The Real Problem Behind Gun Control Debates

Introduction

A massive amount of gun control debates have risen in the wake of the recent Florida school shooting that claimed 17 victims. With each mass shooting that has come to pass, there has always been fiery debate on both sides, and yet no change has come. This is mainly due to misinformation and the vehemency of the partisan divide. I will speak on  these obstacles by providing insight into gun control statistics and brainstorming potential compromises that can better secure the people of the nation so that these tragedies no longer dictate normalcy in the nation.

Image result for victims of florida shooting
The seventeen victims of the Florida school shooting

Fact vs Fiction

One of the most common statistics that has been used this year is the claim that there have been 18 school shootings this year so far. This claim originated from CBS Evening News alumni Jeff Greenfield, who cited Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control movement group, as his source. The group describes a school shooting as the following:

“…any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds, as documented by the press and, when necessary, confirmed through further inquiries with law enforcement or school officials…”

Although this is a fair definition to use by conventional means, claiming 18 of these cases in the exigency of a mass school shooting is entirely misleading. In fact, this claim has spread like wildfire, being used by several news networks and a plethora of social media users as the spearhead of their arguments.

Here are the 18 school shootings that Everytown has cited, with links to the news articles of each incident:

  1. January 3, 2018: At East Olive Elementary in St. Johns, Michigan, a man committed suicide in the school parking lot. The school itself has been closed since June 2017, and was therefore vacant at the time of the suicide.
  2. January 4, 2018: At New Start High in Seattle, Washington, a bullet was fired into the window of the main office and was lodged into a 3 ring binder, according to the sheriff’s office. There were no injuries.
  3. January 10, 2018: At Grayson College in Denison, Texas, a student accidentally discharged a firearm that was legally owned by their instructor. The bullet went through a wall, but there were no injuries.
  4. January 10, 2018: At Coronado Elementary, in Sierra Vista, Arizona, a 14-year-old student committed suicide in a bathroom. There were no other injuries.
  5. January 10, 2018: At California State University, in San Bernardino, California, a gunshot was fired off of campus and struck the window of the visual arts building. There were no injuries.
  6. January 15, 2018: At Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, two people in a black sedan fired a bullet into a dorm room before driving away, hitting a wall in the parking lot. Police officials report that the dorm hall did not appear to be the target of the shooting, and there were no injuries.
  7. January 20, 2018: At Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a student shot and killed another student at a sorority party, in which 475 other people attended. There was no security present.
  8. January 22, 2018: At Italy High in Italy, Texas, a student opened fire in the school cafeteria, wounding a 15-year-old classmate and failing to strike anyone else. On a side note, Cassie Shook, a junior at Italy High, told The Associated Press that she had complained about the shooter to school officials multiple times, and that this could’ve been avoided. Tina Haight, a mother of a student at Italy High, stated that she also went to school officials when the shooter threw scissors at her daughter.
  9. January 22, 2018: At New Charter High in New Orleans, Louisiana, a dark-colored pickup truck pulled up outside the school and fired three shots in the direction of a couple of students. One student received a minor injury to his elbow, although it was not a bullet wound. There were no other injuries.
  10. January 23, 2018: At Marshall County High in Benton, Kentucky, a 15-year-old student with a handgun opened fire in the school, killing two students and wounding 14 others with gunfire.
  11. January 25, 2018: At Murphy High in Mobile, Alabama, a student pointed a gun at students and school administrators, and then proceeded to go outside and fire all of the rounds in the air. There were no injuries.
  12. January 26, 2018: At Dearborn High in Dearborn, Michigan, a student was shot at in the school parking lot during a basketball game. After making Everytown’s list, the Dearborn Public Schools released a statement saying that the gunman was not a student and that the shot may have not even been fired on school property. There were no injuries.
  13. January 31, 2018: At Lincoln High in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, gunshots were fired in the parking lot, striking a 32-year-old twice in the leg. He was later pronounced dead at Nazareth Hospital.
  14. February 1, 2018: At Salvador B. Castro Middle School in Los Angeles, California, a 12-year-old student accidentally discharged a gun, wounding two classmates. She claimed that the gun was in her backpack and it went off when her backpack fell. A seventh-grader that was in the room at the time of the gunfire stated that she never saw the gun or her classmate shoot.
  15. February 5, 2018: At Oxon Hill High in Oxon Hill, Maryland, a 17-year-old student was shot in the parking lot of the school during the evening. Although the victim appeared to know both suspects charged in the shooting, there was no clear motive. The victim was in stable condition as of February 6, 2018.
  16. February 5, 2018: At the Harmony Learning Center in Maplewood, Minnesota, a third-grader crept behind an officer, pulling the trigger of his holstered weapon. The bullet went through the bottom of the holster and was hit the floor, resulting in no injuries.
  17. February 8, 2018: At Metropolitan High in New York, New York, a 17-year-old student was taken into custody for discharging a gun within a classroom. Police discovered a bullet hole in the floor of the classroom. There were no injuries.
  18. February 14, 2018: At Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, an ex-student took an Uber to the school, armed with an AR-15 rifle and extra loaded magazines, all of which were concealed in a black duffel bag and backpack. The gunman fired over 40 rounds during the shooting, killing 17 students and injuring many more. The death toll could potentially rise as several victims were critically injured.

