Feb. 14, 2018 marks one of the deadliest school shootings in the United States. Students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida became the most recent victims of ruthless gun abuse when the assailant mercilessly open fired at people in and outside of the school. Just like many of the other heartbreaking mass shootings, all we seem to do is offer thoughts and prayers and hope it does not happen again. We seem to decide over and over that this is an issue that needs to be addressed, because tragedy does not warn others of when it will strike. Through their social media platforms, students plead for the reconstruction of gun laws, while simultaneously taking on the voice for everyone supporting gun control. The survivors from this devastating event are calling for walkouts, sit-ins and protests at schools to send a stern message to our congressman for gun control. What stops this appeal from happening is the “right to bear arms”- a decree that is part of the very foundation of America. But should it really come at the expense of innocent lives?
It is clear that the nation faces a horrific repetition of events when comparing the Parkland tragedy to Sandy Hook: the deadliest mass school shooting that took place in Newtown, Connecticut where the perpetrator used a semi-automatic rifle to end the lives of over 20 people including school staff and elementary students. There was outrage then, and it persists now. According to The New York Times, the Sandy Hook shooting led state lawmakers to significantly expand the strictness on firearm purchase including background checks and a registry of those who do not meet the criteria for obtaining a gun. This response was deemed a success not only because the state legislation had contributed their part to prevent another devastation, rather than blaming the issue on the people and not the gun. Statistics show that the number of deaths by firearms, in Connecticut, decreased from 226 in 2012 to 164 in 2016. Violence by firearm has not stopped, but enacted law precautions have set some standards that are saving lives.
Admittedly, even states or cities with the strictest gun laws, like Chicago and Baltimore, have the highest local crime by firearm murders, according to the Washington Post. These numbers expose the loopholes of gun law restrictions and the black market business of weapons that counteract laws set in place to protect individuals. Nevertheless, gun control can still save at least some lives, even if an underground firearm trade exists.
Republicans routinely argue that limitations on the right to bear arms are infringements. Texas Senator Ted Cruz expressed his concern at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) stating that “the left’s answer is always, always, always restrict Second Amendment rights from law-abiding citizens.” But what Mr. Cruz and many conservatives lose sight of is that Democrats are not trying to “eradicate all individual freedoms,” according to National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre, but are trying to enact reasonable regulations that modify the Second Amendment to specifically include those who pass a certain standard of eligibility (like extensive background checks and higher age limit) to possess a firearm. This is with the intention to make our nation a safer place, and avoid further gun cruelty.
Another Republican argument is that social media is the driving force behind the movement to reform the 2nd amendment. LaPierre denounced social media platforms and essentially the teenage survivors of the shooting by claiming that “mainstream media loves mass shootings.” For the survivors who saw the lives of their family and friends end in front of them, this is a slap in the face. Who exactly is mainstream media? Teenagers. There was not a single instance where one could interpret their emotional torture as a selfish political agenda. Those same teenagers have morphed into the face of gun control for America, advocating for the protection of their peers and everyone else who believes gun regulations are the way to prevent gun brutality.
Another ironic argument plagues the entire situation: fight guns with guns. It is important to understand that you cannot combat evil by using its own tactics. More guns to defeat gun abuse is a very risky move that makes even more people vulnerable to the spiraling misuse of firearms. President Trump tweeted days after the shooting, “If a potential ‘sicko shooter’ knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school.” Trump followed this with “Cowards won’t go there…problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work!” The president later voiced his idea to arm 20 percent of teachers as his conclusion. In essence, this rhetoric transfers all responsibility to the school rather than high levels of government, whose job it is to detain individuals who want to cause havoc and death on innocent people. Parkland survivor Delaney Tarr responded to the Washington Post about the unrealistic nature of arming teachers.
“There are so many things that could go wrong,” Tarr said. “We are not a prison. We are not a police force.”
It is only logical to enforce regulations on firearm purchases. Not everyone is capable of handling a tool that can end one’s life within a second. Regulations should include health checks for mental stability, history of any sort of violence (with context), and require every buyer to purchase a trigger guard that protects the trigger from unintentionally going off. Although strict regulations do not always solve the problem, there is no excuse to not constantly apply new techniques to stop this madness. It is evident that our nation is in distress from constant violence, and that to address this issue we must enact reasonable gun control regulations.
Americans must put aside their political differences and demand their governments do something; our entire political system relies on such action. As stated in the Declaration of Independence, “…governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” And while government action won’t save every life, it is far past time to have this discussion with our officials.