, some that were televised. They organized a march and on March 24th students took to the streets of Washington D.C. According to USA Today an estimated 800,000 people attended the march. There were also an estimated 800 sibling events throughout the country that day. Aside from the march, students nationwide have also posed walkouts from their high schools in protest for gun control. Some of these kids have become public figures and their voices are being heard. They are doing things in a way that may have an actual impact for change. More kids are registering to vote as they turn 18 and their stamina has not slowed. It will be interesting to see the lasting impact this movement will create over time.
Jensen is excited to see students finally taking a stand against violence in an attempt to make change.
“Seeing all the protests stemming from the Florida shooting makes me very happy. It’s about time students start to take a stand on political issues and educate themselves instead of letting old-timers do as they please,” said Jensen.
Professor Dickens thinks the students of MSD and schools nationwide have an effective movement going.
“I appreciate the role of grass root movements in American politics. Traditionally, progress is made that way in our democracy. It does not always work well, as with prohibition, but our political system seems to make progress over time,” said Dickens. “Walkouts and the MSD students are mobilizing effectively. What remains to be seen is if they can sustain the movement, keep it focused, and direct their political pressure at traditional channels of protest and change in the American political system,” said Dickens.
Stricter gun laws could take the guns off of the streets. Yes, criminals will still get guns no matter what, but stricter gun laws could slow down the black market sales of guns as well. This means less easy access to violent offenders. According to vox.com, more people in the U.S. are killed by guns than killed by AIDs, drugs, war, and terrorism combined.