A single death or injury in a shooting is unacceptable and a tragedy within itself, but comparing the suicide of a man in the parking lot of a school that shut down half a year ago to the heinous and inhumane slaughter of human beings that occurred three days ago is entirely misleading. By including incidents from the lowest end of the spectrum to the highest, it not only misleads the public and compares apples and oranges, it also displays a level of ignorance in statistics that could be used to discredit the fact that change needs to happen. There needs to be change and more restrictions on firearms, but the facts and arguments need to be genuine in order for change to come. Otherwise, everything will continue to be swept under the rug as more shootings occur.

While Everytown and Jeff Greenfield have noble intentions, and while their desire to restrict the usage and ownership of firearms is entirely validated by recent and past tragedies, their misleading statistics discredit their arguments, hurting their chances of bringing change to the nation.

Other Claims Regarding Gun Control

Australia Gun Laws: There have been a couple claims regarding gun laws in other countries. One popular claim that has been brought up multiple times in recent arguments is the claim that Australia hasn’t had a single mass shooting in 21 years, after the passage of a buyback program, where the government purchased over 600,000 long guns and then proceeded to destroy them. This claim is true, and the policy practically halved the amount of households in the country that own guns. Although there have been shootings since then, such as the shooting at Monash University in 2002, which killed two students and injured five, none of them have qualified as a “mass” shooting due to their death tolls.

United Kingdom Gun Laws: Another claim is that the United Kingdom has not had a single school shooting since the 1996 Dunblane Massacre. This claim is also true, as Parliament passed an Amendment to the Firearms Act of 1988 after the incident (the original act itself was brought about due to the 1987 Hungerford massacre which resulted in 16 deaths), which previously banned the ownership of semi-automatic rifles, pump-action rifles, weapons that use explosive ammunition, shotguns with magazines, elevated pump-action rifles, and self-loading rifles. The amendment to the Firearms Act of 1988 kept the previous weapons banned, but also banned the ownership and purchase of handguns. Using a buyback technique similar to Australia’s, the United Kingdom Government bought back over 162,198 guns by the start of 2000. Although there was a mass shooting in 2010 when a 52-year-old man killed 12 people and wounded 11, there hasn’t been a single school shooting in the UK since the amendment of the Firearms Act in 1996.

The Partisan Divide

This is a topic that I will essentially beat into the dirt until the end of time. The partisan divide is perhaps the largest threat to the United States government and its people, yet it’s the most overlooked. There’s no denying that the United States allows its people the greatest of liberties and freedoms, allowing them to practice their own religions and ideologies. However, with the freedoms that the First Amendment grants, it’s only natural that a large amount of friction would arise from those freedoms, as people with different beliefs will always clash against one another.

The problem doesn’t lie within our rights, but rather, our entitlements. We as people often believe that we’re always right, and instead of promoting civil discussions and room for debate and compromise, we’d sooner attack other ideologies and belief systems, resulting in a back-and-forth ideological war in which no change is truly achieved.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

You are not obligated to agree with your party all of the time, nor are you obligated to disagree with the opposing parties all of the time. Truth and compromise rests on the shoulders of both parties working together, not against each other. If all we do is bicker, squabble, mudsling, and insult those who we disagree with, then all we do is prove in their minds that our side is wrong, barring off the future from any productive change.

Proposed Changes

For starters, referencing both the Stoneman Douglas shooting as well as countless other shootings (like the Pulse Nightclub shooting), it’s become clear that the purchase and ownership of semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 needs to be banned as well as submachine guns. These guns are incredibly dangerous in both small and large crowds. A common argument that NRA supporters make is that banning these guns is obsolete, and that people will find ways to purchase them illegally. This is true, but it’s not only much harder to find an illegal gun dealer, but the prices of these guns will skyrocket due to the circumstances of their obtainment. If the United States government decided to take a cue from Australia and the United Kingdom and implemented a buyback program, the shooting statistics would undeniably drop by a large margin.

Another common change that is proposed is the banning or restricting of purchasing weapons at gun shows (gun shows are labeled as private dealers, thus meaning they don’t have to perform background checks on their customers) as well as the implementation of a rigorous psychological evaluation for those who purchase firearms. Both of these ideas, if introduced correctly, could also result in less shootings throughout the United States.

Ultimately, there are certain rights and liberties that the United States was formed to protect, and while the ownership of firearms is explicitly detailed in the Bill of Rights, guns have evolved and there are more ideological conflicts in the United States than there ever has been. Guns don’t need to be completely outlawed in order to protect people at a higher standard and honor those who died in shootings, but laws do need to be updated and modified to fit the era.

After every tragedy, we have two choices as the people of the United States: we can either sit back, call names, and point fingers, which will achieve nothing in the long run, or we can get our facts straight and usher forth civilized debate and proceedings that will truly change the nation and prevent further tragedies from occurring.

 

 

 

 

 

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