Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier managing editor
In the last week, there have been two mass shootings in the United States, resulting in the deaths of 18 people, and incalculable physical and mental harm to so many others. In the last decade, the United States tops the charts as the country with the most mass shootings, the highest rates of gun ownership and the highest rates of gun related death by an immensely high margin. According to the New York Times, prior to the March 16 shooting, there had been zero mass shootings in the country since March of 2020.
The fact that it took a dangerous pandemic that required Americans to stay locked in their homes for most, if not all, of the time over the course of the last year in order to avoid a mass shooting is absolutely appalling. Now, as the country is just beginning to open up, mass public shootings are clearly back and here to stay. Gun control activists have been working to pass substantial legislation on the local, state and federal level trying to minimize the danger associated with firearms since before the Columbine shootings in 1999. While some change has been made on the local and even state level, there has yet to be any effective piece of legislation to better regulate the sale and use of firearms. As a country, we’ve been struggling with gun violence for decades, but have made absolutely no progress towards solving an issue which is widely recognized as a leading cause of death for Americans.
Gun violence disproportionately affects marginalized and disenfranchised communities. As we’ve seen this past week, but sadly not just this past week, gun violence is often involved in hate crimes against people of color. In the shooting in Atlanta, six out of the eight casualties were women of Asian descent. Violence in general against people of Asian descent and Asian Americans has increased with xenophobic and sinophobic rhetoric from prominent figures and politicians since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. While this incident is obviously demonstrative of the way that gun violence disproportionately affects people of color, the problem isn’t limited to people of Asian descent, but common across racial and ethnic groups. Members of the LGBTQ+ community are similarly more often the victims of firearm hate crimes and mass shootings, including the tragic shooting rooted in homophobia at Pulse, a gay nightclub, in Orlando, Fl. in 2016 that resulted in the death of 49 people. In addition, people with mental illnesses are more likely to die from suicide by firearm, and young and vulnerable children are more frequently becoming the victims of gun violence in their schools.
This problem needs to be rectified. We need to require universal background checks for all people wanting to buy a firearm. We need to institute waiting periods for people to buy firearms. We need to ban assault weapons. We need to require people looking to own guns to participate in safety training and continually maintain licenses. We need to request that gun sellers and firearms dealers take training programs related to safe trade, suicide prevention and accountability. These are simple, common sense measures which have, on a state level, and will, on a national level, save lives.
However, an unbelievably large subset of Americans refuses to even negotiate on these productive and life-saving regulations, due to the misguided belief that they will infringe upon their right to own a gun, guaranteed by the second amendment. However, the constitutional “right to bear arms” isn’t necessarily as concretized as one may think. But in a larger sense, Americans can still own and keep firearms under a system of common-sense gun control legislation. Gun control is about limiting the unnecessarily large number of firearms in our country, ensuring those who own them are trained and properly understand how to use them and limiting gun violence by keeping guns away from situations in which they might be used to harm people.
As a country, we have the power and the resources to significantly reduce national gun violence. We have to make a change now, to prevent more senseless violence and innumerable deaths.