America can’t keep fighting gun violence with more guns
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After the largest mass shooting in U.S. history took place Sunday in a gay nightclub in Florida, America experienced the same shock seen after countless incidents of the same type in recent years; Aurora, Newtown, Colorado Springs, San Bernardino, and now Orlando to name a few.
These are the mass shootings that get the most news, but certainly not the only ones that have happened; in 2016 alone so far, there have been 136 mass shootings (defined by the FBI as an incident in which four or more people are killed or wounded by gunfire). America can’t seem to stop the bloodshed, while other developed countries with stricter gun control measures experience much fewer gun violence incidents. In Australia, for example, there have been zero mass shootings since the country introduced swift gun control reforms after a massacre in Port Arthur in 1996. More than one mass shooting per day has become a new normal for the U.S. while other countries look on in horror.
The problem? The U.S. keeps trying to fight fire with fire. Or, in this case, the U.S. keeps trying to fight gun violence with more guns. And it’s not working.
After an armed 20-year-old man used an assault rifle to kill 28 people, including his own mother and several children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. on December 14th, 2012, almost every state legislature in the union changed laws regarding firearms. According to a 2013 report in The New York Times, 70 laws were passed loosening gun control measures, while only 39 strengthened them. Gun control was weakened, and the shootings haven’t stopped.
After each mass shooting, conservative lawmakers insist that the Second Amendment is in danger of being destroyed and that guns are in danger of being taken away. Former Republican Presidential Candidate and Texas Senator Ted Cruz told FOX News reporter Megyn Kelly that he “did everything [he] could to energize and mobilize the grassroots to stand up and protect the Second Amendment,” following the Sandy Hook massacre.
The GOP’s quest to protect the Second Amendment doesn’t stop with Cruz, however. A campaign advertisement for Florida Senator and former Republican Presidential Candidate Marco Rubio stated that President Obama’s plan was to “take away our guns.” At a pro-gun rally, presumptive Republican Nominee Donald Trump said that “You have the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. You have that right and they want to take it away. And they are taking it away, slowly but surely, they are taking it away.”
What these Republicans and many others do not understand is that President Obama is not trying to damage the Second Amendment, but instead trying to implement policies that would decrease the likelihood of gun violence. In early January 2016, shortly after a year which saw 372 mass shootings, the commander-in-chief laid out his plans to take executive action on gun violence, promising to mandate gun selling licences and background checks, enforce gun laws already in place, help those suffering from mental illness, and boosting gun safety technology. At no time did President Obama threaten to “take away our guns,” even explicitly stating that he “believed in the second amendment.”
But the question remains: why would a society plagued by gun violence want only to increase the availability of guns? Most of the Republican Party still believes that the only way to stop a “bad guy” with a gun is a “good guy” with a gun. After a mass shooting last year in Roseburg, Ore. Republican Presidential Candidate Ben Carson said that “I would not just stand there and let him shoot me,” essentially blaming the incident on the victims.
Not only does the solution of arming ordinary citizens encourage everyday violence in a civilized society, it’s also extremely unrealistic. According to Dr. J. Pete Blair, the director of Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT), “only about 1 in 5 active shooter events are stopped by a victim at the scene, and most of those victims are unarmed.” In addition, an FBI report that Blair co-authored reported that only 3.1 percent of active shooter situations are stopped by armed civilians.
It seems pretty clear that more guns will not solve America’s gun violence problem. Conservative lawmakers must recognize sensible gun control measures and rid themselves of the notion that arming civilians is an effective way to combat mass shootings. Hopefully, U.S. citizens will one day see the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness- rights which were stripped from gun violence victims across the country- protected as much as the right to bear arms is now.