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Gun violence in the U.S. begs for reform

Alyson Riley, Staff Writer

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In light of the Sandy Hook and Colorado Springs mass shootings, federally mandated gun control has become an increasingly imminent and supported possibility. As life after innocent life is taken at the hands of homicidal gunmen, more and more outraged citizens join the protests demanding that the federal government impose elevated restrictions and requisites on general gun ownership, require deeper background checks and psychoanalyses on prospective gun owners, or even issue a total ban on guns and assault weapons altogether.

The blind eye turned onto perpetrators of gun violence has gone too far, and something needs to be done; the purpose of a national government is to protect and aid its people, and at this stage in our history, it’s time for the leaders of our nation to take a stand.

At this stage in our history, it’s time for the leaders of our nation to take a stand.”

On average, 297 people are shot in America every day, whether by homicide or suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, or police intervention; of those 297 people, 89 perish. That’s more than 108,000 people per year. These deaths, especially those in the more recent years, are the result of decades upon decades of regarding gun violence as a rare, unavoidable anomaly in the system, of supposing that the easiest and most efficient way to prevent it is to give guns to even more people under the guise of self-defense, and of believing that the right to own a gun is somehow more inherent and more worth protecting than someone else’s right to life.

In the last 30 years, Americans have seen at least 73 mass shootings, all of which adhere to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) definition – an incident in which four people, not including the shooter, are killed or injured in one single instance and location. These events have become far too common to brush off as merely isolated and unpreventable mishaps – for something so horrible to be so frequent, there always lies a commonality at the source: of the 143 weapons used in these 73+ shootings, more than 75 percent were obtained through legal transaction, despite the fact that at least 38 of the perpetrators showed evidence of mental illness prior to committing the murders.

This shows a distinct pattern of negligence on behalf of both gun vendors and our mental health care system. How many of the shootings could have been prevented if only medical action was taken as soon as signs of danger were detected? The fact that these weapons are so easy to acquire, paired with the fact that mental health is still considered to be such a trivial issue, is a nothing short of confirmation that we need serious reform in both sectors at fault.

By now, it is far past time to understand our collective responsibility in this recurring issue and to take the time, both as individuals and as a nation, to reflect upon the mistakes we’ve made and analyze the steps we must take to ensure that these tragedies are stopped before they take place. This is no longer merely a problem that can be tackled on a case-by-case basis, and it is vital that the federal government implement as many preventative measures as possible, as there are millions of lives at stake every day.

First and foremost, gun vendors should be legally obligated to require stricter criminal history checks and psychoanalyses from persons interested in buying guns; those who show signs of mental instability should have their purchase requests refused and subsequently be given help for their respective conditions. The safest method of precaution, however, since mental illness can develop over time even after the purchase of an assault weapon, would be stricter gun control altogether – a complete ban on personal gun ownership, enforced by federal buy-back programs aimed at eliminating the gun count over a period of time.

Aside from criticism of the efforts that would need to be taken to implement it, the most common argument against federally-mandated gun control is that merely limiting, let alone altogether banning the possession of guns violates our second amendment right to bear arms. However, this argument severely misinterprets the historical context of the second amendment.

When the Constitution was first written, the tyrannical impositions of monarchical England were a looming fear in the backs of everyone’s minds. The writers of the Constitution, specifically James Madison, wanted to ensure that the central government’s scope of jurisdiction was held firmly under control by the will of the masses. In order to do this, they felt it necessary to establish militias, managed by each colony, to restore equilibrium to the balance of power between the people and the federal government. The members of each militia were required to provide their own weapons, which is where the “right to bear arms” line of the second amendment came into play; it was included purely to redirect the political and social power back to the states, not to ensure that every individual had the unconditional right to an assault weapon.

We are a nation that prides itself on having freedom and opportunity for every one of its citizens. With that in mind, it’s time to work toward a more genuine guarantee that each individual will be able to exercise their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without being at such a high risk of being yet another of the countless victims of gun violence that America has seen throughout its history. We are obligated to strive to be the great country that we both hope and claim to be, and with so many innocent individual’s lives at stake, we must grow to realize that stricter gun control is no longer a suggestion, but a necessity.

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Lufkin High School's online student newspaper
Gun violence in the U.S. begs for reform